updated 7/25/2008 10:16:27 AM ET 2008-07-25T14:16:27

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: January 2009

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The deal
Vacationing on a budget can be challenge, especially when it comes to international travel. But, if you can clear your calendar as far as five months ahead, you’ll be rewarded with deep discounts off cruises to Mexico. We found three five-day excursions on Carnival Cruise Lines —all departing from cities along the Gulf Coast toward the Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Maya. Staterooms are going for as little as $229 a person! After saving as much as 77 percent, the white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and Mayan ruins will be icing on the cake.

Sail in late fall from just $229
Whether you’re looking for a cruise to find inner peace before or decompress after this year’s Thanksgiving festivities, you’ll want to give thanks for the low price tag on this five-day jaunt to the Yucatan Peninsula. With two ports of call, the November 17 and December 1 sailings on the Carnival’s Holiday are true bargains. Embarking from Mobile, Alabama, you have a day at sea before arriving in Cozumel. Calica is the next stop, followed by a day on the Gulf of Mexico and back to Alabama. Interior rooms run from just $229 — you save 77 percent.

Five-day January cruise 73 percent off
You can pre-empt post-holiday blues with a January cruise from Louisiana while getting a jump on your New Year’s resolution to save more — 73 percent, to be exact. Inside cabins on the five-day January 10 trip will set you back $269. Setting sail from New Orleans, the Carnival Fantasy heads due south for the Yucatan Peninsula. The first stop is Progreso, near the Yucatan capital of Merida. The island of Cozumel is the second port of call. If you can’t wait until 2009, rates on sailings November 1-15 start at $299, and increase slightly to $309 for the December 8 trip.

Save 67 percent on Galveston departures
Prefer to leave from Texas? For the same itinerary in reverse, you can hit high seas on January 10 or January 24 from Galveston at a 67 percent discount off rack rates. Inside units on the Carnival Ecstasy are now reduced to only $329. The ship will make Cozumel its first port of call, followed by Progreso. Two entire days of cruising are also thrown into the mix. You can still snag deep discounts on 2008 departures, if you can’t sit still. Interior accommodations, normally priced at $999, are going for $349 at the end of November.

The dollars
All prices are per person and based on double occupancy. Port charges, onboard meals and entertainment are included but you’ll have to cover any onshore purchases.

The catch
For anyone not living near the Gulf Coast, airfare to the ports of departure may exceed the cost of the cruise.

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