All Inclusive Cruising – A Dilemma or Opportunity?

The Luxury Cruising market has become ever more complicated with an increasing number of cruise lines to choose from.  They each specialise in their own particular niche of the market and it is sometimes difficult to work out exactly what you are getting for your money. From Ocean Cruising to River Cruising, the mega ships of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line with in excess of 7000 passengers to small Luxury cruise ships some with less than 100 guests, ships come in all shapes and sizes. Then there are the fabulous destinations offering the most amazing choice of ports for you to visit almost anywhere in the world.


So when choosing your Luxury Cruise you also need to decide on which type of fare package is available and make a choice based on what suits you best. The options include:

  • Pay as You Go (PAYG). This 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.
  • All Inclusive Cruises. An increasingly popular option is the All Inclusive Cruise. As the name implies, with an All Inclusive Cruise just about everything you can think of is included.

So which one of these options should you consider for that special cruise vacation?


The “PAYG” – Pay As You Go Cruise Option

This is the standard offering and how many of the cruise lines operate. Here, the basics of your cruise are all covered in the upfront cruise fare, but you can get caught out with unexpected extras. For many people, particularly those on a tight budget, this is a great option and there can be some great deals available particularly 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. These would typically include:

  • Gratuities, Soft Drinks, Alcoholic Drinks, Bottled water, Shore excursions, Speciality Coffees and Restaurants, Spa Treatments, Internet use and most other items.

On top of this you will also need to add a service charge to most of all the soft drinks and alcoholic beverages you consume. This can vary between 15% and 20% depending on the cruise line you are sailing with.

You can quite often take advantage of so called “drinks packages” where for a fixed daily fee you can get drinks included. These drinks or other packages will sometimes helps to soften the blow of the sky high cost of drinks and and alternative restaurants on board.

Look out for Drinks and Speciality Restaurant packages as these can save you money. These may be Freebies to get you on board or more likely, you must pay for them.

Check the details of any these package offers carefully as they are sometimes quite costly and not all you expect them to be. Some wine packages are restricted to a few house wines only and only small glasses (125ml) with time limits on refills!.

Some Soft Drinks packages do not include water! Wines can be very expensive on board a cruise ship. And don’t forget there is a service charge for each glass/bottle you consume.


Some cruises lines will sometimes offer packages for drinks, internet and gratuities as freebies to help sell a particular cruise that they are having difficulty filling. This is one of the trickes they use to get you to book early.



The “All Inclusive” Cruise Option

As with many land based vacations, some of the premium cruise lines recognise that some people like an All Inclusive Cruise option. No more forever signing bits of paper for everything and no more big 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.


All Inclusive Cruises are where just about everything forms part of the cruise fare. Typically this would include alcoholic beverages, speciality coffees and soft drinks, a fully stocked mini bar in your stateroom and of course all gratuities. Some cruise lines, particularly the specialist River Cruise companies will also include all shore excursions as part of the package and this can make a huge difference to your overall bill. premium line Regent Seven Seas Cruises also include shore excursions within the fare. With an all inclusive cruise fare there may still be some additional items to pay for such as internet use, spa treatments etc. but these are generally more manageable.


As the market for cruises develops, more of the mainstream cruise lines are adding elements of Inclusively into their offerings to meet the customer demand. Most of the premium cruise brands including Seabourn Cruise Line, Crystal 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 All Inclusive packages is gaining momentum.



Booking one of the many speciality restaurant on board can cost 50 USD per person or more if you cruise on a PAYG basis


What Extras are included in your cruise fare?


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.

PAYG: Signing for everything can be a pain

But remember it’s not always just about the money. If you’re planning a special birthday, anniversary or other special occasion, 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.


At the end of the day the decision is yours, but it is always worth checking out the true costs of a PAYG versus All Inclusive cruise, as you may well be surprised. Do try to make a calculation of the cost per person, per day and you might be pleasantly surprised. You may well find that All Inclusive Luxury Cruising maybe the way to go.



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


So which should You choose?


Make no mistake, PAYG Cruises are great and for most people these are a good option. You can pick up some tremendous last minute deals whilst offering and all the basic requirements of a good cruise.


But you need to remember that once on board if you want anything over and above the bare essentials, there may well be lots of additional items that you will need to pay for.


This includes, drinks, gratuities, spa treatments, shore excursions, internet usage, soft drinks, speciality coffees and featured restaurants. These “Extras” sit on top of your original cruise fare.


You should be aware that anything served on board the ship will attract a service charge nowadays of anything between10% 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. Be prepared for a large bill for all your on board spend and gratuities on the last day of your cruise! These can somethings be a huge shock to you.