All-Inclusive holidays are, like microwaveable pizza or David Moyes, a great idea in principle but can too often end up in disappointment. The concept is sound enough; get the unpleasant payment part of your holiday out of the way before you go and then you are free to relax for the entirety of your fortnight in the sun; blissfully eating, drinking and relaxing without worrying about the colossal bill you might be running up. What's not to love?
Not every All-Inclusive is created equal however. To the unwary the reality can be one eating in substandard canteen-style cafeterias serving school dinner-like food; grudgingly imbibing strange drinks of dubious provenance whilst gazing longingly at an extensive menu of tantalising yet expensive extras that are required to make the holiday half decent. I've been to such places (not with Caribtours I hasten to add), where the included food was so bad that you were forced to eat in the premium restaurants every night; the wine list was heavy with Albanian Riesling but very light on anything remotely drinkable and the activities all cost more than the debt of a small third world country. It completely defeated the object of an All-Inclusive holiday and was enough to put you off the concept for life.
However, it doesn't have to be this way. I've also been fortunate enough to stay in some amazing All-Inclusive properties where the restaurants are a gastronaut's delight, the premium brand drinks flow freely, and there are a multitude of sports and activities included in the price. It is these hotels where the All-Inclusive concept really pays off. If you're not worrying about the cost you can really appreciate the value.
I spoke to our product team to get their advice on what to look out for when considering an All-Inclusive holiday. Katherine from the Caribbean team says: "Sounds obvious but find out exactly what’s included. The cheaper resorts might not always offer the best value. If you’re a keen golfer for example, you might be better offer paying slightly more for a hotel that includes golf instead of paying locally each time you play. And make sure you choose the right resort for you – there are many different styles of All-Inclusive resort, some are very active, all-singing, all-dancing resorts where you have every facility imaginable, others cater specifically to the family market with complimentary kids' clubs and others are smaller boutique adult only resorts where the focus is on good food and relaxation."
Nicola from the Indian Ocean and Arabia team adds: "I would also say check which restaurants are included as All-Inclusive is generally applicable to the main restaurant and then you may or may not be able to dine at the other resort restaurants without paying a supplement. It is also a good idea to check if a daily replenished mini bar is included as this can represent a massive saving – it is at LUX* Le Morne in Mauritius."
Nicola also advises not to limit yourself to the hotels that are exclusively All-Inclusive. "We also have a lot of resorts which are not All-Inclusive as standard but offer a great value All-Inclusive supplement, in particular Sugar Beach, Olhuveli, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu and JA Palm Tree Court, so it’s worth looking out for these. At JA Palm Tree Court, for example, the All-Inclusive supplement option includes all restaurants, including those at sister resort JA Jebel Ali next door, so 15 in total, as well as a 30-minute back massage, a dinner cruise, one round of pistol or clay pigeon shooting, one private tennis session and much more. Or if you’re not a big drinker but like a glass of wine with lunch and/or dinner, rather than paying for All-Inclusive look for a Full Board Plus option such as the one at Constance Belle Mare Plage."
All-Inclusive hotels don't just differ when it come to the food and drink. Some of the hotels in our portfolio offer some truly unique experiences, all of which are included in the price. Katherine lists: "Catamaran cruise to swim with turtles at Mango Bay; daily 50-minute spa treatments and activities like archery and fencing at The BodyHoliday; waterskiing, wakeboarding and knee-boarding at Windjammer Landing; weekly lobster barbecue at East Winds Inn; scuba diving at Sandals and Beaches resorts; deep sea fishing at Curtain Bluff; unlimited golf green fees, glass bottom boat tour and sunset catamaran tour at Couples Swept Away; daily hikes and excursions at Jungle Bay; laundry service and unlimited international phone calls at Zoëtry Agua; dance classes and Spanish lessons at Secrets Royal Beach and Now Larimar; wine tasting, cookery and massage classes at Paradisus Playa del Carmen; tennis, football, rugby and cricket coaching (often with high profile sports stars) and singing classes at Harlequin Theatre School at Buccament Bay… I could go on."
One of the other criticisms of All-Inclusive hotels is that they discourage visitors from exploring the destination they are visiting and take away the income that would be spend in the local economy with local people. Our hoteliers are challenging this perception in different ways. Sugar Ridge in Antigua, for instance, allows clients on their All-Inclusive plan to eat at three local restaurants as part of the package. Other hotels have schemes set up to directly assist the local community. An excellent example of this is the Sandals Foundation that is involved in a huge range of community, education and environmental projects around the Caribbean.
Ultimately it's clear that All-Inclusive doesn’t have to mean cheap, low quality hotels; some of the most luxurious resorts we offer are All-Inclusive, yet there are still plenty of excellent value hotels with impeccable All-Inclusive offerings. Speak to one of our experts who will be able to suggest the perfect match for your budget and the type of holiday you want.