What is better value for money? All-inclusive or pay-as-you-go cruises?


It’s a question cruisers regularly pose: What is better value – all-inclusive or pay-as-you-go? Sarah Loughlin does the maths on shore excursions, drinks, Wi-Fi and gratuities on two seven-night cruises from Venice to Rome (balcony cabin), departing in October, 2017.

The All-Inclusive

Ship: Regent Seven Seas Explorer 

Itinerary: Venice – Umbria – Dubrovnik – Kotor – Corfu – Messina – Naples – Rome

Cost: Veranda Suite $6415 pp twin share ($916.43 per day)

This cruise is aboard the new Seven Seas Explorer (pictured above) – said to be the most luxurious ship at sea. Launched earlier this year she has 10 decks and can accommodate 750 passengers. Regents offer a small ship with a relaxed but elegant dress code, and the sophisticated atmosphere you would expect on a luxury cruise.

The Pay As You Go

Ship: Cunard Queen Victoria

Itinerary: Venice – Kotor – Corfu – Sardinia – Naples – Rome

Cost: Balcony Cabin $1756 pp twin share ($250.86 per day)

Queen Victoria has 1003 cabins accommodating 1988 passengers over 12 decks. She was launched in 2007 and refurbished in 2015. Cunard offer a very traditional cruise, the décor and atmosphere of the ship have a certain old world charm. The cruise is refined and elegant, with a formal dress code.

An initial price difference of $665.77 per day.

But let’s see how we get on once we begin enjoying what’s on offer … 

Specialty Restaurants

AlI-Inclusive: Passengers can choose from nine complimentary dining options, with all drinks, service charges and gratuities included. There is also the option of 24-hour room service.

Pay-as-you-go: Queen Victoria also offers complimentary room service, plus three complimentary, and two specialty restaurants. For a three-course lunch or dinner at the Verandah, Cunard charge $20 or $32 per person respectively. At the Lido, alongside the complimentary buffet, there is also a pop-up restaurant in the evenings charging $20 per person.


AI: Unlimited wine, beer, premium spirits, cabin minibar, service charges and gratuities are included.

PAYG: Cunard liken their onboard prices to that of a London bar, starting from $8 for a pint of beer, $13.40 for a large glass of wine, and $9.80 for a spirit. In the dining areas the wine list has a good selection of bottles from $41-67, although you can pay considerably more! There is complimentary tea, coffee and juice in the dining areas, but if you want a specialty coffee it will cost extra. Cunard doesn’t offer an alcoholic drinks package, but there is a soft drinks package for $8.80, and a pre-paid coffee card for $52, valid for 10 coffees. An automatic service charge of 15% will be added to any drinks, whether enjoyed in a restaurant or ordered to your cabin.


AI: Regent offers a choice of complimentary excursions in every port, for example in Naples there are four excursions including a visit to Pompeii, Sorrento and Herculaneum, or an historic tour of Naples. There are other excursions you can pay extra for, such as a day cruise to the Island of Capri.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

PAYG: The good thing about pay as you go cruises is that you get a much wider choice. In Naples, Cunard offer 15 diverse excursions from wine tasting, to a 4×4 adventure. The comparative prices of the complimentary Regent excursions are: Pompeii $59, Herculaneum $111, Sorrento $92.


AI: Regent include unlimited Wi-Fi throughout the ship.

PAYG: Cunard offers Wi-Fi packages while on board: 130 minutes for $65, 260 minutes for $122 and 510 minutes for $228. If you buy the 510-minute package this gives you just over an hour of Wi-Fi per day to check in with the world back home.

The Result

AI: $6,416 = Total $916.65 per day

PAYG: $1756 = $250.88 per day + $22.50 per day gratuity + $31.70 per day for one hour’s Wi-Fi + $111.35 per day for an excursion + $32.70 for dinner at the Verandah + $76.60 for drinks (1 x coffee, soft drinks package, ½ bottle of wine, three cocktails) + 15 per cent service on all drinks $7.15 = Total $532.84 per day.

Estimated difference per day $383.72.


Unless you have a taste for expensive champagne or plan to drink the boat dry, it is probably cheaper to book a pay-as-you-go cruise. Ultimately it will depend on how much you want to check your emails, what activities you want to do in port, and how many bottles of wine you get through. It is also worth noting that no two itineraries or ships are exactly the same. Regent is also a slightly more luxurious ship with two extra ports of call on the itinerary.

Have you booked all-inclusive or pay-as-you-go? Let us know what you think below or on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/cruiseandtravelasia