NEW YORK (MainStreet) – You’ve heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” but just as true is the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free cruise.”

At least that’s what the Better Business Bureau is warning travelers. The BBB for the New York area recently released some tips for spring travelers who may fall prey to scammers offering free trips. Nationally, the BBB received more than 1,300 complaints about cruises in 2011, and while there are legitimate deals out there, consumers have to be vigilant about offers that are mailed to them unsolicited.

“Scammers may send numerous emails, postcards, and other mailings trying to get you to call them in order to claim your ‘free cruise,’” the BBB notes. “Be sure you gather as much information as you can about the business to determine if the offer is legitimate and through a reliable company.”

Here are a few of the BBB’s tips to avoid losing a boat-load of money in a cruise scam.

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Pay with a credit card. Credit cards can offer a level of purchase protection that most debit cards can’t. Many credit cards have policies that allow you to dispute charges if problems arise. The BBB advises that you should read through your credit card issuer’s insurance and purchase protection policies thoroughly, as different banks and issuers have different rules for what is protected and how you can make sure you get your money back.

Get proper confirmation of your booking. If you book a cruise through a travel agency, make sure that you get two sets of confirmation numbers – one directly from the cruise line and one from the agency itself. The reason for this is twofold, the BBB explains: “Not only will you then know that your information and money is in the right hands, but you'll also be able to pre-reserve shore excursions, restaurant reservations and spa appointments (where available) on the cruise line's website.”

Consider investing in travel insurance.Travel insurance can be a lifeline to a vacation gone wrong. Think about getting it to protect the costs of your trip and the things you bring with you on that pricey vacation.

For more on how to avoid cruise scams and other consumer tips, check out the BBB’s news section for advice and scam alerts.