By Gwen Duncan
From personal experience I would like to share information in regards to the All-Inclusive Resort decision. My husband and I have been to a number of All-Inclusive Resorts and recognized that that are not the same….many offer great amenities and many sound better than they really are. My advice is to definitely read the small print…but not only that, ask questions, lots of questions. (KATE, I’ve sent you the 10 questions to ask and want that included somewhere on this page-now continuing my dialogue). If the price seems too good to be true IT USUALLY IS! One brand offered Ultra-Inclusive and still you had to pay extra for Spa Treatments and some other optional features. Some offer FREE non-motorized sporting options ONLY…with payment for all other activities. Some offer buffet only meals and others offer choices of fine restaurants. Some very limited options and others, many. Some are couples only, some offer clothing optional. One thing for sure, generally the less expensive the more crowded the beaches, more loud the eating quarters, the more likely it is a families welcome (with some family resorts exception however). Some locations do not include purified water in the rooms. This would mean inconvenience in the least for the vacationer. Most all do have extra fee choices that you must budget for….transfers or transportation. Some are terribly remote, which is O.K. for some and an inconvenience to others. Some do offer maid service and others do not.
For the most part however, all-inclusive resorts have gone upscale. There is a tremendous demand for them and the competition among them has grown to create opportunity for the traveler to WIN, provided they know enough about what they have chosen. Service, special service is the key for those who feel that their vacations are for feeling special – one works hard and the vacation is looked at as an ‘experience’. For any particular all-inclusive resort to win, the delivery of service is primary. How important is the ‘something special’ to you? You do have to ask yourself:
Will I use what's included? There are resorts that offer famous Chef’s – does that really matter to you? To some it will, especially those interested into the culinary experience. To many it doesn’t and why pay for it then. Those all-inclusive resorts could cost from $700 and up per night. There are lots of options at many, many price levels. This page is our attempt to help you make the right choice for you. If you think you'll use everything a resort offers, even a pricey package can be a great value. Value is the key. Maybe you would welcome FREE scuba diving and/or waterskiing lessons, language classes etc. If so, the resort may be a true bargain. Large all-inclusive chains, which have improved their services, can be surprisingly affordable
Will I want what's not included? This is very important when making your choice for a resort. You have to figure out what your preferences are in regards to needs, and then locate the brand and/or location that best fits your needs. if you'll desire more than what the deal gives you will not. An example of a resort that might miss the mark for the golfer could be The Meliá Cabo Real, in Los Cabos, Mexico. It is in a great location next door to a Robert Trent Jones II-designed golf course. Stay in a links-view room have gone for $460 per night in late February (high season), the all-inclusive rate delivering everything except golf. If golf is not important to you it is a great deal, however, if it is, your vacation could cost a bundle more than you had expected when you learn that golf could cost per person $252 per round. If you plan on playing a few rounds, wouldn't staying at an actual golf resort end up costing less, even at a higher nightly rate? Of course it would! Vacationers MUST look at Value vs Price in the final analysis.
How big a hassle will it be to cash in? This is an interesting concern that you might not learn about before hand if you are working independently on your vacation plans rather than with a professional travel consultant who has visited the resort or knows through networking with other professionals that a problem could exist at a particular location. An example as reported in a travel agent only magazine reports that the appeal of an all-inclusive is lost if you have to spend time jockeying for what you've been promised. In order to avoid the buffet at the 355-room Caribe Club Princess, in Punta Cana, you must queue up before 3 p.m. to get reservations at one of the five restaurants. Other red flags could be: water sports that are actually at a different location; "unlimited" sports where equipment rental is extra; or being confined to nine holes of an 18-hole course. To avoid these undesirable scenarios, know what's included with the hotel before you book.
What is the true difference between all-inclusive and an ala carte experience? Travel and Leisure recently posted an example to answer this question using a luxury resort as the Brand. This is what they reported:
The Property - Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall in Montego Bay
All-inclusive (Key to Club package)
Club Level Guest room with access to the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge (concierge service and five food-and-beverage spreads daily)
Three meals a day, including house wine and unlimited snacks from any of the hotel's six restaurants
Two rounds of golf at the White Witch or two 50-minute spa treatments a day—or a combination of both—per room
Tax and service charge
Round-trip airport shuttle
Cost would be $1,089 per room, per night, double.
VS À la carte
Club Level Guest room with lounge access: $659 a night
Buffet breakfast for two at Horizon: $58
Lunch for two at the White Witch restaurant: $82
Dinner for two at Jasmine restaurant, plus two glasses of house wine: $149
Snack (tortilla chips and salsa at Cohobas): $15
One round of golf: $189
One 50-minute "Ageless Beauty" spa treatment: $145
Additional charges (13 percent resort fee and 8.2 percent room tax): $139.67
Taxi to and from Montego Bay: $50
Cost would be $1,487 per room, per night, double.
Total Discount 27 percent (27%)