Some river cruise operators are more inclusive than others. Generally, A-ROSA, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld are the most-inclusive — and also the most expensive we might add. But how much do the all-inclusive aspects save you? Let’s take a look.
Definition of an All-Inclusive River Cruise
There is no single or universal definition of what all-inclusive on a river cruise means. At the minimum, however, an all-inclusive river cruise should include Airport Transfer Fees, Port Charges and Prepaid Gratuities. A quick estimate of these fees is broken down as follows:
- Airport Transfer Fees: Average savings is about $50 per person round trip.
- Port Charges: Average savings is between $150 to $165 per person.
- Prepaid Gratuities: Average savings is between $150 and $175 per person for a 7-day cruise.
So what does this average out to for a week-long river cruise? About $350 to $390 per person. Comparatively, if one river cruise company was offering a package that was $2,000 per person and another company was offering a similar package that was all-inclusive for $2,300 per person, then in theory the second company would be offering better value, but this is not science, of course, and your mileage may vary.
Are Beverages Included?
While most companies offer some soft drinks throughout the day and house wine and beer with lunch and dinner, you will have to pay extra for beverages that are not included. For many travelers, including us, these inclusions are sufficient.
Some, however, would rather travel with a company that has an all-inclusive beverage policy, which means you generally won’t pay extra for premium brands of wine, beer and spirits (there may be charges for Connoisseur brands, however) no matter when you want to belly up to the bar. Bloody Mary in the morning? No charge. After dinner drink the lounge? You won’t need to pay for those either.
Companies that feature unlimited beverages, include A-ROSA, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld.
Depending on your consumption of beverages such as these, this might be a factor in your quest to identify the best all-inclusive deal. This savings is largely based on what and how much you consume.
Does the Fare Include a Laundry Facility or Laundry Services?
Laundry may not be on the top of your list when considering a river cruise, but it’s one of those things that can make a difference — especially if having clean clothes is important to you. Some companies have a laundry facility onboard that allows guests to use a washer and dryer, with laundry detergent provided, free of charge.
American Cruise Lines (Queen of the Mississippi), American Queen Steamboat Company and Uniworld (most ships) provide free laundry facilities to their guests.
And some companies take it a step further to offer free laundry service to some of their guests.
A-ROSA (Junior Suites and Balcony Suites), Emerald Waterways ( Owner’s Suite and Grand Balcony Suite), Scenic (guests in select staterooms) and Uniworld (Riverview Staterooms and Suites, as well as River Heritage guests) offer some form of complimentary service for European river cruises.
So how much value does this service carry? Well, if you had items washed each day as part of laundry service, you could save from $50 to $100 per person for a 7-day cruise.
Included laundry, or free use of launderettes, is a bonus that can make your river cruise experience more comfortable.
How All-Inclusive River Cruises Compare by Region
Typically, there are more all-inclusive packages for European river cruises than for river cruises in Asia or elsewhere.
River cruises in Asia are a little more complex, because they’re usually operated by third-party companies. For instance, Uniworld operates its Yangtze River cruises through Century Cruises on the Century Legend and the Century Paragon. Uniworld retains its all-inclusive policy on these vessels, however.
The bottom line is this – even though a company might offer an all-inclusive package in Europe, its Asian packages may differ. It’s best to check with your travel agent or the river cruise company to see if its all-inclusive policy applies to river cruises in Asia.
Are All-Inclusive River Cruises a Better Deal?
The answer depends on what you value in a package. A few companies provide nearly all-inclusive river cruises, but they also tend to be the most expensive options on the upfront fares. How much do you save by going all-inclusive? Not a lot likely. In fact, you may pay more on an all-inclusive river cruise than you would on one that was not quite as inclusive, where your spending for extras is a la carte. Also of value, however, is the convenience of not having to think about how much laundry or drinks outside of lunch and dinner is costing you. Take time to decide what’s important in a package and compare all-inclusive packages to those that are not.
Read other all-inclusive river cruise articles.