October 7, 2022

Alex o'Loughlin

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Cruise vs All-Inclusive Resort: What’s the Difference?

Deciding between a cruise and an all-inclusive resort? Wondering what the differences are? While there are some similarities, there are plenty of differences. We’ll be diving into the battle between a cruise vs all-inclusive resort or an all-inclusive resort vs cruise.

When it comes to cruise vs all-inclusive resort, there are some key differences that you need to be aware of before making your decision. Both have their pros and cons, they can be a ton of fun, but it can be tough deciding which is the right option for you.

We love and have done both throughout the years of our travels. Most recently, we spent a fabulous week at one of the best all-inclusive resorts: Hilton La Romana in the Dominican Republic.

While we were frolicking on the beach of Bayahibe and enjoying one too many beach drinks, we couldn’t help point out the differences we love between all-inclusive resorts vs. cruises.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the key differences as well as similarities between cruise vacations and all-inclusive resort vacations, so that you can make an informed decision about which type of vacation is best for you.

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What are cruises?

Cruises are a type of vacation where you travel on a large ship with thousands of other people. The cruise ship will take you to different destinations, and you’ll have the opportunity to explore each destination for a few days before moving on to the next one.

Cruises are basically all-inclusive, which means that your food and entertainment are included.

Celebrity Equinox docked in Bonaire Cruise port
The Celebrity Equinox

Why are cruises better than resorts?

Are cruises better than resorts? That is subjective. However, there are two main differences that stand out and may sway you to book a cruise rather than a resort.

  1. A cruise ship is an on-the-water resort that sails through oceans around the world.
  2. Cruises have different itineraries that allow you to visit an array of destinations.

Why are cruises cheaper than hotels?

If you start comparing apples to apples, you may more than likely find that taking a cruise is cheaper than staying at a hotel. I guess that would depend on the hotel and also on the cruise you are deciding on. You’d be surprised how cheap a cruise per night will cost you when you start factoring in food and entertainment.

Are cruises really all-inclusive?

No. While every cruise line differs, most cruises do provide food, some beverages and entertainment are included. Other things like specialty dining, alcoholic drinks, the spa, and other extracurricular activities may require you to pay extra.

What are all-inclusive resorts?

All-inclusive resorts are exactly what they sound like. They are hotel resorts where everything is included in the price of your stay, minus spa treatments and tours. That means your food, drinks, and entertainment are all covered.

All-inclusive resorts tend to be located in tropical destinations, like Mexico or the Caribbean.

all inclusive resort pool area

Why are all-inclusive resorts better than cruises? Again, this is subjective. The main difference an all-inclusive resort may be a better fit for you is because it’s on land, in a destination you may want to further explore. Or you can choose to stay at the resort your entire vacation and relax because they have everything you need right at the resort.

After the pandemic, all-inclusive resorts became one of the most desired forms of vacations to be due to their cost-effectiveness and generally, the ease of booking. Especially, while cruising took a back seat but I am sure cruising will make a comeback in 2022.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what is a cruise vs an all-inclusive resort is, let’s take a look at some of the key differences and similarities.

Cruises vs. All-Inclusive Resort

Pricing of Cruises vs. All-Inclusive Resorts

Cruises

  • The price of cruise vacations can vary greatly. From experience, cruises have been generally cheaper to me than an all-inclusive. It all depends on the cruise line, the type of room you book, and the time of year you cruise.

    But whether you book an interior cabin or a balcony cabin, you’ll receive most of the same standard amenities throughout the ship. You can really get some amazing deals for interior cabins and have a wonderful cruise vacation just like everyone else.

  • Wi-fi, gratuities, drinks (not including regular coffee, tea and juice served at the buffet), spa treatments, specialty classes and other extra curricular activities do cost extra. You’ll have to factor that into pricing when booking. A lot of these amenities are already included with an all-inclusive resort.

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts also have a wide range of pricing, all dependent on the destination and what is offered at the resort. The more amenities and luxurious, the more expensive.
  • Sometimes you can add premium amenities at an extra cost.

Transportation to Cruises and All-inclusive Resorts

Cruises

  • Cruise port destinations are all over the world. You may have a port destination right near you. Who knows? You may actually live close to one or maybe within driving distance. This is a huge plus because you plan a cruise out of that port, which makes it easier to travel to take that cruise vacation. Also, more money you get to save and spend on experiences.
  • Now, not everyone is so lucky to live near a port city. Sometimes you will have to take a short flight to take your cruise vacation.

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • More than likely, you will have to fly to stay at an all-inclusive resort. Most all-inclusive resorts reside in Mexico, the Caribbean, and some countries in Central America.

Accommodations on Cruises vs All-Inclusive Resorts

Cruises

  • Cruise ships have a wide variety of accommodations that will fit any type of traveler and cruise vacation you are looking for. From interior cabins with no windows to suites that come with a butler and balcony. You can find the perfect cabin for you and your cruise vacation.
Norwegian Getaway Penthouse Suite
Penthouse Suite on the Getaway Haven
  • What are suites like on a cruise? Staying in a suite is a whole other experience, no matter if it’s on a cruise or at a resort.

    Suite cabins definitely offer more room and more luxurious amenities, like their own restaurant, pool, and butler. Our stay in the Norwegian Haven on the Getaway definitely gave us a fabulous taste of the suite life.

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts will have different types of accommodations as well. You can find anything from your standard hotel room to a villa. Just like cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts offer different types of rooms that will fit any type of traveler.
Premium Partial Oceanview Room at the Hilton La Romana
Premium Partial Oceanview Room at the Hilton La Romana
  • The rooms at an all-inclusive resort are going to be bigger than what you find on the cruise ship. However, you will be on land and some all-inclusive resorts do offer villas or bungalows.
  • It really depends on what type of accommodations you are looking for when deciding between a cruise or an all-inclusive resort.

Cruise Essentials to Pack

Are you packing for a cruise? Make sure you don’t forget these cruise essentials! This printable cruise packing list will help make sure you have everything you need for your trip. Plus, we’ve included some helpful cruise tips and hacks. Don’t forget to add it to your vacation packing list.

Setting and Atmosphere on Cruises and at All-inclusive Resorts

Cruises

  • The main difference cruising is that you’re on a ship and out at sea with other cruisers. You will be sailing to different port destinations. There are usually daily activities and nightlife on the cruise ship.
  • A ship is a sailing resort, so everything will be meticulously clean, modern, and have a resort feel to it.
  • When you’re outside, you’ll appreciate the salty breeze.

All-inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts are located in tropical destinations. When you’re not exploring the destination, you’re at the resort. Most all-inclusive resorts offer a wide range of activities and some nightlife.
  • Resorts vary but there is a relaxing and luxurious feeling when staying at an all-inclusive resort. The resort you choose may be on the beach which views and access to it whenever you like.

Land vs. Sea

cruise after view at sea

Cruises

  • One of the main differences between cruise vs all-inclusive resorts is that cruises are on the water. If you have motion sickness, then a cruise may not be for you.
  • For those that don’t suffer from sea sickness or aren’t afraid of water, there is definitely something about being out at sea in the middle of the ocean. It’s calming, yet exhilarating all at the same time.
  • However, downside of cruising is that you’re stuck on a ship on the days you’re out at sea. For some people, sea days are one of their favorite parts of cruising.

All-inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts are mostly located on land in tropical destinations. If you don’t like being on the water or getting seasick, then an all-inclusive resort may be a better option for you.

Type of Traveler at All-Inclusive Resorts and Crusies

Cruises

  • Cruises are great for all types of travelers. Whether you’re a family, couple, or group of friends, there is a cruise vacation that will fit your needs.
  • There are themed cruises, adult-only cruises, kid-friendly cruises, and more. cruise vacation for you.

All-inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts are also great for all types of travelers. Families, couples, and groups of friends can find the perfect all-inclusive resort for their next vacation.
  • You can also find all-inclusive that is for adults only or perhaps one dedicated to scuba diving.

Dining at All-Inclusive Resorts vs Cruises

check serving and cooking over hibachi grill
A hibachi restaurant at an all-inclusive resort.

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts have plenty of dining options as well. You will find a buffet and restaurants throughout the resort you’ll have to make a reservations for.
  • The all-inclusive resorts also have plenty of food options available throughout the day. It really depends on the resort and what they offer.

    During our stay in Hilton La Romana, I didn’t think there were many options during the day. The sandwiches, pizza, and burgers they had available during the day were not versatile enough. Although, if you booked a premium room, you had access to a couple of restaurants for lunch.

    Meanwhile, during a trip to Costa Rica, the all-inclusive we stayed at had plenty of choices at their restaurants open for lunch.

Cruises

  • One of the best things about cruise vacations is the food. You will never go hungry on a cruise. There are so many food options available, you will be able to find something to eat no matter what time of day it is.
  • Cruise ships are notorius for their buffets. The buffet is usually open longer hours than the main dining room and has a wide variety of food options to choose from.
  • You will have the option to dine in the main dining room or order room service. The main dining room usually has set times for breakfast and dinner. Sometimes there are special lunches.
  • Cruises also have specialty restaurants. They do cost extra, usually a small fee and worth the price.

Alcohol on a Cruise vs All-Inclusive Resort

martini bar on cruise ship
Martini Bar on Cruise Ship

Cruises

  • When you cruise, alcohol is not included in your cruise package. Unless you booked a cruise that does include everything, but most standard cruise lines do not.
  • You will find a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available throughout the cruise ship. Cuise ships normally have several bars for you to enjoy.

All-inclusive Resort

  • All-inclusive resorts include alcoholic beverages in your stay. You will be able to find a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available throughout the resort via water service and bars.

Activities on Cruises and All-Inclusive Resorts

Cruises

  • One thing cruise vacations are known for is their activities. You will never be bored on a cruise. If you are, that’s by choice. There are so many things to do, you will have a hard time deciding what to do next. Of course, you can do as little or as much as you want.
  • All cruises have pools and hot tubs.
  • Cruises offer a wide variety of activities, from watching a show to taking dance classes. You can also find plenty of physical activities to do, like basketball or rock climbing.
  • Depending on how big the cruise ship is and the cruise line, you’ll find waterslides, ice skating rinks, carousels, race tracks and so much more.
  • One of the biggest reasons cruises are great for families is becuase of their fantastic kids clubs.

All-Inclusive Resorts

pool, water tubes and palm trees from a waterpark
Waterpark at Hilton La Romana in the DR
  • All-inclusive resorts offer plenty of activities as well. The most common denominator between cruises and all-inclusive resorts is that they both will more than likely have pools.
  • You can find plenty of other activities at all-inclusive resorts though, from water sports (snorkeling, paddeboarding) to Zumba classes. Waterparks and lazy rivers are quite popular at an all-inclusive for families.
  • Like cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts for families will also have a kids club. This is a great place for the kids to be entertained while the adults enjoy some time to themselves.

Itineraries and Destinations During a Cruise vs All-Inclusive Resorts

Cruises

  • Sometimes, you’ll even get the opportunity to enjoy one of the cruise line’s private islands. These private islands can’t be visited if you’re on a land vacation staying at an all-inclusive resort.
  • Can you take a cruise to a resort? Yes, day passes to resorts bear ports are available to cruisers when they are docked in certain destinations.

All-Inclusive Resorts

Excursions From Cruises and All-Inclusive Resorts

UTV on dirt road
UTV adventure exploring Arikok National Park in Aruba

Cruises

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts also offer excursions. These are usually tours of the nearby attractions.
  • The main difference between a cruise vs. an all-inclusive resort is that resorts don’t have as many tour options as cruise lines. This is because cruise lines can offer a greater variety since they have multiple ships in different port destinations.
  • One of the best things about staying at an all-inclusive is that you can also rent a car to explore the local spots and more of the local culture.

Entertainment on Cruises and All-Inclusive Resorts

actors dressed in costumes on a dark stage
Broadway style productions on cruise ships. Actual Broadway shows can be found on the Norwegian Cruise Line.

Cruises

  • As I mentioned before, cruises have a lot to offer when it comes to entertainment.

    The cruise ship will have multiple shows, including Broadway-style productions and comedy shows. There are also movie nights, trivia, game nights, dance parties, and more.

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • All-inclusive resorts will try to offer some sort of entertainment like dance parties, trivia, and live music.
  • Some of them may have a casino and a disco club.
  • From experience, all-inclusive resorts fall flat when it comes to entertainment compared to cruises.

Staffing on Cruises vs. All-Inclusive Resorts

Cruises

All-Inclusive Resorts

So, what’s the verdict about cruises vs all-inclusive resorts? Are all-inclusive resorts and cruises amazing experiences that everyone needs to have at least experience once in their lives? But do they both have their own unique benefits that you may prefer depending on your travel goals?

Both options have their pros and cons, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

If you can’t decide which type of resort vacation is right for you, we suggest trying out both – they each offer unique experiences that are well worth experiencing at least once in your life!

Do you have a preference for cruise or all-inclusive resorts?

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