From £33.50 per person per night, according to the MSC Web site, cruisers will be entitled to select wines by the bottle or glass, beer, cocktails made with non-premium spirits, soft drinks, items from their mini bar (except Champagne), ice-cream and mineral water (at restaurants and the buffet). Drinks can be obtained from all restaurants, the self-service buffet, bars and the cabin mini bar at any time of day.
For £37.80 per person per day, premium brands of spirits are thrown in, while a non-alcoholic package costs £18.90 per day.
On the surface, this seems to be a more flexible offer than the nearest comparable initiative by a mainstream cruise line. Celebrity's recent foray into drinks packages includes either beer (£22.75 per day) or spirits (£34 per day for non-premium brands), or there are various wine packages to choose between, while the MSC offer means you can have a beer with lunch, a gin and tonic at the bar and then wine with dinner and a brandy at the show, if you so wish, without having to worry about which package you've chosen.
But to make matters really confusing, MSC already offers another kind of all-inclusive drinks deal, called Forfait, which was introduced a year ago. This one only applies to meal times and includes selected bottled wine, mineral water, beer and soft drinks in the main restaurant and self service buffet only, for £13.50 per person per day. A non-alcoholic version costs £7.20.
And while all of these offers these are priced by the day, the line has confirmed to Cruise Critic that you actually have to book for the duration of the cruise, so essentially, the new £33.50 all-inclusive offer adds up to £234.50 per person for a seven-night cruise, or a rather alarming £469 per couple -- which represents an awful lot of booze.
A good idea? Or the slippery slope to binge-drinking at sea? Vote in our poll and let us know what you think!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor