It is hard to specify what exactly constitutes an all-inclusive cruise. Is a cruise all-inclusive if the primary expenses of a trip – essentially, lodging and meals – are covered by the cruise fare? If so, virtually all cruises are all-inclusive. However, some people take a more expansive view of all-inclusive cruises, such that every cost associated with the vacation must be included in the fare for it be regarded as all-inclusive, and these types of cruises are harder to come by. While we have written plenty about all-inclusive cruises in the past, we haven’t touched on the issue in a while, and in any case we haven’t analyzed the precise meaning of an “all-inclusive cruise.” Definitions vary, so below we get to the bottom of the issue by providing an overview of all-inclusive cruises.
The varying degrees of all-inclusive cruises
The most robustly all-inclusive cruises tend to be offered by luxury cruise lines, whose higher fares include more benefits and amenities at no extra charge. Regent Seven Seas Cruises takes this philosophy to its most extreme expression. The cruise line claims it offers the “most inclusive luxury cruise experience ever,” and this may well be the case. Virtually every component of your vacation is included in the fare you pay for your cruises, including flights to and from the port of departure, as well as any shore excursions you might be inclined to take while sailing with Regent. On-board the ship, almost everything is covered as well: alcohol, several gourmet meals, fitness programs, and so on. Only a select-few, non-essential services (e.g., spa treatments and laundry services) are not covered by the “all-inclusive” banner, so once you pay for your fare, you could easily not pay another cent for your trip.
Regent, as we said above, takes all-inclusive cruising to the max. All other cruises lines that offer “all-inclusive cruises” do not interpret this term so broadly. Even so, several cruise lines include a lot in the fare you pay for your cruise. For example, Silversea Cruises, another luxury cruise line, offers a great deal of amenities for free. Alcohol is free throughout the ship, and you don’t have to pay any gratuities to any crew member (because this is covered by the fare). Several shore excursions are also complimentary, and at most ports of call you won’t have to worry about arranging or paying for transportation into town. Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line, also offers several things for free – fine dinners (featuring foods like lobster and steak) are complimentary, and you can get room-service 24 hours a day at no cost. On-board entertainment (like live shows) are also free, and the youth programs designed to keep kids busy and satisfied don’t cost anything either.
The bottom line about all-inclusive cruises
As you can see, cruise lines define “all-inclusive” differently. When you cruise with Regent, you make one payment (a large payment) to the cruise line and you basically don’t have to worry about spending any more money on your vacation. Other cruise lines throw in a lot for free, but you’ll still have to spend money, most notably on your transportation to and from the port of departure. So, the essential takeaway is that “all-inclusive” is a slippery term. In general, it doesn’t literally mean “everything is covered,” but this doesn’t mean it’s an empty term, signifying nothing. It is significant that you won’t have a huge bar tab at the end of your Silversea cruise, for example, or that you don’t have to worry about paying extra to keep your kids entertained on Carnival. These lines do offer “all-inclusive cruises,” just not in the same way Regent offers “all-inclusive cruises.” And remember that regardless of whether a cruise line invokes the term “all-inclusive” in their marketing efforts, a lot is in fact covered by a cruise fare. In short, every cruise line is all-inclusive, but some are more all-inclusive than others.