A cruise is the ultimate vacation: relaxing on the open sea, with delicious food, fun experiences, and indulgent spa services right at your fingertips. And on top of all that, you get a chance to explore beautiful islands or scenic landscapes.

But taking a cruise isn’t cheap. The average cruise traveler spends $1,293 on their room alone, and an additional $498 in purchases onboard the ship.

However, there are ways to score a cruise vacation for way, way less. You just need to know the secrets to saving. You could book a cruise within your budget today – here are four ways to score savings.

1. Be Flexible With Your Vacation Dates

The biggest savings on cruise fares can be found at the very last minute. If you’re able to be flexible with your travel dates and can take a vacation on short notice, you could cut the cost of a cruise significantly.

Like airline tickets, cruise prices change all the time. One day of the week they could see an all-time high; the next, they could drop by hundreds of dollars. But they do differ in one important way: as the departure date of a cruise approaches, the rooms get increasingly cheaper.

Cruises don’t want to leave port with empty rooms. Empty rooms means fewer passengers are on board to spend money – and that’s a loss for the cruise company. So, cruise ships will offer rock-bottom prices on last-minute bookings.

Booking a cruise at the last minute about three to six weeks before its departure date can save you a few hundred dollars. Try to be as flexible as you can; if you’re willing to travel on a weekday or stay in any kind of cabin, you can potentially get even more of a discount.

2. Cruise During “Wave Season”

Cruises are fun year-round, but most people don’t want to travel when it isn’t warm and sunny out on the seas. And that makes the off season, or “wave season” as it’s known in the cruise industry, the cheapest time to travel.

Wave season is the time of year when cruise lines have trouble attracting passengers. It occurs in January, February, and March – some of the coldest months of the year. And because people aren’t interested in heading out on a cruise, you can find some of the most aggressive offers of the entire year if you’re willing to hop onboard. Wave season deals can be discounted by as much as 75 percent.

And while you can catch discounts and deals on cruises all year long, the wave season is also when you’ll see the biggest sale events. From short-term promotions to seasonal sales, booking a cruise during wave season means you can rack up huge savings.

Consider booking when others are staying indoors, and you could hit the open seas for a steal of a price.

3. Choose a Cruise Near Home

While cruises themselves are pricey, the cost can really increase if you have to travel to an entirely different destination just to board the ship. However, if you live near a cruise ship port, you could save money on your entire vacation.

More and more cruises are departing from different ports today. While the most popular cruise destinations were once in Florida and California, now close-to-home cruises are possible. Cruise ships depart from cities like New York, Boston, Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Galveston – and they head to exciting destinations like the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the Mexican Riviera, Canada, and Alaska.

For your next cruise, you can look for one that’s both a last-minute fare and close to home. If you live near a city that offers cruises of any kind, you won’t have to pay to park your vehicle and don’t need to spend a cent on airfare or travel other than the cruise itself.

This will help you be extra flexible, which can result in big savings if you’re ready to vacation ASAP.

4. Search Online Before Booking

Found a cruise that’s within your budget and ready for departure soon? Don’t book it until you do a little more research.

While finding deals on cruise company websites is fantastic, you don’t want to book the first affordable fare you find. Today, there are plenty of ways to look for discounts and score big savings – you just need to put in the effort to search for them.

Search online to look for discounts on certain cruise fares. You can use travel sites like Expedia or Priceline, check out cruise-specific discount sites like LastMinuteTravel and CruiseDirect, or visit cruise companies’ own websites. See if you can find the cruises you’re interested in at a lower price.

You should also look for coupon codes and online discounts. You can set price alerts, but there’s one thing to remember no matter how you search: always search for a better price. Taking the time to compare benefits, staterooms, and cruise itineraries can help you take hundreds of dollars off of your total vacation cost.

And with this information, you’ll be able to choose a cruise that suits your vacation needs, your budget, and your interests. Don’t just book because there’s a sale event on cruises – do your due diligence to get as big a discount as possible.