I’ve never been on a cruise, and I’ve only stayed at an all-inclusive resort once. So I’m not an expert on travel experiences that require one to pay a large lump sum up front to then enjoy all the experiences without a care in the world. But I have traveled enough to know why I love NOT staying at all-inclusive resorts. Here are my five reasons I don’t like all-inclusive vacations.
Lack of local experiences
Travel, to me, should be about enjoying a local place. I don’t visit chain restaurants when I travel. I don’t visit chain restaurants at home, for that matter. But when we visit a new place we want to experience it like the locals do. I like to enjoy local experiences, ones that only can be found in a destination. On my one stay in an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, I felt like we were isolated from the true local experiences. We stayed in an amazing resort and had a wonderful honeymoon. In fact, we enjoyed the visit so much that I will return to this space next week with reasons I like all-inclusive vacations. But when we were on our little peace of paradise in Montego Bay, Jamaica, I never had any clue what the city of Montego Bay offered. I never stepped foot in a local restaurant or shop. My only time getting out in the country other than our transport from the airport was when we took a trip across the island to experience Dunn’s River Falls.
Just because it’s fabulous food doesn’t mean it’s the best
The food we had at our resort was second to none. It was fabulous. I ate so much while on the resort I must’ve gained at least 10 pounds that week. But just because it was wonderful food doesn’t mean it was the true local dining experience I cherish when we travel. I didn’t get to visit the Jamaican version of a mom-and-pop restaurant, or discover the local greasy spoon. On our ride back from Dunn’s River Falls, we passed a little jerk chicken shack. Something tells me the food they served was fabulous. But I’ll never know because I instead was ferried back to the resort to eat our fabulous five-star meal.
Are we really shopping local?
I question how much of the money we spent in the resort shop actually went to local people. The resort did let vendors set up on our beach one day, and we happily bought a couple of wooden vases that seemed to be handmade, but who knows. With both of these experiences, we didn’t get the chance to shop local, to haggle with the vendors, to get the full experience of visiting a local market.
Only seeing what the resort tells us to see
When we stayed at our all-inclusive resort in Jamaica way back in 1999, we loved our little beach. We were on our honeymoon and made the choice to relax for a week gazing at the Caribbean Sea instead of sightseeing around Europe. But what if we would’ve chosen a simple hotel in Jamaica instead of an all-inclusive resort? Would we have had a chance to mingle with the locals more, see different beaches, have a chance to walk around the city when we wanted? I have to think so. We did enjoy going to Dunn’s River Falls with all the other romantics trying to re-create the Tom Cruise/Elizabeth Shue scene from “Cocktail.” But there weren’t a lot of options for us to get out and experience the country away from the postcard-perfect scenes of the resorts.
Being herded along with the crowds
This is one of the main reasons I avoid cruises. I’m sure cruises have plenty of virtues. I’m sure taking a cruise through the Mediterranean Sea makes it much easier to visit all those cities in Italy and Greece. But it also seems like you’re just being herded along with the crowds to see the highlights of a port of call before heading off to the next one. It just seems like the restaurants and attractions in a port of call are more like amusement park attractions.