Budgets can get tight at times, but that doesn't mean you have to ditch your vacation plans all together. If taking a cruise this year involves penny pinching, why not consider a cruise on a line known more for value than for the latest splashy features? Unlike the airline industry with its low-cost carriers (think Spirit Airlines, Ryanair or even Southwest), not many cruise lines would be considered budget (though some older ships on well-established, contemporary cruise lines, like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, could fall into this category). So, to help in your search for cruise deals, we've come up with three categories for penny pinchers -- budget cruise lines, budget itineraries and budget seasons. You don't necessarily need to sail with a dedicated budget cruise line to find rock-bottom rates, but you need to know which itineraries and cruising seasons traditionally have the lowest prices. With savvy strategies, you can even find extremely affordable sailings on more upscale cruise lines, as well as the mainstream ships. So stop moping and start shopping -- there are plenty of affordable cruise vacations if you know where to look.
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You've decided you want a vacation, but there's a problem -- you don't have a passport. Maybe you've never had the time, money or desire to travel abroad previously, or perhaps your old passport has expired. Whatever the reason, you still have choices. One option is to take a closed-loop cruise -- a round-trip sailing that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port. For that, you need only a birth certificate and a driver's license (or other acceptable, government-issued photo ID). You can't cruise just anywhere on a closed-loop sailing, but the choices are more interesting than you might expect. Below, we've compiled a list of seven places to visit without a passport, from scenic Alaska to the beachy Caribbean.
If you're new to cruising, it's easy to get Bermuda and the Bahamas mixed up. Both island chains have a shared British heritage and are located in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean. Both are easily accessible from the East Coast, which makes them a favorite for cruise lines. And both provide
The Bahamas, with its long stretches of luxuriously soft sand alongside crystal-clear, multihued waters, offers cruisers some of the best beaches for their bucks. Cruise ship ports in Nassau and Freeport provide access to miles and miles of beach, all of which is open to the public. Nassau's
More than 700 major islands and thousands of small cays make up the trickle of islands known as the Bahamas, an independent nation conveniently close to the cruise ship ports of Florida. Several cruise ships stop at either Nassau or Grand Bahama Island (Freeport), often as part of an itinerary
A private cabana is a plush way to enjoy the pristine sand and surf of Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corporation's private island in the Bahamas visited by Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America. Half Moon Cay cabanas are colorful wooden outposts peppered along the island's shoreline, and while they all offer special amenities, offerings vary based on cabana type. If you're not sure which enclave is the best fit for you during your time ashore, read Cruise Critic's guide to Half Moon Cay cabanas.