Updated: Apr 10
I have been cruising for 12+ years, but when COVID-19 hit and two of my cruise vacations were cancelled, I decided to try an all-inclusive vacation. I can't believe I'm writing this but I think I actually like all-inclusive vacations more, and I'll tell you why!
I found the all-inclusive resort much more relaxing than a cruise vacation.
When I cruise, I often get up early to watch the ship arrive in port, and am one of the first passengers to get off the ship so I can explore the island or port during the limited time they have in port. I also found myself not wanting to leave the beautiful beach or port I was enjoying, but I had to head back to the ship before it departed at the end of the day. I would end the day watching the sunset from the cruise ship, saying goodbye to the port then showering before rushing off to my dinner reservation.
At the all-inclusive, I didn't need to do any of that! I was able to wake up early if I wanted or sleep in because I was already at my destination! I found myself enjoying a lazy morning or if I was awake grabbing a coffee and walking on the beach. I would then head to the beach for the day and would spend my day there until the sun went down and they were kicking me out of the beach area! I had no where to be and already had everything I wanted (a beautiful beach and a comfy chair). I also didn't need to rush to dinner in the evenings as RSVP's were not required and you could eat at the buffet or specialty dining anytime you wanted.
An all-inclusive is often cheaper than a cruise!
While I paid about the same price per night/per person for the all-inclusive resort that I would pay for the cruise, everything else was pretty much free!! Yes you heard that right! You do not have to pay for speciality dining like a cruise ship and your drinks are included!! These costs on a cruise ship can often cost $250+ per person depending on what drink package you buy and if you enjoy eating at specialty restaurants. Our all-inclusive resort had an Asian restaurant, a Steak House, an Italian restaurant, a French restaurant, a Dominican restaurant and a buffet! They also had a beach side grill during the day.
Another thing that is included at the all-inclusive resort is gratuities. If you haven't cruised before, gratuities often cost $10-15 per person/per day on a cruise ship. They are included at an all-inclusive resort, and people often tip their servers, bartenders and house keeping staff if they want to.
The all-inclusive resort also had a stocked mini bar that was included as well as unlimited bottled water. All of these things you pay extra for on a cruise ship.
The rooms are much larger at an all-inclusive resort.
If you haven't cruised before, you probably don't know that rooms on cruise ships start at 150 sq. feet. The bathrooms are often so tiny that you can barely turn around in the shower. If you want to pay more for a suite, you can get a larger room and bathroom, but in general they're very tiny.
Our room at the all-inclusive resort was huge! At first we had the basic garden view room, which was very roomy, but after we decided to upgrade to the Suite/Swim Out Room, we ended up with over 1000 sq. feet room that included two rooms (a bedroom and a living room), multiple closets, two patios and a huge bathroom. Our shower was huge and had a rain shower head that was glorious!
You can choose between family resorts or adult only resorts
I have yet to cruise on a cruise ship that is adults only. I believe Virgin and Viking Cruises offer cruises for anyone 18+ but otherwise cruises are family friendly. I think this option is great as we've been on cruises with our family before, but sometimes as a child-free couple, it would be nice to get away without children around.
All-inclusive resorts have family resorts but also offer adult only resorts. Some resorts even have two resorts on one property, one that is family friendly and one that is adult only, so you can hang out with your family during the day, but still escape to an adult only resort for some quiet, or to enjoy a pool without children in it. Even if you have children, I know this option still sounds nice!!
You don't have to fight over a chair at the pool!!
If you haven't been on a cruise that's had a sea day, you probably haven't had to wake up early to claim your spot at the pool. Sea Days are notorious for being very busy on the ship and it can be really difficult to find a chair to lounge in for the day, let alone be anywhere near the pool.
I loved that at the all-inclusive resort, there were multiple pools to choose from as well as a large beach area. The chairs were spaced out nicely as well, where on a cruise ship they're often inches away from the next person. There was also an option at the all-inclusive to rent a cabana on the beach for the day.
What is the same at an all-inclusive or on a cruise?
While we do not have children, we did see that the all-inclusive resort offered child care. Many offer it for ages 3+ and have babysitters available for a fee for younger children if parents want an evening dinner alone.
Whether you are on a cruise ship or at an all-inclusive, there are always lots of activities to participate in. At our all-inclusive they had Zumba each day, as well as pool parties, rum tasting, evening shows and a disco. On cruise ships we've always enjoyed pool parties, dance lessons, dancing in the evenings at the disco and particpating in trivia.
Whether you are on a cruise ship or staying at an all-inclusive resort, there is the option to sign up for excursions through the cruise ship, resort or with your travel agent.
**One Note About Cruising**
I do still think cruises are your best option when you want to explore new places, see a different country or port everyday and get a taste for a place first, before deciding if you want to go back for an extended stay!