All Inclusive Versus Full Board

Many people still believe that cruising is a pricy holiday choice, but when you consider everything that’s included, it really can work out to be excellent value for money.

Along with comfortable serviced accommodation, the cost also includes your meals which are available around the clock, evening entertainment plus use of modern ship facilities such as the gym. So does that cover everything? Not quite.

It’s sometimes easy to forget the “extras” you will be paying in addition to the cruise fare. Shore excursions, drinks, gratuities, port transfers not to mention your spending money are all going to up the bill and need to be considered.

The majority of cruise lines sell their cruises on a full board basis, i.e. all meals included, but do not include drinks. There are a few exceptions, such as Island Cruises and Thomson Cruises. These 3-4* cruise lines offer a number of free upgrades to an all inclusive tariff on selected sailings. Places are very limited, and once the free places have sold, they will charge to upgrade to this option, if it is still available.

But wouldn’t it be nice if everything was included, I’m talking gratuities, unlimited drinks from fancy cocktails to champagne, a complimentary mini bar in your cabin and all shore excursions.

You may be surprised to find out that this option is almost a reality.

Ultra luxury cruise line Silversea offers the closest you can get to a fully inclusive cruise package.

Their fleet offers 4 beautiful ships each carrying no more than 400 passengers for an intimate experience. When you sail with Silversea all gratuities and drinks are included, but in addition, transportation to and from the ports to the main attractions are complimentary.

Obviously, sailing in a suite onboard an all inclusive luxury ship is going to cost more than your regular cruise, but, if you usually travel in a suite on a 4* ship, surprisingly, this option may work out to be better value. For around £3400 per person you could enjoy an all inclusive, 7 night Mediterranean cruise, in a suite with balcony onboard a 6* luxury ship. If you don’t require a balcony, this cost can drop to around £2500 per person. In comparison, a similar cruise with a 4* cruise line based on a top suite could roll in at as much as £3800 per person.

If you still like the idea of an all inclusive board basis (and who wouldn’t) but have a budget that won’t quite stretch, there are still options out there for you.

Royal Caribbean for example offer their cruises on a full board basis, but, teas, coffee, lemonade, iced tea and fruit juices with breakfast are complimentary. Furthermore, soda packages can be purchased which enables both kids and adults to enjoy unlimited brand soft drinks at a very reasonable daily rate, plus, for those who enjoy a bottle of wine with their meal, they sell various packages which will also save you a few pounds.

For daytime cocktails – you are on holiday after all – look out for the cocktail of the day which will be on offer at a reduced price. However, in addition to this cost of course, you still have a service charge of 15% to pay on top of each bar bill, plus gratuities.

So, what really is better value? To work this out you need to calculate how much you are likely to be spending on drinks, the accommodation you want to travel in, and the gratuities you will need to pay. Then you can work out the difference in cost and decide if you want to pay the extra to experience an ultra luxury cruise.