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All About All-Inclusive Vacations

Seven Myths Debunked

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Lovers Beach at Mango Bay

Lovers Beach at Mango Bay

Photo by Vince Sardone
By Susan Breslow Sardone

Whether you're planning on celebrating a honeymoon, an anniversary, or Valentine's Day, there's nothing as romantic as travel. As someone who's done a good amount of it, I used to look down on all-inclusive vacations. I thought they were cheap, tacky, regimented, over-sanitized, the fast-food equivalent of a honeymoon. (In case you're not familiar with the term, all-inclusive means a vacation where accommodations, food, activities, tips, and extras are all covered in one lump price).

I recently stayed at and visited a number of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. After what I experienced first-hand at some of the best hotels in the islands, I changed my mind: It's a terrific way to vacation. You can have all the adventures you want, while enjoying the comfort of a place where you don't have to reach into your wallet all day long. If you're a doubter like I was, allow me to do some debunking for you:

Myth No. 1:
All-inclusive vacationers are herded like sheep from one activity to another.

Wrong! How about a place where you have the best of both worlds -- complete privacy, plus a range of ongoing activities that you can join at will? At the comfortable and casual Mango Bay Hotel & Beach Club in Barbados , for example, guests are entitled to take a complimentary trip into Bridgetown on Friday mornings from 9am-1pm. As an all-inclusive guest, you can take or leave this option. Take it, and you pay nothing for the equivalent of a $40 roundtrip taxi ride into the capital city where you can shop and explore Bridgetown to your heart's content. There were also complementary snorkeling expeditions and boat trips to choose from. It won't just be the two of you, but the price is right. And many honeymooners find that they make lifelong friends on their first vacation together.


Myth No. 2:
It's boring to eat in the same place every day.

Daily menus change somewhat at an all-inclusive, and at least once a week there's a special event like a beach buffet or barbecue with local delicacies (like Barbados' flying fish) in addition to familiar items. For lunch, you can ask to have a picnic meal prepared. If you stay in a place like Half Moon Golf, Tennis & Beach Resort in Jamaica on the Imperial Plan, room service -- as well as the contents of the mini-bar -- are included in the rate. Half Moon also has several different restaurants on its 440-acre landscaped grounds including an English Pub, an Italian Restaurant, a Japanese teppanaki place, romantic Sugar Mill plantation, and the Sea Grape cafe right on the beach. Since nothing's as succulent as local fruit in the tropics, I suggest you buy a pineapple at Half Moon's commissary, have room service carve it for you, and feast on that one afternoon.


Myth No. 3:
There are hidden costs.

All-inclusive really is what it says...within reason. At Mango Bay Hotel and Resort Club in Antigua, the only extras we had to pay for were a telephone bill, a taxi ride to the casino in St. John's (which the hotel was kind enough to arrange for us), and what I spent -- ahem -- in the casino. But there was no cost for Simon from the hotel to take us by boat to Lovers Beach, a serene patch of sand lapped by warm, turquoise waters, and pick us up at the appointed time. (He even sailed over a little early just to make sure we were okay, then came back for us later at the appointed time.)


Myth No. 4:
You don't get to really see a destination when you're within the walls of an all-inclusive.

It's not prison! You can leave any time and go wherever you want to explore. You've read that I made forays to two capital cities from my all-inclusive aeries. In Barbados, we also had a taxi take us on a tour of the Atlantic side of the island for a set fee. Later we went to the spectacular Caribbean Show at Glitter Bay Hotel, which followed an extraordinary buffet meal at Piperade featuring coocoo, pumpkin fritters, lobster tails, roast beef, and luscious pastries such as banana-rum tart. Note: Glitter Bay is not all-inclusive, and this evening's food and entertainment cost about $60 US per person.

Myth No. 5:
There's not enough to do at one resort.

The average honeymoon lasts about eight days, and all-inclusives are experienced in helping guests be as active as they want to be. In addition to the full range of watersports that most all-inclusives offer (swimming at the beach or in a sparking clean pool, snorkeling, SCUBA lessons, aquacycles, sailing, kayaks), many also have tennis, golf, bicycling, exercise, and spa facilities available. And we didn't have to wait in line for a thing we wanted to do.

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