Episode 42: Cruise vs All-Inclusive Resort

Cruise vs all-inclusive resort

In this episode, I’ll be giving you the similarities and differences between all-inclusive resorts and cruises.

These are two very different types of vacation, and choosing which is best will be different for everybody.

In the end, your choice of vacation depends on what you want to experience, and sometimes that means there are extra costs – if you can afford it, don’t let those extra costs get in the way of you living the best life on your vacation.

Here are some similarities and differences:

[02:29] Food and Drinks.
Food is included for both all-inclusive resorts and cruises.

The difference is the kinds of restaurants that are included – for most cruises, the specialty restaurants would be a minimal additional cost. At all-inclusive resorts, all the specialty restaurants are included in the cost.

[03:57] Room service.
Both all-inclusive resorts and cruises offer room service to some degree.

The extent of the room service you want will determine the specific resort or cruise you’ll end up booking – some offer 24/7 room service, while others might offer more limited room service.

It’s important to remember that most all-inclusive resorts offer room service at no additional cost, while some cruise ships are starting to introduce a service fee for room service.

[06:01] Beverages.
Water, tea, and juice are included at both all-inclusive resorts and cruises.

On cruises, if you want bottled water, carbonated beverages, and alcoholic beverages are available at additional costs – you can pay for an unlimited package to have your unlimited soda.

Minibars at all-inclusive resorts are generally included in your room, and are restocked every other day at no additional cost. On cruise ships, if you’re lucky enough to have a refrigerator in your room, you need to pay to enjoy the contents of that refrigerator.

Alcohol is typically included on resorts. On cruises, you have to pay extra to have some alcohol. If you enjoy your alcoholic beverages, consider which option would be the most economical after several days. If you are determined to get on a cruise ship, there are some packages that you can buy that would allow you to drink without having to pay for each drink – be aware that if you’re rooming with someone who isn’t a big drinker, cruises are starting to make it so that if one roommate gets a drink package, then both have to get the drink package.

You can typically bring your own liquor to an all-inclusive resort. On a cruise ship, you might be lucky to bring a bottle of wine with you. I already know, whenever I stop at the airport at my destination, I’m picking up my bottle of Jack Daniels because I’m not about to pay double the price for a bottle at the resort.

[12:19] Tipping.
If you don’t have a drinks package, you’ll notice a tip added to every drink that you order on a cruise.
At all-inclusive resorts, tipping is not mandatory. If I’m getting great service, I’m tipping at the resort. But on a cruise ship, you pay a tip regardless.

Once you’ve paid for your cruise ship ticket or your resort booking, you don’t owe any more money. However, on a cruise ship, you have the additional cost of gratuities. These are typically used to pay the staff. You have the option of adding that to the cost of the cruise beforehand or you can pay it after the cruise. Either way, you’re going to have to pay it.

[15:39] Your room.
Your room is included at all-inclusive resorts as well as on cruises. That’s where the similarity ends.
The difference is the size of the room.

On cruise ships, you have much smaller rooms. The entry-level rooms on cruises are one size, regardless of how many beds you have in them. There are bigger rooms and suites available, but those come at an extra cost. Some rooms don’t have windows, while others might have a small porthole or a balcony.

At all-inclusive resorts, you know your room is going to be huge. You can usually expect a large bed, a seating area, and a big bathroom.

A great initiative on cruises is that they’re starting to introduce studio rooms – if you’re travelling solo, you pay a solo price. At all-inclusive resorts, you pay the full price of the room even if you’re the only one in it.

[20:00] WiFi.
WiFi is available at all-inclusive resorts as well as on cruises.

At the resorts, your WiFi is included in the cost. On cruise ships, however, you’re paying for that WiFi with a package.

When I’m booking resorts, I’m not looking for resorts that don’t offer free WiFi outside of my room.

[22:00] Entertainment.
Entertainment is included in the cost for both all-inclusive resorts and cruises.

The difference is the variety and amount of entertainment on offer.

On a cruise, there is always something happening – whether you want to attend an event at 3pm or at 3am, you will find something.

At the resorts, there is little happening during the day, and their entertainment is typically limited to nightlife events.

[25:12] Childcare.
If you’re travelling with your kids and you want to have some time to yourselves, childcare is available on cruises and at all-inclusive resorts, but it’s typically at an additional cost.

[26:11] Crowded spaces.
Especially during the pandemic, cruise ships are having a hard time because everybody is in one space together in public areas.

At all-inclusive resorts, there is plenty of space to keep your distance outdoors, in the pools, and on the beach.

[27:52] The destination.
Cruises will allow you to sample multiple different destinations, especially on longer cruises where the ship makes many stops along the way. These are not fully immersive destination experiences, and you can usually expect to spend, at most, a few hours at each stop.

At all-inclusive resorts, you can experience one destination, but you have the entire length of your stay to immerse yourself in that destination.

Both the resort and the cruises offer excursions. You can pay for tours outside the resort and at the cruise ship destinations at an extra cost. Note that you have time limits for the cruise ship stops, so you may only be able to do one excursion, whereas you’re able to do several excursions each day at a resort destination.

[31:20] Curfews.
At each stop on a cruise, you’re given a set time to be back onboard, otherwise the ship leaves without you. Everything you do at the destination has to be done within the given timeframe.

At all-inclusive resorts, if you want to leave the resort and experience the destination for however long you want to. You’ll be paying for the room regardless, but you have no curfew.

[32:07] To summarise.
In the end, it all comes down to cost.

The travel, hotel, and transfers are included in the all-inclusive resort package. For a cruise, you typically have to pay for your own transportation to and from the cruise.

Alcohol and drinks are provided at all-inclusive resorts. On cruises, you pay extra for your alcohol, soda, and bottled water.

WiFi is included at all-inclusive resorts. On a cruise ship, you’re paying for the WiFi.

Specialty restaurants are included in the cost for all-inclusive resorts. If you’re on a cruise, you have to pay extra.

Cruise ships have everything you’d want. The only thing you need to consider is whether or not you’re comfortable with the extra costs associated with getting the things you want. If you’re like my mother, and you mostly drink water, then a cruise ship may be the more economical option. If you’re like me, and you want WiFi and that Jack Daniels, you want to have those costs included in that vacation.

Always think about what you want to experience and what you need in order to have the vacation that you want to have.


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One thought on “Episode 42: Cruise vs All-Inclusive Resort

  • Pamela Prymer

    Love this episode!! Thanks for the comparison of cruising vs All inclusive resorts. I am like your mom and love cruising, but want to do an all inclusive because I do like a cocktail or two. Gearing more towards all inclusive vacation especially since the pandemic started. Definitely want my space

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