Costa Mediterranea Dining
The Restaurant degli Argentieri, based on a splendid 18th-century palazzo, is split into two levels and is the ship's main dining venue. It is a visually exciting space lit by fun glass globes that look like escaped balloons hanging from the ceiling. Dozens of fine silver goblets are displayed in little nooks throughout the room.
The restaurant works on an assigned, two seating basis and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (6:15 p.m. and 8:45 or 9 p.m. on formal nights). The late seating is geared to European dining customs and is quite late for many Americans. We, in fact, were usually just leaving the table at 10:45 p.m. And that did not even include time for coffee, which Italians customarily drink at a bar rather than at the dinner table. You can, of course, order regular coffee in the restaurant, but not cappuccino (a breakfast drink in Italy) or espresso. For these, you must go to a bar.
Dinner menus play up the Italian theme, with a different region of Italy highlighted each night. A tasty pasta course is always offered before the entree. Costa's "Salute e Benessere" ("health and well being") menus offer low-fat, low-carbohydrate options. Vegetarian selections are always available as well and are listed on the regular menu. The wine list is reasonably priced (many bottles around $24) with a predominance of Italian wines.
At night, the elegant Club Medusa (Decks 10 and 11) is the ship's alternative restaurant. A very cool glass stairway leads up to the Club from Deck 9. We found the appetizers, in particular, to be superb (try the grilled sea scallops or shrimp pie). There is a $23 per person cover charge and reservations are required. After dinner, the Club's balcony level transforms into a cigar bar that's open to everyone.
Caveat: If you want a fine dining experience at Club Medusa, don't accept the back table by the galley and tucked under the stairs. We did, though the restaurant remained half empty all evening with plenty of better seats going vacant.
During regular mealtimes, the sprawling Perla del Lago Restaurant on Deck 9 serves uninspired buffet fare. The numerous stations offer different dishes, so it pays to explore. The pizzeria, for example, is a separate station near the rear of the buffet area. While soft ice cream machines are scattered throughout, different ones are switched on at different times.
Though the ship offers round-the-clock food service, off-hour choices are slim. The 24-hour room service menu lists a few soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. All passengers may order espresso or cappuccino with their continental breakfast, a nice touch. Only suite passengers may order off the full restaurant menus for complete in-suite dining, including hot dishes for breakfast.
Costa is one of the few cruise lines to still offer a midnight buffet. The location changes nightly and may be served up as a tropical deck party, a galley visit, or an extravaganza in the dining room.