All-inclusive river cruises are immensely attractive. While they are generally priced higher than their non-inclusive counterparts, voyages on all-inclusive lines like A-ROSA, CroisiEurope, Scenic, Tauck, and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection can represent a real savings when you add up all of the extra-cost items that they are including in the base price of the cruise.
So what do all-inclusive lines typically include in your cruise fare? Here’s a look at the most common items.
Airport Transfers & Port Charges
It may seem like a small detail, but having transfers included from the airport to the ship and back can be a real deal, particularly in places like Nuremberg or Budapest, where the airport is a fair distance from the docking position of your river cruise ship.
Typically, airport transfers with non-inclusive lines are an additional cost that can be purchased separately or can be added in when you elect to buy the cruise line’s airfare.
Port Charges are another clever little beast. Some cruise lines include them, while others do not. These can add hundreds of dollars per person onto the purchase price of your cruise. Thankfully, what you see is what you get with the all-inclusive lines: There are no hidden costs just waiting to surprise you.
For many of us, one big draw of an all-inclusive river cruise is having all of your shipboard beverages included. While the vast majority of river cruise lines already offer more than your average oceangoing cruise line (beer, wine and soft drinks are complimentary on most lines at lunch and dinner), sometimes it’s nice to know you can order a glass of wine in the lounge in the afternoon and not have it charged to your onboard account.
Spirits can also be included, which can be good if you enjoy a bit of cognac or gin in the evening, or if you’re a fan of the cocktails. But even non-drinkers can appreciate the convenience of inclusive drinks; after all, it can be annoying to have a free Coca-Cola with lunch in the Restaurant, but an hour later in the Lounge it carries a €3 charge.
Of course, the complimentary beverages extend to bottled water (still and sparkling), all specialty coffees, and juices. Some lines may still offer an ultra-premium spirits and wine list at an extra cost, however, but such lists are intended for the true connoisseur.
Excursions That Others May Offer As Optional Fee-Based Excursions
All-inclusive river cruise lines will usually offer all excursions ashore on a complimentary basis. Many of these can be quite elaborate, and can represent a significant savings over river cruise lines that offer optional, fee-based tours to far-flung or alternate destinations.
Some all-inclusive river cruise lines (Uniworld, for example) also offer some optional shore excursions that carry a per-person charge.
Many all-inclusive river cruise lines also offer complimentary bicycles that are carried aboard your ship for guests to use while ashore. Maps and directions can be provided by the front desk, and together these can make an excellent do-it-yourself shore excursion.
All-inclusive river cruise lines typically include all gratuities, which can save guests around €150 per person on a typical weeklong river cruise, and substantially more on longer sailings.
Including gratuities also reduces stress for many international travellers. While tipping is common in the United States, it isn’t in many other countries, where service charges are built into the price of consumer goods.
Having gratuities included (or not expected) also means that you don’t have to worry about handling any end-of-cruise formalities, queuing up at the Front Desk to have gratuities added to your credit card, or stuffing cash into envelopes. It’s all been taken care of.
Some cruise lines take the all-inclusive mantra to exemplary heights. If you’re on-tour ashore with Tauck, for example, the line will even throw in a few Euro coins to allow you to use Europe’s famous pay-per-use public toilets. Not having to fish through your pockets for 50 Euro cents? Priceless.
While there are still subtle differences between the all-inclusive river cruise lines, on the whole they are more similar than not. Their chief advantage: Offering a price that is largely all-in at the time of booking, meaning you can relax and enjoy your vacation rather than worrying how much that glass of cognac is going to cost, or whether to take that €100 per person shore excursion.