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Freedom of the Seas in Cozumel (Photo: Cruise Critic)

How to Pre-Book Cruise Ship Activities Online

By Elissa Garay
Cruise Critic Contributor
Updated October 27, 2017

Are you sick of rushing to the spa on embarkation day, only to elbow your way through the crowds to guarantee that 10 a.m. hot-candle-wax treatment on the second sea day? Tired of the buzz kill you get from waiting in long lines to book a romantic dinner at onboard specialty restaurants? As cruise lines expand options for advance online reservations via their websites -- whether it's pre-booking shore excursions, spa treatments and restaurant reservations, or even reserving fitness classes or babysitting -- cruise travelers can spend less time queuing up onboard and more time enjoying their vacations. Of course, not all lines allow for pre-booking of all things. But, almost every line allows for pre-cruise customization in some fashion. Just be sure to check cancellation policies before pre-reserving any shore tours, spa treatments or even specialty dinners to avoid any unpleasant surprises.


Azamara Club Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, AzAmazing evenings

How to Book: Once your cruise is booked, you can sign up for Azamara's booking platform, Voyage Planner (found in the Booked Guests section of its website), to book shore excursions as well as reservations for the line's free evening events ashore, dubbed AzAmazing Evenings. You can also add in reminders for other onboard activities and events (like dining reservations, which you can't book online), for an easy-reference customized itinerary. Advance bookings can be made until four days ahead of embarkation.

The Fine Print: Note that shore excursions must be paid in full at time of booking; while onboard credits can be retroactively applied toward excursions (within 48 hours of the outing) for 2017 sailings, this option will no longer be possible for 2018 voyages. Most shore tours can be canceled 24 hours in advance with no penalty, though excursions involving flights, trains and overnight stays, as well as special events and private tours, incur penalties if canceled fewer than 30 days prior to sailing.


Carnival Cruise Line

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, preferred seating times in main dining room and specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments

How to Book: Passengers who are booked (and paid in full) can pre-purchase activities online, prior to their cruises (up to seven days before sailing), by selecting the "Manage" tab at the top of Carnival's home page and logging in. Also, up to one week before a sail date, it's possible to order a variety of gifts online here, from wine and flowers to onboard credit, or book an internet package, beverage package or ground transfers, too.

The Fine Print: You can cancel shore excursions booked online prior to the specified cutoff date for a full refund. After that time, you can cancel once onboard, but you'll have to pay a 25 percent cancellation charge. All shore excursions are nonrefundable within 24 hours of arriving in port.


Celebrity Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments, salon appointments, fitness classes

How to Book: With a cruise reservation number, ship name and sailing date, you can book activities online up to two days prior to sailing (or three days for spa and salon services or fitness classes). Access the "Cruise Planner" tool via the Celebrity home page; it's accessible via the "Manage Your Vacation" tab on the top navigation bar. Passengers can also book internet, beverage and photo packages here.

The Fine Print: Celebrity typically opens anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of all available specialty dining for pre-cruise online bookings, which means passengers may see online that a particular night appears to be fully booked, yet may still be able to secure a reservation once onboard.


Costa Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments, salon appointments, select onboard activities, fitness classes

How to Book: Clicking on the "Login" link at the top of the Costa home page will take you to the pre-booking section of the site; you can also order special gifts and packages, book Wi-Fi and reserve onboard laundry and ironing services here. All can be booked up until a week before the departure date, with the exception of shore excursions, which can be reserved up to four days ahead of embarkation.


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Crystal Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments, Creative Learning Institute classes****

How to Book: With Crystal's online Priority Check-in and Planning Center (accessed via the "Already Booked" tab on the Crystal home page), passengers can arrange for ground transfers and make all available advance bookings online. Bookings must be made seven days in advance of sailing.

The Fine Print: While all deposited passengers can access Priority Check-in, only travelers who have paid in full can make bookings via the online Planning Center.


Cunard Line

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments (on some ships)

How to Book: All Cunard passengers can pre-book shore excursions and reserve tables in specialty dining venues such as The Verandah using the online Voyage Personaliser (under the "Booked Passengers" tab on Cunard's home page). Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth passengers may additionally pre-reserve all spa services online. You can also order special onboard gifts or arrange ground transfers. Note that advance bookings close out three days ahead of embarkation on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, and eight days prior on Queen Mary 2.

The Fine Print: Queen Mary 2 passengers who would like to book spa treatments in advance of their sailing must call Canyon Ranch directly to pre-reserve services, at least eight days prior to their sailing date.


Disney Cruise Line

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments, babysitting and nursery services, youth activities

How to Book: Head to the "My Disney Cruise" link on the Disney Cruise Line home page to begin pre-reservations. Advance bookings can be made between 75 and three days prior to sailing. Note that repeat passengers are entitled to longer booking windows, ranging from 90 to 120 days out.

The Fine Print: Guests in travel parties with five or more staterooms must retrieve each reservation separately to arrange activities in My Disney Cruise.


Holland America Line

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments

How to Book: Click on "Already Booked" on Holland America's home page to make advance reservations online, and also purchase beverage packages. Most shore excursions can be reserved online at least eight months before a cruise (or a year for world cruises); dining opens up about a year out (or when the cruise is booked), while spa reservations can be made about six months ahead of embarkation. The cutoff for pre-booking all activities is three days prior to sailing.

The Fine Print: If you cancel a shore excursion online more than three days before the cruise, a credit is issued to your credit card. Cancellations less than three days out receive an onboard credit but are subject to a 10-percent cancellation fee. (Note that some tours, like Signature Collection private tours, are entirely nonrefundable.)


MSC Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations and packages, spa treatments

How to Book: Ticketed passengers can pre-book activities by creating an account via the "Manage My Booking" tab on the MSC Cruises website. Additionally, passengers can advance order beverage packages, special onboard gifts (like Champagne and strawberries), photo packages, laundry services and Wi-Fi bundles. All advance bookings are available up to two days prior to sailing date.  

The Fine Print: If shore excursions booked in advance are not canceled before the 48-hour window prior to sailing, cancellation fees will be applied.


Norwegian Cruise Line

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments (as well as thermal suite access), select onboard entertainment and activities

How to Book: With the "My NCL" section of Norwegian Cruise Line's website, passengers can book activities and purchase onboard gifts like wine or flowers. The line additionally has a pre-cruise online reservation system for some of its newer ships' (Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Epic) entertainment options, such as performances of Rock of Ages, Cirque Dreams & Dinner, Burn the Floor and After Midnight, among others. Passengers can make a reservation for each show once per sailing. Note that all advance bookings open 90 days before sailing, and close one to two days before embarkation.

The Fine Print: Currently, you can only book spa appointments pre-cruise for Norwegian Epic; however, you can reserve weeklong passes to the spa's thermal suite across the fleet.


Oceania Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations

How to Book: Oceania's "My Account" section enables paid-in-full passengers to pre-reserve specialty dining at dinner as well as book shore excursions. How far in advance dining reservations can be made depends on cabin category, though all must be made prior to seven days before sailing. Shore excursions can be made 180 days ahead of embarkation and close out seven days prior to departure.


Princess Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, pre-/post-cruise tours, preferred seating times in main dining room and specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments

How to Book: Booked Princess passengers can pre-book activities online, starting 120 days prior to and up to seven days before sail date by clicking on "Booked Guests" on Princess' home page. In the "Cruise Personalizer" section here, cruisers can book activities and also arrange ground transfers, book beverage packages, order onboard gifts and in-room amenities, reserve photography and internet packages and purchase onboard or casino credits.

The Fine Print: Excursion packages involving hotel accommodations, flights and private vehicles are not refundable within 30 days of your cruise departure date.


Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations

How to Book: Creating a profile on the "My Account" portion of the Regent website enables passengers to pre-reserve shore excursions and make dining reservations. Passengers in Concierge-category suites and higher can make specialty restaurant reservations 90 days in advance of sailing and book shore excursions 240 days out; advance bookings for standard Deluxe Verandah Suite passengers can be made 75 days in advance for dining reservations and 180 days for excursions. All bookings close seven days before departure.

The Fine Print: Canyon Ranch spa treatments can be pre-booked, but only by calling Canyon Ranch directly.


Royal Caribbean International

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations and packages, spa treatments, select onboard entertainment and activities

How to Book: Access Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner tool by clicking on the "Already Booked" tab of the website. The feature allows passengers to book activities, like reserving seats for entertainment (including musicals, comedy acts and the aquatic and ice shows) and signing up for select activities (like the Ripcord by iFly skydiving simulator or Shrek character breakfasts). Plus, internet and beverage packages can also be booked in advance. With Cruise Planner, passengers can see a calendar that includes all of their bookings in relation to the ship's itinerary. (It works on mobile devices, so passengers can conveniently carry their calendars with them.) Note that shore excursions can be booked one year in advance of sailing; all other activities open up for booking 60 to 90 days prior to the cruise date. Bookings for all activities close out two days prior to embarkation.


Seabourn Cruise Line

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, pre-/post- cruise tours and hotels, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments

How to Book: With booking numbers in-hand, Seabourn passengers-to-be can enter the "Booked Guests" section of the line's website, where they can make advance bookings, order gifts (clothing, wine, floral arrangements) and select beverage preferences to stock in-cabin fridges (a complimentary offering with the line). In addition, this luxury line allows you to book pre- or post-cruise hotel stays and Seabourn Journeys (extended, multiday shore excursions). Note that all activities must be booked three days prior to sail date; for hotels and transfers, a 30-day advance booking is required.

The Fine Print: You can make cancellations for things like shore excursions and spa services without penalty within three days of embarkation.


Silversea Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments, salon appointments, fitness classes

How to Book: Silversea's "My Silversea" login area enables booked passengers to make advance bookings, from 120 days (for spa and restaurants) or 90 days (for shore excursions) prior to sailing. Note that all booking options close out eight days ahead of embarkation. Passengers sailing on Silver Explorer and Silver Cloud Arctic and Antarctic and select Silver Discoverer expedition cruises can also request complimentary parkas online.

The Fine Print: My Silversea is available for all passengers sailing on all ships, but those sailing on expedition cruises cannot yet pre-book anything.


Viking Ocean Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments

How to Book: With a Viking Ocean Cruises booking number in hand, you can access the line's My Viking Journey tool to make advance bookings. Note that pre-bookings can be made 60 to 97 days in advance of embarkation, depending on your stateroom category; all bookings close out one week prior to sailing. Beverage packages can also be arranged online.

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Windstar Cruises

Activities You Can Pre-Book: Shore excursions

How to Book: With your booking number, you'll be able to pre-book shore excursions for all Windstar cruises via "My Windstar" on the line's home page. You can book your excursions online until seven days before your sailing.

The Fine Print: If you cancel a shore excursion reservation less than five days prior to departure, you will be subject to a 10 percent cancellation fee. Windstar does not let passengers prearrange spa treatments or specialty dining reservations.

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