With all the focus on cruising right now, I want to tell you how to score the real deals!

Cruises can be the best deal of the summer

First though, let me say that I am not ecstatic about going on cruises. I used to be in the travel business, and had a very profitable department that sent people on tons of them. Yet cruising is not my thing. Not that I hate it, it's just not my thing.

But my young son became fascinated with cruises after the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking and the Costa Concordia tragedy more recently. He kept asking to go on a cruise and I kept blowing him off.

Finally my son wrote me a letter (and mailed it) for an exercise in his persuasive writing class at school. The letter he wrote explained why I should take him on a cruise. His main reason? To spend time with me.

What is any father supposed to say to that?

So I start looking around and cruises were so cheap because of the continuous Carnival mishaps. Carnival has since spent a third of $1 billion to put in new safety and reliability features, including full fire suppression systems.

In the end, we went on Royal Caribbean on their ship called the Enchantment of the Seas. I always bought into the idea that cruise employees are exploited with 7 month schedules and no time off. But the general morale of employees was better than I've seen just about anywhere.

The number one rule right now about cruising is be flexible with your schedule. The week you go will control how much of your wallet you leave behind on the ship. The same exact cabin could cost you as little as a third one week what it might cost you the very next week.

When you're looking to buy a deal, what you should do is pull up the ship you want to go on and look at the cost week by week. Look for any dramatic movements up and down in price. In the past, the rates were like a wave; now they're like a yoyo. You want to pounce on those low-cost weeks if your schedule allows.

In the past, I've told you about CruiseCritic.com (for user reviews) and CruiseCompete.com as ways to get the inside scoop and deals on cruising. Now I want introduce you to a website called VacationsToGo.com.

On VacationsToGo.com, they're listing amazingly low-priced cruises for ship after ship, date after date. You'll even find deals that are extraordinarily cheap through June. For example, I saw one cruise to Alaska in June that was being offered for 80% off.

One final caveat, though: If you're buying your very first cruise, don't buy online.

I only recommend that experience cruisers buy online. If that's not you, buy from a real live cruise specialist at a travel agency and rely on their expertise. A good agent will ask about your interests, hobbies and what you like to do in your spare time.

Much like people, cruise ships have a definite personality and a cruise agent can help you to find the right fit for yours.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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