Expect smooth sailing when you book one of these all-inclusive cruises, with fares that cover drinks, tips, and other niceties.

By Fran Golden
January 08, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

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 when you step on board one of these all-inclusive cruises.

While the best all-inclusive cruises are mostly in the luxury category, there are some more affordable all-inclusive cruise lines that are ideal for family vacations. It's even possible to quantify the perks and often find real value.

One of the most all-inclusive 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, 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 Cruises, says that Azamara 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.

Whether you're looking for Mediterranean cruises that are perfect for relaxing in the sun or river cruises through Asia or Europe, there's an all-inclusive cruise for you. Here’s what the best all-inclusive cruise lines have to offer.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Fleet: With three all-suite 700-to-750-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, 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 Mediterranean Cruise Rome to Monte Carlo on the Seven Seas Mariner.

Crystal Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Fleet: Two of the largest ships in the top luxury category, the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity and 848-passenger Crystal Symphony sail around Europe, New England and Canada, the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and on world cruises (also available as segments).

What’s Included: Wines and spirits, gratuities, dining at Nobu and other specialty restaurants, WiFi, 24-hour room service, butler service in select suites, and more.

Sample Cruise: 8-night New England and Canada cruise from New York City to Quebec City.

Azamara Cruises

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Fleet: Three mid-size ships designed to be like floating country clubs. They sail in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and Central and North America.

What’s Included: Wines, beers, and standard spirits, nonalcoholic drinks, gratuities, shuttle transportation to city centers from ports (when available), AzAmazingEvenings nighttime events, and self-service laundry.

Sample Cruise: 9-night Barcelona to Monte Carlo cruise on Azamara Journey.

Silversea Cruises

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Fleet: Luxury cruising and expedition cruising on all-suite ships in destinations including Europe, South America, Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, the South Pacific, and Japan.

What’s Included: All beverages (fine wines, champagne, spirits, and beer), in-room bar, gratuities, shoresideevents on select voyages, butler service, and more.

Sample Cruise: 7-day Caribbean cruise on the Silver Shadow.

Paul Gauguin

Credit: Courtesy of Paul Gaugin Cruises

Fleet:The 322-passenger Paul Gauguin, an upscale small ship that cruises the South Pacific.

What’s Included: Select wines, spirits, and soft drinks, an in-cabin refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and beer, gratuities, water sports and snorkeling equipment, gourmet dining, and airfare from L.A.

Sample Cruise: 7-night Tahiti and the Society Islands on the Paul Gauguin.

UnCruise Adventures

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Fleet: Nine small ships offering luxurious adventure cruises in Alaska, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, and more. UnCruise is a great choice for an active family vacation.

What’s Included: Excursions, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, use of kayaks and other sports equipment, and more. Gratuities are not included (10 percent of fare is recommended).

Sample Cruise: 7-night Alaska cruise from Ketchikanto Juneau.

Hebridean Island Cruises

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Fleet: With a royal pedigree, the Hebridean Princess is billed as the world’s smallest luxury cruise ship (carrying only 50 passengers), and it cruises around Europe.

What’s Included: All shore excursions, wines, spirits, champagne, beer, and soft drinks, use of ship bicycles and WiFi, all gratuities.

Sample Cruise: 4-night cruise around the Scottish Isles, round-trip from Greenock.

Oceania Cruises

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Fleet: This upper-premium cruise line operates six stylish ships. They roam the world on destination-focused itineraries that include North America, Europe, Asia, and more.

What’s Included: Airfare from select U.S. and Canada gateways, Internet, soft drinks, and dining in a choice of specialty restaurants including Jacques Pépin’s bistros.

Sample Cruise: 7-day Greek and Italian Glory Rome to Athens cruise.

Viking River Cruises

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Fleet: More than 50 ships—including state-of-the-art, 190-passenger “longships” with balcony cabins—cruise the rivers of Europe, Russia, Asia, and Egypt.

What’s Included: Shore excursions, Internet access, wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, airport transfers, and more.

Sample Cruise: Eight-day Romantic Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg, Germany, on one of the “longships.”

Alaskan Dream Cruises

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Fleet: Five small expedition-style ships, operated by a Sitka-based Alaska Native company, take 10 to 84 passengers to remote villages and scenic wildlife areas in Alaska.

What’s Included: Wine and beer at dinner and nightly cocktail hour and gear for shore excursions.

Sample Cruise: Seven-night Alaska's Glacier Bay and Island Adventure from Sitka to Juneau.

Aqua Expeditions

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Fleet: Four ships combine pampered luxury with nature on environmentally-conscious cruises through the Amazon, the Coral Triangle, and Cambodia and Vietnam.

What’s Included: Meals, non-alcoholic beverages, select beer and wine, shore excursions, and more.

Sample Cruise: Three-night Amazon Discovery Cruise.

Avalon Waterways

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Fleet: Part of GlobusTour brands, this cruise line operates 20 ships in Europe, Egypt, Asia, and South America.

What’s Included: WiFi, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks with meals, local cuisine, and more.

Sample Cruise: Eight-day Romantic Rhine, Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland.

AmaWaterways

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Fleet: 24 ships carry passengers along the rivers of Europe, Vietnam and Cambodia, and Africa.

What’s Included: European wine, beer, and soda at lunch and dinner (on European cruises), shore excursions, Internet access on most ships, use of a fleet of bicycles. Gratuities are not included.

Sample Cruise: 7-night Tulip Time cruise in The Netherlands, round-trip from Amsterdam.

Uniworld

Credit: Courtesy of Uniworld River Cruises

The Fleet: 20 classically-designed ships carry passengers through Europe, Asia, Egypt, and more. Uniworld is well-known for their river cruises.

What’s Included: Premium spirits and wines, five-star meals, fitness classes, airport transfers, gratuities, and more.

Sample Cruise: 8-day Enchanting Danube River cruise on the S.S. Maria Theresa.