Cruising has seen a huge increase in popularity in recent years, partly because you can travel to several destinations in one trip and also because it can offer incredible value for money. A recent survey we conducted with Travelzoo subscribers revealed that most people are aware that meals are included but there are extras that you still need to pay for with most cruise lines -- specifically tips and alcoholic drinks -- and these can add up.
However, there are a few so called 6-star, ultra-luxurious cruise companies that take all inclusive to a different level. The headline price you pay may seem a lot higher, but if you consider everything that's included, the value is often much better than it seems at first.
Two companies that fall into this category are Silversea and Seabourn. Their ships are much smaller and more intimate than many and there is an emphasis on service, a luxurious environment and gourmet food. They are also "fully" all inclusive. There are no tips automatically added to your account on departure and all of your drinks are included -- even champagne! Your butler (yes, each suite has one) will inquire what your favourite tipple is and stock your mini bar accordingly -- and not with miniatures either.
Drinks and cocktails in the bars and your choice of wines with meals are all taken care of, and there is nothing to sign for, so there are no waiters chasing you around the ship with a bill. If you want fine wines or a very special whisky or brandy, these are available at a small charge, but otherwise all familiar premium branded drinks are included.
If you do your sums and look at what this could be worth to you by the time you go home, then the higher initial cost of your cruise could still work out to be better value. In addition, these smaller ships have no inside cabins (in fact the majority of suites have a balcony) and because of their size they can have much more interesting itineraries as they can get to ports that just can't accommodate the big ships. Even if larger ships can visit, they often need to anchor out at sea and tender people ashore, which is certainly less desirable than being able to get on and off at your convenience.
So is there anything extra you will need to pay for? Yes -- but only if you choose to. What won't be included are organised excursions, but there is nothing to stop you from going ashore and wandering around yourself or even taking a local taxi to a particular attraction. Shuttle buses are normally laid on from the port to the town. Spa treatments can help you relax even more, if that is possible, and most ships have a very extensive range of treatments for both men and women -- but the gym, steam room and sauna are normally free to use. Internet access is expensive (and via satellite so not as fast as you may be used to at home), but you can purchase a bundle of minutes and use your own device or pay-as-you-go on the ship's computers, or embrace one of the few remaining excuses for not being connected every second of the day. You can even have a copy of your daily newspaper printed off at a cost (or just read a copy in the library for free). Look out for cruise deals that include an onboard credit and then even these extra things can end up costing you nothing!