Cross-posted from Thriftista.
As a traveler who enjoys getting into a city’s neighborhoods and trying what the locals eat and do, it’s never been my aim to go for an all-inclusive resort. And at a Cozumel resort some years ago, it happened to be the best option: Their limited restaurants weren’t terribly good, and the local flavors downtown were amazing.
But when I hit upon a chance to stay at an all-inclusive resort for a conference with 14 restaurants on-site, I wanted to see what I was missing.
Moon Palace Cancun is one of several Palace resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. Though a bit pricey (they start at $407 for 2 people per night and top out over $1000 per night), it promised limitless drinks and food, including a Japanese sushi and teppanyaki restaurant, Italian dining and a Brazilian steakhouse. Moon Palace Cancun boasts numerous pools and whirlpool tubs in every room (not in the bathroom — in the room itself). The room was beautifully appointed with a large shower, Chi hair appliances and marble everywhere. Patios or balconies have a hammock and wifi was available all over the resort, in varying strengths (but great in the rooms). And the service is almost overwhelming, with bellboys and waiters at your service almost every step of the way. Room service at 3am? Swim-up bars? Why not?
The grounds are gorgeous and boast a Dolphinarium, plus scuba diving and snorkeling, and plenty of help to book excursions off the resort.
Now, the food and drink: I was happy with most of my selections. Since I’m a teppanyaki snob, it was hard to impress, but seasonings are right there on your table. Across the board food was fresh and flavorful and plenty to satisfy. I was amazed at the seafood and probably ate more than my share of tuna, along with fresh cheeses and fruit.
So which way would I go on all-inclusive? Here’s my estimation:
You’ll love all-inclusive if:
- You drink and eat a lot — especially drink. At Moon Palace, there were top-shelf liquors everywhere, including a room dispenser! Drinks are generally pretty watered down, but they’re unlimited.
- You have kids, including the picky eaters! They’ll love the options and you’ll love not paying extra for what they didn’t eat.
- You plan to spend a lot of time relaxing on the resort as opposed to the surrounding city.
- You don’t want to budget extra for meals; usually even tips are taken care of.
- Some resorts include spa services; Moon Palace did not, but they were available at a considerable markup. The same is true of excursions like ziplining or dolphin swims. Make sure you know what you are getting!
You’ll want to avoid all-inclusive if:
- You’d prefer eating off the resort at local restaurants.
- You want to spend your time experiencing the surrounding areas.
- You don’t drink or you drink very little.
- Your resort has few restaurant options, which means little variety.
I’m definitely glad I enjoyed the all-inclusive at Moon Palace; they should set the standard for other resorts. Though my preference is usually to find local favorites and experience the city, it was relaxing to not worry about carrying cash or if a restaurant was up to par. It’s definitely a judgement call, but sometimes the choice is easy.