The Hidden Downside To Booking the Cheapest All-Inclusive Deals

I know from experience that sometimes, you just need to get away.

The urge for a last-minute trip to an all-inclusive can be super fun and spontaneous, especially if you’ve decided to elope someplace special like Sandals Ochi for Your Jamaican Weddingmoon (a “weddingmoon” is a popular, all-in destination wedding and honeymoon).

This post is about any getaway, not just honeymoons or grander vacations.

Booking the Cheapest All-Inclusive Deals Can Lead to Regret on Any Vacation

I would never recommend booking a cheap all-inclusive option for a special vacation like your honeymoon.

But I’ll tell you why booking the cheapest all-inclusive deal can be a guaranteed disaster on any vacation… because I’ve been there and experienced instant regret.

The Hidden Downsides They’ll Never Tell You About

Nice view of comfortable cozy curved swimming pool
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Several years ago now, I traveled to sleepy Grand Turk with my husband for a beach bum vacation.

I’d planned the Grand Turk part of the trip in advance, deciding at the last minute to book us a few nights in Nassau since our direct flight to Grand Turk departed from the Bahamas.

And since this wasn’t a luxury trip, I looked for a cheap all-inclusive in Nassau on major travel websites. I talked a lot about this part of the trip in this blog post.

I’ll be even more honest about our experience here. Hopefully, you’ll get some valuable information from this post because there can be many hidden downsides at cheap all-inclusives you’ll never hear about otherwise.

It’s Never Like Social Media or Online Marketing Brochures

renovated room in an all-inclusive hotel

The world’s best all-inclusive resorts share one thing in common with “less expensive” properties—they are all located in the real world, and nothing is ever as perfectly filtered as it looks on social media or online marketing brochures.

But you need to examine what you’re getting at a cheap all-inclusive, preferably from online reviews on Google Maps, Tripadvisor, or Expedia. Sometimes, an even better idea is searching out unbiased “travel communities” on your socials and requesting to join.

All-Inclusive Travel Tip: Beware of “fake reviews.” In October 2021, Forbes reported on Tripadvisor’s efforts to eliminate fake travel reviews, and the “3-star” (doubtful) all-inclusive on Cable Beach, Nassau, where we stayed, was penalized by Tripadvisor for this reason.

Hidden Downside #1—Old, Unrenovated Property

an old modern room in an all-inclusive hotel on Carribian

Put it this way: a few years have passed, so we can pretty much laugh about all the disastrous things that happened at that cheap all-inclusive in Nassau, including the really bad accommodations.

To put this in perspective, we stayed at a simple, privately owned beachfront inn in Grand Turk attached to one of the area’s only informal bars and restaurants. It was rustic but clean and definitely not really bad, like in Nassau.

Here’s what I mean:

  1. This so-called “3-star” all-inclusive resort on Cable Beach in Nassau was built in 1970. The walls of our room were paper-thin, and the old-school, musty-smelling “mahogany” furniture inside had broken handles and was useless for storing clothing.
  2. Suspect cleaning practices were the norm across this resort. This was our opinion, but it was not a property where we felt comfortable enough to get in the hot tub!
  3. The same old, broken-down, musty-smelling atmosphere extended to all interior restaurants and bars at this resort, and the “nightclub” smelled more like a nightmare.

All-Inclusive Travel Tip: I found several sites that claimed the resort underwent a “major $10 million” renovation in 2014, including $100,000 worth of renovations to the Italian restaurant and $1.5 million to construct new “Banana Boat” dining facilities.

Although I read claims that the guest rooms had been upgraded and the lobby floor re-tiled, we were there after this apparent 2014 renovation, and our actual room did not appear to be modernized in the least.

I can tell you the worst thing about this property that I still can’t laugh about. As a traveler with allergic asthma, I found it personally offensive that the so-called “strict no-smoking” policy was not enforced when we visited, even after we talked to the hotel manager.

Hidden Downside #2—Plenty of Bad Food Going To Waste

Buffet with various dishes in a restaurant at an all-inclusive hotel

You’ll know you made a mistake when you’re forced to go off the resort to grab pub grub instead of facing another inedible buffet.

That happened to us, and the only good thing was we met some fun locals at the Cricket Club restaurant closer to downtown Nassau.

Here are some tips to be aware of:

  • Even though you’re in the tropics or sub-tropics, fresh produce is more expensive, so it will probably be minimal or non-existent at a cheap, all-inclusive resort
  • Some side dishes at the buffet dinners or breakfast offerings were either bland, oversalted, or topped with strange-tasting sauces, and as other reviewers have noted, the food was often too cold
  • I have never been anywhere else where the term “mystery meat” could apply to many of the animal proteins they served
  • Seriously, beware of “midnight buffets” because, in our experience, it certainly appeared to contain some leftovers from other services that were uneaten during the day.

Food can make or break a vacation. We enjoyed one very good a la carte meal at this “3-star” all-inclusive from an outstanding employee in the so-called “best” restaurant.

Still, it never came remotely close to the unforgettable dining experience you can find at other all-inclusive resorts.

Hidden Downside #3—Drink and Restaurant Line-Ups Are Unbelievable

A girl sits at the bar waiting for her cocktail

The line-ups for watered-down beverages at a cheap all-inclusive can be impressive in the worst way!

We brought reusable “big gulp” style drinking glasses to Nassau because it was better to wait half an hour for an oversized mug of suds to sip on than wait hours in total every time you had to get back in that disorganized line for a wasteful, single-use plastic cup of cheap beer.

You can depend on line-ups at many cheap all-inclusive resorts, whether for the bar or an à la carte restaurant that won’t be open daily like we found on the day we really wanted to try that restaurant.

All-Inclusive Travel Tip: The cheapest all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico are often marketed to spring breakers. I’m not just talking about college seniors; some places serve those under 21.

Please beware of the Cable Beach all-inclusive resort during spring breaks. I’ve read far too many horror stories online about jammed line-ups full of drunken teens at this resort.

Hidden Downside #4—You Must Learn to Laugh at the (Lack of) “Amenities” at Cheap All-Inclusive Resorts

a polluted Bahamas beach near the hotel, there is a lot of algae in the water and a couple of plastic cups

We weren’t expecting too much at that all-inclusive on Cable Beach, but the serious lack of amenities was downright laughable.

Because of all the smokers around the “non-smoking” pool and entrance to the beach, we escaped to the semi-open-air lobby one day, where there was a broken-down exercise room and a ping-pong table that looked deceptively playable.

Question: Have you ever tried to play ping pong after realizing every paddle is coming unglued, and the table is way wobblier than nature intended?

Speaking of the beach, when we were there, the resort’s section of Cable Beach was overrun with seaweed, and even more heartbreaking, I found abandoned single-use plastics in the ocean water.

Hidden Downside #5—Beware of “Fake Reviews” Because They Might Still Exist

Asian couple is running and holding hands on a beach
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

I just checked out that Cable Beach all-inclusive on Google Maps, and my stomach flipped.

After reading through several four- and 5-star reviews that sounded far too glowing and general, I finally changed my search filter to “lowest rated” and found 1-star reviews that made me realize that things must not have changed for the better.

In a nutshell, one reviewer alleged that the resort was “a joke” and “there is no way the five-star reviews are real.” Based on my personal experience, I believe this reviewer’s opinion.

It saddens me that the real truth is still hard to find online. While it might take the fun out of planning a dirt-cheap, last-minute vacation, it can also be fun to put on your travel detective hat and search out a deal or specials at a more reliable, luxury all-inclusive.

That way, you’ll get the best vacation value for your hard-earned bucks. Safe and happy travels!

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