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  • A La Carte vs. All-Inclusive - The Great Cruising Debate


    There are effectively two cruise travel lifestyle camps – a la carte and all-inclusive – and the bottom line price of each and the hybrids in between differs substantially as well. Of course, which is best for you depends on what you value most.

    All-inclusive is the mainstay of luxury lines like Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Essentially, guests pay much more up front so that the vast majority of things not included on mainstream lines are complimentary once embarked such as alcoholic beverages, gratuities and even shore excursions in some cases. The benefits are such that passengers need not pull out their cabin key to authorize a transaction each time they want a drink or a tour, making it a more restful experience.

    Inclusivity these days also extends beyond luxury lines to upscale ones like Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises, the latter of which even includes internet access for all guests. The degree to which any cruise vacation is all-inclusive really varies and can even be enjoyed on mainstream lines by tacking on different packages ahead of time.

    Otherwise, standard brands like Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International approach extras in an a la carte fashion. That is, drinks like beer and wine, specialty dining and gratuities all cost more. To be sure, a sailing on these lines can absolutely still be enjoyable by taking advantage of those options which are entirely free, from the main dining room and buffet to most activities and entertainment.

    It just so happens that so many cruise lines offer additional choices that it might seem you are not getting the full experience without partaking in all the bonus offerings, and there is certainly a strong argument to be made for trying everything if you can afford it.

    In contrast, these lines are sometimes described as all-exclusive, but the benefit there is that you only pay for what you actually enjoy, as opposed to a larger sum up front regardless if you actually drink or head out on every excursion. In fact, even on luxury lines, spa treatments and retail shopping still incur extra costs, so inclusivity is all relative.

    What is worth looking at are per diem costs, however, because even though the bottom line fare of a luxury line may cost more than a standard one, there is added value to be had in bundled prices, and sometimes it can amount to less daily than if you were to pay for everything separately. That’s why upscale and premium lines succeed in between the extremes to offer experiences approaching luxury at a fraction of the cost.

    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 

    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.

    Featured photo credit: Travel Pulse/Thinkstock

    Edited by sunluva7



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    I have cruised on both and while I do like the level of service on the super luxury lines it is really a little bit a waste.  My wife and I both are non drinkers so including a valuable drink package is really a waste. Also I like to do things without help, I do not need a crew member helping me with everything, Most of the super luxury lines also do many cruises longer than my wife likes. Anything over about 10 days and she wants to be home. 

    The plus form the super luxury cruises is much better food, no cattle call feeling, better interaction with the officers, great personalized service. Also I have seen almost zero super drunk fools on the luxury lines causing problems. 

    The main stream lines offer more things to do on the ships, shorter cruises, many more food outlet choices, much better pricing and the ability to pick and choose exactly what you want.   But they do have downsides. Like the number of people on the cruise, a feeling of being cattle at times, crews that are under trained and lack knowledge. Some guest that believe they need to be super drunk and affect others.  A overall lower social class of guest so can be more demanding.  

    For my wife and I the best fit seems to be the upper end of the main stream cruise lines.

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