The Luxe Life: Just How Inclusive is All-Inclusive?

March 3, 2014 | By | 14 Comments

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Iakov Kalinin
All-inclusive cruising, which upscale lines have been touting in recent years, sounds fantastic. No chits to sign. No tips to pay. It’s the hassle-free way to go. But what’s really included—and what’s not? The answer depends on the cruise line.
Azamara Club Cruises went the all-inclusive route last year, adding “select standard spirits” to their growing list of complimentary amenities. Yet, when I sailed aboard Azamara Quest in February, I discovered it pays to read the fine print — even on a ship billed as all-inclusive.
No doubt, the most confusing feature on all-inclusive cruises concerns beverages, all types of beverages. Azamara includes wine, beer and cocktails at any time in any bar or restaurant, but not if ordered from room service. Included drinks, however, come from a select list that can be a little tricky to decipher.
Smirnoff vodka is included, for example, while Grey Goose costs extra. Excellent wines are poured freely during meals, but a glass of Markham merlot is $13. Bottled water is included, as long as it’s the ordinary still variety; a liter of sparkling San Pellegrino will set you back $4. Then there are the coffees. Cappuccinos and lattes are included, except for the $5.50 Nespresso brand served in Azamara’s cozy Mosaic Café.
How to navigate this? Thanks to a tip from a fellow passenger, I learned to simply ask for the “included” beer, martini or cappuccino.
Tips, except for spa treatments, are included aboard Azamara and such luxury lines as Crystal, Regent and Seabourn. The upscale, inclusive yachts of Un-Cruise Adventures, however, suggest tipping the crew 5-10 percent of your cruise fare.
Specialty Restaurants
Spending an evening away from the main dining room bustle usually means superior cuisine and more personal service. Reservations are required, and there may be a charge — or not. To dine at Prime C steakhouse or indulge in seafood at Aqualina, Azamara charges $25 per person, though it’s complimentary to suite passengers. All guests on Regent enjoy complimentary Cordon Bleu-inspired French cuisine at Signatures, while all Crystal guests dine fee-free at celebrity chef Nobu’s Silk Road (although only once a cruise; subsequent visits cost $30).
Spa Treatments
With rare exception, you’ll pay the going rate (plus a tip of 15 percent or more) for your spa treatment. The exception to the rule is Un-Cruise Adventures, offering every passenger one complimentary massage on its luxury and heritage-style ships. Using a spa’s thalasso pool, on the other hand, may carry a charge. On Azamara, relaxing in the soothing bubbles in the spa’s private space costs $20 per person per day for all but suite guests.
Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams
You’ll pay extra for both on Azamara where the only free bubbly is served during special events and private parties. Check out Seabourn if you love fee-free Champagne and caviar.
Other hidden costs to monitor are shuttle buses from the port to town, self-service laundries (both free on Azamara) and Wi-Fi.
How do you feel about all-inclusive cruising? Tell us in the comments!
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    14 Responses to “The Luxe Life: Just How Inclusive is All-Inclusive?”

    1. Steven
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

      Sounds great, I wish Celebrity would do much the same and include more that you presently pay for, ex (1st drink free, second cost you..) and other “you pay for items”.

    2. Scott Lara
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

      I remember that “back in the day”, cruising was all-inclusive. Unfortunately some cruise lines began nickel and dimeing people to death.

      Several years ago, I was in the MDR of a cruise ship and the waiter came around with “Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice” for $2.50 a glass!

      I totally understand that with very low cruise prices that cruise lines need to make up the difference, but I miss the days when all inclusive MEANT all-inclusive!


    3. Joe Davis
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

      I’m not sure your article is very useful and the title is a little misleading. If you’re going to review “all inclusive” then that’s what you should write about. Not start with exceptions. We love Regent and our Belvedere martini is included or a Marker’s Mark manhattan. Airfare & transfers, great stuff.
      Then if you want to write about the exception then list those separately or at the end of each section, not as the lead of the story.

    4. Deedee
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

      This article is a good start, but I’m wanting more! For example, what about shore excursions or shipboard activities? The first paragraph closes with “The answer depends on the cruise line.” A chart showing some of the differences would make reading easier. Figuring out the differences is as hard with this article as it is when actually comparing the cost when cruising the different luxury lines.

    5. K Thompson
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

      It’s Regent for us! And yes I thought the article did a disservice in how it was written…you did not actually give any kind of clear picture about All-Inclusive offerings.

    6. Stephanie Nadolski
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

      Joe Davis is so right about Regent. The pool bartender on our trip from Bali to Auckland would have our Makers Mark manhattan started when he saw us approaching. Loved that trip and all of our Regent trips.

      Interesting info on Azamara as I’ve been thinking about trying it – this gives me second thoughts.

    7. Sharon
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

      Joe took the words right out of my mouth. Regent is truly all inclusive. Our bottles of Belvedere and Makers Mark are in our suite when we arrive. Champagne yes. Caviar, yes. Fine wines, yes. Azamara is obviously not all inclusive. Regent is!

    8. steve
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

      I can’t imagine if cruises were all inclusive. I would not be able to afford to cruise each year. People that think everything should be included probably do not want to pay what would probably be another $500 to $800 per person.

    9. Vic
      March 4th, 2014 @ 11:29 am

      Steve is right, why is supposed everybody likes to drink ? Insurance bussiness is based on probalities, some die early, some late. I dont know when I am going to die, but I know for sure, I dont drink.

    10. K Thompson
      March 4th, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

      Regent includes: airfare, transfers, excursions, gratuities, all alcohol (all day-anywhere), speciality dining.
      Does not incl: spa, ships stores, laundry or internet. Also does not cover top shelf alcohol or wine (we like good wine and the incl wine was very good and hubby drinks Black Label and it is included). Some excursions involving helicopters, planes and over the top experiences are also not incl. Multiple included excursions are offered in each port & my experience has been very good with the incl tours.

    11. K Thompson
      March 4th, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

      Or very high end wine…. They do offer many very nice wines. If they serve something you don’t like ask for something different !

    12. P. Hinds
      March 4th, 2014 @ 4:18 pm

      I agree with those who comment above about having a chart showing what is included in these “Lux – Lines”. For example R.S.S.C. laundry service may be extra charge but they have free self-serve laundromats (multiple per ship) which includes free soap dispensers on the washers!

      The specialty resturants on Regent are so popular that you may only be able to book one dining per cruise … but no charge.

      That is what is needed – what is Actually Included, at what level and what the cost.
      Including Airfare (and if set price upgrades available), Shore excursions and any special services … otherwise article really not helpful.

    13. P. Hinds
      March 4th, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

      Comment II:

      I would like to see CC also rate cruise service. For example a few years ago I was looking at a Seaborne cruise (Amazon River to Carribean). Departed from Manus, they had a suite but “all their flight allotments were used”. Not only would they be singly unhelpful in booking air transport to the Amazon but they stated that they had no transport from airport to the Ship available?? This for a top line Lux Line??

      Where has other lines either met or failed in their service? Crystal, RSSC, Amazara, etc.

      When did Celebrity in 2005 the transatlantic service was nice but missed stop in Spain because of Azipod problems (yes! the infamous thrust bearings). They they screwed up in getting a group of non-USA passport passengers together to meet with HLS and Customs … holding everyone on ship for 6 additional hours (in ever more crowded lounges) then was trying to blow-off any responsiblity. The Miami office even claimed (on a call to them from the airport) they had not been notified by the ship of problems!!

      These are types of things people should know about – if these are one-offs or corporate attitude (which Celebrity’s reply to my written comments would suggest).

    14. Gerry
      March 9th, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

      The term, “All inclusive”, should be followed with an asterisk* stating what is included. Then to further clarify the above, the cruise lines should indicate their exceptions. This should become an Industry standard!
      Next, all alcoholic, beverages should be placed in a separate category. Some people do not drink alcohol and others can no longer, because of health or medication restrictions. Are any cruise lines, offering a reduced fare to the non drinkers?
      By the way, my wife and I were on the Azamara Jouney, the 2nd and 3rd year of it”s operation in The Caribbean. On our last cruise, we along with our fellow guests were invited to a meeting, where The Cruise Director announced (the beginning) of their new policies! Needless to say, many of our fellow guests decided to switch to other lines and said so! You see Azamara, was losing money!, So
      by including alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages ( both very high gross profit margin items) , they raised their prices and their profits . Do a breakdown of the benefits and the costs associated with all inclusive’s . Their can be benefits of scale, but they should be passed on in part to the consumer. When someone does or gives you a benefit ,their is always an associated cost.


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