(8:15 a.m. EDT) -- Island Cruises, the budget brand of Thomson Cruises, has announced that the 1,504-passenger, 40,132-ton Island Escape will go all-inclusive from March 2013.
Essentially, the only change is that drinks will be included, as the line already covers gratuities in its fares. Although the ship offers 24-hour buffet dining, charges for eating a la carte in the smarter, waiter-service Oasis restaurant will continue to apply.
For the 2012 season, passengers will continue to have the option to buy an all-inclusive drinks package, which varies according to the cruise but works out at around £189 per person per week.
Prices under the new arrangement will be higher than they are for this year, understandably, although it's difficult to pinpoint by exactly how much, as cruise fares frequently drop as a departure date approaches. In a price comparison check on Thomson's Web site, a typical 7-night cruise in the Med in 2012 was selling for a discounted £400 per person on Island Escape, and was priced at £779 for 2013.
Fraser Ellacott, managing director of Island Cruises said in a press statement: "All-inclusive is a very popular option with our customers already, so it makes perfect sense to offer it as standard."
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor