Cruises are generally seen as one-stop holidays, and for the most part that’s true. You’ve got multiple destinations, unlimited buffet access and a vibrant array of activities all under one roof. But there are a few notable exceptions to bear in mind when looking for All Inclusive cruise deals – alcohol, spa treatments and shore excursions, to name a few.

Of course, you do have the option to go almost totally All Inclusive with a handful of cruise lines that offer this service. They tend to be offered on smaller ships that are heavy on luxury across the board. Make no mistake however, these amenities aren’t ‘free’ – they’re simply factored into the price. While you’re not specifically eliminating cost here, you’re eliminating the hassle of constant bill signing.

If you’re interested in learning more about your options, here’s a guide to All Inclusive cruises and some of the opportunities you’ll have when hitting the high seas.

Your most common All Inclusive questions answered

While the policies of each cruise line differ, here’s a rough idea of what is and isn’t included under the All Inclusive cruise umbrella.

Is food included on my cruise?

Included: Buffet meals, the main dining room, pool snacks
Notable exclusions: Speciality restaurants, snack shops

Cruises are legendary for their All Inclusive food offerings – here, midnight buffets are very real, and, more importantly, included in the price. When it comes to All Inclusive dining, you’re usually entitled to all three meals at the main buffet and in the dining room, along with pool snacks.

The All Inclusive title doesn’t, however, apply to most speciality dining areas, including speciality ice cream and snack shops. They’re worth the treat if you want to break away from routine and nosh on something a little different, but otherwise can get a little pricey if you factor in repeat visits. You’ll find that the most luxury cruises go All Inclusive when it comes to speciality restaurants, so if having variety in the dining department is important to you, you’ll want to look for a line that provides the most bang for your buck. These are all advantages you can talk over while booking with your specialist agent, helping you find the best value deals around.

A popular misconception among first time cruisers is that room service is included free-of-charge. This is true for some lines and for certain meals or times of day, but not all. Definitely check the fine print or talk things over when you’re booking to get the full scoop.

Are drinks included on my cruise?

Included: Water, soft drinks, coffee, tea and juice at the buffet
Notable exclusions: Alcohol, speciality coffees

You’re fairly limited where drinks are concerned on cruises, unless you opt for an All Inclusive drinks package. Basics like water, coffee and juice are available at the buffet, but many soft drinks and alcoholic beverages aren’t. Marella Cruises offers their passengers a selection of spirits, wine and beer by the glass with the option to upgrade to top shelf liquor.

With just about every other line you’ll have the option to buy a drinks package that charges a flat fee per day, per person. If you don’t want to constantly keep track of how much you’re drinking and spending, splurging on a deal that allows you to go All Inclusive on soda and alcoholic drinks is the way to go. A lot of them are geared towards certain favourites, so for example some will favour wines hand picked from the regions you’re sailing through, while others will focus on beers or spirits.

What onboard activities will I have access to?

Included: Live entertainment, outdoor activities
Notable exclusions: Spa, casino, special classes like wine tastings

For the most part, onboard activities will be included in your All Inclusive package. We’re talking nightly shows – which often include famous performers – game shows and certain activities like wave riders, rock climbing and cultural lectures. You’ll typically have more than enough to keep you occupied during your days at sea, so All Inclusive deals are pretty generous in that regard.

Notable exclusions from the All Inclusive umbrella are spa treatments and games in the casino. If your spa has a sauna or steam room that are open to everyone you’ll be able to take advantage of them free of charge, but treatments and massages will come at a fee. Because these are big ticket items, you won’t typically find that All Inclusive packages include them, so it’s often worth booking these pampering sessions in advance where you can.

Are shore excursions part of the package?

Included: Getting off the boat
Notably excluded: Just about everything else

Shore excursions are another aspect of cruising not generally part of the All Inclusive family, with the exception of the biggest, costliest luxury cruises. That’s largely because they’re so vast and varied, ranging from inexpensive activities like city tours to pricier experience days. That said, once in port, you’re also free to roam the ship and the port as you see fit, eating, drinking and sightseeing at your own pace.

Are upgrades available?

A booking is a booking, when all is said and done, although nowadays cruise lines are doing their bit to keep you in the loop right up to departure day with some sublime deals and offers. Fresh from its rebrand, Marella Cruises is matching the All Inclusive advantages seen in its most modern cruise ships, such as Marella Discovery 2, with upgrade options across the fleet. It’s a move that’s seeing All Inclusive made standard across the cruise line, and you can expect that this is going to become something of a trend in the future.

For a thorough explanation of just what is included in your cruise, you should always make sure to do your research and read the small print. From there, it’s smooth sailing.

* Terms & Conditions apply

We are acting as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers and your booking will be subject to the supplier’s terms and conditions. Prices may be subject to very limited availability and are correct as at the date and time of writing. Prices may go up or down from time to time. Prices quoted are for the dates, accommodation, board basis, departure points and number of persons sharing specified only and cannot be combined with any other offer. We reserve the right to amend any quotes given if there is a genuine error as soon as we become aware of it. We reserve the right to withdraw any offers without notice.