Food onboard MSC Armonia is hit or miss, though plenty of passengers seemed happy enough with the offerings. One would assume that Italian food would be the star of the show at meals, but overcooked pasta on more than one occasion and sometimes flavorless sauces were a disappointment. Dishes, such as an excellent vegan burger served at lunch, were happy discoveries.
Pizza, available at the buffet or as a delivery to your cabin, was a passenger favorite, as was the gelato bar.
There's also not a wide variety of dining options, with just two main dining rooms (one of which is for suite passengers only), a buffetand one specialty dining venue.
With advance notice, passengers with special dietary needs are accommodated with no problem. MSC Armonia carries prepackaged gluten-free products, such as snacks, cookies, croissants, sponge cakes and muffins.
Marco Polo (Deck 5)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D) Marco Polo, seating 1,060 passengers, is the larger of the ship's two main dining rooms. Tables seat from two to six diners, and seating areas along the outside wall are a combination of built-in bench seating, normal table and chair setups and semicircular booths that seat six.
Breakfast and lunch are both waiter-served and open seating. For dinner, passengers dining in Marco Polo are allocated a set table and fixed dining time (early or late seatings are timed to coincide with the two evening shows in the Teatro La Fenice theater) at 6:15 p.m. or 8:45 p.m.
Breakfast offers eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausage, smoked salmon, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, yogurt, cereal, pastries, bread, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and fruit juices. Lunch features a three-course menu made up of starters (soup, cheese croquettes, Greek salad), a main (typically steak, pasta and fish dishes -- hamburgers are always available and the vegan version is better than average), a daily special and desserts.
Dinner offers at least three courses, as well, plus an always-available menu with options that include Caesar salad (chicken optional), grilled chicken breast, steak or salmon dishes served with French fries, baked potatoes or the vegetable dish of the day. Specials could be anything from roast pheasant to red snapper.
Vegan choices are also offered and most special diets can be catered for onboard, but MSC advises cruisers to notify the line of any special dietary needs when booking their cruise.
La Pergola (Deck 6)
Meals: B, L, D La Pergola, the second main dining room, seats 340 people and has open seating from 6 to 9 p.m. but is reserved for Aurea and Fantastica Suite passengers only. La Pergola offers the same menu as Marco Polo.
La Brasserie (Deck 11)
Meals: B, L, D La Brasserie is MSC Armonia's buffet cafeteria set up at the back end of Deck 11. It holds just 290 people, so it can get crowded. La Brasserie stays open from 6 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. There's also a 24-hour coffee, tea and water station inside La Brasserie.
For breakfast, the buffet offers both continental and cooked food, with all the usual options. In addition to the savory options, there are also sweet breakfast items, such as pancakes, waffles and crepes.
Lunch and dinner options include a salad bar, cold cuts, a carvery (for roasts), pasta and other hot dishes -- for example, curries or beef stroganoff -- along with fresh fruit, ice cream and a selection of cakes and other desserts.
Il Girasole (Deck 11)
Meals: B, L, D There's plenty of protected outdoor seating in Il Girasole, just forward from La Brasserie. This nicely situated spot serves up hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, fruit and desserts buffet-style and also has its own bar. Waiters patrol the area to serve drinks, but service can be slow.
Gelateria Italiana (Deck 11)
Meals: Gelato Gelateria Italiana's hours vary quite a bit and you'll have to look in the daily program to see what they are each day. It serves up different flavored gelato and chocolate and vanilla soft serve ice cream in cups or cones.
Meals: B For Aurea- and Fantastica-level passengers, complimentary breakfast is included with your cruise fare.
Surf & Turf (Deck 6); $35 per person, plus a la carte options
Meals: D Located in the space carved out of the back of the La Pergola suites-only restaurant, Surf & Turf serves exactly what its name says: lobsters, steaks and classic sides that pair with them.
The cover charge includes a choice of appetizers, such as crab cakes and pork belly, entrees (filet mignon and lobster tail, rib eye, lobster thermidor) with two side dishes and desserts.
Should you have room for more food, you can order extra for reasonable prices.
Reservations are highly recommended.
Caffe San Marco (Deck 6); a la carte specialty coffee
Meals: Snacks On the second level of the main lobby, Caffe San Marco serves extra-fee hot coffees, iced and frozen coffees and chocolate drinks, as well as free biscotti and pastry items. You'll also find alcoholic drinks, such as espresso martinis. The cafe is typically open from 6 a.m. until midnight.
Vitamin Bar (Deck 11); a la carte
Meals: Juices The Vitamin Bar offers drinks made from fresh fruit and juices with the option to add additional vitamin boosters. Drinks costs just a few dollars, and hours vary day by day.
Room Service; $7.95 delivery fee and a la carte pizza
Meals: B, L, D A hearty breakfast, such as omelets and pancakes, is available and comes with a $7.95 service charge, as do lunch and dinner orders (though this fee is waived for any passenger who has booked the Fantastic or Aurea Experience).
The standout item is pizza, which is delivered to your room in a pizza box, just like at home. Pizzas are available from noon to midnight and cost between $6 and $9.50.
The menu also includes soup, sandwiches, salads, pasta, chicken, a cheese plate, a fruit plate and the dessert of the day. Room service is available 24 hours a day.