On most cruise ships, your accommodations, standard meals, entertainment, and daytime activities are included in your fare.
Then the nickel-and-diming begins.
Want a soda? Add it to your tab.
Take a Pilates class? Expect a fee. Indulge at one of the fancy specialty restaurants?
There’s a charge for that, too. The extras quickly add up, often sinking hearts when the bill arrives at the vacation’s end.
But there are cruises that thankfully buck this trend, with out-of-pocket expenses that are truly minimal. Alcoholic drinks, crew gratuities, and sometimes even airfare, shore excursions, and pre- or post-cruise hotel stays are included in the advertised price.
While these great all-inclusive cruises are mostly in the luxury category, you can quantify the perks and often find real value. Swan Hellenic, the upscale British brand, for instance, markets its included shore excursions alone as being worth up to $825 per person.
The most all-inclusive of the cruise lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, did a price comparison showing that when you add in the included air, hotel stay, alcohol, excursions, and gratuities, the difference between cruising in a suite on the more luxurious Regent compared to one on a big mainstream ship was only a few dollars a day.
Scott Kertes, president of Hartford Holidays Travel and a Travel + Leisure A-List agent, says consumers need to carefully note what’s included and compare apples to apples. “In the case of Regent, people might get sticker shock at, say 20 percent more, but they are including 40 percent more. You can literally step on your ship with no money in your pocket.” But on a lot of “all-inclusive” ships, he adds, it’s not that you have no bill but rather a lesser bill.
Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, says that line recently moved to be more inclusive to simplify pricing for its international clientele. A selection of wine, beer, and spirits is now complimentary; passengers can upgrade if they choose. “If all of a sudden they want a Dom Pérignon champagne, they are going to have to pay for that,” he says.
The line also added a cultural experience, AzAmazing Evenings, on every cruise. Pimentel says the nighttime event is worth $350 to $500 per passenger. When it comes to all- or mostly-inclusive cruising, Pimentel adds, “the value screams.”
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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Fleet: With two all-suite, all-balcony, 700-passenger ships and one 490-passenger ship, Regent is the most all-inclusive of all the cruise lines. Cruising destinations include Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia/Pacific, and South America.
What’s Included: Practically everything. Round-trip air (business class for top suites); specialty dining; unlimited beverages including premium wines and spirits; in-suite mini-bar; shore excursions in every port; gratuities; pre-cruise luxury hotel package; transfers to the ship.
Sample Cruise: 7-night Rome to Monte Carlo on the Seven Seas Mariner. From $4,799 per person.
Fleet: The two largest ships in the top luxury category, the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity and 922-passenger Crystal Symphony sail around Europe, New England/Canada, the Caribbean/Panama Canal, and on world cruises (also available as segments).
What’s Included: Fine wines and premium spirits; gratuities; dining at Nobu and other specialty restaurants; in-room fridge stocked with soft drinks and beer; fitness classes (including spinning and Pilates Reformer); golf lessons with PGA pro; shuttle service in most ports; self-service laundry. In 2014, select Asia itineraries will include a two-night Beijing land package.
Sample Cruise: 7-night French Canadian Jubilee, round-trip from Montreal, embarking Sept. 26. From $2,830 per person.
Azamara Club Cruises
Fleet: Two 694-passenger ships designed to be like floating country clubs. They sail in Europe, Asia, South America, the West Indies, and Central and North America.
What’s Included: Boutique wines, international beers, and standard spirits; nonalcoholic drinks; gratuities; shuttle transportation to city centers from ports (when available); AzAmazing Evenings nighttime events; self-service laundry. Airfare credit of $500 to $1,000 per person is also offered with select sailings.
Sample Cruise: 7-night Provence and Côte d’Azur, Barcelona to Monte Carlo, on Azamara Journey. From $2,599 per person.
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