All-inclusive the best choice?

Jun 1st, 2004, 05:37 PM
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 24
All-inclusive the best choice?

I would like to know if an all-inclusive is the best way to go for a large family(2 adults, 3 kids)? What did you like most about your A/I experience? What didn't you like? If you do not drink alcohol is it still worth it? If we choose something other than A/I what are the costs?(Food, snorkeling,etc) Anyone have a great non-A/I experience w/ family? Thanks.
lipsticktraveler is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2004, 08:51 AM
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I think it depends on the individual. Alcohol does play a part in it. We play harder on vacation and I enjoy sitting down with a glass of Chambord or two after dinner. We also eat more on vacation than at home. In the winter we get really tired of a small choice in fruit. If we do an AI, my husband will sit down and eat a huge plate of fruit after he eats all the other stuff. We used to do AI's a lot when we had really stressful careers as we needed the time to veg. They're great for that. The downside is that you may miss out on some great cuisine, especially depending on which island you are on. You may be settling for less than a great beach. Have you decided on an island already? How old are your kids - are they really wanting to just swim and snorkel and pretty much not leave the resort?
Knowing is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2004, 12:56 PM
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We just got back from Beaches Negril. It is an AI & we took our "big" kids (17 & 23). It was geared for the younger aged kids & the variety of food would suit them if you want a Shoney's type experience. They also had a cook to order section where you could get omlettes or eggs in the morning & then specially cooked things (pasta & grilled items) at lunch & dinner. If you don't drink then you don't really get the moneys worth.
Here are my opinions-

*don't have to search for a place to eat
*everything is centrally located- food, sports, entertainment
*all watersports (diving, snorkeling,etc) included

*food tasted like Shoney's (unless cooked to order)
*the entertainment pretty much stopped at 10pm
*no separate areas for older kids or kidless people

I still think that going to an AI was a good decision for us since we had never been to Jamaica before. Next trip would be non-AI or else a less formal one. We are thinking of tryng the resort where my sis-in-law stayed. It is Moon Dance Villas. She took her 2 small kids there & loved it. They had a villa & paid $75 a day more to go AI. They had their own cook & bartender & she said the meals were great.It included many watersports but no organized entertainment.

I would price the cost of both- AI & non. Figure how much your rooms would be + meals + some water activities that you would do. Then compare.

Have fun!
benj is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2004, 02:01 PM
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By the time we go next year my girls will be 14,9 and 4. There is a big age difference between them but they all enjoy a pool or the beach. My girls do not enjoy a history lesson while on vacation but I always take them to something like a lighthouse, or aquarium, or some kind of historical site. Trust me they hate it. So I think we would spend the majority of our time doing what our girls want. I think we would venture outside the A/I maybe a couple of times depending on what there is to do. We have not decided on an island yet. I have been asking a lot of questions on "Travel Talk" the past few weeks to learn more about the Caribbean Snorkeling is what I want to do the most and I think my girls would love it too. I would say we eat the same amount on vacation as we do at home. I was concerned about having food available that my girls would actually like but if there is fruit and lots of it then my girls will love that. Can you tell me what activities were offered at your A/I for kids? For the entire family? Did you snorkel? Did you have a limited amount of time to do it? Was the snorkel gear in good condition? Thanks again for your input.
lipsticktraveler is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2004, 07:04 PM
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I think your kids might enjoy Beaches. They had a fashion show for kids where some of the kids dressed up in clothes from the resort. It was really cute to see them act like superstars. Even a few young boys did it. They had a guest & staff talent show & also a magic act. The magician was from Cuba & really good. There are several parent/child activities that seemed fun for the younger set. On Friday nights they have a beach party where you eat on the beach & there is a fire dancer & limbo. Thursday was Jamaican Day & the craftspeople set up on the beach. The food was Jamaican & they had a band play traditional music. There is karaoke for adults & several early evening entertainments.

Snorkeling was easy to arrange. You just signed up for a time & then came abut 15 minutes beforehand. We would usually try to hit the 11:30 one. They take you out for 1/2 hour. I was a ninny at first (having never been before & a water resistant person). The Beaches crew was very kind & even helped me into the water & stayed til I felt confident alone. The gear was in good shape but you could bring your own mask & snorkel. The last time we went several mouthpieces looked a bit "iffy" so they replaced them with new. They also sterilize them each time before reusing. You could go out every time they offered snorkeling if you wanted. Only the diving is limited to 2 a day.

The fruit offerings varied but usually there was fresh pineapple, mango, bananas, grapes, kiwi & watermelon. They also had pancakes or french toast, eggs, boxed cereal (Fruit Loops, Special K, Raisin Bran)as well as breakfast pasteries. The buffet had lots more stuff to choose from but I mentioned the stuff mostly kids would like. Also the bars will make smoothies if you ask.
benj is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 01:28 PM
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Benj, Thank you so much for your helpful info. Sounds like Beaches Negril was a pretty cool place. Did you tour around any or rent a car for the day? Can you tell me any of the hot spots not to miss while in Jamaica? How was the weather and water temp.? Is the water clear and the sand beautiful? Did you try any restaurants outside your A/I? Were they expensive? Was the hotel nice and clean? Did you feel unsafe at any time? Sorry about all the questions. Thanks again. Lipsticktraveler
lipsticktraveler is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 01:48 PM
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AI versus non-AI partly depends on where you're going. In some areas (Aruba is an example) it's very easy to access restaurants, watersports, etc., without having AI. In other places (e.g. Jamaica or Dominican Republic), some people feel "safer" at an AI.

In following Caribbean bulletin boards for several years I must have seen hundreds of complaints about the food at AI's. They're generally not a good choice if you have high expectations about dining.

Traveling with kids, we prefer to have a kitchen. This doesn't mean you have to cook - but you can stock up on sandwich materials, cool drinks, butter and cream cheese to go with muffins or bagels in the morning - and you've got a place to put leftover pizza (or whatever).

We had a great family stay at Crystal Cove condos on St. Thomas - all kinds of daysails, snorkel trips, ferries to other islands, etc., were available.

On the other hand, we did non-inclusive at the Wyndham Rose Hall in Jamaica and it was difficult to reach other restaurants.

cdt is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 06:02 PM
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We took 1 tour off the resort. You must do that. Otherwise it is sort of like a Disney version of Jamaica. I can recommend an excellent driver that will make your family feel like you've known them for years. We did a 1/2 day tour- shopping, sightseeing & walking on the more public part of the beach. We ended at Rick's & the cliffs to watch the cliff divers (unbelieveable)& the amazing sunsets. Yes, the water & sky really looks like the pictures. The sand is white & smooth.

If you'd like to email me I can give you more details. Send to [email protected].
benj is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 06:10 PM
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Look at the all inclusives in Playa del Carmen Mexico. We loved the Iberostar Tucan and are trying the Lindo this summer. The nice thing about Mexico is that you have the all inclusive but it is quite safe to leave the property (it would drive me CRAZY not to do this) and explore - there are snorkeling parks, Mayan ruins, and great towns nearby, and Cozumel is a 45 minute ferry ride away. The all inclusives may not have absolutely gourmet food but we thought this food was good, and with kids it is just so nice to have it available 24/7. My kids loved the frozen drinks and ice cream, and it is also nice in the restaurants for them to be able to order anything they want.
skigirl is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 10:29 PM
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Basically, I agree with cdt.

It depends on where you're going, and what your expectations are.

If you have HIGH quality expectations, ALWAYS avoid AI because otherwise you'll be stuck with that "Shoney's" quality that one previous poster mentioned.

On the other hand, if Shoneys is okay for you, and you don't think eating it 3 meals a day, 7 days a week would get tired, then go for the AI.

As cdt said, Aruba is *ALWAYS* a dumb place to choose AI. There are TOO many good restaurants that are *TOO* easy to get to. Ditto with Cancun, IMHO (but not necessarily at some of the Maya Riviera resorts south of Cancun and north of Playa del Carmen).

In the Bahamas, I might do AI --- especially in Freeport, which doesn't seem to have a lot in the way of high-end dining choices, IMHO.

As always, your mileage may vary...

Have fun!
TioGringo is offline  
Jun 4th, 2004, 02:57 PM
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We stayed away from all inclusives as a family of 4, but when we travel with our extended family of 15 it's a great way to go. We had a good experience last year at the Iberostar in the Dominican Republic, and we're all going back to the Iberostar Lindo in Playa del Carmen this Thanksgiving. We love traveling as a family of 4 to new places though - loved Grand Cayman and St. John for the variety of restaurants and the flexibility of renting a car and going wherever. When my kids were very young we did go to Club Med in Ixtapa, which had the best programs for kids that we've seen anywhere. You have to get into the rah-rah spirit and the cement slab beds - so despite having a great time there we've looking for higher quality accomodations since them. The iberostars do a nice job for an all inclusive, with nice new facilities and pretty good food. You can always go off-property for a couple nice meals if you want. As others have said - it really depends on the island.
nibos is offline  
Jun 4th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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Just a couple of thoughts-
When a continental breakfast in Aruba can run $25.00 per person for rolls, juice and coffee, an all inclusive package at a resort starts to look remarkably inexpensive. And, a can of Coca Cola costs $2.50 per can in the Caribbean, which means even if you don't drink alcohol, you could spend just as much on soda as you would on booze without much effort. The food may not be gourmet, but I still like all-inclusives.
kamahinaohoku is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 04:09 PM
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Major ?. How old are the kids?
jacketwatch is online now  
Jun 9th, 2004, 05:19 PM
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We will be traveling in November to the Sunscape Punta Cana Grand in the Dominican Republic with our 2 kids, age 4 and 6. We chose it because of its superior kids program and the fact that it is a smaller, more intimate resort with good food (or so I hear). It is an AI but I think that's a great way to go for a family vacation.

As someone pointed out, soda and juice can run you $2.50 per drink..a roll and coffee in the Bahamas can cost $8.00 (have you been to the Atlantis!).

babygirl722 is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 11:33 AM
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Must assume Mark has not been to Freeport recently as we had no problem finding plenty of high end dining if we wanted it as well as lots of less expensive options. Lots of very good food.
Curt is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 12:10 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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Hey lipsticktraveler, If snorkeling is a priority then maybe you should look at Cozumel for an Al. I think it probably has the best snorkeling around. It sounds like Playa Del Carmen has some very nice Al's but you would probably have to leave the property to get snorkeling in. If you go to Playa you can sneak Tulum in for that quick history lesson then the girls could visit Xe-ha right next door for snorkeling/playtime.

I just made our plans for next year's spring break and chose Cozumel just for the fact that snorkeling was our priority. We are renting a condo though, I like to try different restaurants and like lots of room to move around - I'm not big on the Als but can see an advantage to them for the kids.

Mariann is offline  
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