Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Free Dining

Most of the dining on Costa Riviera is included in your fare. That being said, the buffet is paltry compared to other vessels and with the exception of the pizza on the Lido Deck, you're better off choosing the main dining room for most of your meals. As a neo ship, neoRiviera promotes casual, eat-when-you-wish dining; there is no assigned seating and you won't need reservations.

Restaurant Cetera (Deck 5): Cheerfully decorated in reds and yellows with large porthole windows on the sides, Restaurant Cetera appears much more casual than your average cruise ship main dining room. That's on purpose, as the neoCollection promotes a more laid-back approach to dining. Seating is open for all meals, and there are plenty of tables for two, four or six -- no reservations required. Waiters are happy to seat you alone, if you're solo.

Unlike ships that downgrade the quality of main dining room offerings to focus on specialty restaurants, Costa neoRiviera's MDR consistently served the best food on the ship. Pasta courses were particularly tasty (as one might expect from Italians), and there were plenty of reasonably priced Italian wines by the glass. Open seating means your meal can be as quick or slow as you want; with "slow food" as the concept and a primarily European passenger base, patrons tend to linger.

Breakfast begins at varying times, ranging from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and lasts 90 minutes. Made-to-order offerings include smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, omelets, pancakes, French toast and breakfast meats. Coffee and juices (not fresh squeezed) are included; however (as with all meals on neoRiviera except at the buffet), water carries a charge.

Lunch also begins at varying times, beginning from noon to 1 p.m., and lasts one hour. Four courses are available at lunch: appetizers, soup and salad; pasta; entree and dessert. A sample menu might be smoked tuna, corn chowder or marinated button mushrooms; paccheri pasta with veal ragout; grilled mahi mahi or beef stir fry; polenta mousse or gianduja cake.

Dinner takes place between 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Every night, a different region of Italy or a specific country is highlighted. A typical meal includes a starter, soup or salad; a pasta course; a main course; and a dessert course. You are free to order as many or as few courses as you wish.

For example, the menu from Tuscan night included Guazzetto (a seafood and tomato broth with garlic and bruschetta); strozzapreti pasta with shrimp and squid; risotto with asparagus; Tuscan stockfish with potatoes and tomatoes in a white wine sauce; and zuccotto (vanilla sponge cake with chocolate and vanilla mousse). Vegetarian and low-calorie options are noted on the menu, as are dishes containing pork and products that were originally frozen. Romaine salad, ice cream, cheese and fruit are offered at every meal.

Vernazza Buffet (Deck 11): Located on Deck 11 not far from the pool, neoRiviera's buffet is smaller than most ships', with seven stations. The decor is casual cafeteria, with fake orange trees scattered around. During our cruise, it never seemed crowded, but we were told that it's more popular in the summer months when there's a younger crowd with more children.

The buffet opens for breakfast at either 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., and stays open until 10 a.m. Choices include muesli and oatmeal, cold cheeses and meats, bacon and sausage, scrambled eggs, pastries and bread.

Lunch ranges from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and lasts two hours. The buffet serves a selection of items from the main dining room, as well as a salad bar, cheeses and bread. Coffee, tea, water and juice are all available.

An afternoon tea, with pastries and finger sandwiches, runs from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Dinner in the buffet starts at 7 p.m. and is served until 9 p.m. (Note that it has shorter hours than does the main restaurant.) It has many of the same dishes served in the main dining room, including the daily pastas, but offered buffet style.

Pizzeria Monterossa (Deck 11): Several varieties of pizza are served here from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you want pizza in the evening from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., there's a 4 euro charge that includes a salad and dessert. The pizza is made Italian style, with a crisp crust; it's a standout among neoRiviera's casual options.

Grill Manarola (Deck 11): Located on the left side of the pool deck, the grill is the ship's omelet station in the mornings from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., it serves hot dogs, various burgers and French fries. Of the offerings, we liked the bratwurst the best.

Room service: Room service is available 24 hours a day, for a 2.50 euro service fee. The limited menu includes consomme and fruit, salads, a selection of sandwiches and desserts, as well as American coffee.

Room service breakfast costs 5 euros, and must be ordered the night before.

Fee Dining

There really aren't specialty restaurants on neoRiviera. Although the St. Tropez room is lovely and has an amazing terrace, it's only used for dining once per cruise.

St. Tropez (Deck 6); $15 per person: Held once per cruise, a sea day brunch takes place in this space, which once served as another main dining room when the ship sailed as Mistral. The fee includes all you can eat of 25 different dishes, as well as live music on the expansive aft terrace. Reservations are recommended.

Costa neoRiviera Information

Costa neoRiviera Ship Stats

  • Crew: 500
  • Launched: 1999
  • Decks: 12
  • Passengers: 1,248
  • Registry: Italy

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