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Carnival vs. All Inclusive - A Review


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Each AI is different too.  I went to Valentine Imperial and the food was on par with Carnival, if not better.  Same price as I spent for my 8 day on Horizon with flights by the time I added in spending on the ship.  

Occidental is one of the cheaper AI options and it appears that there is a reason for it by your review.

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2 hours ago, Tapi said:

Thanks for taking the time to review your experience! 

 

My experience with All-inclusive resorts is somewhat limited. But the one thing that I've learned is that smaller and more upscale is definitely better when it comes to AI's. The last time we went to one (summer 2019) it was a smaller, brand new, luxury all inclusive in Puerto Morelos. Much more personal and refined service, far superior food and drink quality, breathtaking accommodations, and no crowds.Truly a wonderful experience. But even then, I get bored after 3 nights at an AI. 

 

My worst AI experience was actually on a business trip. The company that I work for placed me at an older, family oriented RIU in Montego Bay and it absolutely sucked (dirty, run down property in disrepair, hordes of people everywhere, poor food, drink and service quality, etc). It somewhat reminded me of a cheap cruise on an old ship. 

 

I wasn't paying for it so I wasn't going to complain. After all, I was still at an AI on a beach,  but I'f I'd taken my family on vacation tot his property and paid for it myself, I'd been beyond pissed. I wonder how many people go to places like this one expecting a luxury vacation only to learn that its far from it. 

Isn't it interesting how AI resorts can differ so much in every aspect.  I have been to about 10 AI resorts in various parts of the Riviera Maya (from Cancun to Akumal) and also the Dominican Republic.  I have actually stayed at the Xcaret as the OP did.  The beach there was a bit too small for me, but we enjoyed our time.  A friend of mine stayed at a lower end RIU property and said the alcohol tasted like gasoline. She also said it was dirty.   I stayed at a RIU Palace and found it to be fantastic! The service and food were wonderful, and the house wine the best I have ever had at an AI.  The food and service were fantastic as well.  I have learned the hard way not to go under 4 to 4.5 stars for an AI.  You get that you pay for. 

 

I do find that it is usually a bit more cost effective for us to go AI as apposed to cruises.  I love them both though. I think it's because I am usually able to book an AI package deal that is cheaper over all.  On a cruise, we need to book a flight separately, we always purchase the cheers program, and I usually spend too much time in the casino.  Food and drink quality can be better or worse than a cruise, depends on where you book.  

 

When my January 21 cruise got cancelled, I booked a quick 5 day AI trip to Puerto Morelos, Mexico for just under $600 pp including round trip flights.  When my May 21 cruise got cancelled just this week, I booked a week at an AI in Playa del Carmen.  It's a nice place and I was able to book the "Select" area.  It's an adults only area that has a separate adult only pool, restaurant and a couple of lounges that make better drinks.  Not as good as the alchemy bar, I am sure, but good, just the same.  

At an AI, my family enjoys spending time at the beach and at the swim up bars in huge pools.  On a cruise, I don't even attempt to get into the pool.  I have found room in the hot tub a couple of times.  

Most of the time, I think the food is better on a cruise.  I have had some fantastic meals at various resorts though. I also love waking up in a new place on a cruise. 

I just need to see the water and a beautiful beach again.  Just a few more weeks to go!

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Nice write-up.

 

We are on the west coast so a lot of our friends and family have been to resorts in Cabo. We are looking at one (AI) now since our March cruise was cancelled.

 

The long wait for drinks was unfortunate to read about. We really just want to sit by the pool and have drinks and be lazy. Pretty much what we do on a cruise lol. We also love the food on CCL so the food stuff is a bummer to read about also.

 

Will definitely have to read some reviews before we make that decision. 

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Enjoyed reading your review.  My wife and I have been to several all-inclusive resorts and always had a great time. From our experience we enjoyed these resorts as much as any cruise we have been on. Having said that, cruising has been our preferred vacation for the past 6 years because we can drive to 5 ports in Florida from our house in under 4 hours. We have come close to booking an all-inclusive resort a few times over the last several years, but every time we decide to book a cruise instead of having to deal with the hassle of flying some where. I realize a lot of people fly to go on cruises, but not having to fly to go on a cruise is a big positive to us. 

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Have been lucky enough to have been to about a dozen or so AI's over the past 35 years so much has changed.

The one main positive aspect of vacationing at an all inclusive is that they have ones that are adults only.  The only cruise line with this option is Virgin, who has not started up yet and I believe only has 4 and 5 day options.  Their target audience must be the 20-35 set.  If they offer 7-10 day options in the future,  I may check them out after first reading first hand reviews. 

That is the best thing about the Havana area on the Vista Class, no unruly rugrats.

Below is a picture taken from our swimout suite last July at El Dorado Seaside Suites in Riviera Maya MX.

20200721_150748.jpg

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We are considering AI options as well. Unfortunately, we have a single teenager. Going on vacations with mom and dad joined at the hip is no longer fun for a week. We wanted to start cruising because there are teen areas and others her age to hangout with and have fun. When I approached the subject with her about AI, she said it was really nice, but would there be kids her age and that is where it becomes the big question.

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Hi

 

The discussion on cruise vs. AI has been voiced many times. Of course the bottom line is, that while you can compare many aspects of each, they are totally different. 

 

Just like comparing going on a vacation in the mountains to going to the beach. No matter how you compare them something important is missing. With the cruise vs. resort, the obvious is that the hotel doesn't float. No matter how nice a resort you go to, you are not on a cruise, and vise versa.

 

It always comes down to a decision on what is it you want to do. 

 

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6 hours ago, BoozinCroozin said:

We are considering AI options as well. Unfortunately, we have a single teenager. Going on vacations with mom and dad joined at the hip is no longer fun for a week. We wanted to start cruising because there are teen areas and others her age to hangout with and have fun. When I approached the subject with her about AI, she said it was really nice, but would there be kids her age and that is where it becomes the big question.

I completely understand as I have 2 older teen boys but at least they have each other. Can you have her bring a friend? 

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On 1/9/2021 at 11:39 PM, SNJCruisers said:

 

The one main positive aspect of vacationing at an all inclusive is that they have ones that are adults only.  The only cruise line with this option is Virgin, who has not started up yet and I believe only has 4 and 5 day options.  Their target audience must be the 20-35 set.  If they offer 7-10 day options in the future,  I may check them out after first reading first hand reviews. 

That is the best thing about the Havana area on the Vista Class, no unruly rugrats.

 

 

Also, Viking Ocean Cruise Line does not allow passengers below 18 years old.

 

~Nancy

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Enjoyed the comparison and thoughts of others.  I'd probably try an AI but DW doesn't have interest.

She doesn't really like to fly anywhere.  Mostly due to the limitations on luggage and the hassle of getting through the TSA line.  we can drive to Florida ports.  Our one attempt to cruise in Northern Europe has been eliminated due to COVID restrictions on both sides of the Big Pond.  I doubt DW will get enthused about any European cruises soon.  So we'll stick to cruising, if and when it comes back.

 

 

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I think they are different enough experiences to make them both great choices. If you can do both then do that. That’s how our next few years of vacation will go. 1 cruise and 1 all inclusive.

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I've done both, interesting enough, I was on a AI at the Myan Palace (Nuevo Vallarta) when I saw my first cruise ship up close. It was Royal Caribbean ship we passed when we were returning to the resort from seeing Rhythm of the Nights. I remember being memorized by the sheer size of it, how cool it looked, and all the happy people waving and having a great time. I felt a bit envious they were traveling to multiple locations and the whole thing just seemed more exciting and glamorous. Anyway I digress. AI's can be great if you are traveling with a group, really like the area you are traveling to and have plans to do specific things that will take multiple days, or even if you like a particular facility and just want to kick back there and enjoy the amenities (the pools and beaches are fantastic at some of these places). 

 

That said, cruising is above and beyond a better value IMO, especially for those of us who travel as a family. Not having to pay airfare and deal with flying in general is absolutely awesome. The only place I actually enjoy flying to is Vegas and that's only because it's such a short flight (wheels up, have two drinks, touching down and party time) and saves so much time over driving. With cruising, you actually get to enjoy the journey to the locations. Plus visit multiple locations where you can do as much as you can pack in or simply do nothing and relax.

 

A moving vacation is awesome. Besides the awesome, the value to dollar is second to none. You simply can't get a comparable land vacation that includes accommodations, most food/beverage, and a large chunk of entertainment included for a very reasonable ask. The 'all in' cruising costs generally only covers hotel/rental accommodations for a week and end up being about half of other vacation options that I can drive to, or a quarter of vacation options that I would need to fly to. Plus my kids now love cruising and always want a cruise vacation over other options because they have so much fun at the kid programs. While both are enjoyable, for us it's a no brainer, the value-to-cost ratio isn't even close. Cruising is the clear winner.       

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I’m missing cruising for sure and if as expected our fourth in a row (4/3-4/8 on Sunshine) is cancelled, we will likely look to AI. We’ve always done Adults Only with Palace Resorts in Riviera Maya at Aventura Spa Palace, which is now a Hard Rock, and Le Blanc in Cancun, hands down the best AI ever. We also did a Holiday Inn, yes a HI, in Montego Bay that had an adults area as mentioned in previous posts,  it was smaller but was an affordable getaway for our needs. 
The Palace spots were comparable food and beverage wise compared to cruising, entertainment though was so-so but not really a factor for us when choosing a destination or mode of vacationing

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On 1/9/2021 at 8:04 AM, NCTribeFan said:

When I first started cruising (April 2001), the idea was to see some sunny places and then go back for an AI vacation.  Every time I priced them, though, the cruise was cheaper (I typically book inside cabins).

 

Plus, my main reason for cruising, still, after 20 years and about 40 cruises, is to see the different ports. If I were to do an AI, I'd still want to get out there and see things.  For me, that's what travel (especially to foreign places) is all about.  So, that would jack up the price of a land vacation, too.

 

I'm also a little leery about tainted alcohol in Mexico.  

 

But, if the inability to cruise continues for much longer (I have 9 sailings booked between April 2021 and May 2023 on MSC, Carnival, HAL, X & NCL), once I have been vaccinated, I might consider an AI just so I can go somewhere!  Anywhere warm and sunny (other than my patio in the summer).

 

Thanks for posting your thoughts.

I have the same feelings recently on the safety of the "Alcohol" in Mexico & Punta Cana.  I have been to Punta Cana at least 5 times but never to Mexico.  The scare of the "tainted alcohol" has me now not going to an Al.    I will not go there again for that reason....I don't like to worry about getting any "tainted alcohol" in another country and getting sick.   That is not saying all counties have that problem, you have to do your research on the island that you are going to.  

For me I have been on 7 - 8 cruises and I personally feel much safer, but that is me.  I feel that the food and drink is safe and I feel very safe on the ship.  I can't wait to get cruising again....it's been a long year with no cruising, hopefully within this 2021 year sometime.

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5 hours ago, boatclub1 said:

I don't like to worry about getting any "tainted alcohol" in another country and getting sick.   That is not saying all counties have that problem, you have to do your research on the island that you are going to.  

 

And all you need to do is do your research about the AI you possibly wish to visit and everything will be OK.  Go to a 4.5 or 5 star resort and you will have no problems. TripAdvisor is a great source, but since you have your mind made up already, it's a moot point.  You hear about the problem with tainted alcohol and you then paint with a wide brush and assume that the problem is at all of the resorts, not just 1 or 2. 

 

The same issue is true with non cruisers that will never cruise because of the harsh treatment that cruising has taken in the media since the beginning of the Pandemic.  All cruise ships are not floating petri dishes all of the time just like all AI's do not serve tainted alcohol.

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