In the world of leisure travel, two little words pack immense appeal: all-inclusive. The option of a one-price-covers-all vacation is as enticing as it is practical, taking away all (or most) of the budget-balancing act that typically goes with planning a holiday.
Even though all-inclusives can be found just about anywhere, Mexico and the Caribbean are widely considered meccas for this type of resort. And the city of Cancun, where Mexico meets the Caribbean, is a natural haven for all-inclusive properties.
The cost of an all-inclusive resort varies greatly by destination, type of property and season. But for a luxury resort in Cancun, you can expect to pay upwards $6,500-$7,000 for a one week stay.
On the other hand, all-inclusive cruise vacations can be had for similar or lower prices than an all-inclusive in Cancun, with plenty of deals out there that dial up the value.
Read on to find out how to score deals among the numerous all-inclusive cruise options.
Editor's note: Prices fluctuate daily. It's likely that the prices quoted in this article have changed since time of publication and should be viewed as an estimate. Visit Cruise Critic's Find a Cruise Page to get up-to-date pricing.
While the term all-inclusive can seem straightforward, it can often prove to be complex. An all-inclusive resort, particularly a luxury one, will typically feature all or most expenses that you would expect to pay for separately in a regular hotel. But all alcoholic beverages aren't always included, and add-ons like golf or certain water sports may also incur an additional fee, depending on the resort.
The same applies to cruises, with luxury cruises offering the most complete all-inclusive experiences at sea. And while average prices can hover around $4,000 per person for a 7-day itinerary on a luxury cruise, deals can be frequently found for much less on luxury lines like Silversea, Regent Seven Seas or Seabourn.
For example, we've found a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard Regent Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator for $2,499 per person. Similarly, a 7-night Alaskan Fjords and Canadian Inside Passage on Seabourn Odyssey can be found for $2,444 for person.
A notch below all-inclusive luxury lines, premium cruise lines like Azamara, Oceania Cruises or Viking Ocean Cruises can also compare favorably to all-inclusive resorts. While the offerings aren't quite as opulent, the experience onboard can come close to what you'd find in a luxury ship without the luxury price tag.
We've found deals for as low as $1,499 per person on a 7-night Bermuda cruise for an inside cabin aboard Oceania Insignia or $1,790 per person for an inside cabin on a 9-night Mediterranean voyage on Azamara Quest, with up to $1,150 onboard credit as part of the deal. And better yet, these intimate ships hold far fewer guests than a land-based resort, making them ideal for those who like luxury but not crowds.
River cruises are innately upscale by definition, and can also deliver an all-inclusive experience, often for a lower per-person price. And because their ships are smaller and accommodate less than 200 passengers, it can be argued that river cruise lines offer an even more intimate experience.
River cruise lines like Scenic and Uniworld, for example, fall into the luxury all-inclusive category by including amenities such as specialty restaurants, custom mini-bars and full alcoholic packages as well as spacious cabins. And although their average fares can oscillate between $3,500 and $4,500 per person on itineraries of seven nights of more, it's not unheard of to find deals well below this range, particularly in the shoulder season.
For instance, we've found Uniworld 7-night itineraries on European rivers ranging between $2,240 and $2,600 for an outside riverview cabin, while a Scenic 7-day cruise along Southeast Asia's Mekong River can go for as low as $2,000 per person.
While mainstream cruises like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian or MSC Cruises are known for their value-conscious and family-friendly fares, they also have a luxurious side that ticks the all-inclusive boxes.
These lines have embraced the ship within a ship concept, offering cruisers the options to sail in private sections of the vessel that include high-end accommodations, dedicated pool decks, restaurants, and other luxury perks.
And while it's true that the cabins within these private sections will assuredly be the priciest on the ship, they can also represent very good value when you consider the all-inclusive (or nearly all-inclusive) amenities.
MSC Cruises' lavish Yacht Club, for instance, is often cited as an example of an affordable all-inclusive option onboard a mainstream cruise line. Interior cabins can start for as low as $2,800 for two people and a balcony will run you $4,100 for two people.
Similarly, a cabin on The Haven -- Norwegian's all-suite section -- can cost an average of $3,000 per person for a weeklong sailing.
Both The Haven and MSC Yacht Club provide the perks of a luxury ship, while not denying passengers the big-ship features and delight's both of these lines are known from.
And, unlike an all-inclusive vacation in Cancun, travelers will step off a cruise having visited several different and exciting ports of call, often in multiple countries, in as little as a single week.
That's always a good deal.