All-Inclusive Cruises: What You Need to Know

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While most modern cruises offer stunning views, specialty restaurants and lavish services, many people wonder if it is better to book an all-inclusive package or a non-inclusive cruise. Today, we will take an in-depth look at all-inclusive cruises so you can decide if it is the best option for you and your travel group. We will compare all-inclusive cruises to regular fare cruises and explain why we believe they offer the most luxurious and carefree way to travel.

What Are All Inclusive Cruises?

While the exact details of what is included in your fare will vary from one cruise line to the next, the basic concept of an all-inclusive cruise package is that the upfront price of your food covers everything.

Where a typical cruise fare covers your accommodations, an all-inclusive cruise would encompass meals, drinks, Wi-Fi fees, access to onboard amenities and entertainment options, and some shore excursions.

Again, each cruise line will offer its all-inclusive packages. Some will cover meals and drinks while you are on board the ship; others will be all-encompassing, meaning absolutely everything is included in the upfront cost of your fare. Some will even include gratuities and port fees in the price of your all-inclusive package! 

With a truly all-inclusive cruise, you can leave your wallet behind and enjoy everything the ship offers. Rather than worrying about extra fees and expenses, you can focus on enjoying yourself and embracing the experience. 

As you would expect, all-inclusive packages, especially those that cover everything, tend to be priced much higher than a standard fare; however, they can justify the price. 

Why Should You Choose the All-Inclusive Experience for Your Cruise?

While they are more expensive, all-inclusive packages offer plenty of advantages that help justify the added price. While these advantages seem obvious, they are worth consideration, as they can add to your experience. 

The main appeal that most people notice is the convenience that all-inclusive package special offers. Since most of your expenses are already paid, you do not need to worry about budgeting while boarding the ship. You can live in the moment rather than worrying about climbing costs or having to calculate prices. You can forget about financial concerns and focus on enjoying your voyage.

All-Inclusive Cruise
All-Inclusive Cruise (Photo Credit: ODIN Daniel)

Another reason many opt for an all-inclusive package is because they can get enough value out of it to justify the increased cost. Where you might be hesitant to order that more expensive main course or lavish dessert, with everything prepaid, there is no reason not to treat yourself. 

You can focus on embracing luxury rather than worrying about rising costs and a hefty credit card bill awaiting you after your vacation. After all, a cruise vacation should be all about luxury and indulgence. At its best, a cruise vacation is an opportunity to leave all the stresses of regular life on land. In other words, an all-inclusive package makes living in the present easier. 

Other Benefits of an All-Inclusive Cruise Package

Predictable Budgeting

Rather than having to worry about what your final cost will be for your vacation, you will have the peace of mind that comes with confidently knowing your costs ahead of time. This predictability can be incredibly valuable for those on a set budget and those who prefer not to concern themselves with finances while vacationing.

Electronic Cruise Ticket
Electronic Cruise Ticket (Photo Credit: DenPhotos)

Potential Cost Savings

Not only do all-inclusive packages offer better cost predictability, they can even provide a surprising amount of value. While the upfront cost is higher, including all food, beverages, services, and other fees can result in substantial savings compared to a more à la carte approach to spending.

Unexpected Upgrades

While each cruise line is different, most will offer all-inclusive travelers a variety of upgrades and perks that are not available with the purchase of a regular fare.

For many cruise lines, their all-inclusive packages also come with upgraded accommodations. This can refer to larger cabins, better balconies, and even access to certain private lounges on the ship. 

All-Inclusive Cruise Packages vs. Regular Fare Cruises

The apparent difference between the two types of cruise vacations is the cost. Where all-inclusive packages have a higher upfront cost, non-inclusive cruises come with additional expenses once you are on board the ship.

Even though a regular fare may seem like a better cruise deal, you must remember that daily costs and hidden fees can quickly eat into your travel budget. Here is a typical cost breakdown between all-inclusive and non-inclusive cruise packages:

Non-Inclusive Cruises

Most simply cover your accommodations while on the ship, meaning your cabin. While some cruise lines include basic meals in the main dining areas in a regular fare, others do not cover any sort of meals. Even those that do cover food often have minimal options, like basic continental breakfasts and buffet-style dinners.

Buffet on Spectrum of the Seas
Buffet on Spectrum of the Seas (Photo Credit: Phuong D. Nguyen)

When you book a non-inclusive fare, you must remember that, at a minimum, you will need to pay for alcoholic beverages, gratuities, Wi-Fi access, specialty dining, access to spas and other exclusive amenities, and port fees. As mentioned, some basic packages do not cover food or drinks, so you must pay extra for everything, including bottled water. 

All Inclusive Cruises

Naturally, all-inclusive cruises cover your accommodations. Some all-inclusive packages include upgrades to more premium cabins or suites rather than the basic accommodations you would get with a regular fare. 

In addition to your accommodations, your all-inclusive package can cover all dining expenses, including meals at specialty restaurants, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, access to paid amenities and private lounges, specific spa treatments, room service orders, gratuities, and various service charges, Wi-Fi access in your cabin and elsewhere, and, in some cases, shore excursion fees.

MSC Virtuosa Stateroom
Photo Copyright: Emrys Thakkar

As mentioned above, what your all-inclusive package covers will depend on the cruise line you are traveling with and the option you have selected. Most cruise lines offer limited pricing packages that cover certain items rather than everything to allow passengers more flexibility. For example, most cruise lines offer an “all-inclusive” drinks package, which covers non-alcoholic and basic alcoholic drinks while on board the ship. 

Other packages may cover drinks and food, but more luxurious items, such as premium alcoholic beverages, may not be included. The best advice is to explore the options offered by your chosen cruise line and find a package that meets your specific budget and preferences. 

Which Type of Package Is the Better Deal Financially?

Calculating which style of cruise package is the most cost-effective option can be tricky, as it will depend on your travel style and spending habits. For example, those who enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages daily may find that paying for each drink can add up quickly.

For sure travelers, this alone could justify paying more upfront for an all-inclusive package. The same could be said for those who enjoy sampling numerous dishes and ordering food without considering the cost per item. 

On the other hand, those who prefer more basic meals and non-alcoholic drinks may find that paying for each item individually is less expensive than paying a more significant upfront fee.

The Martini Bar, Atrium
The Martini Bar, Atrium (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

It is important to remember that choosing a non-inclusive cruise package almost always covers unexpected expenses. Even if you are spending cautiously, needing to pay for every single meal, snack, and drink can add up quickly.

On the other hand, an all-inclusive package provides better cost transparency, meaning you know what you will pay before you even step foot on the ship. This works out to be less expensive, and it makes it much easier to budget for your trip.

Read Also: How Much Does a Cruise Cost?

The truth is, there is the opportunity for potential savings with either type of package. The all-inclusive package is the obvious choice for those looking to enjoy the experience. As any seasoned cruise traveler can tell you, meals, beverages, shore excursions, amenities, and gratuities can quickly add up if you pay for them separately. 

Who Should Choose an All-Inclusive Cruise Package?

As we have discussed, all-inclusive cruises are an excellent option for travelers who prefer a more worry-free and luxurious vacation. They are also a perfect option for budget-conscious people who want to know precisely what they will spend ahead of time. 

The all-inclusive traveling style is ideal for those who prefer luxury cruises without boundaries. Rather than checking prices and worrying about mounting costs, you can simply indulge in anything that catches your eye or piques your interest. With the higher-end all-inclusive packages, luxury is a defining theme.

Are Cruises All Inclusive
Are Cruises All Inclusive (Photo Credit: Wagner Santos de Almeida)

Some will include access to top-shelf alcoholic beverages, premium dining experiences, and access to more deluxe spas and lounges. Even services, like fully-included room service, can add a sense of extravagance to your getaway voyage. 

Whether you are simply looking to enjoy a more carefree vacation or celebrating a special occasion, like a wedding anniversary, the all-inclusive model could be preferable. 

Which Cruise Lines Offer the Best All-Inclusive Packages?

While most cruise lines offer some form of all-inclusive option, several cruise lines stand out for providing some of the best packages in the industry. 

Princess Cruises recently launched an upgraded all-inclusive package that covers a wide range of amenities at a discounted rate. This package covers food, drinks, Wi-Fi, gratuities, and a range of premium items for one bundled price and is much more affordable than you would expect.

Royal Princess in Auckland, New Zealand
Royal Princess in Auckland, New Zealand (Photo Credit: Princess Cruises)

Princess Cruises intentionally designed the package to help guests save money. Known as the Princess Premier Package, it is advertised as delivering a cost savings of roughly $250 per guest per day. 

Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises offer limited all-inclusive packages for travelers on a tighter budget. While they may not be fully all-inclusive, they provide guests with a way to travel where most of their onboard expenses are covered upfront. These packages can help you enjoy a more convenient and budget-friendly way to travel, but you should anticipate some additional fees. 


Is it possible to upgrade to an all-inclusive package once you are onboard the ship?

While certain cruise lines may allow guests to upgrade to an all-inclusive package while on the ship, most only allow guests to pre-book these packages, even if you are allowed to do so, it will be subject to availability. 

If you are boarding your cruise ship and decide an all-inclusive upgrade would be worthwhile, speak with guest services and inquire about your options. Depending on availability, they may even offer you a reduced price. 

Do you still have to pay gratuities with an all-inclusive cruise package?

No, for the most part, cruise lines will cover gratuity with their all-inclusive packages. Some passengers will tip certain staff members directly if they feel it is deserved. 

For clarity and peace of mind, you can always contact the cruise line you are traveling with to ensure that gratuity is included in your chosen package. With that said, most will provide this information directly on their website or within their travel brochures. 

Final Words

Booking an all-inclusive cruise can provide a more luxurious way to experience a cruise voyage. It can help you embrace the feeling of extravagance, and the upfront pricing model can help you more accurately budget your trip.

Worth Reading: What Are the Most Affordable Cheapest Cruise Lines?

Ultimately, deciding between an all-inclusive cruise or a non-inclusive cruise depends on your personal preferences and your budget and spending habits. We recommend assessing your options and taking the time to consider if the benefits are relevant to you.

By assessing your options, you can be confident that you made the right decision, so all you have to focus on is enjoying yourself and fully embracing your voyage!

Emrys Thakkar
Emrys Thakkar
The founder of Cruise Hive which was established in 2008 as one of the earliest cruise blogs in the industry. Emrys has been reporting on the latest cruise industry news since the site first launched. Expert insights and tips featured on a number of publications including The Express, Business Insider, and more. Worked for Carnival Cruise Line for 8 years and is well and truly dedicated to cruising! Has also been on a number of cruises so can offer an insight into the industry that many will not be able to do. What's even more impressive is that Emrys has traveled the world by visiting more than 34 countries, lived in China for 8 years, and cruised the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. Find out more about us here.


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