Great All-Inclusive 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.
While these truly all-inclusive cruises are mostly in the luxury category, many other lines also offer all-inclusive options, too. It's possible to 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.”
Find out just what the best-value all-inclusive cruise lines have to offer.
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.
SeaDream Yacht Club
Fleet: Two yachtlike 112-passenger ships, the SeaDream I and SeaDream II, cruise Europe, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Asia, and Australia.
What’s Included: Open bar; gratuities; all meals; Wi-Fi; daily yoga and tai chi classes; use of water toys (including Hobie Cats) and a state-of-the-art golf simulator; use of mountain bikes onshore; shoreside activities with crew (such as shopping with a chef).
Sample Cruise: Weeklong Thailand and Malaysia, round-trip from Singapore, on SeaDream II. From $3,999 per person.
Fleet: The newly refurbished, 350-passenger MV Minerva offers cruises with prominent guest speakers in Norway, the British Isles, Iceland, and the Mediterranean.
What’s Included: Shore excursions; gratuities; wine with dinner on two gala nights; bar credit on select cruises.
Sample Cruise: Adriatic Accolade’s 14-night cruise from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Athens (Piraeus), visiting Albania, Croatia, Italy, and Montenegro. From $3,390 per person.
Fleet: Luxury cruising and expedition cruising on seven 100- to 540-passenger, all-suite ships in destinations including Europe, South America, Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, the South Pacific, Japan, and both poles.
What’s Included: All beverages (fine wines, champagne, spirits, and beer); in-room bar setup with your choice of beverages; gratuities; shoreside events on select voyages; shore excursions on expedition cruises; aerobics, yoga, and Pilates classes; transportation to the city center in most ports.
Sample Cruise: 7-night Caribbean, round-trip from Bridgetown, Barbados, includes St. Bart’s, on the Silver Whisper. From $2,350 per person.
Fleet: The 322-passenger Paul Gauguin and the 90-passenger Tere Moana, two upscale small ships that cruise the Caribbean and Latin America in winter and Europe in summer.
What’s Included: Select wines, spirits, and soft drinks; in-cabin refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and beer; gratuities (for dining staff and room stewards); watersports and snorkeling equipment; specialty restaurants including celebrity chef Jean-Pierre Vigato’s La Veranda; and airfare from L.A. on all 2013 and 2014 sailings of the Paul Gauguin.
Sample Cruise: 7-night Tahiti and the Society Islands on the Paul Gauguin. From $4,795 per person.
Fleet: Four small all-inclusive ships ranging from 22 to 86 passengers (Safari Quest, Safari Explorer, Safari Voyager, and Safari Endeavour), offering luxurious adventure cruises in Alaska, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, and the Sea of Cortés in Mexico, plus the 88-passenger S.S. Legacy, a Victorian-style steamer, on Heritage Adventures.
What’s Included: All from-boat adventure activities (hiking, kayaking); shore excursions; fine wine, premium spirits, and microbrew beer; use of kayaks and other sports equipment; one massage per guest; yoga classes on deck; transfers to the ship. Gratuities are not included (10 percent of fare is recommended).
Sample Cruise: 7-night Alaska on the Safari Endeavour, round-trip from Juneau. From $4,195 per person.
Hebridean Island Cruises
Fleet: With a royal pedigree, the Hebridean Princess is billed as the world’s smallest luxury cruise ship (50 passengers) and cruises around the islands of Scotland and Ireland. In 2014, the ship will also cruise the Norwegian fjords.
What’s Included: All shore excursions; wines, spirits, champagne, beer, and soft drinks; use of ship bicycles and fishing tackle; all gratuities.
Sample Cruise: 4-night Hebridean Taster cruise around the Scottish Isles, round-trip from Oban. From $3,399 per person.
Fleet: Six top-of-the-line all-suite ships carrying 208 to 450 passengers cruise around six continents, including destinations in Europe and the Caribbean.
What’s Included: Fine wines, champagne, and spirits; soft drinks; all dining including specialty dining; gratuities; use of watersports equipment. On select sailings, Advantage fares include airfare, one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, airport transfers, and a shore excursion credit of $500 to $1,500 per person.
Sample Cruise: 7-night St. Petersburg and the Baltic, Copenhagen to Stockholm on Seabourn Sojourn. From $3,499 per person.
Fleet: This upper-premium line operates five stylish ships—three carrying 684 passengers and two new ships with the capacity for 1,250. They roam the world on destination-focused itineraries that include the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and South America.
What’s Included: Airfare from select U.S. and Canada gateways; soft drinks; and dining in a choice of specialty restaurants including Jacques Pépin’s bistros.
Sample Cruise: Seven-night Ionian Sea, Rome to Venice, on the 1,250-passenger Riviera. From $2,349 per person.
Fleet: The 90-passenger Celebrity Xpedition, part of the larger Celebrity Cruises brand, offers upscale soft adventure cruises in the Galapagos year round.
What’s Included: All drinks; gratuities; shore excursions; Internet access; and pre- and post-cruise hotel stays in Quito, Ecuador. Plus round-trip air from Quito to Baltra on cruises of 10 nights or longer. Suite guests also receive one massage per person.
Sample Cruise: Seven-night Galapagos cruises, round-trip from Baltra. From $2,899 per person.
Viking River Cruises
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; dinner ashore at a select restaurant on some itineraries.
Sample Cruise: Eight-day Romantic Danube from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest on one of the new “longships.” From $1,756 per person.
American Cruise Line
Fleet: Six small U.S.-built ships (two are paddlewheelers) carry 50 to 150 passengers on East Coast, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska waterways, plus on the Mississippi.
What’s Included: Nightly cocktail hour; wine and beer with lunch and dinner. Alaska cruises also include shore excursions.
Sample Cruise: Six-night Maine Coast and Harbor, round-trip from Portland, ME, on the 104-passenger Independence or 49-passsenger American Glory. From $3,245 per person.
Alaskan Dream Cruises
Fleet: Three small expedition-style ships, operated by a Sitka-based Alaska Native company, take 33 to 66 passengers to remote villages and scenic wildlife areas in Southeast Alaska, May to September.
What’s Included: Wine and beer at dinner and nightly cocktail hour; and shore excursions, with a special focus on nature and cultural experiences, and visiting interesting places big ships can’t access.
Sample Cruise: Seven-night Glacier Bay and Island Adventure, round-trip from Sitka. From $1,895 per person.
Fleet: Two all-suite ships (sleeping 24 to 32 passengers) combine pampered luxury with nature on environmentally conscious three- to seven-night cruises through the Peruvian Amazon. A new 20-passenger luxury ship debuts on the Mekong River in 2014.
What’s Included: Shore excursions with a focus on spotting wildlife; top-notch South American wines at lunch and dinner; and airport transfers.
Sample Cruise: Three-night Peruvian Amazon on the 24-passenger M/V Aqua. From $2,685 per person.
Fleet: Part of Globus tour brands, this river cruise line operates more than a dozen ships in Europe, including new 132- to 166-passenger “Suite Ships,” with cruises as well in Egypt, China, Vietnam/Cambodia, the Galapagos, and on the Mississippi.
What’s Included: Shore excursions; sparkling wine with breakfast; soft drinks with lunch; wine, beer, or soft drinks with dinner; Internet access.
Sample Cruise: Seven-night Romantic Rhine, Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland. From $2,249 per person.
Fleet: Fifteen ships carrying 164 or fewer passengers—including new ships with extra-wide French balconies on most staterooms—cruise the rivers of Europe, Russia, Vietnam/Cambodia, and Africa (Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe).
What’s Included: Champagne at breakfast; European wine, beer, and soda at lunch and dinner; shore excursions; Internet access; use of a fleet of bicycles.
Sample Cruise: 11-night cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the 212-passenger AmaKatarina. From $3,599 per person.
Voyages to Antiquity
The Fleet: The cruise line’s one boutique-style, midsize ship, the Aegean Odyssey, carries 350 passengers on history-focused cruises around the Mediterranean.
What’s Included: Wine, beer, or soft drinks with dinner; gratuities for cabin stewards and restaurant crew; shore excursions; pre- and post-cruise hotel stays on most itineraries.
Sample Cruise: Two-week sailing around the Greek Isles, Istanbul to Athens. From $4,450 per person.
French Country Waterways
Fleet: Four 8- to 12-passenger barges, with an ambience akin to small boutique hotels, cruise the ancient canals of the Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace/Lorraine, and Upper Loire Valley regions of France, from May to November.
What’s Included: French wine (often grand cru or premier cru) with lunch and dinner; shore excursions; and a dinner ashore at a Michelin-star restaurant.
Sample Cruise: Weeklong Central Burgundy on the 12-passenger Nenuphar. From $5,095 per person.
The Fleet: 17 classically-designed ships (some with original artwork in the cabins) ply the rivers of Europe and Asia.
What’s Included: Any Uniworld river cruise includes wine and beer with dinner; shore excursions; Internet access; bottled water in the staterooms; exercise classes; use of bicycles and walking sticks when in port; and airport transfers. And in 2014, the European river cruises will become more all-inclusive, with unlimited alcoholic beverages, and gratuities for onboard and onshore services folded into the price.
Sample Cruise: 13-day Vienna to Amsterdam cruise on the River Princess. From $4,399 per person.