View Full Version : all-inclusive resorts: canned vacation or genuine experience?
07-19-2004, 07:56 PM
I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip to someplace tropical for winter break, and I've heard a lot about all-inclusive resort packages. These sound great, but they sort of give me the feeling that I won't really be experiencing the culture of wherever we decide to go. A friend of mine who travelled in the Dominican Republic for three months told me that the resorts are travesties...just gated, Americanized playgrounds for rich people who don't want to do anything but drink and party and lie on the beach.
I have plenty of time to plan, and this is the first time I've ever done anything like this (a true tropical vacation) and likely won't get a second chance for a loooong time, so I want it to be perfect.
I'd love to hear thoughts for both sides. :cool:
07-19-2004, 08:18 PM
It's been a while since I've been to an all-inclusive resort, but there was definitely a degree of isolation at the last one I visited.
The upside- it was a beautiful setting. Great beach, good food, nice accommodations, access to recreation like tennis, aerobics, boating, snorkeling, horseback riding, and so on. Also spa-type amenities- massage and facials.
The downside- it was a bit of a hassle to go anywhere else, especially without a car. There was nothing nearby, the roads into town were bad, and the town itself wasn't exactly a destination.
While I'd agree that you *can* miss out on the local culture by staying at an all-inclusive resort, I think it depends on what you want out of your vacation. I am not a "lounge around in the sun and party" person, and I found plenty to keep me happily occupied on my trip. Each resort is different- many cater to specific recreational interests like golf, tennis, scuba, etc. Some are close to local towns and beaches and others are more remote. If checking out the local culture is important to you, I bet some resorts have deals where you can get a car for a day or two, or have shuttle access.
If you're considering a particular resort, I'd read up on the general area and figure out where the resort is in relation to other areas of interest to you. Then think about how you might get around to those places from the resort, and what (if any) expense it might add to your trip.
Hope this helps!
07-19-2004, 11:59 PM
I think people need to know themselves when they're thinking about how to spend their vacation dollars. They really need to know what THEY personally like to do to relax. Sometimes something sounds great but when you're actually doing it you realize it isn't for you. I mean, what doesn't sound good about lying in a beach chair listening to the waves? Sounds awesome but I've discovered that for myself I can't relax by doing nothing. I'm not a beach or a bed & breakfast person but I only found that out by taking vacations like that and not finding them satisfying. Other people think this is heaven, it's just not my personal cup of tea and now I know not to book myself into vacations like that. There's nothing worse than spending your hard earned money on a vacation and when you get there you're thinking: "Oh God, I hate this, get me out of here!"
If you want to sit on the beach and veg then all you need is a beautiful beach, a good book and a cute cabana boy to keep bringing the pina coladas. :D It wouldn't matter what's outside the walls. If you don't want to have to worry about where to go for dinner every night but are happy choosing from the 1, 2 or 3 restaurants the resort has to offer then great, another worry off your mind. Having everything taken care of so that they don't have to think about or plan anything is the definition of ultimate relaxation for some people.
If immersing yourself in local culture sounds exciting, picking, locating and trying a new restaurant in the nearest town every night is part of the adventure or crawling over an ancient ruin sounds like fun maybe an all inclusive would be wasted on you because you wouldn't want to eat in the hotel restaurants every night or spend all day on the beach. In that case I'd make sure the destination itself had something to offer in terms of things to see and do so you know you'd have something to keep you occupied.
As for those spas in the resort, I always think they're a nice idea in theory but when it comes right down to it the treatments offered at them are spendy and I could probably get them for less at home (ye olde New England thriftiness kicking in) so that's never a big draw to me.
07-20-2004, 05:28 AM
I honestly never thought I was a "resort" kinda gal. I like exploring and being adventurous. To me, if you want to lie on a beach all day and explore at night, an all inclusive is not the way to go because you could get a cheaper place at the same destination. I paid for an all inclusive because 1)it's all paid for up front and I didn't have to lift my wallet once when I was there, 2)we would have *never* done all the things we did if we weren't at a resort (water sports, land sports, spa, gym, food etc) and 3) I'll admit it, I didn't really want a lot of the "local" element. I know it sounds horrible, but I go away on vacation to enjoy myself and have fun. If I want people begging me for money, I get that every day in nyc.
I just think when you add it all up, we would have spent more money trying to arrange to do the things the resort arranged for us. If it weren't the carribbean and say it was Spain or Portugal, I would rather plan the entire vacation and pay out of pocket as I go along.
07-20-2004, 05:55 AM
I think you've gotten some good advice so far.
I am just thinking that if culture is what you are really interested in you should start with that in planning your trip. Start with the destination first, then decided on a place to stay. Know what types of things you want to do, shop, eat at local places, hike etc. I think you will have a much easier time if you are clear on what you want out of your trip. Everyone has a different comfort level with safety and what getting into the culture means.
As for the "canned" experience sometimes its really great, sometimes its not what I want. We always take a winter cruise, and its just the right thing--downtime, not much planning, sunshine. But the rest of the year a "canned" experience makes me cringe. We travel a few times a year and my other trips are more authentic--and more in tune with my wants at that time.
told me that the resorts are travesties...just gated, Americanized playgrounds for rich people who don't want to do anything but drink and party and lie on the beach.
I guess there is more than one way to look at things. In my experiences the local economy depended on travelers, Americans in particular. In many countries tourism is their primary industry--they want our money, and are happy that we visit. I don't think anyone should be given a guilt trip for how they choose to spend their vacation dollars.
07-20-2004, 06:23 AM
personally, I think it depends on where you go. Some places the only culture you'll be able to find is getting mobbed by ladies trying to braid your hair, guys selling dope and kids begging for money. So, I'd start with WHERE you want to go and then decide which is best. Also, are you going alone or with a group. Let's face it, in some places it's dangerous for a woman alone at night to get a cab.
I'm interested in culture, but I'm not interested in being mobbed either. I've been on one all inclusive which I really enjoyed as it was definitely a single gals wild week. It was nice to not spend double the amount of money the vacation initially starts out at. So how much money you have to spend should play into it as well. There's nothing worse than being in some fabulous place and not having the cash to really check it out and do what you want.
Either way, have fun!
07-20-2004, 07:35 AM
Originally posted by beckms
just gated, Americanized playgrounds for rich people who don't want to do anything but drink and party and lie on the beach.
You really want to spend time and investigate the resort if you decide to go all inclusive. Not all resorts are the same in terms of services, quality and the clientele they cater to. There's a huge difference between different resorts and just because everyone has heard about it, doesn't make it the best. DH and I chose the resort we did because we narrowed down what kind of vacation we wanted. We originally thought about Hedonism but decided 1)we didn't want Jamaica and 2)we didn't want 7 days of the "party" atmosphere. We wanted more laid back with activities there should we choose to have them. Then we looked into Couples and Sandals and in the end chose LeSport because it was catered more to Europeans over Americans.
07-20-2004, 08:15 AM
We enjoy both types of vacationing...the non-restrictive and the all-inclusive. Like others have mentioned, it depends where you go.
We've been to 2 all-inclusive establishments, one of which we have been 3 times. Both places provided plenty of activities right on site. The meals were pretty decent, and if you want to pay a little more, you can enjoy their more exclusive restaraunts on the premises.
Both places we kind of fell into...one was a company trip my DH and I were invited to go on. The other was a gift from a previous employer of mine, that he and his wife invited me and DH to join them on. The first trip via DH's company, was at a place we enjoyed so much that we have gone back with friends a couple of times.
We would like to go again!:p
07-20-2004, 09:01 AM
We've been to two all-inclusives (Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau and Iberostar Bavaro in Punta Cana) and will go to another (Couples Swept Away in Negril) for our honeymoon in the fall. Granted, we are perfectly content sitting on the beach all day, although we'd rather skip the party, thank you very much. The major draw for us is not having to worry about paying for food, especially because DF eats so much and so often throughout the day.
At Sandals, we mostly stayed at the resort. We took a bus to downtown Nassau to walk around town and visit the open-air market one cloudy day. We also went to Stuart's Cove for a snorkeling trip rather than the meager one offered at the resort. When we went to Punta Cana, we never left our resort, aside from running or walking the miles of beach in front of the row of resorts. Actually, we were advised not to leave because the town is so poor and the police are terribly corrupt. We enjoyed some of the activities offered along with the gyms, both of which looked out onto the Caribbean, and we chose Couples because of its 10-acre fitness complex.
In terms of the food and activities, we like to think we've gotten our money's worth, even if we don't partake in the abundance of alcohol that seems to flow at these places. For anyone on a budget, I think all-inclusives are well worth it. However, like others have said, if you're interested in sight-seeing, choose the destination first and then settle on a hotel or resort.
07-20-2004, 09:41 AM
if you want culture and tropical, and not inclusive how about Belize
Dh and I have been there twice and just love it. they have beautiful islands and the ruins are fabulous. you can do both in one trip. and it is english speaking which I liked.
I have been to Jamaica on an all inclusive, at the time it was right for us. So it really depends on what you are looking for.
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