What comes to mind when you hear the words “all inclusive?" Perhaps you think of a cruise ship or a massive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean with subpar food and cheaply-made cocktails. I shared that opinion before I set out on my honeymoon. We planned to stay at the crème de la crème of boutique hotels, but I was still unsure about what to expect. Let's just say that I was happily surprised by the experience. From luxury trains and safari camps to private islands and amazing villas, we were treated to the best off the beaten path luxury all-inclusive experiences. Best of all, we never once had to stay on a cruise ship or in a standard chain resort.
There is something very special, but hard to explain, about the Blue Train. Maybe it’s the history or the feeling of being transported back in time. Regardless of what it is, the Blue Train is an experience unlike any other. A 30-hour train ride between Cape Town and Pretoria, the Blue Train is like a luxury cruise... on land. Passengers can enjoy sipping champagne, eating five-star cuisine and watching the South African countryside pass by. With a limited number of suites, the Blue Train is the perfect exclusive experience for a honeymoon or anniversary.
After arrival and getting settled into your suite, you get to enjoy a three-course brunch with endless champagne and fantastic South African wine. After the meal, you can head to the front car for a cocktail, a game of cards and sightseeing. You can take advantage of the train's pit stop to visit an old bar for sherry tasting. In the afternoon, there is a traditional English teatime with delicious cakes and tea sandwiches. Dinner is a black-tie affair with a kind of elegance that you don't often see these days. Following dinner, you can sip on a brandy and smoke Cuban cigars at the bar, just like passengers did 50 years ago.
Here is what is included in the Blue Train journey: all meals, alcohol, cigars, and a town tour with sherry tasting. French champagne is available for purchase.
Like most luxury safari camps, Singita Lebombo Lodge, in South Africa, includes all food and beverages in the rate. Singita is a step above the rest when it comes to a true luxury all-inclusive experience. The food is unbeatable, and it is served everywhere. You are fed before game drives, during game drives, after game drives and several times in between. If you have a favorite South African wine, Singita is virtually guaranteed to have a few bottles in its expansive cellars. Even the mini bars in the rooms are fully stocked with your favorite beverages.
All game drives and additional activities are included in the rate. The bathrooms are stocked with upscale Dermoligica products. Singita also has a full-equipped fitness center and a store. This South African all-inclusive resort is ideal for honeymoons, anniversaries, destination weddings, retreats and even corporate incentive travel. Singita is a large company with 14 luxury safari camps throughout Africa. Some travelers combine two or three of their luxury camps for the ultimate African safari experience.
Here is what is included at the Singita Lebombo Lodge: gourmet cuisine (available whenever you want), top-shelf liquor, premium wine, a fully-stocked mini bar, two daily game drives, additional activities, and pick-up and drop-off at the Singita airstrip in Kruger National Park. The intangibles are important at Lebombo as well; overall, they provided the best service I have ever experienced at a resort of any type.
Gili Lankanfushi, in the Maldives, is a luxury island resort where you can kick off your shoes and not worry about anything. A vacation here will have you on "island time." The Gili Lankanfushi experience can be tailored to fit your needs. They offer a choice between full board and a la carte service. I can tell you from experience that the full board option is absolutely worth it.
All the meals were delicious, but the brunch was the best I have ever had. It was served at the beachside restaurant and consisted of fresh sashimi and sushi, a made-to-order fresh-pressed juice, a fresh fruit station where the chef cut the fruit for you, an elixir bar with every remedy you could think of, traditional English breakfast offerings, Asian breakfast options and a massive bread bar. If that is not enough for you, there is also a menu to order from. Dinner at Lankanfushi is served at a different location every night, and the theme changes with the location.
Here is everything that is included: transportation to and from Male Airport (a 20 minute boat ride), all meals, snorkeling equipment and your own personal butler. Alcohol and other water sports options are available for an additional fee.
It doesn't really get more off the beaten path than the highlands of Sri Lanka. An all-inclusive trip like the “Tea and Sea Experience” makes this kind of adventure very accessible. "Tea and Sea" includes airport pickup from Colombo, private transportation to the Ceylon Tea Trails (a three-hour drive), all meals, all beverages, a tea plantation tour, canoeing and guided hikes. The second leg of the journey takes you to the coast to the Cape Weligama resort. Here, you get one spa treatment, all meals and beverages and a fully-stocked mini bar.
Extras are available on an a la carte basis. These options include activities such as whale watching, a visit to the historic town of Galle and day-safari tours.
Twin Farms is located in the picturesque landscape of Barnard, Vermont. This is truly an all-inclusive experience. You can leave your credit cards and cash at home. All meals, wine and beverages are included and are completely personalized just for you. You can enjoy a private picnic for two, have dinner prepared in your own cottage or eat a meal anywhere else your heart desires. Spa treatments, wine tastings and other onsite activities are all included. Twin Farms is perfect for a couples getaway, a honeymoon or an intimate destination wedding.
Azura Quilalea is a true deserted island experience. Here, each meal is served on the beach or in the restaurant, and the team makes sure to seat you in a different location at each meal. Enjoy the fresh fruit, an abundance of seafood, and a number of dishes with that famous Mozambican spice combination known as peri peri.
A specialty cocktail (which changes daily) is brought to your room just before sundown so you can sip it on your own private deck while you watch the sunset. A traditional seafood barbeque is served on one of the evenings during your stay. The cooking takes place under a centuries-old baobab tree in the middle of the island. All meals and local domestic beverages are included. All non-motorized water sports like kayaking and snorkeling are also included. Fishing, scuba diving, and massages are all available for purchase.
Have you had an unforgettable all-inclusive experience at a boutique hotel? We want to hear about it.