Why I loved my first ever all-inclusive hotel experience
Growing up in Australia, all-inclusive resorts aren't really a thing. When I moved to the United Kingdom and started researching the massive range of travel options available to me, along with astonishingly cheap flights, I came across plenty of all-inclusive accommodation offers.
The concept, though new to me sounded simple — along with your accommodation, they include everything else, like meals, drinks, activities and entertainment. Rather than choosing where to go for your meals, it's all provided for you. If you're used to booking breakfast with your normal hotel room, these offer the remaining meals of the day too.
I could see the options ranged in price and quality enormously - there were very affordable offers in places like the Costa Del Sol through to the Sandals resorts in the Caribbean which offer true, five-star luxury for what can be a five-figure price tag.
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In the summer of 2019, before the pandemic hit I decided to dip my toe into the world of all-inclusive hotel resorts. Having seen footage of some budget options on travel television shows like Holiday Showdown I had an idea of what was on offer. However, I also decided that the budget, family-friendly options with non-stop entertainment didn't sound like my cup of tea ‚— I would be traveling child-free with my partner — but equally, the cost of the most luxurious options was too much for me.
So I settled on something in the middle. I have been to Spain more times than I can remember and my favorite part is the island of Majorca with its endless sunshine and beautiful beaches. I did my homework found a well-rated adults-only all-inclusive option for a Bank Holiday long weekend, the Astoria Playa Alcudia and set off, not exactly sure whether this type of holiday would be for me.
Here's why I loved my first all-inclusive hotel.
A fine bedroom
Our room was exactly what you would expect from a good quality four-star hotel. It was clean, comfortable, quiet and everything worked. Being in the Balearic Islands I enjoyed the light, breezy, whitewashed design of the room which instantly put me in a relaxed holiday mood. No missing tiles, no blown light bulbs, no mystery stains on the bed linen, no bagless wastepaper bins.
Just a well-maintained, modern and very comfortable place to sleep each night.
Related: 11 incredible all-inclusive hotels for people who hate all-inclusives
2. Freshly cooked food with great variety
By far my biggest hesitation about the world of all-inclusive hotels was the food. My Mother had generally shied my family away from buffets on holidays growing up as she considered them both unhygienic and unrefined. I had visions of buffets with queues a mile long, lukewarm food sitting out for hours, cheap, bulky ingredients and eating exactly the same food every single day.
I needn't have worried. For starters, while it was a big hotel with hundreds of guests, rather than a buffet set-up at one long station with a single queue picking over it, there were multiple stations spread across the large restaurant area. This worked well to disperse the hungry guests.
Next, while there were some basics that were brought out for every meal like salad ingredients and bread, there were plenty of additional dishes that were only featured once and I appreciated this variety. What I loved, even more, were the live cooking stations where, for breakfast, the cheery chefs would cook omelets and pancakes to order, however you liked it. I've enjoyed this at five-star hotels before but did not expect this attention to detail in a mass-market all-inclusive.
What I also loved was that those live cooking stations were fully operational for dinner too. Depending on what was on the menu that day the chefs would flash-grill thin pieces of meat and fish to order so they would be piping hot and served onto your plate seconds after being cooked. That's as fresh as you can get.
3. Incredible staff
My favorite part of the Astoria Playa Alcudia experience was the staff who could not have done more to make the stay comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable. From the enthusiastic greetings from every staff member we walked by, to the front desk staff remembering us by name and asking how our day had been, to the restaurant buffet chefs remembering exactly how we liked our eggs in the morning and cheerily asking if we would like one before we even opened our mouths.
Though we only stayed four nights, I was really impressed with how much effort they went to to get to know us in such a short time. It was not expected but was welcomed.
Related: 13 mistakes to avoid at all-inclusive resorts
4. A sophisticated pool scene
The vibe by the pool each day was just what I was looking for. Very peaceful, very relaxing but still with good, lively vibes. A resident DJ mixed downtempo house and lounge music from a clever nest above the pool bar. It had the atmosphere of chilled beach clubs you might find in Mykonos or Ibiza without the guests downing shots or dancing on the tables by the time the sun went down.
Upon flopping down in a comfy cabana mattress an extensive drinks menu was handed to us by the pool staff within seconds. We had opted for an all-inclusive 'food but no alcohol' package as it was a fair bit more expensive to add the drinks package and we weren't sure how much we would actually drink having never done one of these holidays before.
The drinks weren't especially cheap, but I considered the prices fairly reasonable for the setting. As we were not bound by a drinks package of beer, wine and local spirits, we were free to get stuck into the cocktails and had more than a few delicious Aperol Spritz and frozen margaritas. What I liked about this was that guests had the choice — pre-purchase a drinks package and sink as many pints as you wish, or if you don't want a package you can purchase a la carte at any time.
Related: Infinite margaritas and sunshine: A review of the all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva in Cancun
5. The entertainment was corny but entertaining
Each evening, there was different entertainment provided in the hotel's lounge bar. I much prefer listening to a DJ than a cover band and while some of the night's entertainment wouldn't have been my first choice, it wasn't awful and it was amusingly entertaining. I had no desire to dance the night away on this long weekend — I wanted to relax in the sunshine by the pool. At the same time, I wasn't going to sleep at 8 p.m. each night so some light entertainment caught my interest.
The cover band they had one night were talented and put on an entertaining show. I'm glad the singers didn't dress up like the stars whose songs they were covering. If they did that, I would have been off to bed quick smart.
I especially enjoyed the evening of flamenco dancing performances. Being in Spain it felt like an authentic choice of entertainment but it was pleasant to watch as the attentive bar staff quietly slid a well-made nightcap into my hands.
6. No tacky wristbands
Unless I'm entering Glastonbury, I don't want a brightly colored band of cheap plastic firmly snapped onto my wrist. You can often spot all-inclusive hotel guests from a distance because of the wristbands they are wearing. The Astoria Playa Alcudia instead subtly asked for your room number when arriving for meals the first few days though they quickly recognized us and by the final evening crossed our name off a list without asking us for it.
Around the pool, as we were purchasing items individually, we gave our room number the first time, and the staff automatically remembered it for every subsequent order. It's that attention to detail that continued to impress me.
Related: Why all-inclusive resorts are more attractive than ever following the pandemic
I thoroughly enjoyed my first all-inclusive hotel experience in Majorca, Spain. It was a lot more sophisticated, comfortable and relaxing than I was expecting it to be. The incredible staff also made it really personalized. Sometimes I want to be out and about seeing and doing as much as I can. Other times, like this one, the only work I wanted to do was on my tan. If you want to relax without the daily decisions of an active holiday, all-inclusive resorts fit the bill perfectly.
I enjoyed it so much so that I've stayed at several other all-inclusive hotels since. I would recommend doing your homework as the cheap and cheerful options may fall short in some areas (especially cuisine) but there are some brilliant options out there for a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday.