If you see an ad or get a call offering you a free cruise, be careful. While the idea of a free cruise sounds exciting, before you start packing your suitcase, make sure you know exactly what is free and what will cost you. Consumers should understand that because a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it does not necessarily mean the trip is entirely without cost or restrictions. Be on the lookout for add-on fees for air transportation to the port, port charges, taxes, tips and other undisclosed fees.BBB offers the following tips to consumers receiving phone calls, text messages, mailers or emails about free cruises:Research the company by searching the internet and contacting BBB. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at www.bbb.org.Ask for references of people who have taken a similar cruise and contact them.Read any contract carefully before signing anything or paying any money. Understand the company’s refund policy in the event you are not satisfied with its service.Ask for the location of the corporate headquarters and check it out to make sure it is an actual address and the business is located there.Read any fine print for mandatory attendance at a timeshare or vacation club presentation.Consider any fees that are required to claim your trip. Does it still feel “free”? Do the fees seem reasonable? Any trip or prize that requires you to wire money should be suspicious. If you do choose to pay fees and claim the prize, pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the charge.Red Flags:1. If you win something without actually entering a contest, it should create high suspicion.2. Anything that looks too good to be true usually is.3. Anytime someone says you must accept the offer now or it's gone forever, walk away or hang up the phone.4. In this internet age, you can -- and should -- check out the company in real time.If you feel you are a victim of a scam, you may contact your local BBB, your attorney general’s office, the U.S. Postal Inspections Services toll free (877-876-2455) or the Federal Trade Commission toll-free (877-382-4357).For more information, BBB has general tips on travel scams and planning your vacation.BBB St. Louis and BBB Serving West Florida contributed to this tip.