It’s no secret that my husband and I love cruises. We have been on four together and we already have a fifth one planned for next May. Last month we decided to switch it up and try out an all inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Despite the fact that we returned home days before all of this weird stuff started happening in the DR (we won’t talk about that), we had a blast. While I’m sure every all inclusive resort is different in their own way, we are sure they are also similar in several ways, just as cruises are. Therefore, it gave us a good insight on what to expect for most all-inclusive resorts and how they differ from cruises.
Now I get the question: which one do you prefer, cruises or all inclusive resorts? The short answer is that it all depends on what I am looking for in the particular vacation. Do I want to relax? Have more adventures? Drink from sunrise to sunset without worrying about cost? Do I want someone waiting on me hand and foot? If you are wondering which one is better for you, I’m going to go through the differences between my experience with all inclusive resorts and cruises and why each is better for different experiences and expectations.
One of the most popular reasons people go on vacation is to relax. They want to get away from the stress of work, chores, and everyday responsibilities. Some people, no matter how badly they want to, have a hard time relaxing. They can’t sit still long enough and they feel like they constantly have to be doing something. That is when I would recommend an all-inclusive resort.
At a lot of all inclusive resorts like the place we went, there are no kids. There are activities, but they are short and not overly exerting (unless you decide to do some water sports, and even then it depends on what you choose). We found we were forced to relax, but there were countless ways and places to relax. You could go to the pool, the beach, or your room. In our case, we got a private rooftop terrace with a plunge pool, and that was an excellent way to relax with no interruptions and no distractions around us. So even if you have a hard time sitting still, you could always lay out at the pool for 45 minutes, then migrate to the beach for another hour. You’re moving around but relaxing in between.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still relax on a cruise, but for us it’s harder to do so. There is always something going on, even during the days at sea. Trivia here, hairy chest contest there, dance party here, show there. We have a hard time just sitting by the pool because we don’t want to miss anything. If you are one of those people that can just sit on the lido or your balcony not caring about what else is happening, then who says a cruise can’t be relaxing?
There is no doubt that cruises are definitely better for adventures. Think about it: depending on how long the cruise is, you could be going to 3-8 different places within the span of a week. Each place is unique in its own way and has its own adventures. One day you are snorkeling in Barbados and the next you are caving in Jamaica. There are countless options and excursions to choose from.
All-inclusive resorts do offer excursions, but you’re still going to be more limited than what you might find on a cruise. However, they can still be as exciting. They typically offer adventures like parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and deep sea fishing. It all depends on where you are and what your location is best known for.
Tying into the previous topic, it might be important to you to have something to do in between the big adventures like zip-lining or caving. While we found activities at the all inclusive resort, there are 100% more things to do on a cruise ship. At the resort, there seemed to be only one thing going on at a time, while on a cruise, there are multiple things going on at once. So, if you aren’t interested in the Friends trivia in the Atrium Lobby, maybe you are interested in karaoke in the Ocean Plaza going on at the same time.
This is the hardest thing to measure because it all depends on what resort or cruise line you book with. However, with that being said, I would say that all inclusive resorts are more cost effective. Why? It’s in the name. Literally all is included. Your food, your drinks, your gratuities, no matter what. On a cruise, you have to pay extra for drinks or drink packages and you typically have to pay extra for the specialty restaurants. I would suggest you do your own research, though, for the specific companies you are interested in visiting and compare each trip to your own budget to see what is best for you.
This is another category that is completely dependent on the company you decide to stay at or cruise with. For me, I have only experienced Carnival cruises and the service at Excellence El Carmen. Both offer really great service. However, I felt like they went even more above and beyond at the all inclusive resort. From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with champagne and a cold towel, escorted to our room, and everyone seemed genuinely happy to see us. Everyone is still very genuine on the cruises and they definitely take care of us. I’m even amazed at how well they remember everyone’s names. Again, do your research and read reviews for the specific companies you are planning to travel with. That will give you a great insight on what to expect.
Based on my personal experiences, cruises are better for adventures and having a lot to do. All inclusive resorts are more relaxing and can be more cost effective because there are no extra expenses for drinks or specialty restaurants. Service is great for both, but the absolute best at the all inclusive resort. Make sure you do your own research for the specific companies you want to travel with. Everything is relative and these conclusions are only based on my personal experiences.
Which type of vacation is your favorite? Do you prefer one over the other?