The quality of dining onboard MSC's ships has been steadily improving since the launch of Meraviglia in 2017, and sister Bellissima is no exception. While there are just five specialty restaurants onboard, what Bellissima might lack in quantity, it makes up for in quality, offering high food and service standards across the board. It also helps that all the bread, pasta, pastries and mozzarella are freshly made daily.
Food items are marked for allergies, and all waiters we encountered, without exception, asked unprompted at the start of every meal about any food intolerances. There is a kids' club menu available in all the main dining rooms.
Following the current trend of cruise ships not having a single main dining room (MDR), Bellissima has four, which all serve exactly the same meals, differing only in location and decor.
For breakfast and lunch, you are limited to the buffet or one of the four MDRs (Posidonia), unless you are a Yacht Club passenger and can eat in the Yacht Club Dining Room.
You need reservations for all of the specialty restaurants.
Posidonia (Deck 5), The Lighthouse (Deck 6), Il Cilegio (Deck 6) and Le Cerisier (Deck 6)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
Posidonia is at the back of the ship but does not have aft views. Instead, it has porthole windows along the sides. The Lighthouse, which has a large picture window at the back for wake views, is the restaurant designated for passengers who have booked the Aurea Experience. There are three seatings (6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.), and you can choose whichever you want, but if you want to dine outside of these times, you can also call to reserve a table at whatever time you want. The remaining two restaurants are for people with set-time dining.
Posidonia is the only one of the four MDRs where you can get breakfast (served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.).
For breakfast, you can opt for the "MSC Express" that consists of scrambled or fried eggs, sausages, bacon and hash browns. Or you have the usual choice of breakfast items -- eggs, omelets, bacon and sausages, yogurts and cereals -- as well as more European-style items, such as cold cuts, cheeses and even grilled kippers, herrings and smoked salmon.
At lunch expect three starter choices, including a salad, soup and fish dish. Mains will include a fish and a meat dish, as well as simpler options such as a burger or a club sandwich. There will always be a vegetarian dish, usually pasta, but sometimes noodles. There is a wide selection of desserts, including ice cream, cheeses and fruit.
At all four main dining rooms, dinner is a three- or four-course affair, depending if you opt for cheese and dessert. All starters and mains include a soup and a vegetarian option. Mains err on the heavy side with duck, beef, veal and lamb all on offer, though you will always find a freshly made pasta dish and a fish dish. Always-available dishes are steamed fish fillet and grilled chicken breast. There is also a suggested a Healthy Option menu, complete with calories, fat, carbs and protein.
Twice a cruise there is a gala dinner, prepared by one of the line's celebrity chefs -- Carlo Cracco or Harald Wolfhart. Overall, the food is of a high quality -- the Gala Night herb-crusted tenderloin was exceptional -- with service to match.
The wine list is extensive, with an emphasis on Italian wines, and at a reasonable price. If you have opted for a beverage package, you are not limited to a handful of wines, unlike on many cruise ships. We found service exemplary, friendly, knowledgeable and attentive.
Marketplace Buffet (Deck 15)
Meals: B, L, D
The vast buffet, which takes up most of the back of Deck 15, is well designed and easy to navigate. You can enter via the main entrance, or at various side entrances or from the main pool deck, thus avoiding bottlenecks. There are hand-washing stations at every entrance, and a diligent crew member squirting you at the main entrance. The centerpiece is the glass-fronted mozzarella-making area, where you can watch the cheese being made fresh.
Food is available at each side of the mozzarella-making area and all the way to the back of the buffet on twin lines, punctuated by tea, coffee and water stations. At breakfast you'll find omelet stations as well as an English Breakfast Corner serving British staples, such as English bacon and baked beans (though sadly no Marmite), and also a small Chinese section serving congee, rice and noodles.
There is plenty of seating, including sit-up tables at the main entrance. (Our tip: Head toward the back where it is less crowded).
Room Service (24 hours a day): A cold breakfast, including hot beverages, is served free. Most other menu items are free as well, except for desserts and pizza, which costs 5 to 9 euros a pie. There is a delivery charge for non-breakfast items.
Pricing was accurate at time of review but may have changed since.
Jean-Philippe Chocolate & Cafe (Deck 6); a la carte specialty coffees and hot chocolate from 2.40 euros
Meals: All-day snacks
French master chocolatier Jean-Philippe Maury gets some prime real estate on the Galleria Bellissima -- the main promenade -- with this showcase to his extraordinary talents. The cafe features an open kitchen where you can watch the creations being made, as well as a cafe and a chocolate shop.
Take some time to admire some of his creations on display in a glass cabinet just as you enter -- you really will marvel at his skill. You can't buy these, but you can buy a model of the ship in milk, dark or white chocolate for 18 euros. The hot chocolate's not too bad, either.
Jean-Philippe Crepes & Gelato (Deck 6); a la carte, 2.90 euros and up
More of an ice cream parlor than a restaurant, its located in a prime spot along the main promenade and serves crepes, gelato, smoothies and various ice cream sundaes from 5.50 euros.
HOLA! Tapas (Deck 6); 26 euros or a la carte
Michelin-starred chef Ramon Freixa's second outing on an MSC ship (the first is Ocean Cay on MSC Seaview) is a hit-and-miss affair. Some of the absolute basics -- tortilla, for example -- are botched, with Freixa's weird almondy signature flakes coating one side, and pink mayo the other, rendering them largely inedible. The gambas al ajillo (prawns in garlic) come in a bao bun, which would outrage purists of this sublime dish and the less said about the pulpo a la Gallega (octopus Galician style), the better. There are some hits, such as the solomillo (steak), an unadorned plate of jamon and perfectly toasted bread with a side of tomato spreading paste, which we devoured, and a selection of burgers, which we weren't quite sure what were doing on the menu, but were delicious -- as were the fries. The desserts -- popping candy, chocolate and churros -- are fun.
L'Atelier Bistrot (Deck 6); 23 euros or a la carte, 6 to 22 euros
This French-style bistro is on the main promenade, Galleria Bellissima, and should, in theory, attract a lot of passing traffic; however, the concept of specialty dining is still relatively new for MSC so it may take some time for this to bed in. Dishes include French classics, such as pate, vichyssoise and, of course, escargots to start; and moules mariniere, bouef bourginon and steak frites for mains. The Dining Experience is reasonably priced, but it limits you to just four starters and four mains, so you may wish to go a la carte. However, note that with mains averaging more than 20 euros, if you're adding cheese and a dessert (not to mention wine), you are heading well north of 50 euros per person.
Kaito Teppanyaki (Deck 7); 24 euros to 59 euros; 12 euros for kids
Definitely the most fun of all the restaurants onboard in that this is just as much a show as a meal. For anyone familiar with a traditional hibachi experience, you know the drill: knife juggling, egg throwing, cheesy jokes -- and a lot of laughs. But of course, it's not just about the performance -- the food is outstanding -- beautifully seasoned, prepared and cooked. The set menu prices reflect the dishes served, with certain meats and seafood costing more. All the menus start with miso soup, sushi and sashimi, seasonal greens and include a lot of egg fried rice.
Kaito Sushi (Deck 7); 28 euros or a la carte
Meals: L, D
Situated just outside the Teppanyaki restaurant, so it's not so much a restaurant but a collection of tables on the landing overlooking the main promenade, as well as a sit-up sushi bar. Overseen by Japanese sushi master Chef Saimiya, the food here is outstanding. You could go for the Dining Experience, but our suggestion is to have a sashimi or nigiri dish each (from 3 euros), followed by one of the best noodle soups we have ever had on a ship -- Tori Soba, chicken, leeks and wakame (5 euros) -- with maybe a matcha tea ice cream (3 euros). Overall, superb value and attentive service.
Butcher's Cut (Deck 7); 39 euros or a la carte
This American-style steakhouse, all leather chairs and black and white prints on the walls, is situated on the upper floor of the Galleria, with a main restaurant and open kitchen, as well as tables outside overlooking the promenade. The steaks are superb: thick, juicy and tender. If steak is not your thing, chicken, scallops, halibut and salmon are also available. If you have any space left, there is a delicious selection of desserts, including New York cheesecake and a signature lava cake (made in the chocolate shop just below).
Carousel Lounge (Deck 7); 35 euros
This is the venue for the Cirque du Soleil shows. If you're going for the dinner, too (6 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.), the three-course set meal starts with a salad or a light fish dish and then a choice of three entrees -- fish, meat and vegetarian options. Dessert might be cheesecake or a mousse.