(BPT) - The waves breaking below you, the ocean breeze blowing through your hair, the excitement of a destination yet unexplored and a voyage of the finest comforts — does it get any better than a cruise?

According to Cruise Lines International Association, cruises enjoy the highest satisfaction rate of any vacation, and 84 percent of cruisers would recommend cruising to a friend. So how do you make it better? By saving money while savoring the same experiences. A luxurious vacation doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can make your next cruise affordable and enjoyable by following these tips from Expedia.

1. Book your cruise through a travel agent.

Travel agents, like the ones at Expedia CruiseShipCenters, can negotiate contracted rates directly with the cruise lines to save you an average of $452 per trip. That leaves you with extra money to devote to on-board spa treatments or incredible excursions while on your vacation.

2. Book your cruise early.

Many cruise lines will offer early booking incentives in the form of low fares, value add-ons or upgrades, but you have to plan ahead to enjoy these benefits. Many cruise lines offer these perks for booking 18 months in advance but some will extend benefits for bookings as near-term as six months out, so don’t hesitate to start shopping.

3. Bring the whole gang.

If you have friends or family members that would make awesome cruise partners, adding them to the trip will allow you to take advantage of group booking discounts, such as allowing one person to sail for free. Expedia CruiseShipCenters also has a group program that lets you take advantage of the group booking price without needing to be part of a group. This isn’t something you’ll find by booking directly with the cruise line.

4. Make the off-season your on-season.

Taking a cruise during the off-season, when fewer people are traveling, can net you big savings. There can also be a tremendous price difference between one week and the next, so consider alternative weeks to reduce the price of your cruise fare. It pays to be flexible.

5. Cruise to shore.

Arrange your own shore excursions instead of booking them through the cruise line. While the latter may be more convenient, cruise lines offer shore excursions for passengers at a higher price than if you book it directly with the destination or through Expedia. Plus, in addition to saving money, booking your own excursions gives you more control over what you really want to do.

6. Always be looking for new deals.

There are many options for finding cruise deals on Expedia and there are new deals every day. Now through Oct. 31, for example, travelers can get up to $150 to spend on-board 2017 Holland America Line Caribbean cruises. Check out the Expedia Deals page for more last-minute cruise offers and find more expert tips and information in Expedia’s Guide to Cruising.

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