Here's our comprehensive look at the best ways to travel: how to find a deal, avoid lines, pack, fly, tip, and more.
PART SEVEN: CRUISES
Go fishing for deals
Consolidators such as CruisesOnly.com, CruiseStar.com, and Cruise411.com basically act as travel agents, but they sell cruises at steeper discounts than are found elsewhere. Recently, cruise lines have prevented these brokers from advertising their best offers--but that doesn't mean they don't have 'em. Ask about unadvertised deals and upgrades.
Arrive at the port the night before
The cruise line doesn't care if the traffic was bad or your flight got delayed because of the weather. The ship will leave without you, and the responsibility to catch up with it is yours and yours alone.
Walk right off the ship and head home
At the end of the cruise, if you carry your own bags, you can often disembark before everyone else.
Don't forget your passport
Travelers returning to the United States by sea after visiting Mexico, Canada, the non-U.S. Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Bermuda don't need a passport until January (at the earliest). But anyone sailing before then should bring it anyway. If something unfortunate happens and you need to fly home, having a passport will make things considerably easier.
Book your own excursions
You can save money by finding out who's running the shore excursions or similar outings and booking directly with them. It's not without risks: If you book an excursion with an outside operator and don't get back to the ship in time, you're out of luck; but when you book through the cruise line, the ship will wait.
Let cruise brokers fight over you
CruiseCompete.com is a website where you post info on the cruise you want to take, and then agents bid against each other to get your business. You're under no obligation to buy anything if you don't like what you see.
Make the first day count
Your bags won't arrive at your cabin for a few hours after you board, so pack everything you might want in the interim (a book, swimsuit, sunblock...) inside your carry-on bag.