What Does “All-Inclusive” Really Mean?

What does all includisve really mean?

There is so much confusion out there about “all inclusive” vacations I thought a little clarification might help you out.

River cruises are by far the most all-inclusive product on the market today.  They include your ports of call, one or more excursions in every port of call, and all meals (including beer and wine with lunch and dinner).  There are often local specialists and entertainers who board the ship and provide entertainment, also free of charge.  Tips are generally not included in your river cruise travel package; however there are occasionally promotions that include the gratuities or you can pre-pay them.  When you consider the entry level price point as low as $1999 per person and up to free airfare, river cruises are the hottest trend in travel as well as the best value available.

All-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Central America and in the Caribbean would be the next most truly all-inclusive product on the market.  These resorts include your room, all meals, all beverages (including alcoholic beverages) and entertainment.  They do not include spa treatments or excursions.  Gratuities are theoretically included but tipping is allowed.  At some of the more budget friendly all-inclusive resorts where the guest to staff ratio is higher a well-placed tip can buy you a big upgrade in service.  We can package these all-inclusive resorts together with discounted airfare, transfers and travel insurance making them an incredible vacation value.

Ocean cruises are not what I consider to be an all-inclusive product.  While ocean cruises do provide your room and all meals, meals at the more upscale restaurants onboard are not included and incur an additional fee.  Excursions in the ports of call are not included, also incurring an additional charge.  Gratuities are not included, nor are spa services.  Beverages are not included other than coffee and tea.  Bottled water is an extra charge, so are soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.  Nightly entertainment is included, the casino is not.  By the time you factor in all of the non-included aspects of your ocean cruise the extra expenses are often higher than the cost of your cruise.

Viking Ocean Cruises have come out with the only truly all-inclusive product on the high seas.  Viking Ocean Cruises offer everything Viking River Cruises offer: one or more included excursion in every port, all meals including beer and wine with lunch and dinner, onboard entertainment too.  With low cruise fares and up to free air, these too are one of the best values in travel today.

Escorted tours could be categorized as semi-all-inclusive.  They include your hotels, your drivers, your local specialists, entrance fees into the attractions/sites and VIP service (no waiting in line for tickets to attractions).  They also include most meals (breakfast every day and several dinners) however they do not include every meal.  They do not always gratuities although you can frequently pre-pay these. 

There is a new extremely inexpensive escorted tour product on the market that includes only your transportation and hotels.  No guided tours, no meals, no entrance fees to any attractions are included in these.  I call it “organized independent travel” with only a schedule of stops, a driver and your hotels included.  There is a huge difference between these and other escorted tours, it’s important to know exactly what is, and is not, included with your tour.

There are no all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii at this time; however one of my favorite brands has been investigating investing in an all-inclusive product in Hawaii.  As of now, the closest to all-inclusive you can get in Hawaii is a free breakfast buffet at the resort you’ll call home.  Almost all resorts in Hawaii also charge a daily resort fee (from $15-$50 per room per day) in addition to parking fees.  These are important considerations to include in your Hawaii vacation budget.

Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel est. 2005.  Contact Joy at 918-339-4805