MSC Opera Dining
Opera's La Carvela and L'Aprodo are its two main dining rooms, featuring traditional seating (set time, set tablemates) at dinner. After some initial burps and hiccups in the restaurants, the servers seem to have settled into a consistent routine, with very little waiting time, attentive service and an appreciation for the way North Americans dine. The menus definitely have an Italian flair and what's ironic is that the only menu items not particularly appealing were geared specifically to North American tastes (better to stick with the Italian specialties, even if they are not what you have come to expect from your local pizzeria or trattoria, such as gnocchi).
Breakfast is served (traditionally) in both dining rooms; the start and end times are staggered by half an hour (one opens earlier and closes earlier); the schedule is in the daily itinerary.
Menus at dinner offer six courses, with appetizer, soup, salad, a risotto and pasta du jour, main entree and dessert. The selections were so varied it was hard to choose, and note that the pasta and risotto selections, meant to be part of the meal, were served in portions too huge to be considered a "side order."
On occasion, Mario, the cheerful Maitre d'Hotel, will be cooking a specialty near the entrance of the dining rooms -- something that is not on the menu. I was lucky enough one evening to be presented with a small plate of his sauteed grape tomatoes and escarole, made with croutons, garlic, olive oil, fresh parmesan and basil, and I was in garlic heaven for days afterwards.
Le Vele is the ship's buffet restaurant and it offers lido-style fare. Breakfast items feature the usual (scrambled eggs, bacon, hash-browns and breads). At lunch, there are two food lines (and a separate dessert and fruit station). Several salads, an array of cold cuts, hot and cold items, pastas, a carving station, a variety of fresh fruit, and some mushy, institutional desserts are available at lunchtime.
Il Patio, located outside of Le Vele, offers al fresco snacking most of the day. On one side is the pizzeria, making fresh oven-baked pizza of at least two varieties plus cheese on any given afternoon (no requests, you get what's on the menu for that day). The other side is a fast-food area, which serves in the morning as a made-to-order omelet and pancake station, and in the afternoons cooks up grilled burgers and hot dogs (with condiments).
There is some sort of gala buffet every night of the cruise at or around midnight (with the exception of the first and last night, when servers wander the lounges with elaborate hors d'oeuvres on trays). Especially don't miss the Magnifique Buffet. It's an extravaganza with a definite European twist. Here is a reggae band crafted from fruit! And the Leaning Tower of Pisa created from Parma ham! A tower of climbing lobsters! And a scaled replica of the Opera made of various Italian cheeses! It's worth going even if you can't manage another bite; consider it the equivalent of another entertainment offering.
Room service options are scant, with Caesar salads (with or without chicken) and a sandwich being the only daytime offerings, plus fruit "drinks," coffee, tea and cheesecake. Breakfast is limited to hot drinks, cold milk and juice, rolls and croissants, and yogurt.
Smoking is not allowed in any of the restaurants.
Note: There are a couple of times during the day when nothing is available for an hour or two except room service. My suggestion? Walk around the ship a couple of times, go play mini-golf, have a vigorous swim or a steam and sauna, and go to line dancing at the pool. The food assault will start again soon enough and you will, after all, need extra room for that risotto.