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Old February 3rd, 2014, 04:50 PM
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Default All-inclusive Resort or CRUISE??

My sweetie and I are planning a Spring vacation and are comparing the costs of either an all-inclusive resort vacation or cruise. Regarding a cruise, we're looking at a 5-nt Western Caribbean (I really like the ones with stops in the Caymans and Cozumel!). I've cruised once before on Carnival, but he's never been on one, so I'd want him to have an AWESOME cruise experience for his first time.

With the all-inclusives the pricing is pretty straight-forward. You've got your airfare, hotel, meals and (alcoholic) beverages all wrapped up in one tidy price. I've been on several AI vacations and have found this to be the case. And of course extras include the spa, tours, and motorized water sports. However, with cruises I feel like we're going in blind trying to estimate what onboard costs might be. When I went on my first cruise, I was a young 20-something traveling with family and the folks paid for just about everything so I have no recollection of what it cost. I got (what I think is) a pretty good quote on Travelocity for a 5-nt Western Caribbean cruise on Princess in a balcony stateroom in April for about $1300 total w/taxes and fees and a $220 dep. But of course this doesn't include airfare, alcohol (we're drinkers; maybe 3 or 4 drinks each per day), or daily gratuities.

So...my questions for you veteran cruisers are:
(1) How much can we expect to spend for beverage packages?
(2) What might the daily gratuities be?

Thanks!
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Old February 3rd, 2014, 05:06 PM
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First, talk to a good reputable agent who is very familiar with both of these so they can answer all your questions. Don't book directly online because if you need help, most of the time you're talking to someone who works in a call center, is not a certified travel agent, and has never been anywhere outside of their cubicle! They're just there to sell you something. A good agent is not there to sell you anything, but to help you find something that will work for you based on your requirements, lifestyle, and budget.

Now, with that said, based on alot of experience, I can tell you that many times the all-inclusives are a better deal in Cancun as opposed to Cozumel. Main reason being is the lack of direct flights to Cozumel and the small number of properties available. There are just better flights to Cancun and a huge selection of resorts from which to choose, so the prices are usually better.

As for cruises versus all-inclusive resorts, it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. So the first questions are what are you really interested in doing? What is it that you want to do? And what is the most important factor in your decision?

If your budget is the most important thing driving your decision, then most of the time a cruise is going to be cheaper than an all-inclusive mainly because of the airfare. If you're on a tight budget, then you can always consider driving to the port for a cruise, which is something you can do to a resort.

Having personally been on 47 cruises to 11 different cruise lines as well as staying in many resorts in Cancun and a few in Cozumel, I can tell you first-hand that the experience you'll get is completely different. It really does depend on what you're looking for and how much you have to spend.

Plus, keep in mind that like cruises, there are different levels of quality to choose from when considering resorts. If you're only looking at a Carnival cruise, then you should only consider a similar quality resort. And as I always say, what one person loves, another will hate. This refers not only to cruises, but also to resorts.

In other words, there are many things to consider, which is why it's best to work with a knowledgeable agent.

Pete
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Old February 6th, 2014, 10:27 PM
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Thanks for the advice cruiseplanner. I definitely wouldn't book online. Rather I am just doing my preliminary research to get a feel for our options. The budget isn't the driving factor, but I am a stickler for getting the most "bang" for my buck. I'm more interested in the overall experience, but we're certainly not willing to break the bank on this trip! I see merits in both AI's and cruises, and while I know they're two different types of vacations, we're looking for the best value. Thanks again!

I am still interested in hearing from frequent cruisers regarding what we can expect to spend onboard on a good cruise...thanks!
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Old February 7th, 2014, 01:42 AM
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As with anything, what you can expect to spend onboard is dependent on what you like to do. Some people spend very little, while others spend alot.

For example, do you plan to have your gratuities charged to your onboard account? Makes a difference as to the total price charged to your credit card at the end of a cruise.

Do you gamble? Do you want to do any specialty restaurants? If so, how many times? Do you drink? If so, how much? Do you want to do shore excursions offered by the cruise line? If so, how many and what type? Do you want to go to the art auctions? If so, do you plan to spend alot or a little? Do you want to go to the liquor store or the shopping areas?

All of these things play into how much people spend onboard. If someone were to say, "Oh, I spend $300," that may be an average for them, but not for you.

We've been on 47 cruises on 11 different cruise lines, so I guess that qualifies us as a 'frequent cruiser', but I really can't answer your question on what we expect to pay as every cruise is different. Sometimes we'll buy extra bottles of wine at dinner and sometimes we don't. If I were to 'average' all those cruises, I really have no idea because I don't keep track. It all depends on what we want to do, how we want to do, and how much we're willing to spend on that particular cruise.

And what you like to do or buy is going to be different than what everyone else likes to do or buy, so what one 'expects' to buy is obviously going to be different than what you'll 'expect' to buy.

Pete
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Old February 7th, 2014, 08:18 AM
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Your final choice depends on a lot of factors. For me, as much as I love cruising, I also love all-inclusive because I have more time on the beach, being a beach lover. While cruising, beach stops are brief and I have to be dragged back to the ship against my will.
All-inclusive, if you are a drinker, is a no-brainer, you are covered. Cruising on the other hand can get very expensive if you like to drink. I don't, so the "free booze" on the A-I is wasted on me.
Tipping is a big extra expense on a cruise. I believe it is now $11 or more per day per person, taken directly off your bill. Plus, you are "encouraged" to tip extra to those who make the effort, and to the Maitre 'D who you normally never even see.
Shore excursions while cruising can also be expensive. do your research and you can book less expensive tours privately.
We did tours in Cuba at an all-inclusive that were very reasonable, although I realize this is not an option for Americans. (we're Canadian).
Just my personal opinions, but the choice is yours..


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Old February 7th, 2014, 10:31 AM
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The tipping is about eleven or twelve dollars a day per person. You don't have to give extra even if encouraged. Last cruise I did tip the cabin steward more because he did a bang up job. In the past I had tipped the Maitre 'D but did not.

If you are interested in going to Grand Cayman, there are plenty of things to do there without doing a ship's excursion. Grab a taxi and go to the beach. The same can be done a Cozumel. Things don't have to be expensive.

Whatever you decide, I hope you have a wonderful time.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 12:09 PM
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Then again, providing gratuities to room attendants and servers at an all-inclusive resort is also encouraged. They work just as hard as those on a ship, perhaps even harder since the rooms are quite larger, so we always provide a comparable tip for them as we would on a ship. And if we have particular servers who are very attentive, we make sure we take care of them, too.

In fact, at one all-inclusive, we became such good friends with one server that on the last day of our 2-week stay, he came over, gave us big hugs, and presented us with a wonderful gift. We then presented him with a very nice gratuity because his service was outstanding as he took very good care of us.

Pete
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Travel Agent/Cruise Specialist w/12 yrs exp and 47 Cruises on 11 cruise lines! Favorites: Paul Gauguin - Tahiti: Uniworld River Cruises - Europe; Celebrity Solstice-class ships; Holland America - 12-nights Baltics & Russia; RCCL - 14-nights Greek Isles, Turkey, & Croatia; Holland America - 14-day Alaskan cruisetour; 10-night Canada/New England cruise; 21 days Hawaii w/7-night NCL cruise; Oceania - 25 days in Asia; more than 3 months touring Europe by train. And many all-inclusive resorts!
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