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Cruise companies make visa arrangements on behalf of their passengers to enter countries where cruise ship excursions are running. If you are traveling on your own, visas are your own personal responsiblity.  You can frequently pay for visas at the airport as you enter a country. US cash for Visas at the airport seems to resolve issues reasonably quickly, but this never works in countries such as Brazil and Russia.  A visa for Brazil and for Russia is absolutely required in advance.  Visiting the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls and hoping to arrange a visa to the Brazilian side at the border crossing?  It's not going to happen!  In order to guarantee your ability to enter a country, purchasing a visa in advance can reduce stress and simplify your travel.

Here are some sources for visa requirements and processing:

Visitors to Europe should be aware of the requirement for a visa for stays longer than 3 months in a six month period.  This applies to countries which are members of the Schengen Zone.  An excellent source of information on Schengen Zone visas is the web site of Schengen Visa Info.