Cruise vs. All Inclusive: Which is Best for You?

Cruise versus All Inclusives
Donna Adinolfi
Updated: Dec 22nd, 2016

You know you’d like to go on a worry-free tropical vacation with everything included. Yet you also want to consider what’s truly included and if it is the best fit for your vacation budget and desires.

One of the first steps is to consider what you’d like to do while away and the amenities that mean the most to you and those traveling with you.

A few questions to ask yourself while comparing a cruise and all-inclusive resort:
–  Do you enjoy a long walk on the beach at sunset?
–  Do you like to explore different destinations?
–  Do you enjoy drinks at the pool?

Let’s ponder the age-old travel question about cruising vs an all-inclusive vacation.


Let’s look at a 7-night Caribbean/Mexico sailing on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines from one of their Florida ports (airfare not included).

As an example, the cruise fare on the sailing reviewed is $885 per person (including port tax and fees).   This includes your meals at the complimentary restaurants, beverages like iced tea, coffee, tea, milk and juice (at breakfast) and daytime ship-board activities and evening entertainment.   Specialty restaurants are at an additional fee, which varies by ship.  If you’d like to add the beverage package w/alcohol it’s an additional $55 per person per day.  If you’re looking for a beverage package that includes soda, it’s about $8.50 per person per day.  Airport transfers to the port are at an additional fee.  Gratuities are additional.  Once you add up the cruise, transfers, beverage plan and any shore excursions you could be looking at over $1300 per person.

Cruises are known for their stellar nightly entertainment and Broadway shows.   On a 7-day cruise you’ll experience about three different ports giving you the opportunity to explore different islands and activities on shore.  Shore excursions are not included and could include snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and a plethora of other options.  And there is gambling onboard if it’s something you enjoy while traveling.

Benefits to choosing a cruise:
– Cruises offer more options for dining times vs the old days of early or late seating
– Top notch entertainment / Broadway shows
– Visiting different ports and then choosing one to return to for a longer stay


All-Inclusive Resorts
Let’s look at a 7-night stay at Dreams Riviera Cancun, Mexico.

For this example at Dreams Riviera Cancun, the total price reviewed is $860 per person (including tax and airport ground transfers).   This includes your meals at gourmet dining venues, unlimited beverages including beer, wine, alcohol, cocktails, soda, coffee, tea, mini-bar (refreshed daily) and 24-hour room service. This also includes non-motorized water sports, resort activities and live entertainment (nightly).  Bottled wine with dinner is typically at an additional fee, however, house wine by the glass is included.  All taxes and gratuities are included (tipping is not expected, however, from experience it is appreciated).

Since most activities are available at the resort you could explore dance lessons, yoga, biking, non-motorized water sports, beach activities, cooking, cocktail, and Spanish lessons.

Benefits to choosing an all-inclusive:
– Sunrise or sunset walks on the beach (or a romantic beach dinner at sunset)
– No extra cost for wine, beer, cocktails (unlimited beverages)
– Stress-free with no need to pay as you go during your stay

A positive for cruising is that there are many departure ports in the U.S. and this could typically save you a little on airfare, however, for this review the airfare to Ft. Lauderdale averaged $400 round trip (from Chicago, as an example).  For the all-inclusive airfare to Cancun, it averaged $550 round trip, also from Chicago. If you purchase your airfare with your all-inclusive package you could save a little more.  A consideration for cruise is that what you save on the airfare for a U.S. port destination, you may end up using for your ground transfers.

There are compelling reasons for either vacation option and it really comes down to your personal preference and budget. Consider what type of ‘vacation personality’ you have and consider the tips above.  If you know relaxing on the beach most days is what you’re craving for this getaway, then the all-inclusive option could be a good fit.  If you want to explore a few different places and enjoy gambling, then a cruise might be your best fit.

Do you prefer Cruising or All-Inclusive Resorts? Tell us in the comments!

About Donna Adinolfi 70 Articles
Donna Adinolfi is a wellness travel expert and solopreneur committed to promoting and writing about wellness, travel and spa. She is the founder/publisher of and previously served as Travel & Spa Editor of Balance Magazine. Her 30+ year career in travel also includes wellness travel planning & retreats and freelance writing/photography. She is based in Michigan and loves cross country road trips.


  1. My problem or my saving grace is that the ocean is so DEEP. I really prefer to listen to the waves hit the shore rather than the side of a ship. And rather than walk the deck, I like walking in the sand. I also would rather spend my days outdoors than inside of the ship gaming. I would always vote for an all-inclusive resort.

    • Hi Joyce – thanks for reading our Cruise vs All-Inclusive article and for your comment.
      It’s interesting as there is a following for both….some love cruising and it’s their vacation of choice.
      Having done both I do prefer an expansive beach each day and the sound of the waves coming to shore. Yet,
      to travel either way is welcome…especially in the winter. Thanks again.

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