Mexico: Cruises & All-Inclusive Resorts

mexico beach PS

So, you don’t have time to take a big international trip but you still want to get away.  Well, Mexico can be a great option!  There are two popular ways to visit Mexico: taking a cruise or booking an all-inclusive resort. Below, you’ll find a quick overview of both options to help you make an informed vacation decision.

CRUISES: One of the best ways to see Mexico is a taking cruise.  You can choose a 3-day cruise that visits one city, a 5-day cruise that visits 2 or more, or a 7 day that visits 3 or more. You can book a cruise out of Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando or Miami, to name a few.

The good thing about cruises is that all of your food is included with your room so you don’t have to worry about every meal.  The bad thing about cruises is that drink packages that include alcohol can run $25/pp per day (don’t think you can purchase one and use it for two people – they know that trick).  If you’re not a big drinker, no worries but if ya like to drink, like me, it sucks!  However, the price of the cruise does include tea and lemonade (Arnold Palmer!) along with all the tap water you can drink – soft drinks are not included but you can purchase a package much like the alcohol package but less expensive.

While “cruising” can be affordable, there are many hidden costs such as the drink packages and special restaurant visits. Don’t forget excursions for those days you’re in port, that’s one way to blow your budget in an afternoon. You’ll most likely have anywhere from 5 to 10 hours in each port so you have to think about where you’re going to spend the day. Want to hang at the beach? Well, you’ll have to find one that’s public and take your towels/umbrellas/sunblock. Or, do you want to jet ski, whale watch, take a wine tour or any number of tours?  Tours can be fun but they can also cost big bucks.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if you get off the ship you’re going to spend money. You COULD stay on the ship but the whole point of the cruise it to see the sights.  Just remember, you won’t be able to run back to the ship every time you want to eat or drink so you’ll pay for that stuff too. The takeaway here is: factor in those excursions, umbrella drinks, shopping trips and the $12/pp per day charge for gratuities NOT TO MENTION the extra 15-18% you’ll pay on each bar tab. If these costs seem to be adding up, don’t worry there’s another fun way to see Mexico!

mexico pool PS

ALL-INCLUSIVE: Another option for a short vacation in Mexico is an all-inclusive resort.  Yes, a resort like this can cost more than a cruise but all of your food and drinks (including booze-which isn’t included on a cruise) are included in the cost.  So, you know exactly how much you’re going to spend on your trip before you even step on the plane.  I like the all-inclusive option because I don’t like worrying about how much we’re spending on drinks or meals.  Those two things can break your budget on most vacations.

When we arrive at an all-inclusive resort, the first thing I do is grab a drink, unpack and put my purse in the safe because I know I don’t need it. However, it’s a good idea to hit the bank before you leave home and get $50-$100 in one dollar bills.  I use this money for tips for the bar tenders and maid service (it’s not required but it doesn’t hurt to take care of the people who take care of you!). Also, you should bring at least $100 cash for buying trinkets and souvenirs on the beach or in town.

The good thing about all-inclusive resorts is that you can eat and drink to your heart’s desire. Most resorts have at least 3-5 restaurants, a few more bars and room service which is included in the price.  The bad thing about all-inclusive resorts is they tend to be expensive but in my opinion they’re worth it! If all-inclusive hotels are not your thing and you’d rather rent a condo in Mexico, read my post The Key to Vacation Rentals!


My Cruise at a glance: Last year, the hubby and I took the 3 day Carnival Imagination cruise from Long Beach, California to Ensenada, Mexico.  I had 4 days off and I was dying to take a little break.  This was a great option for us because we were able to enjoy one day in Ensenada where we drank, danced and ate amazing street tacos during the Formula One race weekend. The next day, we enjoyed a full day at sea where we ate, drank and recovered from Ensenada.  I’m gonna be honest, we really needed that down time! Even though it was a short cruise, we met some great people and it nice to get away for a few days.

The ship itself was outdated and screaming for a makeover to yank it out of the 80s. Luckily, I read the reviews before I purchased the tickets so I was prepared.  Surprisingly, the food was pretty good at the pool grill and the main dining room.  What I didn’t really enjoy was the headliner show.  The show was lackluster and the choreography was seriously lacking but the music was great.  We didn’t do much on the ship besides eat, drink and make new friends but there were quite a few scheduled activities each day.  I won’t take the Carnival Imagination cruise again but I’m looking forward to taking another cruise soon, preferably somewhere in the Caribbean!

Read my all-inclusive experience in Cabo San Lucas!


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