Cruising is fun, but it can be expensive, IF you don't know how to do it cheap...However, if you play your cards right, you can cruise at amazingly cheap prices!
The first key to doing this is to cruise during off-season...The months of October, early November, late January and February are your best bets to getting some amazing deals. You can and will cruise for at almost half if not more during these times than you will do during the rest of the year...Most school districts in KY have gone to a full week fall break in October, which allows us teachers to take advantage of the crazy deals. I have yet to cruise during the summer months, simply because I refuse to pay the double price of what I pay during October! Unless you can only go during the summer, don't....you're bank account will thank you :)
The second key to cruising cheap is to shop around and look and wait for deals....There are several sites that I use, and have used in the past to book cruises. Those are: http://www.cruiseonly.com/ http://www.vacationstogo.com/ and http://www.cruisecheap.com/ When beginning my cruise search, I start here, see what I can find then compare those rates with those from the actual cruise line's site. This year, for example, we found our best deal by booking directly through Carnival's website. However, in years past, we've saved around $100, per cruise, by using an alternate site.
The third key is to sign up for the website emails...This is good for any travel, but especially great when cruising because you get alerts of sales, on board credits, room upgrades, etc. I received an email in November about Norwegian offering a 7 nigh cruise for $425 a person during spring break! Crazy, huh?! Cruise only also sends out a magazine every few months with offers and deals.
The fourth thing to remember is to know which cruise lines to sail on. Carnival is usually the cheapest, Disney is the most expensive. When it really comes down to it, most ships are the same and offer similar amenities on board. When you sail on Disney, for example, you are paying for the name and it runs about 40% higher than most cruise lines. I've personally, only sailed on Carnival, and I have zero complaints about it! I've been on older ships to one that is almost brand new, and each time I've had a blast. The food is always amazing, and the service you receive on-board is second to none. You are treated like royalty from the moment you walk on until the moment you leave. Carnival, as I'm sure other ships do, offer past guests discounts on future cruises. Ever since cruise #1, I've received a discount for being a past guest. You just have to make sure to tell them when booking so that you receive the discount!
And finally, once you are on your cruise DO NOT BOOK SHORE EXCURSIONS DIRECTLY THROUGH YOUR SHIP. I did not know this on my first cruise and forked out $30 to hit up a beach that I could've done for free had we simply hopped a taxi and went their on our own. Many local companies offer excellent things to do on the island for half the price. These excursions are not only much cheaper, but usually better, longer, and full of more local flavor! I first start by using the cruiseexcursions.com as my starting point. For example, when going to the Bahamas you simply type in http://www.bahamascruiseexcursions.com/ and it provides a list of whats offered. Mom and I used this site to book a jet skiing, Sting Ray City excursions in Grand Cayman and it was amazing! We paid half of what Carnival was asking, our excursions lasted double the time, and we had a blast!
You can also google the island you are going to and shore excursions and find other sites listed that offer fun things to do while there. It's amazing how much money you will save and you really will get more of a local feel for things!
Here is one final site that is a great resource for cruising overall. It provides message boards where you can post questions and receive answers, reviews of every cruise line and every ship, pictures, etc. When hitting up a new cruise port that I'm unfamiliar with, I visit this site to get the scoop and advice for what to do, where to go, etc. Its fantastic!!! http://www.cruisecritic.com/
If you've never cruised before, I highly recommend it! Once on board, your only expense is alcohol, soda, and shopping. Meals, lodging, and entertainment are included so you really could get on board and not spend a dime if you didn't want to! I mean, how else can you spend $475 for 5 days and 3 Caribbean islands? You simply cant....So, as Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg say...."Get your flippie floppies and Get On A Boat!" ;)