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Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort: Which Is The Better Deal

If you’re dreaming of sunshine and exotic destinations, you don’t want to drain every last penny from your bank account. Fortunately, two vacation options give you a lot of bang for your buck: a tropical cruise and an all-inclusive resort. To make vacation planning easier, consider these questions.

parents and their daughter smiling onboard a carnival cruise ship

Do You Prefer One Destination or Many?

Want to tick several dreamy destinations off your bucket list? Then a cruise is the right vacation for you. You can pull into as many as eight different ports of call depending on the duration of your trip, which adds a level of excitement you don’t get from an all-inclusive resort.

Beautiful islands like St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Aruba and Curaçao offer unique charms including landscape, people, cultural influences, history, shopping and local cuisine.

For vacationers who prefer to unpack their bags and stay put, an all-inclusive resort is the obvious choice. Each day, you can enjoy all the amenities and activities your resort offers, but if bad weather hits, you’re stuck indoors.

Cruise ships offer an advantage you might not have thought about. Ship captains can alter their routes to escape bad weather so passengers enjoy uninterrupted warmth and sunshine.

couple swimming in the caribbean sea during their cruise vacation

What Types of Pastimes Sound Pleasing?

When it comes to activities, you can find plenty with both vacation options. As part of your price, all-inclusive resorts usually include pool and beach access, use of fitness centers, kids programming and non-motorized water activities like kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling.

Activities you pay for may include spa or salon services, day trips and special activities like golf, windsurfing, scuba diving, parasailing or horseback riding. In the evening, resort guests have access to several bars, restaurants and a nightclub.

When it comes to cruising, many of the amenities found at a resort can be found on board as well. For travelers who enjoy a different activity every day, a cruise makes the perfect vacation choice. On Carnival Cruises, free onboard attractions include pools, water slides, adult-only retreats, kids’ camps, lip sync and game show competitions, murder mysteries, sports areas and more.

Evenings on a Carnival ship comes with lots of possibilities without having to venture very far. Choose from a variety of restaurants for dinner, have a cocktail at the pub or piano bar, try your luck at the casino, enjoy a dive-in movie, head to the comedy club, party by the pool, or dance till you drop at the night club.

When you pull into port, pick from a variety of shore excursions to satisfy any whim, from adventure to romance. Explore ancient ruins, zip line above forest canopies, take a sunset sail, or tour breweries by bicycle. These extra activities vary in price to suit your budget.

couple relaxing on a couch bed found at serenity, adults only retreat

What Are You Paying For?

If you’re still having trouble choosing between a cruise and an all-inclusive resort, consider what you’re paying for. All-inclusive resorts offer rooms to suit many budgets and a set number of free amenities available for the length of your stay.

Amenities you will pay for usually include rentals for motorized watercraft, special activities and day trips. Food and beverages are often free, but you may have to pay for premium beer, wine and spirits. While guests enjoy access to all restaurants on the property, you may have to book reservations early to enjoy dining in the best ones.

Cruises also offer a selection of rooms to suit different budgets. The price of a cruise covers most onboard activities, but passengers can pay for a few extravagances like spa treatments, hair salon services and some movie tickets. As a cruise passenger, you can also pay for any shore excursions you wish to take, and many can be extremely affordable for the whole family.

When it comes to dining, cruises offer free meals in many eateries, but you may have to pay to dine in others. Cruises also offer beverage packages that lower the cost per drink, so you’re able to enjoy wine, beer, and soda for less. Also on a cruise, you’re able to splurge on the excursions that you want without overpaying for the activities that you don’t.

friends relaxing at the cloud 9 thermal lounge onboard a carnival cruise

Have You Considered Costs for Airfare?

When you’re comparing costs between the two vacations, remember to include airfare. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, you may have to add the price of airfare to a location outside of the United States, and the cost varies based on the season and on consumer demand.

Many cruise ships leave from and return to ports located inside the United States, which might make airfare much less expensive. Depending on your options for available cities, you might even be able to drive to your departure port, making a cruise a very accessible for a lot of guests.

2 friends running into the ocean with their skim boards

A tropical vacation warms the body and soul, and budget-wise travelers have two great options for a sunny getaway. If your ideal vacation includes lying on the beach by day, hitting the dance floor by night and drinking your fill of tropical cocktails, an all-inclusive resort may be just the ticket. If you’re looking for the flexibility to experience all of that and more, try cruising.

Take a weekend trip to Mexico or a week-long journey to the Western Caribbean. You’re typically able to see more of your destination for less. Along the way, explore history and culture, sample the local cuisine, engage in one-of-a-kind activities from ship to shore, and do something new and different every night.

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.