You’ve finally done it: you’ve made the decision to book the cruise trip that you’ve always dreamed of to the destination you’ve always wanted to visit. But it may not be as quick and easy a process as you first anticipated; in fact, there are a few decisions you need to make, with the major one being what board basis you’d like to book.

Choosing your board basis is a dilemma many cruisers struggle over, so we’re breaking down the different types of cruise packages so you can decide which board basis is the right one for you and your family.

Full Board

The majority of cruise lines offer full board meal packages as a standard option while sailing. This means that all your meals will be included at any of the ship’s restaurants, and sometimes at the hotels at either end of your stay if these are included in your package, but you do not receive drinks as part of this deal. The meals included are breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as meals and snacks from any buffets, bars, grills or informal pool-side restaurants.

This is a good option for most people, meaning that you only need to pay to buy drinks on board when you need them. The only exception is that certain cruise lines will have speciality restaurants that you need to pay an additional fee for. It also allows for a great range of flexibility over where you can choose to eat.

It also worth remembering that your full board package not only includes your meals and cabin; it also gives you other extras including access to other on board facilities such as entertainment, specific activities, the pool and the gym.

All inclusive

Some cruise lines also offer an all-inclusive package which means you’ll get drinks alongside all the meals and food options listed under full board.


Occasionally cruise lines will offer this as a free drinks upgrade package, but spaces on this are usually limited. In other circumstances, an all inclusive cruise board basis is usually the realm of more luxury cruises, meaning that it comes at a much higher rate. Of course, you’ll be getting a higher standard of service, potentially a better cabin on board and access to better facilities on board a luxury cruise that offers an all inclusive package. At the end of the day, it all depends on how much your budget is, how the value of the package you’ll receive on board works out for you and your family, and what standard of cruise you’re looking at.

Drinks packages

If you like the idea of an all inclusive cruise but your budget won’t stretch that far, it’s worth looking into the cruise lines themselves in more detail. For example, while Royal Caribbean’s cruises are generally offered only on a full board basis, they do have a selection of drinks that are offered on a complimentary basis including essentials such as teas, coffee, lemonade, iced tea and fruit juices. With a package like this, you may only need to purchase alcoholic and speciality drinks, meaning the spending money you’ll need on board will be significantly lowered.