Cruises have increased in popularity over the past few years – who wouldn’t want to go on holiday where someone else does the housework, prepares the meals and takes you to see lots of new places? A cruise is on most people’s bucket list, everyone has a friend who raves about them and is adamant you can’t get seasick on a cruise ship.
So, why the surge in popularity? One reason could be the rise of the all-inclusive cruise, which promises a great-value holiday to multiple destinations, with accommodation, meals and drinks, and activities all included in the overall price. Some cruise lines think all inclusive is the future of cruising. For example, Marella Cruises goes all inclusive in 2019, its fleet of ships will no longer offer pay-as-you-go cruising and is introducing all inclusive as standard.
But what exactly does all inclusive include? Well, it varies from cruise line to cruise line, but here are the general guidelines for mainstream cruise lines.
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Your home away from home will be covered in the price of your cruise, as is cleaning, bed making and provision of towels and linen, just like in a hotel. You will probably have to pay for laundry services, so check if there are any self-service laundry services on board, or make sure you pack lots of clothes, so you don’t have to wash any while you are away.
If you book a fly-cruise, the price of your flight will be incorporated into the price of your holiday. Check with your cruise line whether coach transfers, visa costs (where applicable) and port taxes are covered, too.
There will be several restaurants onboard, most of which you can eat from without paying. There will also be snack bars to pick up a quick bite, and buffets you can visit again and again. However, you will pay extra for dining experiences such as a Chef’s Table Experience or tasting menu, or to eat in one of the more upmarket restaurants.
Many drinks will be available at no extra cost, in bars and restaurants across the ship. Everything from beer and wine to spirits and some cocktails, plus soft drinks and fruit juices. Basic hot beverages will also be included, but if you are partial to a speciality coffee, you’ll have to pay for it or buy an upgraded drinks package. A drinks package will also cover premium spirits, beers and cocktails.
Entertainment and onboard activities
All cruise lines provide a wide variety of free facilities and activities onboard. Swimming pools, running tracks, Broadway style shows, and outdoor cinemas to name just a few. Spa treatments are definitely not included, and you’ll have to pay extra for them. You’ll also get the option to pay for other activities, for example, cooking classes or dance lessons.
Clubs for children and teenagers are usually part of the standard all-inclusive package, but you will have to pay for evening babysitting services if you want a child-free night.
Tips and service charges are included in the price of your cruise, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting your wallet when you go out for a meal.
In a world where a high-speed internet connection has become a lifeline, surprisingly Wi-Fi is not included in the price of your cruise. Many people see this as an opportunity to do a digital detox for a short time.
If an onboard photographer catches you unawares and snaps a picture of you in your best gear on your way to dinner, you’ll have to pay for a copy, so take a selfie instead and save some money.
Finally, you will be charged extra for shore excursions, for example if you book a sightseeing tour at the port where your ship is calling.
There are many benefits to going on an all-inclusive cruise. It’s easy to budget for your holiday, once the overall price is paid, you can guesstimate a daily allowance for extras and upgrades and bring enough to cover this. You can relax in the knowledge your meals and drinks are covered, you don’t have to worry about how much every meal will cost.
If you add up what it would cost you at home to watch a show, go to the local swimming pool, put the kids in nursery for the day, and so on, a cruise can be a cost-effective holiday. Just make sure you experience everything you’ve paid for, be it an exercise class or a cocktail or two at the poolside bar.