Are Cruises All Inclusive? – What to Expect

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Cruise vacations are one of the best ways to experience adventure, relaxation, and true indulgence. While most cruise lines have plenty of luxurious options for guests, knowing what is included in each cruise vacation package can be a little confusing. One of the most common questions is, “Are cruises all-inclusive?” experiences, meaning all of your food and beverages are included in your ticket price.

Today, we will answer this question by looking at some of the most popular options out there. We will look at all-inclusive cruises to help you discover your options and explain what is covered when you book an all-inclusive cruise holiday.

To help you fully understand your options, we will also shed some light on what you can expect from a non-all-inclusive cruise vacation.

Are Cruises All Inclusive Experiences? 

There certainly is an appeal to booking an all-inclusive vacation. Whether it is a beach resort or a multi-destination cruise, not worrying about surprise expenses can make the entire vacation much more enjoyable and extravagant. 

When it comes to cruise vacations, all-inclusive packages are available, but only with some cruise lines. The truth is some cruise lines offer comprehensive meal and drink plans, while others only have limited items included in the base cruise fare. Some do not include anything other than your basic accommodations!

If you are looking for a truly all-inclusive experience, you must book through a cruise line that offers a package that covers everything with one upfront fee, including accommodations, meals, beverages, and entry to certain onboard activities and events.

Luxury cruise lines, like Oceania Cruises and Viking Cruises, tend to have everything included. Other lines, like Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, often have added all-inclusive packages you can add to your booking.

On the other hand, if you care little about the all-inclusive experience and simply want to enjoy a cruise voyage where you can pick and choose what you want, plenty of cruise lines can provide this less elaborate type of vacation. 

What Should You Expect from an All-Inclusive Cruise Package?

While all-inclusive packages will vary from one cruise line to the next, they typically cover the same basic elements. For the most part, you can expect an all-inclusive cruise package to include the following:

Accommodations

Naturally, any all-inclusive cruise package is going to cover the cost of your cabin. Some will allow you to upgrade from the basic accommodations to more luxurious suites at an additional cost. 

Meals and Snacks

One of the best things about booking an all-inclusive cruise is knowing that all your meals are paid for upfront. This means you will have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks covered beforehand.

Celebrity Oceanview Cafe Buffet
Celebrity Oceanview Cafe Buffet (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

While there may be a few dining options, such as more upscale restaurants, you have to pay extra for, you can eat every meal during your voyage without additional fees. 

Typically, an all-inclusive package will also cover basic room service items, so you can order food directly to your cabin if you feel like enjoying a more relaxed meal. 

Drinks (Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic)

Another major appeal of an all-inclusive cruise is having unlimited access to a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. For those who are big drinkers, this can save you a significant amount of money.

Cruise Line Drink
Cruise Line Drink

It is also nice to know that you can enjoy soft drinks, juices, smoothies, specialty coffee drinks, and teas without charging additional money to your account.

Some Onboard Events and Activities

While most all-inclusive packages will include all your meals and drinks, some will also cover access to various activities and events on the ship, including comedy shows, concerts, fitness classes, spas, and access to upgraded recreational facilities, like gyms and pools.

What Should You Expect from a Non-All-Inclusive Cruise Vacation?

Naturally, a basic non-inclusive cruise package tends to be less expensive than one that covers all your food and drink onboard the ship. While this may sound appealing, you must remember that you will pay for these items separately, so the costs can even out. 

Typically, these types of cruises involve the following:

Flexibility with Dining Options

Since your fare does not cover your meals, you have more flexibility when choosing where to eat. If the ship offers them, you can still access complimentary dining options, like basic buffets and breakfasts.

MSC Cruises Dining
MSC Cruises Dining (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

Depending on the model the cruise line you are traveling with uses, you might pay for non-included meals in specialty dining areas through a bracelet or your room card. After your voyage has concluded, you will notice that these expenses have been charged to the credit card you tied to your account. 

Beverage Fees

With any non-all-inclusive cruise, you will end up paying for all the beverages you order during your voyage. You can still order the same drinks as someone with an all-inclusive package, but you just have to remember that these costs will rack up. 

With that said, you may still get access to certain complimentary drinks, but these rarely contain alcohol, except for maybe a welcome beverage when you first board the ship.

Norwegian Cruise Line Deck
Photo Credit: xabi_kls / Shutterstock

For those who do not enjoy alcohol or drink very little, a non-all-inclusive package can save you a significant amount of money, as the costs of your alcoholic beverages are not rolled into the cost you paid for your cruise. 

Excursions and Activities

Since your package is not an all-inclusive experience, you may have to pay various fees to participate in certain activities and events. With that said, you can enjoy plenty of activities on most cruise ships that are included with a base fare. 

This means you have the flexibility to only pay for the entertainment options that appeal to you. You will not feel pressured to attend an event or shore excursion that does not resonate with them because you did not pay for it. Some all-inclusive travelers feel they need to attend everything, as they technically paid for it already by opting for an all-inclusive package.

Which Option Should You Choose?

When choosing between an all-inclusive and a non-all-inclusive cruise, the decision largely comes down to your personal preferences, the availability of options for your chosen destination, and your budget. To help you make the right choice, here are a few advantages and disadvantages of both travel styles.

Pros of Booking an All-Inclusive Cruise

Carnival Liberty Open Decks
Carnival Liberty Open Decks (Photo Credit: GoBOb / Shutterstock)

Predictability and Convenience

With an all-inclusive experience, you pay more upfront, but you also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the vast majority of your costs are covered. This helps those that have a specific budget for their trip. 

Aside from having cost predictability, you also enjoy a more convenient experience, as you do not have to worry about paying for meals and drinks. Instead, you can simply enjoy everything the trip has to offer in a completely worry-free manner.

Potential Savings, Especially on Alcoholic Beverages

For those who like to indulge in alcoholic beverages while on vacation, an all-inclusive package can result in significant savings compared to paying for each drink individually.

Even meals can be cheaper overall if they are all covered upfront as part of an all-inclusive package. This is particularly true for those who like to sample numerous dishes while they are away on trips. Ordering numerous appetizers and desserts can quickly add up, making a single meal costly.

Cons of Booking an All-Inclusive Cruise

Princess Cruises Ship
Princess Cruises Ship (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Increased Upfront Cost

Given that you are paying for everything upfront, the initial fee for your cruise will almost always be more expensive than a non-all-inclusive experience. For those on a tight budget, this can be a significant drawback to this cruise style.

The Potential to Overindulge

When you know that you have already paid for everything upfront and will not be charged additional fees, there is always the potential for overindulgence. After all, why not order that extra alcoholic drink or sugary dessert if you have technically paid for it already?

Pros of Booking a Non-All-Inclusive Cruise

Cruise Booking

Flexibility with Your Expenses

When you opt for a non-all-inclusive cruise, you will have a lower upfront cost. This allows you to budget for your vacation exactly how you would like. If you have a limited budget, you can choose the less expensive dining options. On the other hand, if you feel like indulging on specific nights, you can allocate funds for restaurants and dining experiences that appeal to you.

As mentioned, you can save a significant amount of money if you are not a big drinker, as alcoholic beverages tend to be fairly expensive, both as a la carte items or by raising the upfront fee of an all-inclusive package. 

More Variety

Since you will be paying for everything you eat and drink separately, you are not limited to specific dining venues or bars in an all-inclusive package. You can choose where you want to eat and what you order, even if you have to pay for it. In other words, there is no pressure to only eat and drink what is included in your vacation package.

Cons of Booking a Non-All-Inclusive Cruise

Celebrity Equinox, The Retreat
Celebrity Equinox, The Retreat

Budget Uncertainty

Setting off on a vacation without knowing how much it will cost can be less appealing for those on a pre-set budget. When you add up all the meals, snacks, and drinks you will order, the total cost can be more than you envisioned when booking your trip.

Limiting Your Experience

A cruise holiday should be considered a treat for yourself and whoever you travel with. You do not want to find that you are not participating in certain experiences because of budget concerns. On the other hand, when you know that most things are already paid for, you can enjoy a more hands-off vacation where you simply do whatever you feel like doing at the moment. 

As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages for either type of cruise vacation, so the decision largely depends on your preferred travel style and budget.

If you are undecided, we recommend taking a look at options that match the type of destination and cruise itinerary you are looking for. You may find that all-inclusive options are limited to where you want your cruise voyage to go, or you could find the opposite. 

Which Cruise Lines Offer All-Inclusive Options?

While almost every cruise line offers a non-inclusive option, all-inclusive experiences can be slightly more challenging to book. 

Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of comprehensive all-inclusive packages. Not only do they cover your meals and drinks, these packages even provide access to thrilling activities and entertaining shows. 

Norwegian Cruise Line allows passengers to choose Premium All-inclusive packages that cover most beverages but only provide a limited amount of pre-paid funds for food items.

Cheapest Cruise Lines
Cruise Ships Docked in Puerto Rico (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

On the other hand, certain cruise lines, like Carnival Cruise Lines, have less comprehensive packages that only include certain items. For example, they offer Carnival Drink Packages that provide passengers with certain beverages for an upfront fee, but they only offer a partial all-included package that covers everything. 

Other major cruise lines, like Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, also offer all-inclusive packages that cover everything from meals and drinks to Wi-Fi, fitness classes, and even gratuity. 

Your best bet is to look at the cruise voyages that match your preferences and then check with the cruise line or your booking agent to discover your options for meal and drink packages. While it can take a bit of research, it is worth it to book the exact cruise experience you are looking for. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Do I need to tip if I am going on an all-inclusive cruise?

The policies regarding gratuity on cruise ships will vary depending on the cruise line you are traveling with. Some cruise lines clearly state that gratuities are included in the fees you pay to dine, even if you have not booked an all-inclusive package.

Others leave tipping up to the discretion of the passengers themselves. In these cases, traveling with some cash you can leave behind for tips is never a bad idea. 

If you are unsure, contact your cruise line ahead of time and ask about their policies and expectations regarding gratuity. 

2. Do all-inclusive packages include alcoholic beverages?

Most all-inclusive packages include a basic selection of alcoholic beverages, like certain beers, wines, and mixed drinks. Some of the more premium brands or complex cocktails tend to be available at an additional fee. 

With that said, cruise lines offer all-inclusive plans that do not cover alcohol. Instead, these packages cover meals and non-alcoholic drinks, so they are usually less expensive. Basically, you need to look into the cruise line you are traveling with and see what options they offer.

3. Is room service included in an all inclusive cruise package?

For the most part, an all-inclusive cruise package will include basic room service options. Typically, you can order via the telephone in your room or an app-based digital menu. The items you can order at no additional cost might be limited, as more premium items will come at an additional fee. 

Each cruise line has different policies, so it is always worth checking before you order anything for your cabin to avoid paying extra fees.

Are Cruises All Inclusive? – Final Words

One of the great joys of booking a cruise vacation is being able to select the exact type of experience you want. You can choose the exact itinerary and destination you want and have numerous options for food, beverage, and entertainment packages.

Read Also: Can You Bring Food On a Cruise and How Much?

When deciding between an all-inclusive or a non-all-inclusive cruise, simply assess your budget and travel preferences. Both options offer advantages, so you cannot go wrong!

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