Cruise holidays are supposed to be relaxing, enjoyable and carefree. Yet there a few situations where it pays to be organised! As well as helping to avoid disappointment due to lack of availability, booking in advance can also save you a significant chunk of time when it comes to waiting in line to make onboard reservations. To help ensure your next cruise getaway runs as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know about planning in advance!
Dining and dinner reservations
To make the evening meal process run as smoothly as possible many lines require passengers to choose their preferred dining time prior to departure. Most offer early seating slots (usually commencing at around 6pm) and late seating slots (beginning at 8.15-8.30). For a supplement, some larger lines will offer passengers the option of securing an open seating slot. This gives diners the flexibility to eat at whatever time they please. On smaller boutique-style vessels open seating is generally standard. That said, Royal Caribbean is one of the first large scale lines to roll out this concept for free, as seen in Dynamic Dining which is set to feature on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.
When you book your dining slot you may also be asked to choose a preferred table size. Depending on personal preferences you can choose to dine with two people or ten! If you’re keen to make friends and socialise, opting for a larger group is always advised.
For those that prefer to eat out of the ship’s main dining venue reservations are not usually necessary. Buffets and casual dining establishments are usually run on a ‘come as you please’ basis which is great for passengers with varied schedules.
However, those wishing to dine at the higher end and alternative restaurants will usually need to book in advance as well as pay a supplement charge. There is a fabulous array of options on offer, featuring everything from five-star French cuisine and hand-rolled sushi bars to celebrity chef ventures and top-notch steakhouses. Think Silversea’s Le Champagne, Carnivals Steakhouses, Royal Caribbean’s 150 Central Park, Crystal’s Silk Road and Cunard’s The Verandah.
Special dietary requirements
Cruising with a special dietary requirement is easy, as long as you let your line know in advance! Whether you require vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, diabetic, nut-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low salt or low-fat meals, most lines are always willing to make special arrangements. It’s advisable to let the line know at least 30 days in advance and it always pays to remind the servers once you’re on-board.
When possible, you should always try to book shore excursions in advance! It helps you to plan your budget, organise your time and above all, avoid disappointment. Almost all cruise lines offer online overviews of their shore excursions which makes the planning process a breeze. If you’re intending to do your own thing while on-shore, planning in advance is strongly advised. This includes anything from hiring a car and booking a round of golf to pre-reserving guided tours and making restaurant reservations.
Spa treatments and fitness
Today’s cruise ships feature some pretty swish day spa options and if you’re planning on indulging in some treatments, it’s always a good idea to book in advance. The ratio of staff to passengers can be quite small which means that time slots for massages, facials, mani-pedis are often limited. Some ships also offer personal training sessions and fitness classed which fill up quickly! If you can’t pre-book online, put it on the top of your priority list once you board the ship. Do keep in mind that online ‘menus’ often feature treatments on the pricier end of the scale. As such it can be a good idea to book one or two of your favourite treatments in advance and check out the rest of the menu once on-board.
Drink & soft drink packages
Want to include alcoholic beverages and soft drinks in your package? This can usually be done in advance when making your booking. Most lines offer unlimited soft drink packages while Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean also run all you can drink spirits, wine and cocktails plans. If you intend to indulge in a lot of drinking, these are a great way to save cash!
On-board show tickets and activities
While most shows and activities don’t require reservations, some lines do offer passengers the chance to secure VIP tickets and exclusive passes. For example, Royal Caribbean gives passengers the chance to pre-book one on one lessons on its FlowRider surf machine while Norwegian guests can reserve tickets to its most popular shows.
Frills and extras
Want to make your cruise extra special or surprise a loved one? Most lines offer passengers the chance to pre-book an array of great extras such as daily flowers, welcome chocolates, fresh fruit deliveries and bon voyage bottles of bubbly. It’s sometimes the little touches such as these that make cruise holidays truly unforgettable!
So there you have it – the complete cruiser’s guide to booking in advance! Want to secure an incredible cruise deal so you have the spare cash to indulge in things such as specialty dining, shore excursions, spa treatments, all-inclusive drinks packages and VIP show tickets? Cruise 1st has exclusive deals from all the leading cruise lines, from Royal Caribbean’s superliners to Silversea’s intimate small scale vessels!