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.
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).
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!