Prebooking, from spas to tours, a value add-on

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LOS ANGELES -- Crystal Cruises rolled out a wealth of prebooking options this month, prompting the question: How prevalent is the trend to reserve excursions, spa treatments or restaurant reservations even before clients set foot on the ship.

Pretty prevalent, as it turns out: Cruise lines have been busy adding prebooking features -- primarily for their shore excursions -- and primarily on their Web sites.

Not all lines offer the choice, and some only offer it on a case-by-case basis. And shore excursions are not commissionable, even when booked early. But in order to get your clients' vacation time booked up in advance, here's a rundown of the options:

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity offers the ability to book shore excursions on www.celebrity.com up to 10 days in advance of the cruise.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal's new program lets passengers book spa treatments, dinner reservations, shore excursions and onboard classes online -- but only if they pay for the cruise ticket more than six months in advance of the voyage.

Guests who have paid for their cruise on the Crystal Symphony can reserve services now via links on www.crystalcruises.com; the program will be available online on June 1 for Crystal Serenity passengers and on Sept. 1 for Crystal Harmony cruises.

Cunard

Queens Grill passengers onboard the Queen Mary 2 can pre-book into the Canyon Ranch spa. Guests are mailed the information three months before sailing and given a toll-free number to call to book treatments.

Disney Cruise Line

Shore excursions can be booked in advance by calling (877) 566-0968, by e-mailing the requests along with the guest's name and reservation number to [email protected] or by faxing a shore excursion request form to (407) 566-7031. Forms can be downloaded from www.disneycruise.com.

Holland America Line

Guests may prebook shore excursions at www.hollandamerica.com approximately 60 days prior to sailing, but no later than 10 days prior to sailing. Wait-listed requests for sold-out shore excursions will be processed prior to requests made on board.

To log onto the proper screens, guests must have a booking number. There is a box for agents to check if they are making the order on their client's behalf.

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL offers prebooking on www.ncl.com. Passengers can prebook shore excursions online until sail date, provided there is availability.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania offers two shore excursion packages that can be booked in advance, and a spokesman said the line will begin offering the packages for sale online at www.oceaniacruises.com, in May.

The Discovery package includes one half-day highlight tour in each of the destinations on the voyage; the Explorer includes one full-day tour in each port call. A program to prebook spa appointments, the spokesman said, is "in the distant future."

Princess Cruises

Princess lets passengers book shore excursions within 120 days of the cruise. Passengers or agents can book online on Princess' Cruise Personalizer (available if you have a booking number) at www.princess.com or by fax or mail.

The line also prebooks spa appointments aboard the Caribbean Princess and the Sapphire Princess, the only spas Princess operates inhouse. These reservations are made online at www.princess.com, again with a booking number.

Radisson Seven Seas

Prerequest forms are sent to guests booked on most Radisson Seven Seas ships with their cruise documents 30 days prior to sailing. (The policy does not extend to the Paul Gauguin, the company's Tahiti-based ship because it's small enough to accommodate most passengers' needs, a company representative said.)

Passengers may choose excursions by having their travel agents fax their completed preference form to the line anytime up to 48 hours prior to their voyage. Requests are processed in the order received.

Royal Caribbean

Shore excursions can be booked online at www.royalcaribbean.com up to 10 days in advance. An order form for shore excursions is included with passengers' documents for them to return by fax. The fax deadline is 21 days before sailing.

Silversea

Silversea recently launched an online system for reserving excursions: Beginning with the summer season, passengers will be able to reserve shore excursions from 60 days to two weeks prior to sailing.

Agents can visit www.silversea.com and go to the calendar displaying the day-by-day itinerary of a voyage.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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