Your guide and his wife were guests of the Grand Mirage Resort in Tanjung Benoa, Bali for a week at the end of March. It was a great time to visit: the tourist season was only warming up, but the sunny weather had come early. So we enjoyed Tanjung Benoa just before it filled up with the summer crowd; there were enough guests to make the resort feel lively, but not enough to feel stifling.
Better yet, we'd been allocated an all-inclusive stay for five nights. All-inclusive is a popular resort concept in the Caribbean, but hasn't really become a byword in Southeast Asia. The Grand Mirage is only one of a handful of all-inclusive resorts in Bali, following in the footsteps of its sister property the Club Bali Mirage Resort.
I quizzed Stephan Georgi, the e-commerce manager for the Grand Mirage and our host for the duration of the stay, about what all-inclusive meant. Simple, Stephan answered: "Unlimited food and beverages in all restaurants and bars; open room service, minibar, and activities - basically all activities that resorts have to offer."
Stephan explained to me what this all meant for the guest: "All-inclusive guests don't have to worry about the food bills, the drink bills, and don't have to worry about the hygiene," he explained. "We follow international standards with regard to hygiene; whereas if you keep going outside, with normal restaurants, you will never know what is going on there, right?"
So how did it shape up in practice?
In a word, awesome. Actually not worrying about tallying up the bill at the end of the stay takes a gigantic load off; for families who order plenty of room service, eat at the in-resort restaurants, and participate heavily in the resort's watersports and activities, going all-inclusive might actually save a tidy bit.
We were never more thankful for the all-inclusive deal than when we were freshly checked in. We'd suffered a whole day's worth of travel (a 6am flight from Manila to Singapore; an eight-hour layover; another flight from Singapore to Bali), and we were tired and oh so hungry. We were in no mood to tidy up and mingle with the other resort guests in the Grand Café, so my wife and I summoned up room service.
We had our first Grand Mirage meal on the balcony overlooking the beach: the "best fish and chips in Bali" (came close to the description in the menu) and nasi goreng for the missus. Romantic it was, but it was also incredibly satisfying on so many levels, a meal in comfort after a day on the road... and the glorious joy of never having to pay an extra cent for the lot.
I also want to add that being able to raid the minibar without worrying about the bill feels good in an illicit way. Like I'm getting away with something.
Free activities involved non-motorized watersports and access to the mountain bikes. The Grand Mirage's motorized watersports, though, will need to be paid for, if you don't already have a voucher from your travel agent or from the resort management.
So I highly recommend paying the extra dough for an all-inclusive package in the Grand Mirage Resort. Yes, you'll pay about twice as much as a regular breakfast-and-room guest. But if you anticipate spending mightily on room service, food and bev, and activities, you will not regret going all-inclusive.
Sounds like more and more of the guests agree; Stephan tells me that, year-round, about forty percent of the guests checked in are on all-inclusive. The all-inclusive trend has yet to hit its stride in Bali, but when it does, the Grand Mirage is well-placed to take full advantage.
For more on the resort and what all-inclusive is all about, read our Review of the Grand Mirage Resort, Tanjung Benoa, Bali, Indonesia. Compare rates on the Grand Mirage and other Tanjung Benoa, Bali Hotels & Resorts.
Images © Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.