When planning your honeymoon or romantic couples’ trip, you may be trying to decide between a cruise vs. all-inclusive resort vacation. There are pros and cons to each, and it can be tough to choose which is better, a cruise or an all inclusive resort.
In this article we’ll compare cruise vs. all-inclusive resort vacations so you can decide which is best for you.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Overview
Both cruises and all-inclusive resort vacations are popular because they don’t require a lot of planning. However, with a cruise you will typically have more decisions to make than with a resort, both before and during the trip.
Most people will need to book flights for both cruises and all-inclusive resorts, unless they live close enough to drive to a departure port for a cruise or a resort in the U.S. For a cruise, depending on what time it departs, you may also need to book a hotel room for the night before. And you will need to find a way to get from the airport or hotel to the port. However, your flight will be domestic, rather than international, so it will likely be shorter and less expensive.
For an all-inclusive resort, you will probably need to take an international flight, and you will also need transportation from the airport. Many all-inclusive resorts include complimentary transfers, so be sure to ask about that.
What is the difference between a cruise and resort? The most obvious difference between a cruise vs. land vacation is that on a cruise, you will visit multiple destinations, whereas with an all-inclusive resort you will just be in one place.
This is probably one of the main deciding factors in choosing between the two types of vacations. Do you want to see several places, or just one? However, keep in mind that you will likely only spend a few hours at each destination.
Another difference between cruises vs all-inclusive resorts is that you will have more control over your schedule at an all-inclusive resort, and it can be as relaxed or action-packed as you want. Cruises tend to have very strict timetables that must be followed.
A third difference between a cruise and a resort is that you will likely have more space and fewer other people around when at an all-inclusive resort than on a cruise.
However, cruises will generally offer way more to do than resorts, so that is another significant difference.
And finally, there are plenty of adults-only all-inclusive resorts, but only some adults-only cruises. Just a few ocean cruise lines are adults only (like Viking), while some river cruise lines offer a handful of adults-only itineraries.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Cost
Is a cruise cheaper than an all inclusive resort? The cost of a cruise vs. all inclusive resort depends on the type of cruise or all-inclusive resort you choose. Some cruises are cheaper than all-inclusive resorts, but there are plenty of expensive luxury cruises that will cost much more than an all-inclusive hotel vacation.
Something to consider when you compare cruise vs all-inclusive resort price is whether the cruise you want to take is all-inclusive. While some cruise lines are all inclusive, some are not. And even the all-inclusive cruises will have amenities and activities that cost extra, like special restaurants and offshore excursions.
Generally speaking, the base fare for a cruise will look to be cheaper than an all-inclusive resort, but you need to check what’s included, then factor in additional expenses like dining and beverage packages, activities, and extras to get a feel for the true total.
Is it worth it to pay for all-inclusive? It is worth it to pay for an all-inclusive resort if you choose one that has a lot of inclusions (like a Sandals or Couples resort). However, this only makes sense if you are not planning on leaving your resort much. If you are going somewhere that you will want to explore, it may not make sense to pay for all-inclusive rates at your hotel since you will probably be eating out and doing offsite activities a lot.
Whether you choose a cruise or all-inclusive resort, be sure to ask what is included in the price you pay. This will ensure you don’t have any unpleasant surprises on your bill.
And check the cruise line or resort’s website for special offers and discounts before you book. These can help you save money on your trip.
If you live close enough to a port to drive, that can help you save money on a cruise. You may be able to drive to an all-inclusive resort, as well, since there are all-inclusive resorts in the U.S. Avoiding a flight can save you substantial money.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are some questions to think about to help you decide which is best for you, cruise or all-inclusive resort. First, what sort of trip do you want to have? Are you looking for multiple experiences at a variety of destinations, or do you want to stay put in one spot?
If you want to stay put, an all-inclusive resort is your best bet. However, if you love the idea of being on a ship, you can always take a cruise and not go on any excursions.
Do you want a relaxing vacation with an open schedule, or a more adventurous trip full of sightseeing and activities? You can actually have both of these types of trip at either an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise, but in general, an all-inclusive resort will be more relaxing and flexible than a cruise.
Does the idea of seeing multiple different destinations without having to unpack appeal to you? If so, a cruise might be best. Cruises allow you to easily tour an area, like the coast of Italy or several islands in the Caribbean.
When you go on a cruise, you only have to get to and from the cruise port, and on and off the ship. A cruise can be a wonderful way to visit a variety of places without having to make a lot of travel and lodging plans and deal with packing and unpacking multiple times.
However, are you OK with just visiting a place for a few hours, or do you prefer to spend several days in a new location? If you like to spend more than one day in a place, cruising may not be for you.
Also, what kind of ambiance are you looking for? If this is a special trip where you want a romantic atmosphere, you may want to choose an adults-only all-inclusive resort. These resorts, like Sandals and Couples, are designed specifically to deliver a dreamy experience for couples only. Another option would be to find an adults-only cruise.
And finally, what sorts of activities do you want to do most on your trip? If you love the beach and want to spend most of your time on the sand or in the water, then choose an all-inclusive resort. You’ll have unlimited access to both as well as complimentary nonmotorized watersports. On a cruise, you only get to access a beach or the water when on a shore excursion, and your time will be limited.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Accommodations
One of the biggest differences between a cruise and all-inclusive resort vacation will be in your room. Most cruise cabins are about 150-200 square feet. While there are larger luxury cabins on board cruise ships, they will be quite expensive. And they still probably won’t be as large as a room or suite at an all-inclusive resort.
You also have a lot more variety to choose from at land-based resorts. You can find swim-up rooms, suites with private pools, overwater bungalows, beachfront suites, and more at all-inclusive resorts.
You’ll also generally have nicer bathrooms, often with oversized soaking tubs, as well as outdoor space like a balcony or patio. Cruise cabins have tiny bathrooms, and only the most expensive offer balconies. Even then, they are quite small.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Food and Drink
While both cruises and all-inclusive resorts offer a variety of dining options, there are a lot of differences between the two.
Dining on most cruises is not completely all-inclusive, as it is at most all-inclusive resorts. You will generally need to choose a dining package, as well as a drinks package. It’s rare to get unlimited dining and alcoholic drinks at all restaurants and bars on board a ship.
However, all-inclusive resorts like Sandals and Couples will include unlimited meals and snacks at all onsite restaurants, as well as unlimited nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks—including premium liquors.
Additionally, a resort’s food selection will often be fresher than that on a cruise, and meals will have local influences.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Activities and Entertainment
If you’re looking for nonstop action and a huge variety of activities and entertainment, you may want to choose a cruise. The top cruise lines like Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean offer an amazing array of onboard activities as well as top notch entertainment.
Cruise ship activities go way past swimming pools and fitness centers to waterslides, rollercoasters, climbing walls, and sky dive simulators. Some Royal Caribbean ships even have bumper cars. Ships also offer all sorts of live entertainment, including Broadway shows, musical acts, interactive shows, magic shows, comedy acts, movies, and more, as well as night clubs.
While many all-inclusive resorts have activities and entertainment as well, they usually won’t have such a wide range. However, they will offer types of activities that you won’t find on a cruise ship. These include watersports like paddleboarding, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving (while the last two can usually be done on a cruise, you must book an excursion at an extra cost), as well as land sports like tennis and golf.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort: Why Choose a Cruise
Choose a cruise if you want to see multiple destinations; want to save money and know you won’t need an expensive beverage package or lots of extra activities; have mobility issues and want to be able to get around more easily; enjoy having plenty to do at all times; want exciting entertainment like Broadway shows, casinos, and musical acts; and don’t mind having limited space and larger crowds.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort Overview: Why Choose an All-inclusive Resort
Choose an all-inclusive resort if you want to stay in one place; want a single price that includes everything so you don’t have to worry about your final bill; are looking for more space and privacy; like to hang out on the beach and do watersports; like to golf; want a relaxing vacation with a flexible schedule where you can do as much or as little as you want; or want a romantic, adults-only atmosphere.
After reading our cruise vs. all inclusive resort comparison, what do you think? Is an all-inclusive resort better than a cruise, or is a cruise better than an all-inclusive resort for your trip? If you’re having trouble deciding, you may want to reach out to a travel agent to help you decide. Our trusted travel partners have a ton of experience booking both cruises and all-inclusive resorts, and can advise you on the best vacation for you.
Ashley has always loved to explore new places and indulges her passion for travel whenever she can. She has been to 12 countries and 32 states so far.
Ashley has worked as a freelance writer for more than 20 years, specializing in the areas of travel, marketing, personal development, and the pursuit of happiness.
Favorite destinations include Sorrento and Capri, Italy; Haarlem, Netherlands; Paris; Sydney and K’gari, Australia; Rotorua and Waiheke Island, New Zealand; the American West; Palm Beach; the Florida Keys; and her hometown of New Orleans. Ashley has a goal of visiting every state plus many more international destinations.