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

Cruise versus All Inclusives
Donna Adinolfi

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.

Royal Caribbean

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
Dreams Resorts

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

For this example at Check PricesDreams Riviera Cancun, and at the time of this writing, 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 and the pre- (and possibly post-) cruise hotel stay you’ll most likely need to arrange, as it can be challenging to arrive directly from an flight precisely when your embarkation time is.

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.

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About Donna Adinolfi 248 Articles
Donna Adinolfi is a wellness travel expert, a freelance writer, an award-winning photographer, and the founder/publisher of Her 30+ year career includes serving as the Travel & Spa Editor of Balance Magazine as well as planning wellness travel & retreats. An avid fan of the freedom from carrying cash or credit cards, Donna loves to visit all-inclusive wellness resorts in the U.S, and traveling to some of Mexico's and the Caribbean's many all-inclusive resorts several times each year. She's also a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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