UPDATED Cruise vs All-Inclusive: The Pilkington Perspective

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

December 3, 2020 Update

This post was originally written after my first visit to an all-inclusive (AI) resort in August of 2019, during a time when cruising was an option. Since then, I have been on more cruises (last one in March, 2020) and have visited seven more AI resorts. While I miss cruising greatly and am sad each time more cruises are canceled, the experiences I have had at AI resorts in 2020 have been excellent, for the most part. You can read about them in my 3-part series of blog posts: "Cancun During COVID," (One, Two, & Three) as well as the ones I wrote about Le Blanc Los Cabos and Club Med Sandpiper Bay.

Considering the current state of the world, I believe that AI resorts are an excellent option, whether you are looking for a cruise substitute or a safe vacation. Here are a few reasons:

  • Travel Bubble: You get to "stay home" at your resort. There is no need to venture out for meals, etc. Since they are in warm destinations, there are plenty of outdoor dining options and outdoor activities. Although masks should be worn inside (and sometimes when moving around outside), it feels like an escape to a safe bubble. There haven't been any reports of outbreaks at resorts. When I have visited non-AI resorts and hotels, the struggle of finding a safe place to eat has been stressful, and I've often resorted to takeout or delivery.

  • The People: You get to know the staff, which is often a highlight of cruises. The resorts need business, and the staff are happy to see you. Also, since they are less busy, at certain resorts, the service is even more attentive.

  • Budget: There is something for every budget, and whether your budget is limited or limitless, you know what you are going to spend up front since it is all-inclusive. Considering the economic crisis that goes along with the pandemic, this is important for many people. Although gratuities are typically included, it's nice to remember to budget a bit of cash to take for outstanding service!

I have learned so much since I wrote this original post, and at this point in time, it's not about cruises vs all-inclusive. Previously, I thought you would miss out on culture and experiences by staying at an AI resort, but now, I think our priorities have changed. We need to relax, escape, connect with family & friends, and possibly experience a bit of culture. There are so many options that it can be overwhelming, so so finding the right fit for you at an AI resort is extremely important, whether you miss cruising or just need a safe vacation. That is what I'm here for as a travel advisor and why I visited seven resorts in 2020. The first hand experience is priceless!

Original August 2019 Post

This blog post is inspired by my recent visit to El Dorado Royale in Cancun, Mexico. It was my first visit to an all-inclusive resort. I discuss check-in, the property, entertainment, meal times and food, as well as entertainment and activities. Hopefully this helps, and feel free to reach out if I can help you decide what is best for you!

It is no secret, I love going on cruises, whether is a 3-day cruise or a 15-day cruise. I first started going on cruises when, as a single college professor, I was looking for somewhere to travel solo during spring break. I was able to afford a decent trip, but all of the “deals” I found required a single supplement (the fine print would say something like “$250 supplement for solo travelers”), or I would have to pay double. With a lot of internet research, I found out about Norwegian Cruise Line’s studio cabins, which are specifically for the solo cabins. I decided on the NCL Epic, which was one of the first ships to offer the studios. They also have the “Studio Lounge,” which hosts a daily solo meet-up. This is not a match making thing. It is simply to encourage people to mingle, make friends, and go to dinner and events together.

I had no idea whether or not I would love or hate the cruise, whether I would be bored, whether I would make friends, or what would happen. On the first night, I went to the solo gathering and ended up having dinner with three people who became my friends for the rest of the cruise. We had a fantastic time. There is a general understanding among solo travelers that there is no pressure to hang out. Solo time is respected, but if you want to interact, there is a place for you. At the end of the 7-day cruise, I didn’t want to leave. It was the most fun, relaxing vacation I had ever had. That was in 2015, and I have been on eight other NCL cruises since then, as well as one on Holland America and another with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. Even my worst cruise wasn’t bad, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

Now that I am a travel advisor, I feel a bit of a need to experience different locations and ways of traveling. As I travel, I try to see the big picture, but I also see myself as an advocate for the solo traveler. In the past year, I was unusually aware of several friends going on vacation in Cancun, so when I found myself with a few free days at the end of the summer, I decided on a quick visit to El Dorado Royale. Since they offered a rate for one person, that seemed like a good sign.

I flew direct from Atlanta to Cancun and then took the shuttle (paid for with my reservation) from Cancun airport to the resort. From the start, everyone was very friendly. However, check-in was annoying and lengthy. All I cared about was lunch since it was 2:00 EST and I hadn’t eaten. I was told that my room was not ready, but I was able to enjoy the property, eat lunch, etc, and return at 3:00 CST for my room. I had learned from cruises to pack my swimsuit in my backpack so that when my suitcase is taken, I can change. I did not realize that the same would apply here, so I was stuck in the clothes that I had flown in.

I was directed to a restaurant overlooking the ocean and had a nice, light lunch. I then checked out some of the property before going back to the lobby to see if my room was ready. It wasn’t, so I walked around some more and returned at 3:00. It still wan’t ready, and I showed obvious disappointment. About 30 seconds later, a bellman came and told me that we were going to go to my room, and hopefully it would be ready when we arrived. As we arrived, they were putting the finishing touches on the room, so that was fine! For comparison, a cruise is similar in this way. An announcement is made giving an estimate of when cabins will be ready, and then a final announcement is made when they are ready.  I appreciate that on a cruise, there is no need to keep checking, unless you choose to do that. Next time at a resort, I will be prepared with a change of clothes!


The property was beautiful and well maintained. The pools were plentiful, with bars and restaurants scattered about conveniently. Of course, this was a beachfront property, but I didn’t see a lot of people in the ocean or on the beach. Also, my room, which was descri