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Why You Should Always Buy the All-Inclusive Cruise Package

by Morgane Croissant Mar 21, 2024

The great thing about cruising is that all your basic vacation needs, namely accommodation, food, and entertainment, are covered. The very annoying thing about cruising is that everything else is an upsell. With most cruise lines, espresso coffee, for example is not included; if you want a latte, you’ll have to pay extra. If you want to partake in one of the fun fitness classes listed on the daily schedule, you’ll have to pay around $20 a pop for that, too. And that’s just the start.

My first-ever cruise was an all-inclusive trip with the now-defunct American Queen Voyages, and it completely spoiled me for other sailings. When I boarded my second cruise, a not all-inclusive journey to Alaska, I had no idea of the sales pressure that awaited me. Just after embarkation, I went off to explore the ship and landed on the indoor pool deck, where large sales tables full of pamphlets and posters were laid out. From there, crew members praised the benefits of drinks packages, specialty dining restaurants, and unlimited thermal suite access, all of which where at a very special discounted price on embarkation day only, of course.

Drinks packages ranged from $8 per person per day for unlimited Coca-Cola, to $59.99 per person per day for unlimited soft drinks and specialty coffees, and 15 alcoholic drinks daily. Because I don’t drink either alcohol or soda, I did not fall for the sales pitch, but those who did added a substantial amount of money to their tab, from $56 to $420 per person for the entire seven-day voyage. The same goes for the unlimited thermal suite access, which allowed travelers to enjoy the large communal hot tub, saunas, steam rooms, and heated loungers any time they wish for just $150 instead of $300.

After deftly managing to not spend an extra penny on the pool deck, I went on to tour the spa where I was introduced to the onboard medical specialist — a man wearing a white lab coat but whom I’m pretty sure was not an actual doctor — who was keen to offer auricular pressure as preventive treatment for seasickness. He was adamant that I’d need it later in the trip, when the water was going to get rough, but there was no way I was going to pay a bundle to get seeds taped to my ears by some snake oil merchant.

Only a few hours into their vacation, attracted by looked like good deals, some passengers had likely added hundreds of dollars worth of perks to their tabs, possibly without realizing that gratuities, which amount to around $18 per person per day across cruise lines, were also going to be added to their onboard statement every single day.

Of course, while the crew works very hard at making people spend money, nobody forces you into purchasing a package or booking specialty dining. You can purchase a glass of wine with dinner, or a mid-morning cappuccino when the fancy strikes you. You can also book a one-day access to the thermal suite or dinner at the onboard steak house when you feel the need for something special, but that will add up, too.

After trying out both all-inclusive and not all-inclusive cruises, I’m now entirely sure that the add-ons are how cruise lines make a lot of their money. Like I have experienced, you can cruise for nearly two weeks across the Atlantic for less than $500 per person, but if you hit the specialty dining venues, buy a drinks package, want access to the spa, and book excursions (some of which are definitely not worth it), you can easily double, or even triple your spendings.

While you should absolutely indulge during your vacation, whether in the spa, at the bar, or by going on fun excursions on shore, having to watch your onboard statement rise every single day is not conducive to properly relaxing. An all-inclusive cruise vacation is the way to go.

One such vacation will soon be possible with cruise line HX, formerly known as Hurtigruten Expeditions. Starting in November 2024 HX will make all its sailings all-inclusive. That means that all of the following will be included in the price paid by passengers upon booking:

  • Daily expeditions and activities such as hikes, community visits, talks and more
  • Full board dining, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner with house wine and beer
  • Wine, beer, spirits, and cocktails available throughout the day and evening
  • All-day coffee, tea, and soft drinks
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Gratuities
  • Access to sauna, hot tubs, fitness room
  • Professional photos from the onboard photographer
  • Expedition gear and reusable water bottle which travelers can take home

Of course, the initial price of traveling with HX will likely be a little higher than before, but it’ll be worth the peace of mind for passengers who will be able to enjoy everything the cruise line, the ships, and the destinations have to offer without having to dig further into their pockets, or miss out entirely on what makes a great cruise vacation.

Which cruise lines are all-inclusive?

While most cruise lines offers all-inclusive packages — including Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and more — only few cruise lines are fully all-inclusive, and those that are tend to be on the luxury side of things. Those cruise lines include Atlas Ocean Voyages, Oceania, Viking, Uniworld, Regent Seven Seas, Azamara, Silversea, and more. Some of them go as far as including flights, airport transfers, and pre-cruise hotels in their offerings. That said, travelers don’t have to book high-end cruises to benefit from perks. Virgin Voyages, for example, does not call itself an all-inclusive cruise line, but its base fare encompasses more than most: access to all the dining venues on board, fitness classes, WiFi, gratuities, all the entertainment, and a soda and drinks package.

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