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BellaOnline's Cruises Editor

7 Ways To Save Money On Hotel Bookings

Many cruise vacationers book hotels in conjunction with their cruise plans. These days, it's often smart to arrive in your departure city a day before your cruise to eliminate worries and potential snafus caused by transportation delays. Spending several days exploring the city before or after your cruise can also be an additional benefit. Some travelers avoid staying overnight at their departure port, however, due to high hotel costs.

If you're thinking about booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay as part of your next cruise, check out these money-saving insider tips:

1. Snag Unpublished Rates. There are numerous hotel booking sites on the Internet promising great prices. Review the rates at Expedia, Travelocity and others and then head to GetaRoom.com to check out their deals. The advantage to this site is that better rates are often available by phone, particularly at the last minute. Call their toll free number (888-472-3444) to see if you can get a really low price on a quality hotel in your departure city.

2. Bid for Travel Using Insider Information. Many travelers use sites like Hotwire and Priceline to bid for and purchase travel at low cost. Savings on hotel can be quite substantial, with room rates sometimes as much as 60% off. It can be disconcerting to think of buying a hotel room on these kinds of opaque bidding sites, however, since the name of the hotel is not revealed until after the room has been successfully purchased. If you’re considering bidding on your hotel room on Hotwire or Priceline, check out sites like BiddingforTravel.com, BetterBidding.com and BiddingTraveler.com. These sites use information obtained by previous bidders to help identify the likely hotel names as well as successful bidding strategies. I’ve sometimes saved as much as $150 to $200 per room night using these sites and other frequent travelers I know have had similar luck. Families and those requiring special arrangements should be careful, however, as the type of bedding and other amenities cannot be guaranteed.

3. Play Your Cards Wisely. Membership in clubs such as AAA, AARP, Costco and Sam’s Club can generate substantial savings on hotel room rates. Make sure to inquire about reduced rates and remember to bring your card along with you to the hotel.

4. Save With A Cruise Package. Many hotels located in U.S. and Canadian homeport cities offer packages for guests wishing to arrive the night before their cruise. While the room rates are often attractive, another money-saving aspect of these packages is free parking for those driving to their cruise vacation as well as complimentary shuttle service to and from the cruise pier.

5. Be Social. Some hotels offer special rates via Facebook and Twitter, so make sure to follow your favorites on social media. You may also find great local deals by searching using the name of your destination and the “hotel deals” search term. Cruise lines occasionally offer low social media rates as well. For example, MSC Cruises recently promoted a last minute special social media rate of $299 for a 7-night Caribbean cruise. Over 700 bookings were sold in a matter of hours.

6. Get On The List. Join hotel guest loyalty programs and sign up for their newsletters. There’s absolutely no cost to join and the benefits can be substantial. Hotel chains often sent out e-mail newsletters with special savings offers. In addition, membership in hotel guest loyalty programs can often come with additional special perks such as free Internet, room upgrades, continental breakfast, late checkouts, and other amenities.

7. Skip the Hotel Entirely. If you need a room for two or more nights, consider bypassing hotels entirely and stay in a condominium, villa or other type of private accommodation. Rates for these properties can sometimes be 40-50% less than those charged by nearby hotels. Check out sites like HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, airbnb.com, FlipKey.com and others.

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