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Planning a Cruise After Booking One

Ways to plan a cruise. Every cruise line has them, in one form or another. One that seems to be catching some attention is Royal Caribbean's — called Cruise Planner — and, since we have a Royal Caribbean cruise on the horizon, it seemed a good idea to try it out.

Cruise Planner is to be used online because, frankly, just about everything is these days. It's designed to allow passengers to book reservations, activities and entertainment long before they walk up the ramp to board the ship. And as long as you have more spare time BEFORE the cruise than you will have on the ship, it keeps you from cutting into your vacation time.

We started with shore excursions, because they always seem to fill up first.

One of our ports is Falmouth, Jamaica. One of the sights to see there is Dunn's River Falls. This was a no-brainer. Click. Booked.

Entertainment…

On Royal Caribbean's big ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the featured shows are Broadway musicals Hairspray and Chicago, respectively. Since we're going on Allure, Chicago it is. Click. Booked.

Restaurants…

We've always been fans of My Time Dining, because of its flexibility. But for people who eat dinner as early as 4 p.m. (we have friends who are earlybirds) and as late as 10 p.m., making that decision days or weeks before the cruise doesn't work. But you can choose not only the time you want to eat on each day of your cruise, but how many people you want to dine with each night.

That would be one.

You can also book meals in the "for-fee" restaurants. On Allure of the Seas, Chops Grille is $35, Giovanni's Table is $25, the Samba Grill is $30, Rita's Fiesta is $10 (or $20 with cocktails) and there's a Lafite Wine Tasting Experience for $23, for four wines from the famous Chateau Lafite.

Still thinking, still thinking…

There's also the spa, other free entertainment (it's all free), and activities ranging from Barbie to FlowRider lessons to an all-access tour.

The bottom line: The Cruise Planner is simple, detailed and easy to negotiate. Other cruise lines may be this good, but Royal Caribbean got this one right.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Snapshots of the new Regal Princess

Celebrity Infinity
10 nights
July 14, 2014
London (return): Paris, St. Peter Port, CorkDublinLiverpoolGlasgow, Holyhead
Balcony: $3,179
Cost per day: $317
www.celebritycruises.com

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