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Cruise Line Drink Packages - drink packages and the dilemma about them

Drink Packages MSC Cruises – The Complete Guide

Sailing on MSC and ready to really go on vacation?
Then you might start with a drink package. Instead of worrying about the price of your bar bill, you can pay one set daily fee and get your drinks included for the entire cruise.

MSC ship at Ocean Cay with lighthouse

MSC Divina docked at Ocean Cay. Drink packages allow you to have your fill on the ship, but also extend to the cruise line’s private island.

On the surface, the MSC drink packages are pretty simple. You pay the cost, and you get to drink your fill of whatever you want. However, with any drink package, there are always a lot of options, fine print, and caveats.

To help you sort through the details and make sure you get the right deal for you, we’ve covered all the ins and outs of MSC’s drink packages below. This includes how to figure if the package is worth it for your cruise.

Following a revamp in late 2021, MSC has a total of five drink packages. Of these, three are alcoholic packages and two are non-alcoholic.

Alcoholic Packages
MSC offers several different options for those wanting to drink their fill of cocktails and beer on the ship. This includes the Easy Package, the Easy Plus Package, and the Premium Extra Package.

Easy Package: This deal offers selected drinks aboard the ship. Your options are somewhat limited, but it does include some beers, well cocktails, house wines, soft drinks, juices, bottled mineral water, and coffees. (A sample of the included drinks is shown later in this article.)

Easy Plus Package: A step above the Easy Package is the Easy Plus Package. This package offers drinks up to $10 per glass. Here you’ll find a much wider selection with cocktails, wines, and beers, as well as sodas, juices, energy drinks, and more.

Premium Extra Package: MSC’s top-of-the-line package is called Premium Extra. With this package (which is also the most expensive) you get drinks by the glass up to $16 each. This package is the most similar to drink packages found on other lines where you have the widest number of options across the ship. If you want a beer, cocktail, wine, specific brands of liquor, water, coffee, energy drinks, juices, and more, it’s almost surely included in this offer.

Non-Alcoholic Packages
MSC also has two non-alcoholic packages that feature drinks across the ship that don’t have alcohol. This includes non-alcoholic cocktails, soda, energy drinks, juice, water, coffee, tea, and even ice cream. They are known as the Alcohol-Free Package and the Minors Package. These appear to have the same beverages offered, but a cheaper price for those under 21 sailing from the United States. 

How Much do MSC Drink Packages Cost?

Each of the packages has a different cost, ranging from as little as $17 per day to $71 per day. Note that prices can change at any time.

  • Easy Package: $49 per person, per day
  • Easy Plus Package: $64 per person, per day
  • Premium Extra Package: $88 per person, per day
  • Alcoholic-Free Package: $30 per person, per day (21+ years old); $21 per person, per day (3-20 years old)

As well, you receive a 15% discount if you purchase the package before sailing. That means you can save a substantial amount if you simply pre-purchase the package ahead of time versus waiting until on the ship.  Here is a summary of prices for local SOuth African Cruises.

Drink Packages MSC

One note: Unlike other cruise lines, MSC does not charge a gratuity on top of the price of the package. So the price you see is that you pay each day.

Is Gratuity Included? Do I Need to Tip More?

Yes, gratuity is included in the cost of the package, according to MSC. So the price you see is the price you’ll pay.

And once at the bar, you don’t have to worry about additional charges or gratuity. It is already taken care of. You can tip more if you feel generous, but it’s not expected or required.

You should note that if you use the package to buy a drink while in port, you may be charged tax on the purchase.

Do I Have to Buy the Package For Each Day of the Cruise?

Yes. MSC requires guests who want the package to buy it for every day. You can’t purchase for single days. So if your cruise is a week, you’ll be charged for seven days, whether you have 10 drinks in a day or don’t drink anything at all.

Keep this in mind when considering the drink package. If you have a cruise with several days in port, you’ll still pay for the package even if you are off the ship and don’t use it (with the exception of Ocean Cay, where the package works on the island).
Also note that the package is not charged for debarkation day when your cruise arrives back home.

Does Every Person in a Cabin Have to Buy It If One Person Does?

Yes. MSC says that all guests sailing in a cabin must purchase the drink package if one person does. According to the terms posted on MSC’s website:
“Packages must be booked by all guests occupying the same cabin, traveling together and wishing to dine at the same table. This includes minors, for whom the Minors Package must be booked. Packages are not obligatory for infants under three years of age.”
This is likely designed to limit sharing (one person buying the package and then getting drinks for someone without the package).
It’s important to note that this extends to kids as well. So if you are traveling with a minor that is three years or older, then you will have to purchase the non-alcoholic beverage package for them. There is a $21 cost for those under 21 years old.
Kids under three don’t have to get a drink package.

What’s Included/Not Included in the Packages?

Each package is different in what it does and does not include. You can view the complete list of what’s included for each package on MSC’s website.
Here’s a breakdown for each:
Easy Package (select drinks)
Includes one brand of draft beer (Heineken) and/or bottled Miller Lite, well cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails, house wines, soft drinks, juice, bottled mineral water, coffees, and hot chocolate.
Note: The Easy Package can’t be used in specialty restaurants. No drink packages can be used in MSC’s “signature venues,” which it says are Venchi 1878 establishments or Jean-Philippe Maury venues, and MSC Virtuosa Starship Club.

Easy Plus Package (Up to $10 per drink)
The Easy Plus Package includes everything in the Easy Package above, but has more options given the higher price ceiling. You’ll find a wide array of beers (around 20 beers, compared to two in the Easy Package), more cocktails, more wine by the glass and liquors. Specialty coffees, energy drinks, and canned soft drinks are also included. As well, drinks in specialty restaurants are available with this package.

Premium Extra Package (Up to $16 per drink)
If you want the traditional drink package experience where you get your run of practically anything on the ship, then the Premium Extra Package may be ideal for you. It covers drinks on the ship up to $16 per glass. So you get any beer on the ship (as with the Easy Plus offer), most liquor brands, cocktails across the menu (including high-end cocktails), specialty coffees, juices, mineral water, and more. 

Alcoholic-Free/Minors Package
If alcohol isn’t your thing or you are sailing with kids, then you might be interested in the non-alcoholic package. It offers non-alcoholic cocktails, sodas, energy drinks, juices, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
This package doesn’t apply to the specialty restaurants, unless it’s for a minor whose group purchased the Easy Plus or Premium Extra alcoholic package.

Does the Drink Package Work on Ocean Cay? Portuguese Island and Pomene?

Coconut drink on MSC's Ocean Cay

Ocean Cay is MSC’s private island (see our complete guide to the island here), and yes, the MSC drink package works on Ocean Cay just as it does on the ship. The same will apply on visits to Portuguese Island and Pomene Bay.
Since cruises aboard MSC from Florida typically include a stop here, it’s an extra day that you can get your money’s worth from buying the drink package. Simply head up to any of the numerous bars on the island and place your order.
One thing to keep in mind is that the menu on the island may be slightly different than what’s found on the ship.

Is There a Daily Limit on How Many Drinks I Can Get?

There is no mention of a daily limit on drinks mentioned with the packages. That said, if you appeared overserved, then don’t be surprised if the cruise line decides to refuse service.
Be sure to mix in some water with those margaritas during your cruise!

I Bought the Free Drinks & Wi-Fi Offer. Which Drink Package Do I Get?

Currently, MSC is running an offer with drinks and Wi-Fi included with your cruise. In the case that you book this, you will be provided with the Easy Plus Drink Package (which offers drinks up to $10 per glass).

What Drinks Are Available With the Easy Package? What About Drinks $10 and Under for Easy Plus?

While the Easy Package is attractive at just $49 per day, many people wonder what alcoholic drinks are available. This used to be for drinks priced $6 or under. Now MSC labels the package as including “select drinks.”
According to the chart on MSC’s website, this includes a “draft beer” and Miller Lite, house wines, well drinks, as well as classic cocktails, mixed drinks with good spirits.
To give you a better idea, of what that means, below is a menu with low-priced simple mixed cocktails like a Moscow Mule, Long Island Iced Tea, Mojito, and more that would be available. These are the sort of drinks that would be included. Take a look:

The Easy Package offers a number of mixed drinks, mocktails, soft drinks, and more. Beer options are limited.

As for beers, most are priced at $7.50, but you can get a draft Heineken with the Easy Package. 

Your options are much greater under the Easy Plus Package which includes drinks up to $10. Here you get a much wider selection of beers and cocktails, as well as the ability to get drinks with name-brand liquors. For example, beers like Budweiser, Dos Equis, Sam Adams, Guinness, and Blue Moon are included (along with many more).

As well, you get more liquor brands as well. Just one example is that while the Easy Package offers good whiskey, the Easy Plus package offers brands like Crown Royal, Jim Beam, and Johnnie Walker. You also get more cocktail choices, like Contemporary Classics:

The drinks above are a sample of what’s included in the Easy Plus offer, but not the Easy package.

As for the $10 limit, that seems to have the largest impact on the cocktails and wines by the glass. There, the limit does come into play on some more unique/high-end cocktails and more expensive wines. For instance, the cocktails shown below would not be available with the Easy Plus Package, but are with the highest-end Premium Extra Package:

If you want the most options, like the cocktails shown here, then you’ll want the Premium Extra drink package.

What if I Buy a Drink Above the Dollar Limit for the Package?

Say you really want to try the Mango Mojito — priced at $13 — but only have the Easy Plus Package that’s good for drinks up to $10. Do you have to pay full price?
On MSC, you are given a discount and only pay the difference between the per-drink allotment and the menu price. So in this case, you would only pay $3 for the higher-priced drink.
The discount is $8 per drink for the Easy Package, $10 per drink for the Easy Plus Package, and $16 per drink for the Premium Extra Package.

Who Is Each Package Best For?

Not sure which package is right for you? The three options are very different, which can make things a little confusing.
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: This package is best for beer drinkers and those who favor mid-tier liquors. One of the biggest differences between the Easy Plus and Easy Packages is the beer lineup. The lower-tier Easy Package has only two alcoholic beers included. The Easy Plus offer has more than 20 included. 

As well, there are more name-brand liquors available for drinks, including Jameson, Tito’s, Captain Morgan, 1800 Reposado, and dozens more. However, some menu options (specifically cocktails) are over the $10 per glass limit, restricting choices somewhat. Even so, you’d still be able to find something that you like given the number of 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. It definitely offers the most options, making it better for those who like “higher-end” drinks.
As well, the cost for MSC’s highest-tier package ($88 per person, per day) is in line with what many other cruise lines charge for their packages.

Is the MSC Drink Package Worth It?

For some people, the drink package is a great way to save money. For others, it can be a waste as you’ll spend more than you would otherwise. In general, we think many people who buy an MSC drink package will get their money’s worth due to the relatively affordable cost — although the price has increased recently, making the deal a little less attractive than it used to be.
But before you buy the package, it’s important that you do the math and think about how you will use it.
The first thing to do is figure out what sort of drinks you’ll want on the cruise and how many per day.
Beer drinker? Most beers run about $7-8 each. If you plan to drink five a day, then that’s $35-$40, compared to the $64 per day for the Easy Plus Package that’s needed to purchase them.
Cocktail prices vary widely, with some good drinks being $7-8, but many more options are available in the $10-14 range.
But you also don’t want to forget other drinks that you might have, including non-alcoholic drinks. To give you an idea of what things cost, we have general prices below that we’ve seen:

  • Beers: ~$7-8
  • Cocktails: ~$7-14 
  • Soda: ~$2.25-$3.25
  • Juice: ~$2.95-$4.25
  • Energy Drinks: ~$4.95
  • Bottled Water (Spring & Sparkling): ~$2.75-$5.50
  • Coffees: ~$2.50-$4.25

Beyond considering how much you will drink each day, consider the number of ports of call on your cruise. Remember that you can’t use the package while off the ship unless you are visiting Ocean Cay, MSC’s private island. There, you can use the package on the ship while it is in port.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to get out and explore, then that’s a lot of time that you won’t be able to use the package.
Finally, remember that if one person buys a drink package, then everyone in the cabin has to buy it. So if you are a couple and one person drinks and the other doesn’t, then it’s going to be much harder to get your money’s worth.
The drink package rule also applies to kids who are three years and older. Be sure to add in these costs when making your decision on whether the package is worth the money.

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