Cruises Are Wonderful, but All-Inclusive Resorts Provide Stress Free Vacations

Beach (Excellence Punta Cana)

Cruises are wonderful–I’ve been on many and definitely plan to cruise again.  But contrary to what many travelers think, cruises are not all inclusive.   Yes, they include your stateroom, most meals (although the concept of extra-charge “premium” dining on cruises is growing by leaps and bounds), evening shows, and a wide variety of activities.  They do not, with the exception of some luxury cruise lines, include beverages (except maybe coffee, tea, juice, milk), gratuities, shore excursions, bingo, photos, or many other things.  Some cruise guests have been shocked to discover a final bill (slid under their stateroom door on the last night of the cruise) that is more than what they paid for the cruise fare.

All-inclusive resorts provide a truly worry free vacation and make it easy to stay within your vacation budget and control costs.  There’s an all-inclusive resort to fit nearly every need, including those that cater to families, adults only, couples only, those with nude beaches, resorts with casinos, budget resorts, luxury resorts, resorts that emphasize health and fitness, etc.

It’s so nice on a vacation to be able to lock your wallet in your room safe upon arrival and not need it again until you go home.  It’s  a great feeling to walk up to a bar and order whatever you want without worrying about the cost of the drink, how much to tip, or how high your tab will be at the end of the week.  Cruise ship “foo-foo” drinks with little umbrellas usually run at least $8 to $10 apiece!  All-inclusive resorts provide an excellent value, peace of mind, and the ultimate stress free vacation.

What’s included?  Although the levels of these inclusions vary from resort to resort, most all-inclusives include:

  • Your room accommodations
  • Your meals: buffets, a la carte dining, poolside/beachside snack bars, room service.  Most nicer all-inclusives like Secrets Resorts, Couples Resorts, Palace Resorts, and Sandals Resorts have several a la carte restaurants to choose from.  Some resorts require reservations for the a la carte restaurants, some do not.  Some place limitations on the number of times you can go to an a la carte restaurant–some have no limitations.  Most have some level of room service, often available 24/7.Couples Tower Isle buffet
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages: many resorts also provide in-room mini bars or mini-fridges that are restocked daily with your favorite beverages and snacks.
  • Transfers to and from the airport at the destination: usually included only when booking the resort through a tour operator such as Apple Vacations, Funjet, GoGo Vacations, or Travel Impressions.  Sandals always includes transfers, sometimes in a limo.
  • Evening entertainment such as Broadway-style shows, guest and staff talent shows, beach parties, magicians, comedians, karaoke nights
  • Children’s programs and kids clubs
  • Health and fitness activities such as yoga classes, pool aerobics, dance lessons
  • Land sports and activities such as tennis, shuffleboard, darts, volleyball, billiards, giant chess boards on the beach, basketball, table tennis, and board games
  • Non-motorized water sports such as windsurfing, Hobie Cats, kayaks, snorkeling.  Some resorts even include motorized water sports like tubing and water skiing.
  • Internet: most resorts now offer at least some level of included Internet access.  It may be resort-wide free Wi-fi, lobby-only free Wi-fi, or dedicated computers for guest use.   The Internet room at Couples Tower Isle has at least ten guest computers accessible 24/7 (nice place to cool off too, they keep it really chilly in that room).
  • Gratuities

Additional inclusions at some resorts:

  • Weddings
  • Golf greens fees and transfers to the course; guests usually must pay for a golf cart rental
  • Scuba Diving
  • Personal butler service
  • Exchange privileges with nearby “sister” resorts, which can really increase your dining options

Most resorts offer extra free amenities for those guests celebrating an anniversary, wedding, or birthday.  Couples Resorts offer a free Honeymoon Package to honeymooners that includes his/her massages and champagne.   Secrets Resorts include fruit plates and champagne upon arrival and and a honeymoon banner across your room door.

Most resorts, like cruise ships, offer for purchase a wide variety of tours, excursions, and other “off property” trips, but Couples Resorts guests enjoy free tours such as the Dunn’s River Falls Tour (for Ocho Rios area resorts), shopping shuttles, glass-bottom boat rides, snorkeling trip, and catamaran cruises.

Like cruises and other types of travel products such as hotels, cars, and airlines, most all-inclusive resort chains offer special benefits for repeat guests.  For example, Couples Resorts has their Romance Rewards program, offering repeat guests such amenities as special dinners, cocktail parties, couples massage, departure snack and water pack, gift shop credits, room upgrades, and more.

Where are these resorts?  While I’m sure all-inclusive resorts can be found worldwide, most of the true all-inclusive resorts seem to be located in tropical beach destinations (aw, darn 🙂 ), such as:

The Caribbean, with the highest concentration in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana area).  Other islands with all-inclusives are Antiqua, Aruba, Bahamas, Curacao, Barbados, St. Croix, St. Lucia, St. Thomas, and Turks and Caicos.

Mexico, mostly in the Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Cozumel areas, but also in Acapulco, Huatulco, Ixtapa, Isla Mujeres, Los Cabos, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Riviera Nayarit.

In the USA, the newly-renoated Club Med Sandpiper claims to be the only all-inclusive family resort.  Other resorts, such as some of the Pocono-area honeymoon resorts with the heart-shaped tubs (e.g., Cove Haven) are almost all-inclusive, but do not include alcoholic beverages.  If you’re wondering, there are no all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii–the Kona Village Resort on the Big Island was almost all-inclusive (wine and liquor was not included) but as of this writing it has beeen closed since receiving extensive structural and property damage from the March 11, 2011 earthquake-generated tsunami.

Related:  Award Winning All-Inclusive Couples Resorts Add More to the Guest Experience
Related:  Two Secrets Resorts in Jamaica Earn Coveted AAA Four Diamond Award
Related:  Secrets St. James Montego Bay Trip Report
Related:  New Adults Only Resort: The Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort & Spa
Also see:  Cruising to Jamaica?  Get a Day Pass to an All Inclusive Resort


  1. Bernadette Addington says:

    My nex travel trip is to florida. I waited and worked 6 month for flying to florida, so i hope my loved ones truly enjoy this vacation. I’d love to have the opportunity for exactly the same travel experience like yours. When i was young i believed i’d purchase a house because i couldn´t stay on the same place for lengthy time.

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