Cruise versus all-inclusive, or is a Cruise really all-inclusive?

Ever wonder if a cruise is less expensive than a stay at an all-inclusive resort?

The average US citizen is entitled to 16 days of paid leave. However, not all people take the entire time off, or even parts of it for that matter. As a result, the average vacation lasts for about 4 days. Needless to say, we want to get as much as possible out of the vacation we take.

waterfall, rappelling, costa rica, adventure travel, aavtravelWhen looking for an affordable, easy, and uncomplicated vacation, many people turn to either a cruise, or choose to stay at an all-inclusive resort. The idea of having your vacation pre-paid and not much to worry about once you get there, sounds very appealing to many.

all-inclusive, playa del carmen, palace resort, mexico, aavtravelHowever, an all-inclusive resort experience can seem pricey upfront compared to a cruise, especially with cruise lines advertising fabulous voyages aboard a spectacular ship for next to nothing. Once you start to truly look at these fares however, you quickly realize that they do not include taxes and surcharges. In addition you also need to add the travel cost to the ship when calculating your total vacation cost. Since it is recommended you arrive a day early at your port, you also incur the cost of an additional overnight stay.

Truth be told, a cruise is nothing more than a couple of hotel nights including a full-pension meal plan. Most everything else will end up costing extra. Whilst you might pay less for your cruise upfront (if you do, after you add up all the surcharges and the pre- and post cruise travel expenses), you might just be surprised at how high your final invoice can be once you are ready to disembark your ship.

cruise, princess, alaska, aavtravelOn our recent Princess Cruise for example, we paid the following surcharges:

  • $11.50 per person and day in tips (7 day cruise means $80.50 extra per person). These tips cover your stateroom steward and main dining room staff, however you are still expected to tip in the bar and entertainment areas…
  • Specialty restaurants ($25 – $40 per person extra). Do you really need them? No. But if you want a more sophisticated, a cooked to order meal in a more intimate atmosphere, then yes, it is something you want to splurge for.
  • Wireless connections are highly valued these days. Trust me, if you want or need to be connected on your cruise this is a high ticket item. We are talking an easy $75 for 120 minutes.
  • Alcohol ranged from $6 for a beer to $12 for a more fancy cocktail. The all-inclusive option you can add on, on cruises longer than 7 days, comes with a steep price tag of $50 per day. Everybody in your stateroom needs to have it. So again, 7 day cruise add $350 extra per person just for alcohol (and this will not yet give you free access to the top shelf whiskys)
  • Access to the adult-only area, $40 a day per person
  • A spinning class, $15 per person
  • Room service surcharge
  • If you wish your minibar stocked in your room, expect to pay about $60 for one setup.
  • Wine tasting, $25 per person

all-inclusive, resort, pool, dominican republic, secrets royal beach, aavtravelGranted, upfront a trip to an all-inclusive resort might look like an extra $500 per person if you compare it to the fare of the lowest costing stateroom, but it will have the following perks included:

  • Unlimited alcoholic beverages (and smoothies, and specialty coffees…), top-shelf alcohol at many resorts, no questions asked
  • Specialty gourmet restaurants, oftentimes room service. You can eat around the clock and usually don’t have to pay any surcharges.
  • Access to adult-only area? Absolutely, either it is an adult-only resort, or if it offers and adult-only section you don’t have to pay extra to get there.
  • Spinning classes, yoga and pilates classes, zumba classes. I have not yet found a resort that charges extra for any of them.
  • A minibar, fully stocked and restocked daily.
  • My personal favorite, a window! Even if it just overlooks a distant parking lot or gardens.
  • Most every resort includes the use of water sports equipment, some even include snorkeling and diving excursions, or evening catamaran cruises. Entertainment, tastings, and sorts of other activities are included as well.
  • Oftentimes tips

If you are wanting a vacation that is relaxing, where you can enjoy drinking, and don’t want to worry about how much money you have to pay once you get back, then hands down, the all-inclusive resort is you better option.

cruise, ship, pool, princess, aavtravelHowever, here are a few good reasons, to take a cruise:

  • You get to experience several places without having to pack and unpack (especially true for cruises longer than just 4 days).
  • Some destinations are harder to get to and a cruise makes them more accessible (Alaskan coast line, some of the smaller, off the beaten path, Caribbean islands, the Mediterranean coast…).
  • You enjoy being confined on a boat with strangers in a Vegas like atmosphere.

Ultimately it comes down to what you are looking to get from your vacation versus which one really is cheaper. If you decide to cruise properly (stateroom with a window, alcohol every now and then…) you will likely end up paying just as much, if not more, as you would at an all-inclusive resort.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at

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