Spoiler alert: I’ve never been on a cruise.
But I know a couple who had never cruised before. They decided to take a romantic holiday—on a Disney Cruise Ship, of all places—and became diehard cruisers for life!
When it comes to the pros of a cruise vs. an all-inclusive resort honeymoon, you should experience relaxation, pampering, and activities when you want them, and have many of the little details taken care of for you on a cruise or at an all-inclusive resort.
That’s what many honeymoon couples want and deserve!
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort—Which Is Best for You?
Here’s a handy checklist of questions and answers to help you decide whether a cruise vs. all-inclusive resort is best for you.
We’ve also got FAQs for other questions that you might have, so keep reading!
1. Are you two social butterflies, or do you want quiet time with each other on your honeymoon?
I’ve heard couples ask, “Will I get bored at an all-inclusive resort?”
Some couples love to meet other people on vacation, even on their honeymoon.
If you don’t mind sitting with new people during your meals—or you enjoy that—the main dining venues on cruise ships generally seat travelers together during “Traditional Dining” times.
But there is a flip side to cruising—on a typical cruise of the Western, Eastern, or Southern Caribbean, you will spend from two to four days at sea. Knowing what activities are offered on a cruise ship is crucial so you don’t get “bored on board.”
2. What is your honeymoon budget?
This question is a popular search term online: Is it cheaper to go on a cruise or all-inclusive vacation?
There’s a common misconception that a cruise is less expensive than an all-inclusive resort, so we’d like to bust that myth today.
The simple truth is that you can find a cruise or all-inclusive resort to meet any budget. It depends on what you’re looking for and the quality you expect on your honeymoon.
The other major difference between cruise ship cabins and all-inclusive resort suites is room sizes.
Cruising accommodations may be affordable with excellent housekeeping services. Still, bigger cabins, better amenities, and an ocean view or veranda on a cruise is the best idea for honeymoon couples, and that’s going to drive up your honeymoon budget a lot.
Wedding Pioneer Travel Tip: check out our Cheapest Sandals Resorts Ranked By Value In 2023!
Keep reading because we’ve got a fun comparison of the best cruises and all-inclusive resorts—at every price point—so you can read it for yourself.
3. Do you want to be on the go and experience different places during your honeymoon?
My friends (the Disney cruisers!) don’t mind being on a schedule on vacation. They loved going to new ports on their cruise, even though they admitted that returning to the ship on time was a little hectic in some places.
Some couples prefer to unpack once on a cruise and be able to visit different destinations and enjoy the cruise ship during their honeymoon. Others want to enjoy a more extensive suite at an all-inclusive resort and visit sister properties nearby.
Sandals also offers a Stay at One, Play at All program—so you can enjoy Sandals in different Caribbean countries on your honeymoon!
4. Are you into land sports like golf or watersports like scuba or waterskiing?
People on cruises have a mind-blowing amount of choices for on-shore excursions, and it’s sometimes hard to choose one thing to do in each port. Always be aware of traffic conditions and add extra time so you make it back to the ship.
For couples who want to be active on their honeymoon but with more relaxed timelines, look to the 8 Best Sandals Resorts for Golf or the 11 Best Sandals Resorts for Scuba Diving & Snorkeling.
The main difference between a cruise and an all-inclusive resort is knowing everything that is offered for the base price you pay. We’ll get into that next!
5. Are you concerned about hidden charges and fees?
If you’re wondering, is it worth paying for an all-inclusive resort? I will say it depends.
Check out Breezes vs. Sandals — A Review for Your Destination Wedding for an excellent overview of the differences in quality between all-inclusive resorts.
The best way to lessen your worries about hidden charges on a cruise vs. all-inclusive resort is to do your homework—or just keep reading this article because we’ve got tips and tricks!
While a cruise ship honeymoon may cost less initially, the upcharges on drink packages, optional meals, and excursions add up, and some couples can’t believe the gratuities (often 18% or more) on restaurant bills or drink orders if you don’t purchase a package.
If you’re not intending to drink much alcohol (like our friends, the Disney cruisers), you can purchase a less expensive package for your non-alcoholic beverages, which helps a lot.
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort: Your Best Honeymoon Destination
A popular question for any vacationer is, which Caribbean country is the best for all-inclusive resorts?
Not surprising to us, some of the most popular Caribbean all-inclusive resorts are in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios in Jamaica and the Cancun, Cozumel, and Riviera Maya region of Mexico.
Wedding Pioneer Travel Tip: Check out our Jamaica vs. Mexico Honeymoon review: Top Five Destination Picks.
I thought I’d check the Royal Caribbean cruise line site for the best Caribbean ports of call. Their top ten Caribbean destinations include Curacao, Cozumel, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Barbados.
So, instead of giving you generic info on accommodations, food, and activities on a cruise vs. an all-inclusive resort, we compared specific all-inclusive resorts in these honeymoon destinations versus cruise ships that visit these islands as ports of call.
Although these cruise ship itineraries or resort restaurant menus can change, you can get an idea of travel time, base prices, food, and activities on a cruise vs. an all-inclusive resort.
We chose budget options, midrange choices, and luxury honeymoons to give you the best ideas. Enjoy!
Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort: Best Budget Honeymoon
I watched a fantastic video earlier today that I’ll recommend to all our honeymoon couples. Search online for North America’s worst cruise ship so you’ll know why we aren’t suggesting a bargain-basement cruise experience for your honeymoon.
With reasonable expectations, here is a sample of the best budget honeymoon cruise!
Best Budget Cruise—Bahamas and Mexico
The Celebrity Beyond cruise ship departs from Fort Lauderdale. One of their most affordable cruises visits Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and the small island of Bimini in the Bahamas.
Unlike flying to a Caribbean island to get to a resort, the travel time on a cruise is measured by departures, arrivals, and days at sea. When you visit a port, you generally arrive between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and leave between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- Travel Time: Depart Fort Lauderdale at 4 p.m. on day one and spend day 2 at sea. Arrive at Grand Cayman on day 3. Arrive in Cozumel on day 4. Day 5 at sea. Day 6 in Bimini, overnight to Fort Lauderdale, cruise ends early on day 7 (7 a.m.).
- Base prices: Current base prices for 2024 departures (per person) range from $992 for an inside cabin, $1,101 for an ocean view, $1,494 for a cabin with a veranda, $1,603 for a concierge class cabin, and more for the most luxurious cabins.
- Food: The website describes “32 distinct food and beverage experiences,” including four main restaurants included in your package (other specialty restaurants and lounges are an additional charge).
- Onboard Activities: Celebrity cruises have entertainment options, a casino, and spa services (additional charge). The activities offered will vary by the type of ship, but here is a basic overview,
- Fees and charges: Additional charges may include gratuities and Wi-Fi, and you should review the detailed Guest Ticket Contract to be fully aware of all other fees and charges for onboard services and offshore excursions.
Best Budget All-Inclusive Resort—Jamaica
All-inclusive resorts in Jamaica offer great food, drinks (alcoholic and non), scenery, and culture, and you’ll find some of the most affordable honeymoon resorts on this stunning Caribbean island. A bonus is that airport transfers are included to these resorts!
Modern chic and private exclusivity, meet in the heart of Jamaica in a resort that features the best of both worlds. On one side of paradise, discover the beachside Caribbean Riviera with a hot beach club.
Sandals Ochi is renowned for being an inexpensive, couples-only resort in Ocho Rios. This massive seaside resort is built into a lush hillside, which offers excellent views for guests, although guests with mobility issues should review this accessibility guide.
- Travel Time: Expect between 90 minutes to two hours from Sangster International Airport, depending on local traffic, or see if there’s a flight to Ian Fleming International Airport, which is only nine miles away.
- Base prices: Rates are per person per night and based on a 3-night stay, ranging from $186 for a Great House room, a Beachfront Club room with room service for $223, and a Honeymoon Villa with a private pool, hot tub, and kitchenette for $514. Other room categories are available.
- Food: 16 restaurants are included in your 3-night or more honeymoon package. Click on the restaurant tab for gorgeous photos and menus. Not all restaurants are open daily or for every meal, and reservations are a great idea for sit-down meals.
- Activities: Click on water sports, land sports, golf green fees, a state-of-the-art gym, and scuba for certified divers for everything included in your honeymoon at Sandals Ochi. The Rabbit Hole Speakeasy has some of the best nightlife!
- Fees and charges: Check out our recent article, The Hidden Costs of ‘All-inclusive’ Resorts—7 Things to Know for all the info on additional services and vacation extras.
Wedding Pioneer Travel Tip: Another affordable all-inclusive resort in Jamaica is the ever-popular Sandals Negril. Check out our recent review—Sandals Negril Review: Your All-Inclusive Destination!
Oceanview Cruise Cabin vs. Beachfront All-Inclusive Resort—Best Midrange-Price Honeymoon
If you love strolling a white sand beach in the Caribbean, you can do that by booking an all-inclusive honeymoon resort or visiting a local beach on a cruise excursion.
For many of us, the most romantic and captivating thing about the sea is the view, so we looked at the best mid-range options in an oceanview cabin on a cruise vs. an oceanfront suite at an all-inclusive resort.
What’s the best honeymoon view for you?
Best Midrange-Price Oceanview Cabin for Honeymoon
Every Disney Cruise ship has Deluxe categories of Oceanview Staterooms, and the “Magic” and “Wonder” cabins feature queen beds and verandahs, and most deluxe staterooms should have at least a partial ocean view.
You’ll have a small sitting area with a TV and a couch, and some staterooms feature one and a half bathrooms. The verandah has lighting and patio furniture to recline and watch the world go by as you cruise across the seas!
Our Disney cruiser friends enjoyed the “adult-exclusive” areas onboard the ship, including an upper pool deck with a bar and lounge for grown-ups.
We looked at a 7-night Western Caribbean Disney cruise:
- Travel Time: Sailing from Saturday to Saturday with stops in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and a day spent on Disney’s Castaway Cay. Two days are spent at sea.
- Base prices: Current prices for 2024 departures (per person) stateroom begin at $1,652 per person for a stateroom with veranda (try to get a partial oceanview veranda cabin for an additional fee).
- Food: “Adult-exclusive” restaurants on board some Disney cruise ships include Palo restaurant for Northern Italian specialties (additional charges apply). Disney cruises also feature “rotational dining,” so you can experience a different restaurant menu every day of your cruise.
- Activities: Besides live shows onboard and Disney character greetings on the ship, you will visit Castaway Cay, an exclusive island for Disney cruise guests. The Buena Vista movie theater also shows the newest Disney films and blockbusters.
Best Midrange-Price Oceanfront Suite All-Inclusive for Honeymoon
Sandals Dunn’s River has been completely transformed into the brand’s newest luxury-included resort for couples.
The resort has a special location on Jamaica’s north coast, close to scenic rivers and waterfalls, including the historic and internationally renowned Dunn’s River Falls.
One-Bedroom SkyPool Suites at Sandals Dunn’s River combine modern amenities and timeless romance in spectacular style. Imagine the two of you sipping a beverage while floating in your private SkyPool with infinite views of the electric blue Caribbean Sea.
There’s also a private soaking tub for two on the balcony and a comfy outdoor dining set. Indoors, revel in your king-sized bed with plush seating areas and two Smart TVs. You won’t believe the spa bath with another soaking tub and walk-in shower!
- Travel Time: Sangster International Airport is just under 90 minutes away in good traffic conditions, and airport transfers are included in your stay.
- Base prices: Current prices for 3-night stays begin at $618 per person per night, and keep this Sandals Specials tab handy for honeymoon savings!
- Food: 12 specialty restaurants are included in your stay, including gourmet French, delicious Italian, Asian Fusion, and Latin Fusion. Premium beverages and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee are always included.
- Activities: Complimentary golf green fees and all the luxury-included amenities at Sandals Dunn’s River. Check this Jamaica Guide for a wealth of things to do, and if you want to enjoy your incredible suite, you’ll receive room service 24 hours a day.
Next up, our comparison of two luxury honeymoon choices to help you decide between a cruise vs. all-inclusive resort honeymoon of a lifetime!
Best Luxury Cruise vs. All-Inclusive Resort for Honeymoons
Our luxury cruise choice is Norwegian.
Norwegian offers a Freestyle Cruising experience that appeals to many travelers—as it sounds, “freestyle” means you get to follow your own schedule (within reason).
Our luxury all-inclusive resort choice is Sandals Royal Caribbean in Jamaica.
Let’s check out the best of the best!
Luxury Cruise Cabin—The Haven by Norwegian
A leading industry magazine voted The Haven as having the best accommodations in cruising. It’s actually like a “ship within a ship,” with priority dining and entertainment choices for Haven guests, as well as an exclusive sundeck on the top level of the ship.
Luxury choices for honeymooners include a Spa Suite with Balcony, relatively compact at well under 400 square feet but adorned with a king-sized bed, hot tub, and an ensuite spa with spray jets and a large waterfall shower.
Spa Suites with Balcony are available on Norwegian ships called Escape, Getaway, Breakaway, Bliss, and Epic.
- Travel Time: We checked out a 7-day cruise departing from Miami with stops in Roatan, Belize, and two stops in Mexico, including Cozumel (two days at sea).
- Base prices: Current prices for a Spa Suite with Balcony begin at $4,244 per person for the selected cruise (other dates and ships available).
- Food: Included dining options range from extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets, as well as specialty dining options and meal service provided by a 24-hour butler to your suite.
- Activities: All onboard amenities and exclusive amenities for guests of The Haven.
Luxury All-Inclusive Resort—Sandals Royal Caribbean, Jamaica
This luxury all-inclusive resort in Jamaica embraces the refined British heritage with a Georgian-style Great House, manicured gardens with roaming peacocks, authentic British Pub, and afternoon tea traditions.
You’ll find two luxury honeymoon suites here, the first in the Caribbean—an Over the Water Private Villa with an Infinity Pool and an Over the Water Private Honeymoon Bungalow.
These unforgettable accommodations offer luxury furnishings and glass floors to view the marine life underneath you. The most luxurious part of your private villa is the infinity pool and sundeck that’s just for you!
- Travel Time: You’re under ten minutes from the airport to Sandals Royal Caribbean, and guests staying in the private villa or bungalow suites receive private airport transfers in a luxury BMW.
- Base prices: Current prices for a Private Villa with Pool start at $2,355 per person per night, and Private Bungalows start at $1,663 per person per night (check out specials and a honeymoon package for three nights or more booked online).
- Food: 21 specialty food options to enjoy between Sandals Royal Caribbean and its sister resort, Sandals Montego Bay, with premium beverages always included.
- Activities: With a private offshore island and the 2X The Fun exchange program in Montego Bay, you’ll be amazed at the many fun things to see and do!
Do you still have questions? We hope so! Here’s a list of cruise vs. all-inclusive resort FAQs to help you choose the best honeymoon.
Honeymoon Cruise FAQs
Do we have to sit with other people at meals on our cruise?
If you’re booking a luxury cruise like The Haven level on a Norwegian ship, you’ll have priority seating and should have no problems requesting a private table for your meals.
Other cruise lines should offer you a private table—if you take the time to speak with a concierge. Better yet, try talking to a customer service agent with the cruise line about your dining preferences while booking your honeymoon.
Sometimes, you can ask the wait staff for a private table when you arrive at a “traditional dining” reservation, but you may have to wait for a private table to be located for you.
Do cruises only depart from Florida?
While many cruise lines utilize Miami or Fort Lauderdale as their home ports in the U.S., you can find cruises that depart from Texas, New Orleans, South Carolina, Puerto Rico (San Juan), as well as Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Palm Beach, and Tampa in Florida.
Why do some people prefer cruising?
I took a deep dive into some cruise blogs, and there are compelling arguments as to why some higher-cost cruises appeal more to people seeking quality and variety, especially when it comes to dining.
One experienced cruiser online compared an all-inclusive in Riviera Maya, Mexico, with a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that famously offers top-notch amenities like Broadway-quality shows and adventurous activities like a rock-climbing wall.
In this person’s opinion, the dining options on the cruise surpassed the all-inclusive in Mexico. She even compared pictures of specialty meals on the cruise vs. the all-inclusive resort, and the difference in presentation quality appears to be noticeable.
One thing to note—although a cruise might offer more dining choices, you’ll face a considerable upcharge for every specialty meal. That’s why we recommend award-winning all-inclusive resorts serving fresh, sustainable food and the world’s best cuisine.
How can I get a better deal on a cruise?
I found a lot of great blogs on cruising, and some of these websites offer deals for a specific cruise line. Alternatively, check cruise line websites frequently for pop-up deals like 75% off a second passenger.
Would a cruise ship leave without me?
Personally, this would be my nightmare, too!
But diehard cruisers like my Disney friends say it gets easier to make sure you’re back on the ship before what they call the final “all aboard time.”
Usually, this means that you get back to the ship at least an hour before the set time to leave port, which also means that you get one less hour to spend on shore.
One way to ensure the ship will stick around for you is by booking a “ship-sponsored excursion.” These are often more expensive, but the ship has to wait for passengers who get delayed on excursions offered through the cruise line.
All Inclusive Resort FAQs
Is airfare included in an all-inclusive resort price?
As Sandals travel specialists, we can tell you that flights can be built into your Sandals stay as an add-on cost. If you prefer to search yourself for flight deals, you can also check Skyscanner or Google Flights online for the best flight prices.
What’s a Vacation Extra?
The Vacation Extras page gives you specific information on everything you need to know about add-on excursions or spa treatments available to you at the resort.
Why do some people prefer an all-inclusive resort?
Speaking from experience, the right all-inclusive resort offers value, freedom, and more accommodation space to truly make yourself at home.
Some couples want the most relaxing experience, but if you’re more active, remember to look for an all-inclusive that offers exchange privileges with sister resorts for a change of scenery.
Wedding Pioneer Travel Tip: Check out these Insider Tips and Tricks to get the most out of your all-inclusive honeymoon!
Do we always need to make dinner reservations?
Not every restaurant at an all-inclusive requires reservations, and you should be able to select multiple items from an al a carte menu at the best all-inclusive resorts.
The best way to know is by checking out the Dining page for your resort and clicking on the individual restaurant links—for instance, the Cricketer’s Pub at Sandals Royal Caribbean doesn’t require reservations.
We strongly suggest making restaurant reservations at an all-inclusive as soon as possible after check-in. The restaurants that do require a reservation tend to fill up quickly from week to week, and you don’t want to be disappointed!
Wedding Pioneer Travel Tip: Check out the Best Sandals Resorts for Foodies.
How can I get the best deals at an all-inclusive?
You can always refer to the Specials page and check out the Weddings page for details on a Free Tropical Wedding if you’re interested in blending a Caribbean wedding with your all-inclusive honeymoon!