Here’s How to Make Reservations Online Before Your Cruise


Originally posted by Claire Wilde on 3 January 2018 | Updated by Darcy Alexander on 23 January 2020

Dining at the most mouth-watering restaurants, viewing the finest on-board entertainment and sorting out those all-important shore excursions can all be booked and maintained way in advance of your cruise.

Pre-booking and making reservations before you set sail may seem confusing, especially if you’re not aware that most of the major cruise lines let their guests make and manage their reservations online beforehand.

To help you plan ahead, we’ve looked at how the major cruise lines let you make reservations:

Carnival Cruise Line

Get prepared before you sail with Cunard’s handy organiser right here. Easy and intuitive, you’ll be able to review reservations, dining times, book some much-needed ‘me time’ at their spas, plan your shore excursions and much more. You can even buy gifts from their onboard shops.

Shore excursions can be booked prior to sailing right until the Pre-Sail cut-off time, 11:30pm the evening prior to the ship’s departure. While walk-ins for their restaurants are welcome, Carnival recommend booking in advance, which you can do any time prior to your cruise.

Carnival’s site also breaks down all their shore excursions by destination and activity, with testimonials from other cruisers too.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity’s My Celebrity tool lets you look after all aspects of your cruise. A hub that encompasses everything from dinner reservations to online check-ins, you’ll also have the opportunity to pre-book your beverage package, make travel arrangements by coach and sign up to the Captain’s Club – their exclusive loyalty programme that gives cruisers plenty of rewards, perks and privileges.

Although you can book up to three days before your cruise, Celebrity recommends booking your shore excursions in advance due to their popularity.

Cunard Line

Made to tailor your holiday to the highest of standards, Cunard’s Voyage Personaliser takes care of your cruise needs with ease. All the usual things such as dinner reservations and shore excursions can be booked here, along with print outs of E-tickets and luggage labels to make things easier.

From travel arrangements to your preferred dining table size, finding the fit that’s right for you is what Cunard do best. If you’re planning to book shore excursions, the sooner the better as they can sell out rather quickly.

Fred. Olsen

Although not as all-encompassing as other lines, Fred. Olsen keeps your shore excursions sorted with their My Cruises page; a hub where you can see your booked cruises, cruise history and gain access to their Oceans programme to see how many loyalty points you have. Shore excursions are available four to six weeks before departure and like many other cruise lines, they recommend booking as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.

Sadly, the options for dining aren’t so customisable. When you book, you’ll have a choice of whether to eat at the ship’s first or second seating. Fred. Olsen will try to meet your preferred table size but there’s sadly no guarantee.

Holland America Line

Part of their Already Booked planner, Holland America offers plenty of ways to personalise your holiday online, from excursions and spa treatments to dinner reservations and beverage packages. You can even keep track of your transfers and pre-or-post-cruise hotels.

Your shore excursions aboard Holland America can be pre-booked and paid for online up to three days before you sail, so there’s plenty of time to decide what to do in advance. They operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, so be quick to act if something catches your eye.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line wants you to be able to do things your way. Their motto of ‘freestyle cruising’ means you can tailor your trip the way you’d like. After you’ve booked your cruise, log into My NCL and fill your schedule up with a wealth of shore excursions, dining options, entertainment and spa treatments.

P&O Cruises

P&O’s Cruise Personaliser makes booking shore excursions, reservations and getting that relaxing spa treatment a breeze. E-tickets and luggage labels are available to print out and if you’re travelling on one of P&O’s charter flights, you can even pick your seat when you fly.

Shore excursions are available to book and pre-pay around 12 weeks before your cruise sets sail until three days prior to departure. When booking through the Cruise Personaliser, head to the Going Ashore tab at the top of the page, select View and Book Shore Excursions from the drop-down menu and check out which ports of call are available for your visiting pleasure.

Princess Cruises

Head over to Princess’ Cruise Personaliser for flights, excursions, spa appointments and much more. If you fancy booking your drinks package beforehand or making sure your tips are pre-paid in advance, the personaliser is essential.

The window to book shore excursions begins 12 weeks before travelling and lasts five days before the ship is due to depart. Similarly, spa reservations are accepted 120 to seven days before departure, so if you feel like basking in bliss, now’s your time to book before spaces fill up.

Royal Caribbean

After you’ve booked your tickets, visit Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner so you can take care of your drinks packages beforehand, make arrangements to dine at some of the finest restaurants at sea, or take in show-stopping entertainment in the evening. Get exploring early on and reserve a shore excursion, or unwind in the Vitality Spa and treat yourself to an invigorating treatment or two.

After you’ve logged in, you have at least 180 days to fill your schedule, with the cut-off date being four days before you set sail. Get in on the ground floor, these places are sure to fill up.    

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About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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