Vacation season is heating up, and clients of the Endless Access vacation rentals service face this dilemma on a daily basis: should they opt for a cruise or a destination vacation? The decision about what kind of vacation to choose is made even more complicated by the fact that, within each category of vacation experience, there are several more factors that vary from one cruise line to another and one destination to another. Vacationers have to decide how much they want to spend, how much of a cultural experience they want to have, and what amenities are important to them.
A spokesperson for Endless Access had this to say: “This is a question experienced by anyone in the field of vacationing; it’s almost as common as ‘What shirt I should wear today?’ We find that while working with our clients, it’s important to get to know them on a personal level. We want to find out as many individual nuances as possible during our conversations. We do this to ensure that, as we research their vacation request, we can provide a customized experience that will fit their individual needs.”
All-inclusive trips may seem like the best deal financially, but the definition of “all-inclusive” will vary from one resort to another and one cruise line to another. The online travel resource Smarter Travel notes that on mainstream cruise lines, you will receive all meals and snacks, certain beverages at meal times, use of the ship's facilities (such as the pool and fitness center), on-board activities and entertainment, and transportation between ports of call. You will also be stuck with the bare minimum of cruise accommodations, and will most likely start to rack up charges the moment you go for extras such as rooms with a window, snorkeling, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks outside of meal times, and gratuities. It can be quite a shock when you are politely handed a bill of several hundred dollars as you disembark.
All-inclusive resorts, on the other hand, tend to include all of these amenities in the resort fare. Resort vacationers overall tend to spend less during their trips than their cruising counterparts.
The trade-off, however, is experience. The culture of all-inclusive resorts typically encourages resort goers to stay on the premises. Resorts such as Sandals and Super Clubs go to great lengths to entertain and accommodate their guest every hour of the day and in order to make it unnecessary to leave the premises. In many ways, this can remove you from the culture of the surrounding area. Cruises offer the opportunity to briefly explore different ports of call with a guided tour that allows travelers to hit the high points of a culture in a short amount of time. In this way, the vacationer gets to have a unique experience that can include adventures such as historic exploration, parasailing and horseback riding. It balances the need for a relaxing vacation with the desire for mental and physical stimulation.
The experts at Endless Access find that it comes down to individual preference, noting, “We speak with clients every day that inevitably ask our travel consultants what type of vacation they would recommend, and we strive for an unbiased approach to cruises versus resorts. We recommend each client evaluate in depth what they would like to get out of that particular vacation before making a commitment on what accommodations would be best suited. We understand 'bang for your buck'; however, we also understand the importance of a quality experience.”
Further complicating the issue is making the vacation a shared experience between families and loved ones. When one family member or significant other values a different vacation experience from the other, it can be tough to come up with a vacation that is satisfying for everyone.
Christina Gregoire, Travel Examiner for Seattle Active Seniors, encounters this dilemma with her husband all the time. As she explains, her husband generally prefers cruise ships, while she enjoys land travel. Their solution is to trade off from one vacation to the next and make adjustments.
Gregoire finds great stimulation in the cultural immersion of a land trip. She likes to take her time and explore the nuances of a city without having to rush back to her ship, and she doesn't mind skimping on meals and accommodations as long as she can be in the cultural center. She also gives credit to some very interesting ports of call from her cruise vacations, noting that the land excursions took her to places she would probably never explore when planning her own land trip.
Cruises, land trips, and resort stays all appeal to different levels of taste and style and offer a chance to indulge in exploration, relaxation, or both. All-inclusive resorts, in addition to travel services such as Endless Access, can help prospective travelers take the guesswork out of vacation planning.
Lonni Delane contributed to this article.