When All Inclusive Cruising Is Not All Inclusive

One of the biggest selling points for cruises is their all inclusive pricing. On most ships, your price includes your stateroom, meals, taxes and port fees, and sometimes gratuities. But quickly you will learn that all inclusive does not include everything. When you board the ship, you will be given a flat plastic room key with your name, picture and room number. This room key also serves as your on-board credit card which is convenient, and that is exactly what the cruises lines want.

How do you know when something is not included in the price? It is simple – when they ask for your room card you know you are going to be charged for that drink, meal, etc. So during the cast off party as you leave port, when someone asks if you’d like a nice festive frozen cocktail, we aware it is going to cost you! On most ships, drinks are not included in the fare.

While all inclusive used to include all meals, several years ago the cruise lines added one or two restaurants offering exceptional food and service, and charged modest additional fees ($10 – $15 per person). These specialty restaurants were well worth the extra cost. The food typically was equal to a 4 or sometimes a 5 star restaurant.

Recently many ships have added several specialty restaurants with the extra charges going typically from $5 for Johnny Rockets or a similar type of restaurant, to $35 for the upscale restaurants. There will be plenty of “free” dining options on most ships with each serving an excellent quality meal. But definitely consider trying a high end specialty restaurant. When we take a cruise, we usually will treat ourselves to them on one or two nights. You won’t be disappointment, as a matter of fact, I’d bet you will be extremely pleased.

Another area where you may be surprised to learn you have to pay extra is for soft drinks (Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, etc.). On most ships they are not free on the ships. But many ships are now offering drink packages – some offer them at very reasonable prices for the entire cruise, others let you prepay for set number of sodas at a discounted price.

And now we are seeing alcohol packages and room bottle service. Prices vary greatly on these packages, but they can save you a lot of money. Your travel agent can get you information on all of this.

So don’t be surprised to pay extra for drinks or specialty restaurants. Just save some extra cash and treat yourself. Remember, you took the cruise because you wanted to be pampered. So enjoy it.