What exactly is the difference between the nickel and dime cruise experience and the all-inclusive type; which is better for you?
My opinion is that this all stems from the bottom line and the profit margin which investors in the cruise line business have a sole interest in. In my opinion the best way to understand it all is to recognize that the industry confronted a situation years ago wherein it faced the dilemma of how to increase volume, if not, stagnate on Wall Street.
Problem was, most folks could not afford to cruise, simple as that. So the answer to getting them on board was to charge them only one low basic fee which gave them passage, a simple cabin, food in a common dining room or buffet and freedom to roam about the ship taking in a show or two, but not much else unless they wanted to pay extra. In addition, were shore days, shore sightseeing adventures were expensive so during the port days they could get by with taking a free shuttle into the nearby town or walking there. That was pretty much it, bottom line, they love/loved it. To the point the industry has introduced gigantic ships to compensate for the demand brought on by those who desire a simple affordable cruise on the sea. Today we have nine of these lines classified as majors (Those with 10 ships or more). Some label these as "Mainstream".
However, for the days of yore crowd and for the all-inclusive cruise lovers, there were problems. Except for a few very expensive all-inclusive lines or a couple or more trying to squeeze in between by offering an on board experience a notch above mainstream, all of which offered smaller vessels but more extravagant on board ambience, amenities and service, those voyagers were being left out of cruising boom.
So, the big boys compensated for that too. On board the giants they came up with all sorts of extra charge venues, in particular, extra charge specialty restaurants which blew away the ever increasing degradation of service and cuisine quality in the free main dining rooms by offering exquisite gourmet meals and super service. Commensurate with not only the addition of decent extra charge eateries, almost everything else in the form of service and on board programs capable of being extra charged were enhanced in quality.
Actually, those marketing tactics might be irritating but are pretty ingenious, as one can pay for all the extras desired, cuisine, better cabins, balconies, deluxe shore excursions, top quality booze, spa treatments and on and on but still rubbing elbows on the main deck with those paying for a lesser class of cruise on a bare bones budget. However, at the same time beating the expense of a similar itinerary with like or better service, meal quality and cabin size as to what one gets on the so called “luxury lines” for about one half to two thirds the total cost.
As far as the all inclusive's, ever been on one? We have, a lot. Free booze?--Except many who don't drink (as much as I do anyway) constantly complain they are subsidizing alcoholics. Lobster, Steak, escargot and caviar?---You constantly hear complaints from those on restricted diets etc. that they don't like these extravagances included in the overall price of the cruise. Shore excursions are included--Except many don't want to take those and suggest extra charges for shore excursions would be appropriate. Evening entertainment---Many don't like the theatre shows so prefer to not pay for such up front. Anyway, you get the drift.
But oh wait, haven't we heard this before? Yet some still wonder why the industry has gravitated to an extra charge policy on most stuff! Enjoy your nickel and dime cruise folks.