Up until 7 years ago, I had not done the cruise thing nor stepped foot in a resort. I know, I know. I lead such a deprived life. Let me tell you, neither of these events were life changing, so if you haven’t done either–it’s cool, you can still sit with us at the lunch table.
That said, I would easily do one of these things time and time again, and the other? Well, it would need to be a great deal, good location or something friends or family had organized for me to partake.
To show I’m not as cynical as the last conversation I had with my therapist would lead you to believe, I’m going to list out the positives of both an all-inclusive resort and a cruise.
Ultimately, what this boils down to is your: travel style.
There are pros and cons to both options, but what you want out of each trip will simply be personal preferences. Like, silver tequila. Who drinks that gold shit? Moving on…
An individualized welcome
Many resorts have a loyalty program, which means you get a separate check-in where they’ll chat with you to confirm details, get to know what you’d like to do and offer any upgrades.
You choose your length of stay
If you only have time for a 3-day stay. Do it. How about 10? Do it. I’ve tried to book for 6 months, but the booking system and for some odd reason, the hubster, said no.
Options to earn points
Many resorts are part of larger hotel programs, which earn you points. But the biggest benefit is, many of these resorts allow you to transfer points from different programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards. We transfer our UR points to Hyatt, then book through there. We’ve stayed for super cheap!
All of the food and drinks
Each resorts has several restaurant options from casual buffets to the arduous task of having to put on real shoes to have dinner at the Chef’s Table. Many times, the resorts will have theme nights for certain restaurants so you can plan your meals according to how feisty you’re feeling. Plus, since it’s all-inclusive, you can eat your heart out. There are options for upgrades to better steak or wine for a price, but we’ve never felt it necessary with all the good options.
Explore the local area
Since you’re staying in one place, you’ll have the opportunity to take day-trips around the area or head into the downtown area of the city you’re resort is located. Most all-inclusive resorts will provide you their recommendations for quality tour guides. Some of our fondest memories were from checking out Mayan ruins and eating tacos with locals for the afternoon, without feeling the need to be rushed.
Large pool area
Have you seen the pools at all-inclusives? I’m sure there are exceptions, but in most cases, they are HUGE. These expansive landscapes means you can pee in one side of the pool and never worry your family across the way is wading through it. Wait, what? Nevermind… Mainly the benefit of this means, there’s more seating areas and beach chairs. That gives plenty of people the benefit of not having to play the “reserved seat” game.
Stay in one place
No scheduled meetings or itineraries here! You can literally sit by the pool, margarita in one hand, some terrible romance novel in the other and not speak to a soul or leave if you want to.
Options to relax or go hard
By staying in one place, you get to relax. By the second day at our last all-inclusive my husband said, “So you just want to sit by the pool and read again?” Yes. Yes, I do. We took our optional day trips and even headed into town, so walking back to the resort was always a zen feeling of–Ommmmm, I’m home. But, had we wanted to, there are plenty of options to party-it-out or dancing until you get boob sweat. With a resort, you get to pick your own pace of things and how often or how little you want to do them.
Both cruises I’ve been on had a nearly flawless, less-than-5-minute check-in process. Sign your name that you’re not going to infect the entire ship with noro-virus and walk right onto the ship to find your room. I’m very curious what the process will be now during COVID travels. Provide a negative test within 72 hours of embarkment?
All cruise lines have loyalty program and while I’ve never used them or been an advocate for their programs or branded credit cards, some people who only do cruises have a lot of success. So congrats, your current trip will earn you some points!
All of the food and drinks
A previous Creative Director of mine described the last cruise he was on as a floating cafeteria. While hysterical, he’s pretty darn accurate. You have tons of options at legitimately any time. There’s buffets and restaurants and quick-eats on every single level of the ship it seems. Oh, and bars too, don’t forget. You will not be fraut for choices here.
Hit many places in one trip
This is the whole point of a cruise…to cruise to new destinations. From 4 days to 14 days, you can hit up as few as 2 cities or islands or as many as a round-the-world cruise will allow! For shorter cruises, you often get the afternoon in a place, but with longer cruises, you can get a day or two in one location.
Options to relax or go hard
If you want to stay on the ship the entire time and never leave the pool bar, do it. If you want to be up at the butt crack of dawn for some power yoga, then shopping on the streets of Rome, do it! Your presence (aside from the muster drill) is not required at anything.
You’ll have hourly options for fun from the moment you set foot on the ship. As part of your check in, you’re handed a big ol’ sheet with columns of goodies. Depending on your cruise line and destinations, you will also be told when you can leave the ship and when you need to be back on it so they don’t leave your late butt behind.
Meet lots of people, for better or worse
You’re on a ship with thousands of people. Everyone is a transplant when in international waters, so for better or worse, you’ll get to know people. We met plenty of fun characters on both our cruises. I’ve heard of friends and family taking cruises that were undersold, but more often than not, these puppies go out to sea with packed with people. (Pre-COVID.)
Maybe you guessed, but when it comes to a vacation choice, my vote will typically be for an all-inclusive resort. Again, as I mentioned above, this is based on my travel style. Some people puffy-heart-love cruises and couldn’t imagine staying in one place for days at a time. Good on them. Or good for her, not for me.
If you think I didn’t give cruises a fair shot, I did, in fact, give it another college try by going on my second cruise and afterwards still felt the same. There are some reasons for this, that again boil down to personal preferences that you can read below.
Remember how I mentioned cruises pack those puppies with people. Well they all meet at the pool. Finding a refreshing portion of the pool that isn’t bathwater warm or occupied is tough on cruises. Even the pool decks are packed, leaving very few seats available. Yes, you can hang by the pool all day, but weaving in and out of people to get a drink or get to the hot tub isn’t my idea of relaxing. This thought gives me the heebie jeebies during COVID.
An all-inclusive pool at least lets you catch your breath. You often don’t need to wake up to snag a chair and the pools are much bigger than what they can fit on a ship. I spend most of my time at the pool or beach, so being at a resort maximizes this preference.
Food at an all-inclusive is better
I had good meals on my cruises. But I had memorable ones at the all-inclusive resorts we’ve stayed at. When you’re not loading a ship to feed thousands of people each night, the food can be fresher and more local. I know that cruise lines are doing a lot to get in on the farm-to-table movement, but resorts already have a leg up on them because they are in one location and and source from it. I also didn’t feel like a number as much during dinners at all-inclusives. We weren’t being rushed out or fit into a time slot and the specials were different every night.
Wanting to spend more time in one place
With cruises, it often feels like rush, rush, rush, chill, rush back, rush back, rush back. With being chauffeured around from a tender to a taxi, there’s always this feeling that I don’t have enough time. (Probably because it isn’t on my schedule. Control issues.) Not to mention, you’re dealing with thousands of other people wanting to take advantage and spend the most time possible doing the same things as you.
The herding mentality
If you didn’t guess it by the name of this site, I typically don’t go with the grain. The herding mentality of cruise ships is tough for me. Go, go, go! Get in line. Wait here. Okay, now you can move.
You also see the worst of people when they’re packed into smaller spaces, trying to get somewhere. You know what that looks like: pushing, cutting in line, complaining. Often this is because someone isn’t paying attention, which adds to the tension in the atmosphere. I found myself saying a lot, “Get. moving. Come. on.”
The need to do it all & FOMO
Since cruises offer such extensive options when you’re at-port somewhere, passengers are often left feeling like they need leave because you’re on a cruise with that wonderful option. If I’m in relaxing vacation whose sole intention is to chill (read: not climbing temples in Ankor Wat, Cambodia), then I want to do just that and not feel like I’m missing out on a good opportunity and waisting money by not doing it.
Some people are way better at this than me, admittedly. I know people who never get off the ship. But, my traveling heart couldn’t take it if I knew there was a sweet local spot I was missing because my intentions on this trip were to chill out.
At the end of the day, like I’ve mentioned, it boils down to your own personal travel style and preferences. When we get back to traveling, I doubt people will be debating which is better because we’re just going to be so dang excited to get out again! Freedom!
For now though, give us the scoop on which you like best! Are you are cruises or all-inclusive traveler–and why?