All Inclusive Cruise Benefits Revealed – 2024 update

Oct 20, 2021 | CRUISE TIPS, MONEY SAVING IDEAS | 0 comments



On this page, we explore the world of All-Inclusive Cruising and how it compares with the different types of cruise fare available to you:
– Your Cruise Fare – the choices
– What’s included in the standard cruise fare?
– Add On Packages – Your All-Inclusive Fare
– All-Inclusive Cruising vs Pay as You Go
– A Recap of the Options Available

A common misconception is that when you go on a cruise, everything at sea is all-inclusive. Apart from a few of the Ultra Luxury Cruise lines and some premium brands that offer add-on packages, you will be charged for almost everything else apart from your accommodation and food in the main restaurants. Once you add on extras like spa treatments, gratuities, bar bills, speciality dining, transfers, shore excursions, and fitness classes, you can end up paying a massive bill at the end of your voyage. All-inclusive cruises are different!

With the explosion in demand for cruising, the market has become incredibly complicated. So when you come to decide on your next Cruise, you are faced with an increasing number of cruise lines and hundreds of cruise ships from which to choose. They each focus on their particular niche of the market and all have a slightly different offering which sometimes makes it difficult to work out precisely what you are getting for your money. Before you book, always be sure to understand what makes up your cruise fare.

Your Cruise Fare – The Choices

When choosing your Cruise, apart from the ship size and destination, the other thing you need to consider is the type of fare package available. Then you can make a selection based on what suits you best. There are three main options:

  • Pay as You Go (PAYG). Is where you pay for your Cruise which includes all the basics like accommodation, food, entertainment etc. but you need to pay any additional items.
  • PAYG but with pre-purchased Add Ons and various ‘Packages’ Many cruise lines offer a range of packages over and above the basic cruise fare to enhance your experience and enable you to budget more easily. These may include Drinks Packages, Gratuities, Shore Excursions, Laundry and Transfers
  • All-Inclusive. An increasingly popular option is the All-Inclusive Cruise. As the name implies, just about everything you can think of is included.


The essential elements of your Cruise, including accommodation and food, is the standard offering which cruise lines include in the price. For many people, particularly those on a tight budget, this is a great option, and there can be some great deals available, especially when the cruise lines have empty staterooms to fill.

You will, however, need to budget wisely for all the extras that the cruise lines charge for once you are on board. You need to be careful you don’t get caught out with unexpected extras. As mentioned above these might include:

  • Gratuities, Soft Drinks, Alcoholic Drinks, Bottled water, Fitness Classes, Shore excursions, Speciality Resturants, Speciality &Teas and Coffees, Spa Treatments, Wi-Fi and Internet.

On top of this, you will also need to add a service charge to all the soft drinks and alcoholic beverages you consume — budget for between 15% and 20% depending on the cruise line. Gratuities are also expected by staff in the Spa areas onboard.


The next option up from the basic cruise fare is to prepay for various upgrade packages. The favourites include Drinks Packages, Gratuities Wi-Fi/Internet. Typically based on a fixed cost per day, this enables you to work out if it makes sense to do this. Drinks Packages, in particular, will sometimes help to soften the blow of the sky-high cost of beverages and alternative dining options onboard.

Drinks and Speciality Restaurant packages can save you money, particularly if you like a drink in the bar and wine with your meal. Cruise Lines will often offer these as incentives to book with them, and they can be very appealing. Some cruise lines will even offer an upgrade to All-Inclusive, which can include almost everything although shore excursions must be paid for and can be quite expensive.

Windstar Cruises have recently introduced an “All In Package” which provides for unlimited Wi-Fi access, unlimited laundry service, hotel and beverage gratuities. Add to this the top shelf Captain’s Exclusive Beverage Package featuring all wines by the glass, all beer selections, all mini-bar beverages, and a broad assortment of cocktails — all for $89 per person, per day.

It is vital to check the details of these packages very carefully as they are sometimes quite costly and not all you expect them to be. Some wine packages restrict you to a few house wines only and only small measures (125ml) and with time limits on refills! Some Soft Drinks packages do not include water! Wines are generally costly onboard a cruise ship. And don’t forget that service charge for each glass/bottle you consume.

During the traditional selling seasons, the cruise lines quite often push these upgrade packages quite hard as freebies to help sell a particular cruise that they are having difficulty filling. Your travel agent may also offer incentives and ‘extras’ to get you to book.


As with many land-based vacations, some premium, luxury and Ultra Luxury cruise lines recognise that some people like an All-Inclusive option. No more annoying bits of paper to sign and no more unpleasant surprises at the end of your Cruise when you come to settle your final account. Add to that incredible All-Inclusive cruise deals available nowadays, this is an important option to consider. So the question to answer is whether should you cruise all-inclusive?

The All-Inclusive option is where just about everything forms part of the cruise fare. Typically this would include alcoholic beverages, speciality teas and coffees plus soft drinks, a fully stocked mini-bar in your stateroom and of course all gratuities. Some cruise lines, particularly the specialist small ship cruise companies, will also include speciality dining and all shore excursions as part of the package and this can make a massive difference to your overall bill. These small ship cruise lines in the Ultra Luxury cruise sector will sometimes inlude business class flights as part of thier offering. It is worth bearing in mind that there are no such things as cheap all-inclusive cruises, but they can be a good value for your money.

The Ultra Luxury line Regent Seven Seas, which recently introduced the luxurious Seven Seas Explorer, goes even further. They include your roundtrip airfare, pre-cruise overnight hotel stays, airport-to-ship transfers, 24-hour room service, open bar, gratuities, unlimited Wi-Fi, and endless shore excursions when in port.

Helpful Hint

Booking a speciality restaurant onboard can cost 50 USD or more per person if you cruise on a PAYG basis. You can typically save by making reservations online before you sail.

We recently sailed on the Late Queen Elizabeth’s favourite line, Hebridean Island Cruises, on a voyage around the Scottish highlands. Hebridean was not far behind Regent as it includes everything except travel to Scotland, although if you fly or take the train to Glasgow, there are free coach transfers to and from the port in Oban.

The 2-hour journey is a picturesque drive through the Lowlands and then the Highlands of Scotland. Once onboard, there is nothing more to pay for, and the fare even includes tea stops on excursions.

All Inclusive Cruises

With some all-inclusive cruise fares, there may still be some additional items to pay for depending on the cruise line you select. These might include internet use, spa treatments etc. but these are generally more manageable.

As the market for cruises develops, there is a trend by many more of the mainstream cruise lines to add more elements of Inclusively into their offerings to meet the customer demand. Most of the premium cruise brands including Seabourn Cruise LineCrystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea and SeaDream Yacht Club plus most of the River Cruise lines are now All-Inclusive, and there are more to choose from all the time. The trend for these packages is gaining momentum.

An exciting option recently introduced by MSC is the ‘Yacht Club.’ This product is an exclusive area of refinement within the ship which is mostly All-Inclusive. Here you can indulge in the luxury of a private club while enjoying access to the myriad of recreation and entertainment possibilities onboard. We will be experiencing the MSC Yacht Club onboard the MSC Seaview in 2020. Watch this space.

All Inclusive Cruise versus PAYG

You might well be shocked to find that what you’re paying on a regular cruise vacation isn’t a lot different than what you would pay for sailing on a high-end Luxury Cruise ship. Don’t be lured by the headline price as you could well be in for a shock when you get your final bill on the last day of your Cruise. All those extras, drinks and shore excursions soon add up. It is always worth checking the per diem rate and then adding the projected cost of extras to see if All Inclusive is a better deal.

But remember it’s not always just about the money. If you’re planning a special birthday, anniversary or other special occasions, you might want to consider the All-Inclusive Cruise option. Always talk through the options with your travel agent, and they will be able to help you make the right choice.

Helpful Hint

It always pays to compare the actual total cost per person/per day. You may be surprised at the result, and All-Inclusive Luxury Cruising may be the way to go.

A Recap of the Options

PAYG Cruises can be tremendous value for money, and for most people, these are a good option. You can pick up some incredible last-minute deals while offering and all the basic requirements of an enjoyable cruise. But you can find some fantastic all-inclusive cruise deals by working closely with our travel agent. But you need to remember that once onboard if you want anything over and above the bare essentials, there may well be lots of additional items for which you will need to pay. The big things include

  • Drinks including Alcoholic, Soft Drinks and Speciality Teas and Coffees
  • Gratuities or Tips
  • Spa treatments
  • Shore excursions
  • Internet & Wi-Fi Usage
  • Speciality restaurants.

These “Extras” sit on top of your original cruise fare. You should be conscious that anything served on board the ship will attract a service charge nowadays of anything between:

  • 10% and 18% on everything you spend.

If you are partial to a glass of wine with your dinner or perhaps a beer in the bar, be aware that the cost of these can be double or more what you pay shore-side. If you PAYG, be prepared for a potentially significant end of cruise bill for all your onboard extras! These can sometimes be a massive shock!


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Mike & Anita

Welcome all cruise enthusiasts!
We’re Mike & Anita, your spirited guides to cruising the high seas (and Rivers), and we’ve clocked in over 600 days at sea.

This blog is dedicated to all you cruise lovers out there. It is a place to dive into the wonderful world of cruising. Join us on this exciting voyage where we share not just tips but insider secrets and money-saving gems about cruising.

Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time cruiser, get ready to explore, learn, and soak up the joy of our seafaring adventures. Happy Cruising! 🚢✨

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A passionate cruiser and photographer with more than 600 days at sea, and just a few, but growing number of Luxury River Cruises. Our expereince as hotel inspectors for a prestigous French brand help us uncover all the good things about luxury cruising. All-Inclusive Food and Wine Cruises always attract our attention!
Mike King - About Luxury Cruising Blog

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