So you’re ready to plan that perfect vacation, but there is an ongoing debate about which is better: an all inclusive vacation or a cruise. Either option can offer up fun, but we here at All Inclusive Outlet would like to make a case for the all-inclusive resort. The reasons we have given below are based on attributes of the majority of all inclusive resorts and the majority of cruises. We realize that with the wide range in options for both types of vacations, one article on the topic could never apply to all available options.
1. Cruises have extra costs that all inclusive resorts do not. These costs on cruises can add up and make what once seemed like a deal become a much more expensive vacation than anticipated. For example, cruises typically do not include alcoholic drinks or soda with the cost of the trip. You will be required to purchase a soda card or forego drinks other than milk, water, tea, and juice for the entire trip. As for alcoholic drinks, these expensive items can really rack up on your bill, which you must pay before departing the ship.
In addition, some cruises do not include port charges or tips and gratuities in the quoted price. On the other hand, all inclusive resorts add in hotel taxes, all gratuities, and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) into the quoted price. (Note: Certain items are generally considered extras for both cruises and resorts—such as spa treatments, excursions away from the ship or resort, casino gambling, meeting facilities, laundry, etc.).
2. Resorts allow you to fully experience a location and culture versus only having a few hours at a port of call. While cruises are a great way to experience a variety of locations all in one trip, it can oftentimes be a whirlwind of a vacation that can leave you wishing you had gotten to spend more than a few hours at a particular destination. Not so with a resort, where you can generally experience local cuisine more often than once or twice, get to know some of the locals, and try out different excursions to local tourist attractions, historical and archeological sites, and local shopping over the course of your stay.
3. The pools on cruise ships are usually tiny, cramped, and loud. Let’s face it, cruise ships just don’t have the space for large pools, although some do offer waterslides. These tiny pools can sometimes be little more than a place to dip in and cool off. Trying to actually swim in some of these pools can be like trying to navigate an obstacle course as you try to make your way around the hoards of people who also wanted to take a dip. Nevermind trying to find a chair. Many times this can take a while or you have to get up extra early to get a spot. Of course, sometimes it can be hard to find a chair at a resort during a busy week as well, but a lot of times when you think this might be a problem, it turns out that there are plenty of chairs open at one of several pools. After all, the pool is one of the biggest attractions at an all-inclusive resort, whereas pools on cruise ships tend to be designed as central hubs of activity for games, contests, and other loud activities where entertainment staff members are shouting out announcements and leading group activities.
4. The accommodations are measurably better at resorts. And that measure can be made in either feet and inches, or meters if you prefer. Yes, we’re talking about space…that one precious commodity not found on cruise ships. Cabins are just plain tiny, unless you splurge for some of the most expensive ones. Meanwhile even the most basic resort accommodations offer up more space than the typical cruise ship cabin. And for those that want even more space for large groups or families, it’s easy to find a resort with multiple bedrooms without paying through the nose.
5. Oh, the crowds. And the lines. With cruising, unless you have opted for a smaller ship, you are generally surrounded by thousands of strangers. We’ve already mentioned the pools. But think about the buffets and restaurants, the bars, the casinos, the entertainment, and the excursions. You have thousands of people all trying to do the same activities at once and trying to share limited facilities, which can make for lines at every turn. In addition, there are lines to get off the ship and lines to get through security when you are re-boarding. Cruising can be a practice in patience during the entire length of your cruise. Meanwhile, resorts are generally big enough and spread out enough to not feel like you have been packed like sardines. In addition, all-inclusive resorts can be so well planned and so well laid out that you often wouldn’t know it if they were at full capacity.
6. Cruises are the king of schedules. Everything on a cruise vacation has a schedule. There are docking and departing schedules, dining schedules, activity schedules, entertainment schedules, etc. On most cruise ships with sit-down dining you must pick a seating arrangement, or time you will eat. This time will be consistent from day to day. This will be your time whether you are hungry or not or whether you want to attend another activity during that time. Therefore, each day must be planned around this seating time or your only other option will be the buffet. Excursions are set up for set times, and these are usually really early in the morning shortly after the ship docks at port. Once you are off ship, don’t forget to keep track of the time, because havoc can ensue if you miss the time to re-board and the ship sails without you. In addition, on board activities and entertainment go around the clock and can often overlap, so trying to manage your schedule to hit all of the events you want to attend can take some organization and planning. And if you plan to attend nightly entertainment on the same day as an early-morning excursion, this can make for a long day. With the time limits of excursions, activities, and time at a local beach, sometimes people can feel like they just didn’t get enough time to do what they wanted to do.
Meanwhile, at resorts, there is all the time in the world for dining and activities. With many activities on-site—such as water sports, beach volleyball, golf, tennis, and more—it’s easy to go back and do it all over again the next day if you wish. Even with purchased excursions, if you have had the time of your life, then booking a repeat activity might be possible since you are staying in one place.
7. Cruises aren’t necessarily designed to be relaxing. Between the lines and crowds and the endless activity options it can sometimes be hard to just find some peace and quiet. While nothing is mandatory on board, many cruise ships are constantly trying to draw guests into the activities with announcements and excited staff.
8. If you are prone to sea sickness no matter what you do, cruise ships probably aren’t for you. Nowadays cruise ship technology has reduced the movement of the larger ships quite a bit, but you will still feel some rocking in even the calmest waters. After all, you are at high sea. Then there is always the risk of bad weather creating rougher seas. If you don’t want to spend your vacation on Dramamine or trying other sea sickness prevention methods or you realize you will end up sick regardless, we recommend a land-based vacation as a better option.
9. The past few years have been bad years for cruise ships showing up in the news for the wrong reasons, and sometimes for very tragic reasons. Early in 2013, the Carnival Triumph experience major problems after a fire in the engine room left it powerless (except for generators) as it drifted in the Gulf of Mexico. As 4,200 had to suffer from filthy conditions due to lack of working toilets, lack of food, and the sweltering heat and no way to cool off in air conditioning, the cruise line arranged for tug boats to pull the Triumph into port in Alabama. A month later, three other ships experienced problems. Carnival Dream experienced power issues and remained in port in St. Maarten for an extended length of time. Meanwhile, the cruise line had to fly more than 4,000 passengers home from St. Maarten. Carnival Elation was pulled by a tug boat at the beginning of its cruise when problems with its steering erupted. And Carnival Legend had problems that affected its sailing speed, which then caused it to skip a port of call and travel straight back to its port in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the year of 2012 started quite tragically when the Costa Concordia ran into rocks and partially sank right off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. The ship was carrying 4,252 people from all over the world. Unfortunately, 32 guests died as a result of the accident, which was attributed to the ship's captain taking the ship off course to salute people on a nearby island. Litigation and investigations continue as of March 2013.
In May 2010, 16 passengers on a ship off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, were injured when a cruise ship made a sudden maneuver. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas was hit by rough weather in the Mediterranean in December 2010. The wave damaged the ship and injured more than 60 passengers. Also in December 2010, a cruise ship limped into port in Argentina after 30- to 40-foot waves pounded the ship off the coast of Antarctica. The same ship ran aground the year before. And of course the biggest story was about the Carnival Splendor that lost power after a fire when it was sailing west of Mexico. The stranded ship, which had over 4,000 on board, ended up having to be towed into port.
10. You will be sold to constantly while you are on board a cruise ship. Be prepared to constantly hear about art auctions and jewelry discounts. You may be hounded to have your photo taken by the ship’s photographer, and getting a copy of that photo costs extra, of course. And you will most likely be approached by wait staff with a tray of drinks or beer, all of which cost extra. This happens on quite a few of the more well-known cruise ships, and there is a reason why…these are big money-makers for the cruise line.
These are just a few reasons why you might want to opt for an all inclusive resort vacation. If you are considering traveling to an all inclusive resort for the first time, we recommend discussing your interests with one of our travel consultants to help you find that perfect resort to fit your needs and lifestyle.