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The Best All-Inclusive Cruises

By Fran Golden

09.13.19

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On all-inclusive cruises such as “Crystal Symphony,” you can wine and dine without worrying about extra costs.

Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

On all-inclusive cruises such as “Crystal Symphony,” you can wine and dine without worrying about extra costs.

If you would rather pay more upfront and not worry about racking up charges while onboard, these are the cruises for you.

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What you may not realize when you book a standard cruise is that often, not everything is included. On many cruises, a hard-to-beat deal might entice you, but once onboard you may get barraged with temptations that can add significantly to your vacation cost. You might have to pay extra for things like sodas, espresso drinks, cocktails, wine, fitness classes, spa treatments, specialty dining, shore excursions, gratuities, and Wi-Fi.

That’s not the case on all-inclusive cruises, which are typically a more luxurious offering. When you book an all-inclusive cruise, you pay for most everything upfront. The initial tab may be higher, but you avoid that feeling of being constantly nickeled and dimed. In that way, you’re freer to indulge. Here, we round up some of our favorite all-inclusive cruises where you needn’t worry about many, if any, extras. Lines mentioned below include gratuities and Wi-Fi except where noted. There is an extra charge for spa treatments and shore excursions on the cruises below, unless noted otherwise.

Best over-the-top

If you want to feel extra fancy, book an all-inclusive cruise on the “Seven Seas Explorer.”

On Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ five, fancy 490- to 750-passenger ships, nearly everything is covered by your cruise fare, from your in-suite minibar to business-class international airfare and shore excursions. Guests stay in roomy suites, sip premium wine and spirits, and enjoy fine dining at complimentary specialty restaurants, all amidst extravagant decor—parts of the Seven Seas Explorer, for example, are done up with Carrara marble and gold leaf. Also covered is a precruise night at a luxury hotel at your embarkation port. If you want to show off, you can pay extra for a $1,000 bottle of wine, but you won’t necessarily feel the need.

Best inclusion: Regent’s shore excursions go well beyond the norm. You might do an open-air mud bath experience in Cartagena, Spain, or go whale-watching out of Juneau, Alaska.

Best on Europe’s rivers

 

Indulge in complimentary in-room dining on a Crystal river cruise.

When luxury ocean line Crystal Cruises entered the European river cruise market in 2016, it decided to be both pampering and very inclusive with its floating hotels on the Rhine and Danube Rivers. All guests on the four identical, 106-passenger Crystal River ships enjoy river-view suites with butler service, free-flowing drinks, and over-the-top, locally-sourced cuisine. Included shore excursions go beyond a typical walking tour—in Strasbourg, France, for instance, there’s a private after-hours tour and organ recital at the city’s Gothic cathedral.

Best inclusion: Take a night off, lounge in your bathrobe, and have your butler deliver a juicy burger and perfect fries accompanied by a bottle of cabernet directly to your suite.

Best for chilling

 

On these yachts, you won’t have a care (or added expense) in the world.

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After exploring destinations such as St. Bart’s, St. Tropez, and Capri, you can spend your nights dancing barefoot around the pool on SeaDream Yacht Club’s elegantly carefree 112-passenger SeaDream I and SeaDream II. A crew of 95 is available to pamper you with excellent cocktails, wine, and creative meals (including raw food options); except for a splurge-worthy Thai massage and shore excursions, there’s not much reason to add any expenses to your credit card. Among the complimentary treats is the romantic overnight option of sleeping on a Balinese daybed on deck.

Best inclusion: Head onto the water with small sailing catamarans or Jet Skis that are offered from the vessels’ drop-down marina.

Best for sailing

 

Heat out on the open seas on a true windjammer.

German-owned Sea Cloud Cruises is a favorite of well-heeled sailing fans, some of whom like to help pull the ropes to raise the sails. The historic, 64-passenger Sea Cloud and newer 94-passenger Sea Cloud II won’t give your pocketbook a workout—beyond what you paid to get onboard. On Caribbean sailings, included shore excursions help you explore such off-the-beaten-tourist-path places as Jost van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands and Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Wine and beer are complimentary at dinner as are cocktails that are served at a couple of the captain’s parties that take place during each sailing. (If you want more, beverage packages are available for a fee.)

Best inclusion: Everyone gets a welcome bottle of champagne.

Best for formality

 

On the “Crystal Symphony,” a night of dining at Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma is included in the fare.

On Crystal Cruises’ globe-trotting 848-passenger Crystal Symphony and 980-passenger Crystal Serenity, you can dress to the nines and enjoy champagne, fine wines, and premium spirits, as well an evening of dining at both the onboard Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar and the Italian specialty restaurant Prego (if you want to dine more than once at either, you can pay extra to do so). Guests in penthouse suites and higher suite categories get the added services of a butler. Spinning and Pilates are among the impressive array of complimentary fitness classes. On the line’s 62-passenger yacht, Crystal Esprit, shore excursions are included, too.

Best inclusion: Voluntourism opportunities at select ports, such as providing nutritious meals to those in need at the Mercy Kitchen in Belize.

Best for upscale comfort

 

AzAmazing Evenings are included shoreside events, such as this traditional Korean fan dance performance in Busan, South Korea.

The three small ships of Azamara Cruises carry a maximum of 702 guests each and operate like friendly, floating boutique hotels. Guests enjoy an open bar serving standard spirits, wines, international beers, and soft drinks, though Internet service costs extra. Special golf cruises in conjunction with golf vacation provider PerryGolf come with escorted play at prestigious courses around the world, including Ireland’s Royal Portrush.

Best inclusion: AzAmazing Evenings are extraordinary shoreside events with all guests invited—such as a cello performance in Old Town Dubrovnik or a private visit to a cultural center in Busan, South Korea.

Best for romance

Dine at a Thomas Keller–helmed steakhouse on Seabourn cruises.

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Seabourn’s 458- and 600-passenger ships are like the sexy private yachts of the rich and famous, only better–because you get to dine on cuisine by chef Thomas Keller (of French Laundry and Per Se fame). The complimentary wine list is impressive, and premium spirits and good champagne flow freely, too. All culinary experiences are included–even artisanal gelato made fresh onboard. Private air to embarkation destinations around the world is not included in the long list of complimentary amenities, but was recently made available for those who would like to get to and from their cruise with greater ease. Internet access is extra (unless you’re in a premium suite).

Best inclusion: Whenever you want and wherever you happen to be (even at the pool), order complimentary Regiis Ova caviar.

Best for adventure

 

You are bound to have impressive encounters with nature on an UnCruise voyage.

The nine small ships of UnCruise Adventures carry between 22 and 90 passengers to places where nature is part of the experience–Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Galápagos, Hawaii, and Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, to name a few. You spend your days hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, or on guided shore tours, and nights socializing with craft cocktails or microbrews before heading to dinner where sustainable fish dishes are accompanied by Pacific Northwest wines and extravagant desserts from the onboard baker. The only extra charges are gratuities (10 percent of your fare is the recommended amount). The Galápagos ship is the only one with Internet access, and it’s free.

Best inclusion: Great signature Bloody Marys with all the trimmings.

Best value

The included spa facilities alone make a Viking ocean cruise worth it.
 

Viking Ocean (the sister line to Viking River Cruises) translated the standard river cruise concept to the high seas–including that there are few extra charges beyond your cruise fare. On the line’s nearly identical, 930-passenger ocean ships, guests explore exceptionally well-designed spaces decked out in streamlined Scandinavian furnishings. Among the inclusions are specialty dining venues, wine and beer with lunch and dinner (drink packages are for sale if you want more), a shore excursion at every port, fitness classes, and unlimited Wi-Fi. Gratuities are extra.

Best inclusion: The ships’ Nordic spa, hydrotherapy pool, steam room, and invigorating snow room are open to all on a complimentary basis.

Best for destinations

 

Explore the Arctic in style and comfort with Silversea.

Luxury and expedition cruising are both specialties of Silversea Cruises, which has eight 100- to 608-passenger ships exploring the world. Guests stay in ocean-view suites with butler service and enjoy an open bar with a long list of fine wines, champagne, and spirits. There is a reservation fee for some specialty dining. Select voyages have complimentary shoreside events, while expedition cruises include excursions. In Antarctica and the Arctic, hotel stays, in-country flights, and a parka are among perks of the polar package.

Best inclusion: Your butler spoils you, unpacking your luggage, offering a choice of pillows, and polishing your shoes. If you’re in a high-end suite, the butler will even draw you a scented bath.

>> Next: The Best Luxury Cruise for Every Traveler

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