You’ve been daydreaming about your perfect vacation, yearning to travel somewhere new and experience the world. As you research options, though, you might wonder if cruising or all-inclusive resorts offer the better deal. Both choices allow you to visit a new place and relax on the beach, but each carries distinct advantages and disadvantages.
While your decision will ultimately depend on your personal preferences, this guide can help you along the way. Learn more about cruises vs. resorts and the pros and cons of both vacation options.
In This Article
- All-Inclusive Resort
- How to Choose Which Is Right for You
- Windstar Cruises Knows the Way to Cruise
Imagine living the tropical island life for a week, lounging on a beach, dining in great restaurants and retiring to a beautiful suite. An all-inclusive resort package sets you up for a relaxing vacation, with a unique set of perks and drawbacks.
From slow, steady days on the beach to inclusive vacation packages, resorts boast many benefits for travelers. A few of the most notable pros include:
- Leisurely days: When you stay at an inclusive resort, you can spend your days leisurely relaxing on-site and on the beach. You have nowhere to be but here, and that sense of stillness can contribute to a rejuvenating vacation.
- Constant beach access: Your resort will stay in one place your entire trip, and the beach certainly won’t go anywhere. You’ll always have the opportunity to head out to the shore, sunrise or sunset.
- Sprawling space: By their very nature, resorts have more space than cruise ships. You’ll usually stay in a larger room than you would in a typical cruise ship.
- More inclusive rates: Compared to a typical cruise, an all-inclusive resort will usually include more in its package. For example, a resort package will more likely include alcoholic beverages than a cruise package.
- On-site activities: Resort packages might also include the cost of some on-site activities, such as tours, ziplines and snorkel excursions. As with a cruise, a resort will feature plenty of fun activities for you to enjoy on your vacation if you so wish.
- Schedule freedom: While a typical cruise might carve out a tight itinerary for your days, a resort leaves your schedule up to you. If you want to spend more of your days relaxing on the beach, you have the freedom to do so. Alternatively, you get to choose any activities you participate in and when you’ll fit those into your schedule.
- One location: Staying at a resort sends you to one location and one location alone — a fact that can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your preferences. If you have a clear idea of where you want to go with one top spot on your radar, a resort might suit what you’re looking for.
While inclusive resorts certainly have marked advantages, they also face disadvantages when compared to cruises, including:
- One location: If you don’t have one specific place at the top of your vacation bucket list, the set locale of a resort might be too restrictive. Similarly, if you crave variety and want to see multiple nearby islands or beaches, a cruise can provide a welcome change from the monotony of staying in a resort.
- Less exploration: When you book an all-inclusive resort, you’ll spend most of your time at the hotel. While you can explore some, a cruise vacation would provide many more unique excursions.
- Limited view of the culture: A resort is a spot explicitly designed for travelers, which means it doesn’t provide the most authentic view of the local culture. Because you likely won’t venture out of the resort area very often, you’ll get a much more limited view of what your destination is genuinely like than you would on a cruise.
- Bad weather: When booking a vacation — especially one on or near the beach — you always want to consider the potential for bad weather. However, you can only plan so far ahead, and if bad weather strikes while you’re at your resort, your only option will be to ride it out. A cruise, however, could anticipate the bad weather and skirt around it.
- Lots of walking: Because a resort stretches across a wide area, you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking to get to and from your room, the beach and any activities you choose to participate in. With a cruise — especially a small ship cruise — cut down on the minutes spent walking and instead spend more of your precious vacation time doing the activities you love.
Now imagine sitting on a ship deck, cocktail in hand and relishing in the beauty of the open sea. Your ship docks, and you venture into the location of the day, learning more about a different culture and undertaking exciting adventures. When you return to your ship, you rest up while your vessel sails to a new location, where you’ll experience wonders anew all over again.
While a cruise does face some disadvantages compared to a resort vacation, choosing a cruise for your next trip boasts several benefits.
From location variety to relationship-building opportunities and immersive experiences, a cruise trip has many pros. Additionally, a small, leisurely cruise line like Windstar turns many of the potential disadvantages a typical cruise might face into advantages. These pros include:
- Multiple ports: Whether you want to experience the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Asia or Alaska, a cruise takes you to several ports, giving you a well-rounded look at your destination of choice. For example, Windstar’s six ships visited over 300 ports in 2020.
- Unique locales: Small cruise lines especially have the freedom to take you to exciting new places off the beaten path for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Instead of frequenting high-tourism spots, catch an authentic glimpse of a country’s hidden gems.
- Immersive excursions: Thoughtfully planned excursions allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture, wherever your cruise itinerary takes you. Book a cruise and gain the chance to experience life from an all-new perspective.
- Continuous education: Continue the immersive educational experience back on board, too. A Windstar cruise will often feature hand-selected lecturers to give you a scholarly glimpse of topics relevant to the locale.
- Attentive crew: On a cruise, you’ll receive service from a staff who delights in delighting you. Especially on a small cruise line, the crew has more of a chance to get to know you than they do on a large cruise line or a sprawling resort. The better the crew knows you, the more personalized service they get to provide.
- New friendships: One unique perk of traveling via cruise is the unrivaled bonding experience of being on a ship with others who also love traveling and exploring new places. With small cruise lines, you can also form relationships with the crew and your fellow travelers. For example, when you sail with Windstar, you can shop for local ingredients with the chef or learn about ship navigation directly from the captain.
- Many ports of departure: Because cruise lines usually have several departure ports, you can often save yourself the expense of flying to an overseas resort.
- Activities and watersports: Enjoy fun activities right from your ship. Partake in watersports like kayaking or water-skiing — and with Windstar, we include access to these activities in your cruise fare.
- The beauty of the ocean: Perhaps more than anywhere else on earth, the sea reflects the stunning beauty of nature. On a cruise ship, you have the unrivaled opportunity to live in the middle of that expanse during your trip. And with a small cruise like Windstar, all staterooms and suites boast an ocean view.
Even given the immersive experience of a cruise, this vacation choice has some cons compared to an all-inclusive resort, including:
- Additional expenses: Many inclusive cruise packages will not include alcoholic beverages, gratuity or some onboard activities. However, Windstar’s fare always includes onboard entertainment and access to the spa, fitness center and Watersports Platform. You can complete the all-inclusive experience with Wi-Fi, gratuities and unlimited beer, wine and cocktails for a small added price.
- Quality of food: One of the most notable differences between a cruise and a resort is the food. Resorts will generally offer more robust menus than cruises, but Windstar boasts a top-tier partnership with the James Beard Foundation to provide delectable meals inspired by the local cuisine. Food is a critical part of a culture, which is why the chefs at Windstar use our menus to extend your immersive vacation experience even into mealtime.
- Strict regimen: A typical cruise might have a brimming schedule of activities for you to follow, but Windstar leaves you the freedom to plan your days exactly as you wish. Relax on the deck, go snorkeling or take a tour of a local market — the choice is entirely up to you.
- Crowds: While a standard cruise might be a crowded affair, Windstar’s small size means you can enjoy all the benefits of a cruise free of long lines and crowded spaces.
- Seasickness: One drawback to consider with any seafaring activity is seasickness. However, if you dream of experiencing the wonder of a cruise, read our advice on how to combat seasickness and enjoy your next vacation at sea.
How to Choose Which Is Right for You
With all the pros and cons considered, how do you choose whether a cruise or an all-inclusive resort is right for you? The answer will depend on many factors, all of which are specific to your needs and preferences. Asking yourself the following questions can help guide the process:
1. What Are Your Goals for This Vacation?
Are you looking for a relaxing vacation to refresh your mind and body? Or are you hoping to experience something new and possibly have a few adventures along the way?
If you chose the former, an all-inclusive resort might be the better option for you. You’ll spend your time at one resort, with the freedom to lounge on the beach with a good book and equally great food.
But if you chose the latter, a cruise better aligns with your goals. Setting sail on a cruise ship will take you to new places, where you can embark on adventures that will let you experience diverse ways of life firsthand. Learn about new cultures and explore various locations with global and local historical significance.
2. Do You Have a Specific Destination in Mind, or Do You Want to Visit Multiple Locations?
If you like the idea of visiting one side of an island and planting your vacation roots there, then an all-inclusive resort might be well-suited for you. Once you arrive at your resort, you can unwind and stay there for your whole trip.
However, maybe you know you want to explore the Caribbean, for instance, but you’re hoping to see as many islands as possible. If you long to discover the incredible breadth of a region, set sail on a cruise and relax as your captain handles all the transportation logistics for you.
3. What Is Your Budget, and What Do You Need an All-Inclusive Package to Include?
Each resort and cruise package will cover different amenities in the price. Consider the activities and types of drinks you want in an all-inclusive package.
Additionally, make a note of any travel expenses. Does your desired cruise line have a port of departure near you? If you have to fly to your departure port, how will that cost compare to your flight to the all-inclusive resort?
While the base price of the package is an important consideration, for an accurate look at how much a vacation will cost, also consider any add-ons and travel expenses.
4. Who Will Be Coming Along With You?
Are you looking for a couple’s getaway, or are you vacationing with a group of friends? Is your eye set on a family-friendly vacation for kids and grandkids?
Consider how the atmosphere of each resort or cruise suits your travel group. Some places and ships will be geared towards adults only, while others will have a kid-friendly environment. Also consider the activities available for yourself and your travel companions. For example, many cruises have better, more structured entertainment for kids than resorts do.
Windstar Cruises Knows the Way to Cruise
If you think a cruise is the best option for your next vacation, Windstar Cruises provides an unrivaled immersive experience. Sail with us and enjoy a relaxed, intimate atmosphere featuring excursions selected specially to give you an authentic glimpse into the local life of your destination. Enjoy service from a crew who cares, and delight in menus prepared by renowned chefs. Windstar Cruises sits at the intersection between a relaxing vacation and an enriching experience.