The bonus of not being all-inclusive

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It seems these days everyone is jumping on the ‘All-inclusive’ bandwagon. “Isn’t this great! You don’t have to pay for any drinks on your cruise.” They promise . . . but guess what? You’ve already paid for them in the ticket price of your cruise, whether you are drinking hundreds of pounds worth of drinks in a week or not. Just as with anything you buy, you are only getting good value for money if the amount you’ve paid upfront is less than the individual cost of ‘paying as you go’.

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At Riviera Travel we believe All Inclusive drinks aren’t necessarily good value on a river cruise. Over the years we have listened to our customers. They realise the all-inclusive drinks are not ‘free’ and they just pay extra in their cruise ticket price, sometimes around £400 per person per week. The three main comments we consistently hear are:-

  1. “We don’t drink, so we are paying for something we are not using.”
  2. “A river cruise isn’t the sort of holiday where we want to drink a lot every night. There’s too much to see and do to waste days with a hangover, so we will only have maybe a glass or two of wine per night.”
  3. “On river cruises the ship is often moored up in a lovely town until around midnight, or overnight. Therefore we would prefer to have the choice to go and have a drink in a local bar and experience the evening atmosphere of the destination. If we’ve paid for all-inclusive it means every drink we buy on land we’re paying twice for.”

I think it’s different on an ocean cruise where you have ‘at-sea’ days, and also most nights you’re sailing, so only have the option of on-board drinks, which can often be expensive on ocean cruise ships.

We give the choice back to the customer. They can buy drinks in local bars, or in the on-board bars if they choose to have a drink on the ship. Our on-board prices are comparable with the local bars at just around €4.75 for a 250ml carafe of good quality wine. So even if they have three glasses a day (equivalent to a bottle), their on-board bill at the end of the week will still only be less than €100, which works out around £78 at today’s exchange rate. Considerably cheaper than an all-inclusive alternative.

I think you’ve got to drink a serious amount to get any sort of value from all-inclusive on river cruises, especially if you are buying drinks off the ship too.

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted on:sam@cruise-adviser.com.

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