Planning Guide

Things Your All-Inclusive Resort Won't Tell You

1.    "All-Inclusive Doesn't Include Everything"

All InclusiveMany people are tempted to pay for all-inclusive resort vacation believing that they won't have to pull out their wallet anymore. But in fact, the term "all-inclusive" very often means different things to different people. For example, if you are going to stay at one of the Beaches resorts make sure you read the fine print in the brochure that says that such recreational activities as golf and deep-see fishing are charged extra fee. In Club Med's brochures you can read that their guests can enjoy gourmet dining without paying a check and order their favorite drinks off the top shelf but in the very fine print it is written that it doesn't include Club Med's mandatory membership fees (which would cost several hundred dollars for a family of four with two teenage children). According to information provided by the spokesperson for the Beaches resorts the activities mentioned above cost extra because they are owned by third party vendors. A spokesperson for Club Med explains that although the resort's membership fee is fact mandatory, the resort guests can dine and use the facilities at other Club Med resorts.

2.    "Our Service Can Be Pretty Slack Sometimes"

Some people do complain of poor service offered by some all-inclusive resorts. And Jack Franchek, the founder of a consulting service, is not surprised by that. He says that while non-inclusive resorts advertise their services at the reasonable price and then try to sell the customer as much as possible during their stay on site all-inclusive resorts promise the moon and then try to provide as little as possible.

3.    "Charter Flights Aren't Exactly the Friendly Skies"

Some years ago charter flights were the most popular means of getting to all-inclusive resorts, especially those located more out of the way. But now when there are so many inexpensive airlines and it has become so easy to book tickets online the popularity of charter flights has declined substantially. As a result, more and more resorts started offering bargains on their charter flights, especially during the off-season. If you still decide to fly charter, consider the following limitations. Unlike major regular airlines charters rarely rebook you if your flights is delayed or cancelled. Besides, they will give you a refund only if the flight is delayed more than 48 hours. And keep in mind that as a rule most charter flights have narrower seats than commercial aircraft, and you are likely to be cramped all trip long.

4.    "Our Hurricane Guarantee Doesn't Guarantee Much"

As the chance of having your perfect Caribbean vacation ruined by hurricane increases tenfold from June to November, several resort chains started offering their hurricane guarantees. But the trouble is that it is often hard to collect on them. For example, when Hurricane Jose swept by the Caribbean in October 1999, guests having vacation at Sandals St. Lucia couldn't swim, enjoy water sports or just have a walk along the beach. And even though this resort does claim to offer their "Blue Chip Hurricane Guarantee" which means providing free vacations to clients in case hurricane hits the resort, those guests were denied by Sandals because the eye of the hurricane had not passed directly over the resort. 

5.    "Your Travel Agent Will Make a Killing off Us"

Nowadays when there are so many internet travel sites and airlines offering deals directly to their customers, it is becoming more difficult for travel agents to retain their market share. And all-inclusive resorts remain the last frontier of profit for travel agents as the resorts do provide generous perks to travel agents who send customers to them. Many all-inclusive resorts offer travel agents such incentives as providing American Express gift checks to barbeques or even a free night's stay in their resort for every all-inclusive package they sell. No wonder that many travel agents work very hard to persuade their customers to choose all-inclusive resorts rather than consider other options.   

6.    " We Really Want to Sell You a Time Share"

Some all-inclusive resorts sell time shares which are very big business in some places. For example, about the third of all-inclusive hotels in Cancun, Mexico and approximately 40 percent of resorts in Aruba do so, and some hotels sell them very hard. Sometimes the resort staff is so aggressive about promoting their time-shares that guests may find it difficult to enjoy their vacation. And some customers even complained of being treated badly by the resort staff after they showed no interest in that sort of offers. If you are not interested in purchasing a time-share and to avoid feeling frustrated, consider choosing big resort chains such as Sandals, SuperCups or Club Med which don't sell time-shares to their customers.

7.    "Don't Expect Much Peace and Quiet"

Recently, Caribbean resorts have been known to go after the family market. While a great number of resorts do their best to clearly describe which locations are for adult and which are for families, some resorts don't take it too seriously and often misunderstandings can occur. For example, a couple who went to the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort in Antigua for their honeymoon was very surprised to see kids in diapers going into the pool. The problem was that during the period of time between the couple booked the room and the time they actually arrived, this place had been bought by Allegro Resorts which was targeted at families as well. But even today the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort in Antigua is known as a family destination but it is still marketed to couples as Antigua's popular romantic all-inclusive resort playground. And only on their website you can see information written in the small print that the resort welcomes couples, families and singles. Even if you are sure you've selected the right resort for your vacation, keep in mind that you may still find it difficult to have a peaceful and quiet vacation in the summer, during school breaks and Christmas time when all-inclusive resorts are likely to teem with kids and college students.

8.    "Our Rooms Don't Look Anything Like the Ones in the Brochure"

Some people complained that resort rooms that they had booked turned out to be less comfortable than those advertised in the resort's brochures. Some customers were very dissatisfied by Grande Luxe rooms offered by Sandals Royal Caribbean though the brochure said that they were offering lavish suits with sumptuous bed. The customers complained that bathroom fixtures in their "lavish" suite were old and leaky, not to mention dirty tile and stuck toilet.

9.    "Open Bar Isn't as Great as It Sounds"

Of course the idea of having unlimited drinks on your all-inclusive vacation is very appealing, but don't expect that you will be served top-shelf drinks all the time. And if you want to be served something high quality and expensive you will have to ask for it, because every time you are served a gin and tonic they are not pouring Tanqueray. And even if there is some premium-brand beverage available, there isn't great variety of liquor as many resorts have contracts with that country's distributors to serve local beer and wine for meals. 

And this is not the only problem. Unlimited drinks often mean big crowds at the bar and as a result not all guests are willing to wait in a long line for the bartender to serve the drink and therefore have to consume less than they would love to.    

10.    "We Can Be Bad for the Local Economy"

If you spend your vacation in Europe or major U.S. cities you support local businesses as you eat in local restaurants and shop in local stores. To cut a long story short, your money flows directly to people who live there. But that is not the case when you stay in a big all-inclusive luxurious resort especially foreign-owned where they bring in a lot of their labor, bring in containers for all their food and totally manage the entire business. By statistics, if you stay at a local inn, your every dollar can recirculate up to eight times within the local economy whereas a dollar spent at an all-inclusive mega resort is going to recirculate just 1.4 times. 

Things to Do

  1.  It is a good idea to hire a qualified travel agent because you may come up with a cheap all-inclusive package that will be less expensive than a non-inclusive one.
  2. When discussing your dream vacation with a travel agent be specific about what you really want and don't hold back on the details to make sure you'll get what you need.
  3. To spend as little as possible on site resist extra services provided by third parties, such as scuba-diving or ballroom dance lessons. 
  4.  If you would like to get some extra services choose reliable third party vendors that work with the resort on a permanent basis.
  5. As "all-inclusive" doesn't mean unlimited, make sure to ask about any limits on things like room service and the number of meals in the restaurant.