Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Final Thoughts on All Inclusive Vacation

Our goal of this holiday was an inexpensive holiday where we could relax.  In the end those two goals were met.

Even though our original hotel was not a right fit, upgrading to the Riu Pacific Palace was the right decision.  It ended up costing us a bit more. In total the vacation cost us $4,000 in the end including spending money.  Since the resort was all inclusive the added cost of food and drinks was kept down.  

Like I have mentioned in previous blogs we use to travel to Mexico to all inclusive every year for two weeks before we really started cruising.  We had vacationed three times to Puerto Vallarta, two times to Huatulco, once to Manzanillo, Loretto, and Mazatlan.  So we knew the product. 

Since those holidays we have cruised extensively on over 60 cruises.  We really knew that product but found because of higher cruise prices and the low Canadian dollar and also because in May our cruise destinations were limited we chose to head back to Mexico.

I am going to break this overview into sections comparing the pros and cons and who does it better, cruises or all inclusives. This is based totally on our views and this last holiday, based on the 5th star Riu Pacific Palace

  • Hotel room is huge compare to ship.  But we really are not in the room much.  Love the large bathroom where both of us could easily get ready.  The deep soaker tub was a nice treat too.  
  • We did find the hotel room to not be as clean as we would experience on ships.  
  • Noticed spots of mold because of high humidity.  
  • Room was normally quieter than on ships.  Here we did not hear the neighbors TV or loud conversations.  However because of noisy kids in the hallways (why parents think it is okay to let their child scream is beyond me) which carries onto the entire floor was a bit annoying.
  • Overall the pluses on the hotel side outweigh the negatives of a small cabin. 
  • Rooms on ships are very clean, functional and cleaned twice a day.  
  • TV on ships has more options as this resort had no channels in English.
  • Here we had free wifi throughout resort including our room which saved us at night.

  • Each room here had complimentary mini bar, with sodas, water, beer and four hard alcohol bottles (which we did not partake in).  We had to get our own ice but that was just down the hall. 
view from balcony
  • And of course every room had a balcony.  On a ship you have to pay more for that.  
  • Note a room in this hotel that faced the courtyard would experience a lot more noise.

For me the rooms end up a tie in my eyes.  Ones positives negates the other's negatives. 

  • The food choices here were quite good but after a week it got quite repetitive.  With only one option for breakfast or lunch we found after a week we were bored.  
  • Heading into town for a meal helped but added to the costs.
  • Quality and presentation was quite impressive.  However we did find many cold items that should of been hot.  But that is not unique to resorts I have seen this on ships too.

  • This resort had four a la carte restaurants and getting reservations was easy but limiting to only two times early or late seating.  I was very impressed with the meals here and especially the service. Also these meals were included in the vacation, unlike ships where it is an added cost.
  • This resort did have a limited room service menu, even more limiting than on Princess.  We did partake and found it to be basic and cold. 
  • Evening dinners often had themes and we're presented with an added flare. 
  • For this category ships win hands down.  With ships having numerous places to get food and higher quality it wins out.  However you won't go hungry here.

Daytime Activities
  • If you are a beach/pool person then you suit a resort vacation.  
  • Daytime Activities revolve around the beach and pool.  Beach volleyball, pool volleyball, soccer, pool games, target practice, horseshoes, zumba, water aerobics happened even day.  Entertainment staff were very welcoming and enthusiastic and approachable. 
  • Pool was always crowded and hard to get a lounge chair, yes chair hogs are found everywhere.
  • The beach here was very large with lots of chairs and palm trees for shade.  Umbrellas also could be had for a nominal fee. 
  • Of course there were excursions you could partake in with Vallarta Adventures being the sole provider.  We did not take any excursions but did venture out on our down quite easily by either walking, taxis, or bus.
  • If you are not a pool/beach person this may not be a holiday for you as there isn't much else to do.  Plus the heat here is oppressive and you need to cool off.
  • Activities are posted on a big board daily.  You are handed a calendar with evening activities but it does vary a bit week to week but most shows were repeated each week.
  • This hands down goes to cruise travel where your options for activities is 200% more and includes sitting around pool and tanning if you wish.  But options for daytime activities on a ship can be but are not limited to: trivias, lectures, casino, shopping, bingo, martini demos, games, exercise classes, galley tours, and much much more.

Evening activities
  • After spending a day at the beach we always retired to the room to shower and rest.  We dress for dinner and then what.  Often we would walk around the resort then end up at a bar.
  • Evening shows were basic and quite amateur but I appreciate their effort.
  • The shows are repeated each week so we got the same show the next week.  So even less to do.
  • Once the show is done there is a disco but not much else.  The lobby bar did have a piano player at times and that was enjoyable.
  • Of course it does depend where your resort is.  This one was a distance from any bars/restaurants in the city, but that would always be an option if you were closer.
Hands down ships win in this category.  Evening activities are 300% more than on land.  Activities on ships include but are not limited to:  Casino, entertainment act in Atrium, trivias, game shows, production show in main theater, comedians, dance/party band in a lounge, another live band in another venue, wine tastings, Movies Under the Stars, Disco and so much more.

  • Resort included all drinks.  Trust me you could really drink all the time if you wish.  
  • Variety was not bad but much much less than on a ship.
  • This was a higher end resort so the selection was bigger and better than the 3 star Jalisco.  
  • Three were three types of wine!
  • Many known brands of liquor were not available.
  • Martinis here were like desserts and not in a good way. For example a Cosmo is not suppose to taste like you are drinking syrup.  And forget about getting a bramble - they just don't have the ingredients.
  • I love a liqueur made in Mexico called Damiana but this resort didn't have it - had to go to a bar in town to get it.
  • Overall I found the drinks to be fair but not great.  They did the trick but at my age I drink more for the pleasure of the taste not the alcohol. Oh to be young again.
Hands down ships win here. With so many different bars featuring so many different drinks - here is the martini menu - here is the wine menu - here is the bar menus.  Yes on the ship you have to pay for your drinks but I would rather pay for a good drink then have a poor drink included.

  • We did get an amazing deal for this all inclusive vacation. So for the price at this time of year this was a better value.
  • However during more prime time (like when we travel to the Caribbean in January) resort vacations are much more expensive. I can often get a 20 day cruise for what I would pay for a two week AI resort.  
  • We did tip waiters, maids, bartenders and servers but in the end that came in less than the normal cruise daily tips.  Plus we usually tip more on the ship.
  • This is very subjective and there are a lot of variables.  
  • Overall I still feel cruising is a better value. But you can get some great deals for all inclusives too.


  • The resort was beautiful. Right on the beach with stunning views. Very ornate, and a little like I was in Venice or something. Not really my taste but for a holiday it was fine.

  • Lots of space with beautiful manicured gardens.  
  • Large pools, with swim up bar, lounges in the pool, tons of lounge chairs.

  • Spa, large buffet, four a la carte restaurants, large theater/bar, lobby bar and huge lobby.  
  • The dreaded sand flies/noseeums loved us and bit us often.  Sure on a cruise when you visit a port you can get bitten but once on board it is rare.
  • Thankfully this resort did not have timeshare sellers. But a short walk down the beach, or the sidewalk had someone approaching you constantly with timeshare (or what they now call Vacation Clubs). If you could keep walking that was great, but if you were waiting for something (like the bus) they would not let up. 
Even though the hotel is lovely cruises win out because they have so much more but it is not a fair comparison as if a hotel had as many guests as a ship it would be much bigger too. So both are great.


  • At this resort in May there were mainly couples of varying ages. Lots of families. Many kids, more than what I see on Princess ships when we travel during off season.  
  • Many British come here thru a charter agency. Quite a few Canadians and Americans too.
  • We felt comfortable here with regards to demographics and it was nice to meet others.
  • Because guest arrive and depart all the time it was hard to connect with guest like you do on a ship where everyone arrives/leaves at the same time. You just have longer to make deeper connections.  
  • On weekends lots of families from all over Mexico would arrive for a mini break.  But there were a lot more families/kids at the Riu Jalisco/Riu Vallarta (especially from US/Canada).
Over all I would give this to Cruise ships. I like the demographics on ships. The line I pick is Princess which fits our needs age wise. We tend to travel in off peak times so we don't encounter many children. We love kids, but don't really want to travel with a lot of them.  

I missed the camaraderie you get from connecting with fellow cruise passengers over a coffee/meal/or even sitting beside them at a show. This just didn't really happy at the resort, and if you did connect with someone they were leaving the next day.


  • Jobs at these resorts are coveted and their employees are very loyal and work extremely hard. Most do not make that much in wages. A tip is what they strive for and augments their paychecks. They work extremely hard for a tip.  Certainly more than the average Canadian waiter does (my opinion of course). Waiters here would see you and ask you to sit in their section and then would have your drink of preference ready for you when you came back with your food.  
  • They work long hours too and I know for at least this resort they were given one day off a week, which doesn't always happen.
  • Most that served the guests spoke very good English, I was impressed.
Of course cruise staff are similar and work very hard too. Have to say the resort staff category is a tie.  


  • I was happy to be going to a resort and get to live in sandals and t shirts for two weeks. Including dining in whatever I wanted. Note you couldn't wear tank tops or bathing suits into dining area at night and it was enforced (unlike ships' dress code).  
  • But after a few days of being casual, I did miss dressing for dinner and making it an event. Now I am not saying formal dress, but just nice pants and a blouse and heading out for a nice evening. Although there were many who did dress for dinner (usually the ladies) but most did not.
  • Most days we were in bathing suits/shorts/t-shirt which was okay for the first few days but found I got tired of it after that.
  • Really missed having self serve laundry service (that you do have on Princess ships). And of course we are elite so we get free laundry. The resort did have laundry service but it was expensive so we made a visit to the laundromat after one week, which cost us 220 pesos. 
So overall for two weeks I would say I prefer cruises for dress. But for a week's vacation I would be okay at a resort and the casual atmosphere.

So who is the winner.  Well for each person it will be different. Both are great holidays.  It really comes down to what you like.

Based on our preferences we certainly prefer cruising for many of the above reasons.  

Ultimately the all inclusive vacation was just a bit too boring for us.  Spending every day at the beach, and nights wandering around with nothing to do just wasn't a fit for us.

We missed the quality in food, drink, and the demographics of cruises.

Will we do another all inclusive, well I will never say never. But I know we LOVE Mexico and we will be back but I think if we do head back we would just book an apartment and air and do our own things for meals/drinks/entertainment.

Sorry this was so long.  Thanks for following.  And of course this is just our experience and our preference.  


  1. Hi Vickie
    Great and very fair review , thanks for sharing .

  2. Thanks. I have read everything you have written. I am so ready to go cruising again. My first cruise on Carnaval was awful. But now I am ready to try again and have done a lot of research and believe Princess is the line for me. Thanks again.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with your post. I've done AI's in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Jamaica and enjoyed them all. They're great for a restful relaxing week by the pool or on the beach. The food can be hit and miss, and the amenities of less quality than a cruise.

    Princess is also my choice when travelling with friends, #10 is scheduled for this fall. I like Norwegian when I'm travelling solo. What I love best is the fact that I unpack once, and wake up everyday somewhere new.

    Thanks for sharing!