A vacation at sea might seem like a great idea, and, for the right person, it can be. After all, it’s pretty awesome to be eating a steak under a chandelier in the middle of the Atlantic. Cruises are easy to plan. You book your ticket, and automatically your food, lodging, and activities are arranged. You get to see multiple places in one trip without having to schedule extra flights or transportation. And it’s a great way to make friends and meet new people, since you’re all stuck on a boat together.
But given the choice between an all-inclusive resort or a cruise, I’ll pick the all-inclusive any day.
Don’t get me wrong, cruises are great. I’ve been on a few and I enjoyed them — but in full disclosure, I think I enjoyed them because I was on vacation, not because I was on a cruise. A couple years ago we decided to try out an all-inclusive resort instead, and the overall experience was much better. We had the same benefits (No planning! Food included! Activities arranged!) but with far fewer drawbacks.
Here are a few reasons why:
You Don’t Get Seasick
My best friend Liz went on a cruise to the Bahamas for her honeymoon. When I asked her later how it went, she told me she spent the entire trip huddled over the toilet, seasick as a dog. “No one warned me it would be so bad,” she said. “Apparently some people find their sea legs a day or two in,” she said, “But not me.”
There are some drugs to help cope with seasickness, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, you do have a solution. But with an all-inclusive, you don’t have to worry about seasickness at all.
All-Inclusive Resorts Cover Much More
Cruise fare generally covers accommodations, meals (but not at all onboard restaurants), non-alcoholic beverages, and pool use. But most charge extra for soda, alcohol, meals in special restaurants, tips, and certain onboard activities. You’ll also have to shell out extra for excursions onshore, spa treatments, and souvenirs.
An all-inclusive resort is actually pretty close to “all-inclusive.” All of the onsite restaurants are generally included, as well as soda, alcohol, and coffee. Beach and pool access, fitness classes, kids programs, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boards, and more often come with the initial rate — whereas you’ll pay extra for them at a port on a cruise. You’ll still need money for souvenirs and tips, but overall it’s a much better bang for your buck.
All-inclusive resorts also tend to have more special events. A few years ago, we went to the Hyatt Ziva all-inclusive in Jamaica. We were there over New Year’s Eve, and they had a black-tie event, completely free of charge. Stations were spread out across the resort offering prime rib, seafood, dozens of desserts, and drinks. At night we had fireworks and champagne toasts. It was absolutely magical and unexpected and completely covered by the initial price.
You Have More Room at an All-Inclusive Resort
Cruise ships by nature have way less space than an all-inclusive, which means your room will probably be very small, unless you paid for a premium room. Standard hotel rooms are much larger than cruise cabins. If you only plan on sleeping in your room, it might not make a big difference to you. But if you have kids sleeping with you, or you like to spend time in your room on vacation, a cruise cabin can get really tight.
You Have More Freedom at an All-Inclusive Resort
When you start your cruise, you’re often given meal times since they can’t accommodate everyone at once. The ship docks at specific times and leaves at specific times so you have to keep your eye on the clock when you get off. But at an all-inclusive, you can eat whenever you want, wherever you want (many allow you to order food and drink from the pool!). You can spend as much time at the pool or beach as you want without having to rush back to get on a departing ship. And you can hit the beach whenever you’re ready, without having to wait for the ship to dock. Plus, you can chill in your swimming suit all day if you want to (many cruises require you to put on a cover-up for meals or other activities).
Resorts Are Way Less Crowded
A smaller space means less room for people, which means a cruise ship can get really crowded. Even after you dock, you can’t escape the crowds, since multiple ships often dock at the same ports. Meanwhile an all-inclusive resort usually has a private beach just for guests so you have plenty of space and even privacy.
Cruise Ships Are More Affected by Weather
An all-inclusive resort will never sail away without you, and your vacation is much less likely to be canceled should bad weather arise. During hurricane season especially, (June 1 – November 30) there’s a chance your trip will be canceled. Cruises will do everything in their power to prevent a cancellation, however, which means outrunning the storm. If that’s the case, you’ll probably have inclement weather and have to deal with choppy seas, which can exacerbate seasickness.
Ultimately, a cruise is for those who want to visit multiple locations, and an all-inclusive is for those who want to truly relax. But after doing both, I say the all-inclusive resort is the clear winner. It’s easy, fun, and truly all-inclusive, which means you have fewer decisions to make and can go home well-rested in mind and body.