Cruisers pass on Costa's pay eatery

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PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. -- A special-fee restaurant aboard the CostaVictoria, which opened about six months ago, is operating well below its capacity, according to figures released by Costa Cruises.

However, cruise line president Dino Schibuola expressed satisfaction with the program and said the line will go ahead with plans to introduce the alternative dining experience on CostaAtlantica, which begins its inaugural season this July in Europe.

The on-board restaurant -- Ristorante Magnifico by Zeffirino -- is patterned after the Zeffirino restaurant in Genoa, Italy, where Costa is based.

The Victoria restaurant, which can accommodate up to 80 people at one seating, is attracting an average of 45 diners on each of the six evenings it is open during a week's cruise.

The capacity could be as much as 160 diners per evening, were Costa operating it on a two-seating basis rather than one seating. The below-capacity demand indicates some resistance of passengers to pay an extra tab, currently $17.50, gratuity included, for on-board dining.

Such a resistance was detected by other lines, which now offer alternative dining opportunities for only a "gratuity," ranging from $3.50 to $6.00 per person.

Schibuola said that passengers opting to dine in Zeffirino are pleased with the special restaurant, particularly because of the one-seating experience, beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing until the last diner leaves.

The restaurant, situated aft in the Tavernetta Lounge on Deck 12, offers gracious and comfortable surroundings, with candles, flowers and soft music performed by a female vocalist and small combo. There is also a dance floor.

"We wanted to provide this high-quality option at a reasonable cost," Schibuola said. "We feel the experience offers more flexibility for the passengers."

The executive said that the one-evening dining experience is being offered on a complimentary basis for passengers booking the ship's eight top-category cabins.

Zeffirino, which has been in business in Genoa since 1939, has attracted a large following of celebrities over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Burt Lancaster and Pope John Paul II.

A souvenir book shows many more famous guests, many from the world of the performing arts, including opera singers Luciano Pavarotti and Renata Tebaldi and actress Carla Fracci.

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