Explained: MSC’s Big Changes to Drink Packages

With cruising paused, many cruise lines took the time to re-think not only how they can sail safely in a new environment, but also other parts of the cruise experience. Case in point: MSC Cruises is rolling out a major revamp to its drink package options, beginning in late 2021.

MSC Cruises signage

MSC Cruises may not be a household name in the United States just yet, but the cruise line has a growing its presence here, in addition to being a popular choice in Europe. One of the ways MSC is making inroads is with offering relatively cheap fares compared to rivals, as well as affordable onboard items — especially drink packages.

For example, the least expensive (although most restrictive) alcoholic drink package before the pause in sailing could be bought for as little as $35 per day. Most other lines charge between $60-80 for their packages.

Now the cruise line is mixing things up somewhat, including changing the names of packages and what’s included. Here’s what you need to know.

Overview of the Change in Packages Offered

Prior to the change, MSC offered three different alcoholic packages:

Easy Package (Old): The least expensive option, which covered drinks up to $6 per glass, was known as the Easy Package. With this offer, you essentially received your option of a couple of beers, a selection of well drinks, house wines, coffees, and soda.

Premium Package (Old): More comparable to the drink packages found on other cruise lines, the Premium Package offered drinks up to $12 per glass. That opened up your options to most of what was available on the ship, including a large lineup of beer, cocktails, and wine.

Premium Plus (Old): While most drinks were available under the Premium Package, for those who simply wanted anything on the ship, they could upgrade to Premium Plus. With this offer there was no price limit, so if it was available, it was included in the package.

With the new rework of the packages, however, MSC is offering a different lineup of packages:

Easy Package (New): Just as before, the Easy Package is still there. You can still have this package and get an assortment of well drinks, house wines, coffees, and sodas. As before, there is a limited beer selection.

Easy Plus (New): The Premium Package is now removed. Instead, MSC offers the Easy Plus Package. This includes drinks of up to $9. That will get you most beers on the ship, as well as many name-brand liquors, wines up to $9 per glass, sodas, and water. However, a number of high-end liquors that used to be available under the Premium Package are not included under the Easy Plus offer. This includes Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker Black, and Grey Goose. As well, many cocktail options (such as “Tropical Treasures”) are also now excluded.

Premium Extra (New): Replacing Premium Plus, which gave you access to just about all the drinks on the ship, is the new Premium Extra offer. Now, there is a price limit of up to $15 per glass. This price limit does remove a few higher-end drinks off the list, but it’s certainly not many. For passengers used to traditional drink packages from other cruise lines, such as Carnival’s CHEERS! package, the Premium Extra is MSC’s comparable entry in this field.

Change in Pricing Offered

While pricing can adjust at any time, we last saw the following numbers for the old drink packages in 2020, before the pause in cruising:

Easy Package (Old): $35 per person, per day
Premium Package (Old): $62 per person, per day
Premium Plus (Old): $79 per person, per day

Now, the new packages have the following pricing for now, according to MSC’s website:

Easy Package (New): $38 per person, per day
Easy Plus (New): $49 per person, per day
Premium Extra (New): $69 per person, per day

As you can see, the Easy Package (which largely stayed the same) went up slightly in price. And while the new Easy Plus and Premium Extra packages don’t have the same price ceilings per drink as the old Premium/Premium Plus packages, they are also considerably less expensive.

Analyzing the Changes in Package Offerings

Tropical Treasures cocktails on MSC
Given the $9 per drink limit, drinks like the Tropical Treasures aren’t included in the new Easy Plus Package.

MSC has provided a list of what’s included and what’s not in each package. This allows you to get a better idea of what’s changed with the new lineup of packages.

Looking through the list, the biggest difference seems to be in the offerings of the old Premium Package versus the new Easy Plus. Before, the mid-tier Premium Package’s lineup was more like a traditional drink package seen on other lines that allowed you all but the highest-end beverages given the $12 per drink limit. Now, the mid-tier Easy Plus (with the $9 per drink limit) offers fewer choices.

Instead, if passengers want to be able to get most drinks on the ship — especially cocktails — they will need to purchase the new Premium Extra Package, which is the most expensive option.

For instance, with the old mid-tier Premium Package, passengers could get all of the following from the cocktail menu alone:

  • Alcohol-Free Cocktails
  • Contemporary Classics (e.g. Classic Martini, Margarita, Bloody Mary)
  • Fresh Fruit Cocktails
  • Frozen Drinks
  • Mixed Drinks with Well Spirits
  • Premium Cocktails (e.g. Signature Martini, Hemingway Daiquiri)
  • Premium Mixed Drinks
  • Protein Shakes
  • Tropical Treasures (e.g. Mai Tai, Miami Beach Iced Tea)
  • Classic Cocktails with Well Spirits.

Now, the Easy Plus Package offers just the following for cocktail options (although other drinks like beer, wine, and liquors are available and the price is cheaper):

  • Contemporary Classics
  • Fresh Fruit Cocktails
  • Mixed Drinks with Well Spirits
  • Protein Shakes
  • Alcohol-Free Cocktails
  • Classic Cocktails with Well Spirits

Things like Premium Cocktails and Tropical Treasures are no longer included.

Who Is Each Package Best For?

In our eyes, the three different drink packages offered can make it difficult to know which one is right for you. Should you save money and go with a lower-tier package? Or pay up for more options?

Easy Package: The most restrictive package, we’d suggest this offer for people who don’t mind a smaller number of options. The unique, fancy cocktails aren’t included, but you can get classics like Rum & Coke, or a Moscow Mule. House wines, fountain sodas and premium coffee are also included. So if you aren’t a big alcohol drinker or don’t need a lot of variety, then this package might be good for you.

Easy Plus Package: Ideal for beer drinkers and those who favorite mid-tier liquors. One of the biggest differences between the Easy Plus and Easy Packages is the beer lineup. Only two alcoholic beers are included in the Easy Package. More than 20 are included with Easy Plus, the same as the higher-end Premium Extra package that’s more expensive.

As well, there are more name-brand liquors available for drinks, including Jameson, Tito’s, Captain Morgan, 1800 Reposado, and dozens more. There are also more non-alcoholic options like bottled juices and energy drinks compared to the Easy package. However, many menu options are over the $9 per glass limit, restricting choices.

Premium Extra: If you’re looking for the classic drink package experience where you have nearly everything on the ship included, then you’ll want the Premium Extra. Not only do you get what’s included in the Easy Plus Package, but there are also more liquor brands included. As well, you have the greatest number of cocktail options included, as well as the most wines by the glass.

While the lower-tier packages will work for some people, we think most people would want to opt for the new Premium Extra to have the most choice available.

What’s The Main Takeaway From the Changes?

So what is the bottom line if you are sailing on an upcoming MSC cruise? In our view, there are pluses and minuses, depending on what you drink.

Essentially, there seems to have been little change with the lowest-tier Easy Package. If you’ve been happy with that before, then the new plans shouldn’t have an effect.

The biggest difference appears with the move to introduce the Easy Plus and Premium Extra packages.

Easy Plus seems like a good deal if you are a beer drinker. It offers the same wide number of options for beer, but at a lower price than the Premium package that had been offered. The tradeoff is that there are fewer liquor and cocktail items included with the Easy Plus compared to the former Premium package given the lower $9 per glass limit.

Instead, those who were happy with the Premium package before (thanks to the variety of different drinks) should check the new list of offerings. If you enjoyed cocktails with the package, it’s likely you’ll now want the highest-tier Premium Extra package. With the $15 per glass limit, it simply gives you the most choice.

The best solution to find the right drink package? Check out the lineup of what’s offered and see where you’ll get the most bang for you buck, depending on what you like to drink:

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