First, what does all-inclusive actually include?
Typically, all-inclusive means that your food, entertainment and sometimes alcoholic beverages are all covered or paid for while you’re onboard the ship. For some cruise lines, “all-inclusive” also extends to shore excursions, child care, spa treatments and other extra services. Just don’t count on too many of those other already-covered “extra services.”
So, what are the benefits of all-inclusive cruises?
The greatest advantage of a cruise that includes it all, as perceived by most travelers, is the ability to fully estimate the cost of a vacation, including food and drinks, before you even begin to book it. This feature is especially helpful for families who are working under a tight budget and need to know very close to how much it’s going to cost to feed, house and entertain three kids and two adults for, say, eight days.
A second benefit is the ability to enjoy your vacation without hauling your wallet around, worrying about handling or losing traveler’s checks, or wondering if your MasterCard will be accepted on the ship. All-inclusive trips, including cruises, will either include most items for which you would ordinarily need to pay or allow you to set up an account for any incurred extra charges.
Sounds great, but what are the disadvantages of all-inclusive cruising?
Typically, the most frequent complaint from all-inclusive cruise travelers is the feeling of being “locked in” to a pre-defined and fairly inflexible schedule of events. Often, a cruise ship will have set dining times, specific buffet menus, or limited and highly organized entertainment options. Some travelers prefer to have a choice of restaurants, no set meal times, free and casual entertainment options and the ability to indulge in as many or as little shore excursions as they want.
Another disadvantage to all-inclusive cruising are the hidden costs. Little items like tips, alcoholic beverages (if they’re not included), extra shore trips, small snacks, room service, casino play, or spa treatments can all add up quickly – taking your “all-inclusive” and affordable vacation way over budget. Remember, it’s easier to sign up for a bunch of little bills when you’re thinking that the whole trip is already paid for. Budget travelers need to be especially careful of this common “all-inclusive” pitfall.
So, which type of cruise vacation should I choose?
There are benefits and disadvantages to all-inclusive cruising. The type of vacation you select depends on you – your style of vacationing, your budget and what you want to experience from your upcoming vacation.