Cruise or All-Inclusive Resort?

We are often asked this question; “Which is better?”  And there is no one simple or right answer to this.  There are several things to consider when deciding whether you want to take a cruise for your vacation or stay at an all-inclusive resort.   For purposes of this comparison, we will not look at EP resorts, where food and drink are extra, because most of the time vacationers who are interested in taking a cruise or staying at an AI resort are interested in value.   The decision is based on what is right for you and your family, what is compatible with your lifestyle, and on what is important to you.

So what are the differences that you need to think about?  First of all, with a mainstream cruise, included in the price you pay is your cabin, food, snacks, onboard entertainment, and obviously your transportation from one port to another.  Room service is normally free other than a tip, but may carry a surcharge during certain hours of the early morning.   Some cruise ships have specialty restaurants, which do carry a surcharge.   You also get unlimited coffee, tea, and lemonade or a similar drink.  However, your alcoholic beverages, sodas, and juices (except at breakfast) will be extra.   Gratuities, spa treatments, airport transfers, and any desired shore excursions will be extra.   Gratuities for the ship’s crew are also extra and are normally automatically billed to your shipboard account but may be adjusted as you wish.   Certain luxury lines may include alcohol, gratuities, and certain other extras in their price.

With an all-inclusive resort, generally all of your food, snacks, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, nightly entertainment,  use of nonmotorized sports equipment (such as snorkeling gear, kayaks, boogie boards, etc.), and gratuities are included (however, at many resorts small tips to various staff members are deserved and appreciated).  Spa treatments are extra at resorts, as they are on cruises.   Some all-inclusive properties also provide airport transfers, and higher-end properties such as Sandals and Beaches often include some scuba diving or even water skiing as well.   It is also very important when looking at various resorts that you determine whether a resort is truly all-inclusive.  There are some resorts that offer meal plans and may say there is an “all-inclusive option” but you have to make sure that what you are getting is truly comparable to a true all-inclusive resort.

So, for an example, let’s say that you are looking at a 7-day cruise in January that will cost an average of $700-900 per person based on two people, depending on cabin of course.  Airfare will be extra no matter which you choose.   Add on taxes and gratuities and you are approaching a price that is comparable at many all-inclusive resorts that can be booked in Mexico or Jamaica for example, for about $1000 per person.   But if you add alcoholic beverages, sodas, or snorkeling, you can see where a cruiser can easily end up spending more than a resort guest.  Some resorts offer a shuttle where you can explore the area, and some even offer a limited number of complimentary tours.   All of your transportation and tours while in port will be extra while on a cruise.

But as with most decisions, the comparison is not that easy.  You have to ask yourself how much you anticipate you will spend in alcoholic drinks and/or sodas, and how much you think you would take advantage of the snorkeling or sailing offered at most resorts.  With a cruise, you can visit several different ports and only unpack once where with a resort, you will obviously be in one location your entire trip.  You have to ask yourself which experience appeals to you more.   Cruises can be a better option for those who want an active, busy vacation and want to see as much as possible, where a resort vacation can be better for those who primarily want relaxation and an “escape” during their time off.   Ultimately it comes down to your lifestyle and what you want and expect out of your vacation experience.  This is when consulting a travel agent can be invaluable because with our experience and knowledge, we can be helpful in asking the right questions to make sure you get the vacation you really want!