How to plan for a cruise

Written by William Lee

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on planning the perfect cruise vacation! Here, we’ll break down the key components to ensure your next cruise is smooth sailing from start to finish. Prefer to listen to this? Check out our podcast on this very thing!

Cruise Line Differences

Understanding Reservation Systems

Each cruise line has unique reservation systems for dining and excursions. Major ocean liners like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Holland America allow dining reservations to be made 8-12 months in advance. This early planning can significantly enhance your dining experience by ensuring you get your preferred dining times. For accurate info, our travel agency put together a chart with all the relevant info below.

Timing and Cabin Class Impact

For smaller river cruises like Viking, the timeframe for reservations is shorter. Your ability to make reservations often depends on your cabin class. Higher cabin classes can book excursions and dining options up to 60 days before departure, while the lowest class may only be able to book once on board.

Viking Ocean Dining Availability

Viking Ocean Dining Availability

Cabin Type Dining Reservation Availability
Owner’s Suite 100 days from sail date
Explorer Suites 90 days from sail date
Penthouse Junior Suite 80 days from sail date
Penthouse Veranda 70 days from sail date
Deluxe Veranda 60 days from sail date
Veranda No priority reservations


Booking Priority

The selection and booking of excursions can greatly depend on the type of cruise and your cabin class. On Viking river cruises, for instance, higher cabin classes enjoy priority booking, allowing them to secure the best excursions well in advance. Lower cabin classes might find themselves with limited options if they wait until they are on the ship.

Impact on Cruise Experience

Choosing the right excursions can significantly enhance your cruise experience, especially on river cruises where deeper exploration of cities is possible. Plan ahead to make the most of your time at each destination.

Cruise Line Dining and Excursion Availability

Cruise Line Dining and Excursion Availability

Cruise Line Dining Availability Excursion Availability
Ama Waterways Booked only onboard 30 – 45 days prior in client’s cruise check-in
Avalon Waterways n/a 90 days prior
Azamara Booked only onboard 220 – 180 days prior to departure
Celebrity Cruises Within 1 year of departure Within 1 year of departure
Cunard 180 days prior 180 days prior
Disney Cruise Line New Disney cruisers – 75 days; Silver – 90 days; Gold – 105 days; Platinum – 120 days n/a
Explora Journeys 60 days prior 90 days prior
Holland America Line 120 days prior but could be sooner Approx. 6 months but could be sooner
MSC Cruises Booked only onboard (but you can purchase in advance) Available at the time of booking
Norwegian Cruise Line 120 days prior Approx. 6 months but could be sooner
Oceania Cruises Suites – when final payment is made; PH – 75 days; Concierge & Veranda – 60 days; Inside – 45 days 1 year prior they starting loading into the system
Princess Cruises Around 180 days prior Around 180 days prior
Regent Seven Seas Concierge & higher – 90 days; Lower categories – 60 days Concierge & higher – 365 days; Lower categories – 240 days
Royal Caribbean International 8-12 months prior 9-12 months prior
Seabourn No set time; have to check for each booking Typically 120 days prior
Silversea Cruises 120 days prior As soon as deposit is made
Viking Expedition Depends on category Depends on category
Viking Ocean Depends on category Depends on category
Viking River Booked onboard 120 days prior but could be available sooner
Virgin Voyages Rockstar Suite – 60 days prior | Other cabins – booked onboard Rockstar Suite – 135 days prior | Other cabins – booked onboard
Windstar Booked only onboard 180 days prior but could be sooner


Embarkation and Disembarkation Locations

Understanding the port locations for embarkation and disembarkation is crucial. Major cities like Rome and Venice often have ports far from the city center. For example, Rome’s port can be about three and a half hours away from the city center, and Venice’s port is now located an hour away from the city itself.

Transportation Planning

It’s important to plan your transportation from the port to the city center. Many cruise lines include transport as part of their package or offer it as an add-on. Keeping your transport arrangements in-house with the cruise line can ensure everything runs smoothly.


Cruise Packages with Flights

Some cruises offer flight packages, but these might not always be the most convenient. These packages typically focus on cost efficiency, which can result in flights with multiple connections and less favorable seating arrangements.

Upgrading Flight Packages

Consider upgrading to flight packages that offer more control over your flight selections. This upgrade can help you avoid long layovers and ensure you and your companions are seated together.

Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Cruise

Arrival Timing

Importance of Early Arrival

One of the best tips for cruise planning is to arrive in your departure city at least a day before your cruise. This precaution helps you avoid missing the start of your cruise due to flight delays or cancellations.

Protecting Your Cruise Time

By arriving early, you protect your valuable time on the cruise, ensuring you don’t miss out on any part of your voyage due to unexpected travel disruptions.

Planning a cruise involves many moving parts, from understanding reservation systems to managing transportation and flights. By following these tips and planning ahead, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable cruise experience. If you have any questions or need assistance with your travel plans, feel free to reach out to us.


We’ve got you covered! At Chima Travel, we’ve been helping people plan their trip for over 100 years.

More from our Blog

Are Travel Agents Worth It?

In the ever-evolving world of travel, the question "Are travel agents worth it?" has resurfaced with renewed vigor. As we navigate the complexities of modern travel, let's explore why these seasoned professionals are making a comeback in 2024. The Resurgence of...

What’s It Like to Cruise on the Azamara Pursuit?

Dining Experiences Azamara is a premium cruise line based in Miami, Florida, known for its focus on destination immersion experiences. The company operates four intimate, boutique-style ships: Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, Azamara Pursuit, and Azamara...

Rocky Mountaineer

What is the Rocky Mountaineer?

The Rocky Mountaineer: An Overview The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train journey through the beautiful Canadian Rockies. The trip usually lasts two days, traveling from Banff to Vancouver with an overnight stop in the small town of Kamloops. This train ride is...

Dreams Onyx Punta Cana

What’s It Like to Stay at Dreams Onyx Punta Cana? This Hyatt-owned all-inclusive resort is family-friendly and attached to another Hyatt-owned resort, the Breathless Punta Cana, which is accessible for guests over 18. Breathless Punta Cana offers a casino and...

Secrets Tides Punta Cana

What’s It Like to Stay at Secrets Tides Punta Cana? Recently, Chima Travel's President, Brian Chima was invited to visit Secrets Tides Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. This Hyatt-owned all-inclusive resort is an adults only (18+) and opened in January 2024,...

Where to Stay in Lisbon?

In my last blog I featured the best restaurants in Lisbon, so now that you know where to eat let’s explore options for where to stay. Lisbon has 18 municipalities it can be overwhelming and hard to determine where to stay. The neighborhoods of Baxia, Chaido, Bairro...

Don’t Miss A Thing!

Subscribe to our Newsletter