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Cruise Vs All-Inclusive Vacation

Cruising Vs All inclusive? Which one is better?

So, you’re considering taking a cruise, but you may like it or if it compares with an all-inclusive vacation. Many vacations ask this same question; “cruise vs all-inclusive vacation?” 

While cruising is not for everyone, it does offer excellent value for money and allows you to visit more than one place during your vacation.

I love to cruise, and like that, I can see multiple locations and only need to unpack my suitcase once. Taking a bus tour where you either unpack and pack every day or live out of a suitcase as you travel from place to place is a pain! 

On the other hand, some of my friends think I’m crazy for stepping onto a cruise ship because they believe it’s claustrophobic, creates motion sickness and they envision it crowded with thousands of people in one place.

Last year, I sailed my first mega-ship (4,000 or so passengers) on the Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. With 16 or so decks, passengers throughout the day are in different areas. 

I’ve always been able to find quiet or empty areas on the ship. No claustrophobia here! 

Traveling to an all inclusive resort does not guarantee any quiet space, especially around the swimming pool.

Hotel rooms are larger, sometimes with a living room area
Cruise ship cabins are intimate

Despite what many may think, cruise ships are not sea-sickness-creating vessels. With new technology, modern cruise ships have multiple sets of stabilizers. 

Their giant fins cut through the water and help prevent the side-to-side rolling motions often felt in rough seas. However, if you are prone to motion sickness, select an itinerary that sails in sheltered waters and not the open ocean. 

Also, to minimalize motion, choose a cabin on the lower decks, close to the center of the ship and carry motion sickness patches. So, choosing between a cruise vs an all-inclusive doesn’t come to one factor but many.

What’s Included

The pros of booking an all-inclusive are that there will be no hidden surprises at the end of your vacation. Everything is included from all meals, use of the resort’s non-motorized water sports equipment, and as many alcoholic drinks as you want.

If you are not a drinker, an all-inclusive may not be for you since nightly activities focus on nightclubs and drinking. Undoubtedly, an all-inclusive vacation is very relaxing.

Many resorts cater to singles, couples, and even families. For some, the idea of being in one place doing nothing but sitting by the pool is enjoyable. 

For active people, a resort may become tiresome quite quickly.

The con of choosing an all-inclusive is you are stuck in one place.

Cruise Vs All-inclusiveCruisingAll-inclusive
Room or cabinYes, but smallerYes, and larger

The benefits of choosing a cruise are that you will be staying in a floating hotel that moves around. You will enjoy visiting not one but multiple places in the same amount of time as a resort vacation. 

Also, cruise ships provide a variety of nightly entertainment. These include Broadway-like shows, comedy clubs, and movies. Also, nightclubs are offered at all-inclusive places.

Traveling with small children – no problem. Most cruise ships have children’s group activities to prevent your children from getting bored. 

They also offer babysitting services if mom and dad require some alone time.

However, the downside of cruising is if you choose too many add-on items, the final bill at the end of the cruise might give you a coronary.


A cruise ship offers more selection of food choices than a resort. You get options in the restaurants, and several restaurants are available for dining. 

Also, there is the option of a buffet, just like the all-inclusive on land. Cruise ship food is also high caliber and is similar to a five-star restaurant. 

Cruise ships will cater to your allergies if you suffer from allergies and prepare your food separately.

All-inclusive resorts tend to offer mediocre buffet-style meals. The food is prepared in bulk and sits in warmers for a few hours.

A resort is unlikely to cater to you if you suffer from food allergies.

Cruises are a Sampler for a Land Vacation

With so many options to travel to and islands to see, choosing one place often takes more work. I remember wanting to visit Hawaii but needing to know which island to fly to, so I booked a cruise instead. 

The ship stopped at four islands and gave me a sample of what each had to offer. That way, if I chose to do a land vacation, I would have a better idea of which island I would pick.

Cruise Vs an All-inclusive? Cruises include multiple stops, sometimes to different countries
Cruise Vs an All-inclusive? Cruises include multiple stops, sometimes to different countries

The Caribbean has over 7,000 islands, so how do you pick one to visit? A cruise gives you a small taste of a few islands and helps you decide on an island for a future land vacation.

Cruise Vs an All-inclusive; Which is Cheaper?

Generally speaking, a cruise vacation will be cheaper than an all-inclusive one. Cruise line prices are low because they hope to make extra money from you with add-on expenses. 

Cruise lines such as Celebrity cruise, Holland America, Princess Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line all try to up-sell you when you cruise. It’s why their prices are so low.

These include alcoholic drinks, wine at dinner, port excursions, gambling in the casino, specialty restaurants, and onboard shopping. Many cruise lines are increasingly adding cabin gratuity to their cruise fare.

If you don’t drink alcohol, add on expensive excursions, or gamble, your cruise vacation should come in cheaper than all-inclusive. However, if you have a few drinks, gamble a little, and buy some port excursions, there may not be any price difference between the two vacations. 

Your cruise could come in at a significantly higher overall price tag.

So, choosing between a cruise vs an all-inclusive doesn’t come down to price. The decision comes down to what type of vacation you are seeking.

Does Location Matter?

The location matters when comparing a cruise vs. an inclusive resort. For example, consider an Alaska cruise or staying at an inclusive resort in Alaska.

Alaska Cruise vs. Inclusive Resort

An inclusive resort is limited to excursions within the nearby driving or sailing distance of the resort. In Alaska, many towns are not accessible unless by boat.

As a result, the resort could offer day hikes, and other excursions may be limited if the alternative is far from the coast. However, an Alaska cruise that sails out of Vancouver or Seattle for 7-14 days can visit 3-7 towns plus glaciers.

Cruises have a distinct advantage over an inclusive resort when considering the variety of excursions. Also, bucket list excursions such as whale watching are not possible in some towns in Alaska. 

However, since all cruise ships must dock at a port, it is simple to walk off a cruise ship and board a smaller boat. We have done this several times to catch a tour for whale watching, crab fishing, etc.

 Caribbean Cruise vs. Inclusive Resort

If you’re taking a Caribbean cruise, it has many advantages over staying in an all inclusive resort. A Caribbean resort typically includes no-charge activities such as snorkeling, paddle boarding, and more. 

However, these would be limited in quality and variety to what’s available at the hotel. If you want to try swimming with stingrays, the best destinations are the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and Belize. 

The stingray tour will not be available if you are not staying in one of these destinations. If you want to experience the wide variety of the Caribbean, it is much easier on a cruise.

The Caribbean comprises 34 countries and territories and has a population of 44 million. On a cruise out of Florida to even a few countries, you would experience a wide range of cultures.

The only disadvantage of a Caribbean cruise is the hurricane season which occurs from summer to November.

Disadvantage of Cruising Compared to Inclusive Resort

I know that I am biased towards cruising but I recognize that cruising has a couple of disadvantages when compared to staying at an inclusive resort.

Cruise Itineraries

I have cruised many times, and one of the recurring challenges we encountered was the short time in ports. If you take an Alaska cruise and return to Seattle, you must stop in Victoria, British Columbia, due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act.

The unfortunate part of the Victoria stop is you arrive at 7 pm and must leave by 11 pm. There is only a little you can do in a few hours in the evening other than go to a local restaurant or walk around the city.

Victoria is an exciting city with many museums, whale watching, vibrant nightlife, and more. Unfortunately, you cannot enjoy any of it when your cruise ship stops there!

For a seven-day cruise out of North America, you would typically stop in 3-4 ports. You often arrive in port in the morning and leave by 5-7 pm. 

As a result, the only excursions you can take advantage of are those that can complete between 10 am to 4 pm. Excursions such as a dinner cruise or night diving are unavailable to you because you will be at sea cruising to your next port.

We have found that we can only do one excursion while in port during most of our cruises. There may be many things available, but we pick our best tour only because of the short time in port.

Hawaii is renowned for its luaus. During most Hawaiian cruises, you are not overnight in port, and nighttime luaus are impossible.

You can find luaus in the daytime, but the evening ambiance with the torch lights illuminating the evening is missing. I tried a luau in the afternoon, which was okay, but the best luaus are at night. 

All factors considered cruises are less desirable when considering excursions that do not fit the cruise itineraries schedule. However, cruises have the advantage of having a greater variety of tours due to their multi-port itineraries.

All-Inclusive Resort Schedule 

If you stay at an inclusive resort in the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, or Alaska, you are likely there for seven days. The cruise ship schedule does not limit your activities.

The advantage is that you have no curfew and can return to your room whenever you want! Fun excursions like Hawaii’s popular swimming with the manta rays at night are now possible.

Another popular Hawaiian adventure is watching the sunset on the Haleakala volcano. This is only possible if you stay in a local hotel or your cruise ship is docked overnight.

A popular excursion in Alaska is viewing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). September is the earliest month this is available.

Even though I have cruised to Alaska several times, I have never witnessed the spectacle of the Northern Lights. The lights are not visible during the day, and I needed to be farther north to see them while cruising.

While staying in an all-inclusive Alaska resort in Fairbanks, booking an excursion to catch the Northern Lights would be easy.

Are You a Cruiser or a Resorter?

Are You a Cruiser or a Resorter?

Cruises are moving hotels, and resorts are stationary.

While both types of vacations offer unique experiences, they cater to different overall needs. 

Cruises are best for vacationers wanting to see multiple places with diverse land activities. These people are generally more active and like the busy port days. 

Cruises are suitable for travelers who want the attentive staff and the level of service they provide. 

On the other hand, resort vacations suit those wishing to relax and do nothing. This vacation is best for those with a stressful job or just wanting to be in one place and rest. 

Resorts are great for families also as the parents can relax by the pool while the children play. If you are concerned about safety, resorts are often fenced compounds in themselves, so they offer a high degree of security.

Whether your vacation is by land or sea, both offer the same relaxing getaway. There are many different ways to vacation; backpacking, camping, resorts, bus tours, and cruises. 

I have done them all because variety is the spice of life!

 Final Thoughts

I hope this helped you decide whether a cruise or an all inclusive resort is better for you and your family. Both have their pros and cons.

However, I’ll always pick cruising as an avid and long-time cruiser! For us, cruises are our all-inclusive vacation that is the best deal.

Happy travels ~ Karen