As travel agents we are asked frequently about the difference between taking a cruise and going to an all-inclusive resort and our answers are based on how the client likes to travel. For the purpose of this blog I will be referring to the Caribbean cruises and resorts as I break down the differences.
First we will start with price, because that usually is a deciding factor. Up front the cruise usually looks more economical than the all-inclusive resort; this is because the cruise companies expect you to spend your money on board. The base price of the cruise does not include: alcohol, soda, specialty drinks (coffees and such), specialty restaurants, gratuities, some onboard activities, the spa, or on shore excursions. You can purchase an alcohol package upfront otherwise it can get very pricey to drink on board the ship. Shore excursions that are purchased with the cruise are usually pricey, we do offer excursions for cruise passengers from another company that are generally more economical (just a friendly fyi). So what is included in a cruise? Really is depends on the cruise line/ship, but generally: most food, juice, ice tea, regular coffee, the shows, child care/programs, some activities, and the pool. Luxury cruises often include more.
Now for the resort; the base price for an all –inclusive resort does not include: some charge extra for lobster or prime rib, special private dinners on the beach, spa, motorized water sports, and excursions off property. The all-inclusive resorts generally include: alcohol (most of the time top shelf too!), all food and drink—including those specialty restaurants, non-motorized sports (such as kayaking, hobie cat sailing (mini catamaran), and snorkeling from the beach), entertainment on the resort, and gratuities.
Basically, if you want your cruise to have everything the resort already includes you will be paying a similar price. So now we will cover the other differences, beyond just price and what is included.
Cruises: if you start in the States you will not need a passport, some ports are within driving distance and you can skip flying, you see more than just one island, if you like gambling there are casinos on board (not all resorts have them on property). Disadvantages of a cruise are: you only have a limited time in each port (you only really have time to do one excursion or you can hang out in which ever town/beach is near the port), it can be crowded (good luck finding a secluded spot beyond your cabin), you generally have to eat at particular times (no room service either), if you get seasick just a slight wind change can enhance that feeling, and if an emergency breaks out you are stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean.
Resorts: since you are staying in one location you can really get to know the island/country and the culture, you do need a passport and you will have to fly (several locations are a short flight from most US east coast locations). You can spend the day lying on the beach, sipping your drink or snorkel off the beach, or learn how to sail a hobie cat without having to disembark from a ship. Some resorts have sister properties nearby that you can visit and use their facilities or dine at their restaurants. Thus if your resort does not contain a casino but her sister property down the street does, you can hop a shuttle and go gamble to your hearts content. Some all-inclusive resorts are adults only! Meaning there are no kids to splash you or screaming babies to interrupt your peaceful getaway. Most resorts are pretty large so even if you go to one that allows children you should be able to find a quiet spot to relax, many offer child care or kids/teen programs to entertain them while you get some much needed adult time. Now a resort cannot move out of the way of a storm, but for most other emergencies you can be relocated to another part of the resort and at worst another resort all together.
So now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of both cruises and all-inclusive resorts, what do you think? Which would you prefer? Really it is about what you want out of your vacation. Do you want a quick view of several locations or do you want to get to know one location? Do you like the idea of being at sea for at least a day or two (depending on the cruise) or are you more land bound? Would you prefer the rocking of the deck or the swaying of palm trees? It really is up to you, some people love cruising and others would rather be on a beach drink in hand. The next time you are debating which one you would prefer for your Caribbean vacation: do not think in terms of price but in terms of experience.
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