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Planning a cruise? Steer clear of surprise charges and incidental fees

Planning a cruise? Steer clear of surprise charges and incidental fees
It's great to get a bargain price on a cruise, but beware the little charges that could add up. (David Flaherty / For The Times)

It's hard to find a vacation bargain that's as inexpensive as a cruise. Where else can you get food, lodging and transportation for as little as $50 or $100 a day?

But if you're not careful, you can spend three or four times as much on incidentals.

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Here are some suggestions from Smarter Travel, which recently compiled several ways to avoid gimmicks that will sabotage your vacation budget:

-- Avoid the single supplement charge, which forces solo travelers to pay for two people (double occupancy). Look for promotions lowering the rate, or for lines that offer single rooms.

-- Avoid alcohol: Most ships won't let you bring bottles aboard when you stop in port, and prices on the ship are big-city expensive.

-- Don't pay for snacks: Many lines charge extra for sodas and food such as ice cream. Stick to the free fruit and buffet offerings if you need to nibble.

-- Don't buy useless souvenirs on board or on shore: You'll probably never look at them again when you get home.

-- Skip the casino: If you must play, keep your bets small.

-- Curb your Internet usage: You'll pay a fortune for Wi-Fi, and the service usually isn't very good. Visit an Internet cafe in port when you need to post on social media or check emails.

-- Tipping: It will add $10 to $12 a day to your bill. You probably can't avoid it, so figure it into the cost of your cruise.

-- Special dining venues: They're fun, but cost more, adding $20 to $50 per person for a meal.

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Twitter: @latimestravel

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