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Should I book an all-inclusive cruise?

Updated on August 9, 2011
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All-inclusive resorts and vacation packages continue to be popular, and it’s no surprise. Everything is planned and purchased in advance, and travellers can just show up to enjoy their vacations with no worries about budget surprises. This popularity and spread, and now travellers are being offered a variety of all-inclusive deals, including all-inclusive cruises.

What exactly is an all-inclusive cruise?Isn’t everything included in a cruise anyway? If your only cruise experience has been with old episodes of “The Love Boat,” you may be surprised to learn that there’s a variety of cruise options, and not all cruises include everything. Of course, even the most limited cruise deals cover the basics. There’s the accommodations on the ship, the travel between ports, dining room meals and lots of shipboard activities.What else could you need?

Although options vary, a ‘standard’ cruise may not include beverages outside of meals, and most don’t include alcoholic beverages at all. Dining rooms meals may be included, but not the other restaurants on board. Expect free use of the pool and fitness center, but there will be an additional fee for spa treatments. There may be an extra charge for some shore excursions or for premium shipboard activities.And of course, there’s the cost of airfare to the port city and the transfers between the airport and ship, not to mention gratuities for the cruise.

Specifics will vary with different cruises on different lines, but all-inclusive cruises will include much more. Carnival and Norwegian offer Caribbean cruise packages that include such necessities as airfare, transfers, and port charges. Deals are available that include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as well as 24-hour room service. On luxury cruises, even more amenities may be available, such as appropriate wines included with the meal.

An important part of planning is learning exactly what is part of deal. Even with all-inclusive vacations, there are things that you can expect to cost extra.There may be some restrictions on certain foods or drinks – for instance, shrimp may be part of the surf-and-turf dinner but there is an upcharge for lobster. Premium services at the spa, the beauty shop or the barber shop will available but with a fee.

Don’t forget the shore activities. Some lines have beach areas or even islands reserved for passenger use at no extra charge, but tours offered by third-party vendors will probably be priced separately.Shopping will be at your own expense, and of course, you’re on your own if you choose to gamble at the ship’s casino.

Is an all-inclusive cruises right for you? Before making a decision, do your research. Compare the options and make an informed decision.

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