Well, something has to be spherical! (i mean for grabbing almost the whole environment within a single shot or two).
The cheap alternative to the fisheye is to get a mirror ball (still trying to find one since 4 months ago). You can then shoot at it, and maybe you could do it in fork mode, meaning that you could take three different exposures of the same shot. This way you should get something very close to an hemispherical projection of the environment. With a little postwork you can create a full spherical panorama, photoshop it to remove yourself and your camera, and make it hdr.
The cheapest way is to use a tripod to shoot a serie of pics. Then it depends from your needs: you can create a whole strip (panorama) and wrap a cylinder with it, or you can use one dedicated software to create the spherical map from your pics. Under mac i used PTMAC www.kekus.com
At least these are the options i found for the problem, but i am an autodidact, then for sure there are other more effective solutions!