Say Hello to All-Inclusive Cruising

All-Inclusive Resorts are a huge draw to the Caribbean region. The concept of paying one price for all of your meals, drinks and activities is attractive to travelers who don’t want to worry about such charges once on vacation. This concept has been available on upscale, luxury cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas and Crystal for years, however purchasing one of those cruise vacations can be out of reach for some.

Today, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that, for a limited time, they will bring the All-Inclusive Experience to the mass market. This is a first for any major cruise line in its category, and I certainly expect the other lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney) to follow suit!

The details of the new All-Inclusive Package are as follows:

“The All-Inclusive package is available for 2015 sailings from three to 14 days in length, is priced by the number of days, and is available for all stateroom categories, including The Haven by Norwegian.

When adding the All-Inclusive to a selected cruise, guests receive 10 percent off the cruise fare. For a seven-day cruise, the $899 package includes

  • the Ultimate Dining package
  • the Ultimate Beverage package
  • Shore excursion credit of $200 per person
  • Pre-paid daily service charges/gratuities
  • 250-minute Internet package per person
  • 20 photos of any size
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries
  • A bottle of wine
  • One bingo session
  • Six bottles of water

For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from 9-14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

As part of the All-Inclusive offer, Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining package provides complimentary access to one of the line’s specialty restaurants every night of the cruise, including Cagney’s, the popular steakhouse; French bistro, Italian restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria, Asian-Fusion restaurant and more.

The Ultimate Beverage package includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, draft beer, bottled beer and glasses of wine up to $10 and unlimited fountain soda and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants and on Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.

*Includes all scheduled 2015 sailings from three to 14 days (excludes back to back sailings)
**Does not include Pride of America; not applicable to bookings made in Continental Europe or United Kingdom.”

Book your 2015 cruise between August 4-24 and your sailing will be eligible for this package!
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Your Day In Paradise: Is a Destination Wedding Right for You?

Weddings are big business. Anyone who has planned a wedding or been close to anyone planning a wedding will testify to the thousands of dollars spent on the various factors that make a wedding “successful”;  venue, flowers, attire, food, alcohol, photography…the list goes on and on and onnnn.  According to this recent article in Reuters, the average cost of an American wedding is now $27, 021. Holy crap! It’s no wonder that Destination Weddings are becoming increasingly popular for couples looking to tie the knot without going broke!

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, please allow me to explain: in the purest sense of the term, a “Destination Wedding” is a marriage ceremony that occurs outside of the bride and/or groom’s current city or hometown. Las Vegas and Disney weddings are technically considered Destination Weddings, however for the purpose of this article, I will be referring to weddings held in the extraordinarily popular All-Inclusive resorts of the Caribbean and Mexico.

So what exactly is an All-Inclusive Resort? It’s a vacation concept that seems almost too good to be true!! Its name speaks for itself; packages include round-trip airfare, airport transfers, lodging, meals, snacks, drinks (including alcoholic beverages), non-motorized water activities, and resort activities. Some packages even include tips! Once you pay for your vacation package in full, you will only be responsible for your spending money while on vacation, as well as any spa services or tours you may choose to purchase. Everything else is covered!

Below the photo, I’ve listed some pros and cons to Destination Weddings at an All-Inclusive Resort. I can speak from personal experience on this, having decided to exercise this option for my own wedding. You will definitely need to consider these factors before deciding whether this is right for you.

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1. PRO: Cost, Cost, Cost and COST.

As I previously mentioned, the average stateside wedding in 2012 costs almost $28,000. Most All-Inclusive resorts have specialized wedding packages; many offer a FREE wedding ceremony if the bride and groom meet certain criteria (i.e. staying a certain number of nights at the resort, a certain number of guests). Additional packages vary based on various factors (number of guests, cocktail hour, indoor or outdoor reception, etc). The beauty of these packages are this: since the resorts are all-inclusive, you will not pay the exorbitant cost of food and alcohol that “European Plan” (ex. Marriott) hotels tend to charge. And many of the wedding packages start at $1,500 – yes…for the ceremony, reception AND flowers. Of course, you can add more details to your package which will increase the price, but the fact that the package can be customized truly speaks volumes to the flexibility of this wedding option.

All-Inclusive vacations, whether for a wedding or just general travel, offer a payment plan option. This feature may also be helpful in your planning. Once you decide where you wish to get married, expect to put down an initial deposit to hold your flights, lodging accommodations and wedding package. You will have anywhere between 30-75 days before your trip to make final payment.

Note: In most cases, wedding guests pay for their own travel and hotel accommodations. The bride and groom are not expected to finance their guests’ trips.

2. PRO and CON: The Guest List

A Destination Wedding will have an impact on your guest list; for some this is a motivating factor to choose this option, for others, a deterrent. People will not be able or willing to fly outside of the country to watch you tie the knot. Some have safety concerns about your destination. Others do not have a passport. Some simply cannot afford it.

On the other hand, there will be guests who have been in desperate need of a vacation and will use your wedding as an excuse. The people who do end up attending are the ones who REALLY want to be there. Either way it goes, in most cases all 200+ guests who would’ve attended your hometown wedding will not fly to Jamaica for your Destination Wedding. (There are always exceptions to this, of course). A smaller guest list is much more budget friendly. Conversely, Grandma may not be physically able to travel and may potentially miss your wedding. This is certainly something to consider in your planning process.

3. PRO: More Time to Spend with Guests

Think about the last stateside wedding you attended. How much time did you really get to spend with the bride/groom? Perhaps you gave them a hug in the receiving line, and they swung by your table at the reception to thank you for coming. It’s proper etiquette and nice gesture, but the interaction tends to be brief.

Not so much with a Destination Wedding. With everyone traveling and vacationing together as a group, you will have an ample amount of time to spend with your guests. You can plan a group tour to a local landmark or attraction, arrange group dinners, hang out at the bar or at the pool. It can truly be a bonding experience for you and your guests, plus relationships can be forged among people who would have never crossed paths in your daily lives.

3. CON: Legalities

Just as marriage laws and requirements vary from state, the same is true for foreign countries. Make sure you do your research before choosing the location of your Destination Wedding. In most countries where Spanish is the primary language, you are required to your citizenship documents into Spanish before applying for a marriage license; this is not free. Mexico requires a blood test before you can marry. Many Caribbean countries do not perform same-sex marriages. You will need to consider all of these factors in your planning process.

Some couples choose to get “legally hitched” in their home state before traveling to their Destination Wedding, therefore making the ceremony at the resort a “symbolic ceremony”. This removes many of the headaches involved with marrying abroad, but feels disingenuous to some couples.

4. PRO: Built-in Honeymoon

If you’re already in paradise, is there a need to take a separate honeymoon? Well, it depends on the couple (we did!); but it’s completely unnecessary! You can extend your stay at the resort, allowing you additional time with your loved ones, or transfer to another resort in the same area for a unique and private experience. This can prevent the cost of an additional flight, another way to save a few dollars and still have an amazing honeymoon experience.

5. PRO: Wedding Coordinator

Due to the distance of the bride and groom from the resort, plus the typical anxiety involved with wedding planning, most All-Inclusive Resorts offer an on-site Wedding Coordinator once you book a package. I can’t speak highly enough of Claudia, my wedding coordinator at the Barcelo Maya Palace in Riviera Maya, Mexico. E-mail was our best friend, and once we arrived to the resort, every minor detail we discussed via e-mail was in her file. The day was executed beautifully. It would be very difficult to plan such an important event without an on-site coordinator.

Now that you are armed with this information, what’s next?

Simple – contact me for a quote! Even if you know you want to have a Destination Wedding and are not sure where you’d like to get married, we can narrow it down together. If you’d like to conduct some independent research, an amazing resource is Best Destination Wedding. By using a travel agent, you can remove the hassle of managing your guests’ travel arrangements and simply focus on creating an amazing wedding day!

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Happy Travels!

Carla