I’ve been cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line since I was a child, the thing that really keeps me coming back time and time again is the flexible approach to dining.
I love the lack of dress codes and the variety of food available onboard Norwegian Ships
If you’re considering your first cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line you may be wondering what is included in the cruise fare, with regards to food.
Do Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Cruises Include Meals?
Yes. Breakfast lunch and dinner are all included in the fare with Norwegian Cruise Line.
The main dining room and buffet are free on all ships in the fleet and there is usually another free option such as a bar/pub.
Norwegian Cruise Line does feature a lot of ‘Speciality Dining’ options onboard their ships, but these are at an extra charge.
When I cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line I usually stick to the complimentary options. You do not have to pay extra for any food when cruising on any Norwegian ship if you don’t want to.
During this post, we explore the options that are included in the cruise fare and talk briefly about the paid-for extra options.
Almost all cruise ships have buffets and Norwegian Cruise Line’s are, in my opinion, some of the best.
You can eat as much as you like in the buffet – and everything is free!
The buffet is open for long hours, and you’ll find lots of variety in the food offered.
They tend to have food from around the world with different evenings having different themes.
Most buffets on Norwegian Cruise Line ships are split into sections so you may have an Indian section, a Pasta section, an Omelette station where omelettes are cooked to order etc etc.
The buffet is a great option if you want to grab something to eat quickly, as the buffets are all self-service and there are usually no long lines or queues
When changing from breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner the buffet will rarely close completely, instead they close off part of the buffet while setting up another.
The buffets on the newer Norwegian Cruise Line ships are really big.
When I sailed on Norwegian Prima, I found the traditional buffet had been replaced by the “Indulge Food Hall.” This soon became one of my favourite places on the ship!
This is a new concept, where you can order food from your table via a tablet, and the food will be brought to you once it has been specially cooked for you.
Find out more about that, and the other exciting food option on Norwegian Prima in the video below:
During dinner, most Norwegian Cruise Line buffets will include the following sections:
- Meat Carving
- Pasta Station
- Pizza Station
- Grill Station
- Daily Specials
- Indian Section
- Special Diets & Menus
- Bread Section
- Desserts and Cakes
- Ice Cream Machine
Eating in the buffet can be a great option if you are cruising with kids.
Norwegian Cruise Line is one of my favourite cruise lines and that is why I recommend it to families and young cruisers.
To find out why, check out our recommended cruise lines page here:
Which Drinks Are Available In The Buffet?
Tea, Coffee, Water and some lemonade or flavoured water are usually available in the buffet.
These are available whenever the buffet is open. At breakfast, juices are also available.
At a minimum, you’ll find orange and apple juice but you also may find things a little more exotic – like pineapple or tomato juice.
Most of the newer Norwegian Cruise Line ships have a bar in the buffet where you can order a drink. This will cost money unless you have brought a drinks package.
Main Dining Rooms
On most Norwegian Cruise Line ships you will have more than one ‘main’ dining room to choose from.
The main dining room is often abbreviated as “MDR” – and basically just means the included restaurants onboard.
Some cruise lines only have one, but Norwegian often have many different restaurants onboard.
It is worth noting that although Norwegian do have different main dining rooms, the menu is usually exactly the same.
On Norwegian Getaway/Breakaway/Epic and Encore, you will find restaurants called “Taste” and “Savor.” These are opposite each other. The menu in both is exactly the same.
It is your decision if you want to eat in the main dining room or the buffet. You don’t have to make reservations for the main dining room or buffet.
Find out more about that here:
Freestyle Dining Times
One of my favourite things about Norwegian Cruise Line is the lack of fixed dining times.
On most cruise lines you’ll have dinner at a set time and may even be allocated a table to share with other cruisers.
Norwegian don’t do this. To dine on a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise you simply show up at the restaurant the way you would on land.
It’s very easy and I rarely have had to wait for a table.
If you eat at a particularly busy time (7-8 pm usually) or are in a big group you might have to wait for a table and will be given a buzzer for you to take away while you wait.
When you are finished with your meal you simply stand up and leave! It’s amazing not having to wait for a bill/cheque.
You can get into the virtual restaurant queue on the App. They will let you know via the App when your table is ready for you.
Main Dining Room Drinks
Water will be offered to the table for free but any other drinks must be purchased.
If you don’t want to buy any drinks and instead want to stick with the free tap water in the restaurant, this is completely fine. I do it all the time.
Is There Any More Complimentary Food On Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises?
Pub or Bar
On most ships, you will find a bar/pub which is open 24 hours a day.
On the older ships, this is sometimes called the Blue Lagoon, it is called O’Sheehans on the majority of the ships and on the newest ships it is called ‘The Local’.
Despite the different names the idea behind the restaurants is the same.
It is a quick place to grab food in a relaxed setting. I’m a big fan of having meals in the pub in the UK so maybe that is why I enjoy it so much.
O’Sheehans/The Local typical menu items:
- Chicken Wings
- Fish & Chips
- Apple Pie/Cheese Cake
On quite a few of Norwegian’s ships, you will find a Noodle bar or Asian restaurant. The restaurant serves wok-fried dishes and traditional soups.
I have dined in this restaurant on the Norwegian Epic and really enjoyed it. It does get quite busy so I would recommend you eat at a less popular time if at all possible.
You can dine as many times as you would like, on some cruises I have eaten lunch in a venue and then come back for an afternoon snack.
One of the best things about cruising is that there is no limit to how much you can eat!
What About Room Service?
Room service is available on cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line but it does come at an additional cost.
They will also charge you a 20% “gratuity and beverage” service charge will be added for “non-complimentary beverages.”
Even if you have a drinks package, any drinks delivered by room service will be chargeable.
If you are staying in the exclusive “Haven” area of the ship, Room Service can be ordered at no additional charge.
Speciality Dining On Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises
Norwegian Cruise Line has a LOT of speciality dining options onboard their ships.
Speciality restaurants are restaurants which cost extra for guests to dine in. They can be priced in two different ways:
- A flat charge to dine in the restaurant
- A charge per item – similar to dining on land.
When eating in the speciality restaurants you will be asked to sign for the meal at the end and then the charge will be added to your onboard account.
How do you Book Speciality Dining on Norwegian Cruise Line?
There are a number of ways you can book speciality meals.
- By phone – There is usually a reservations desk that you can phone free of charge from the phone in your cabin.
- In person at the restaurant – You are normally able to book at the restaurant of your choice.
- On the App – If you are cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line make sure you download the App, you can book speciality meals using it and also check your reservations.
- On the TV – In each cabin, there will be an interactive TV which is capable of booking speciality meals.
Each ship has different speciality restaurants but there are a number which are on multiple ships.
Below are a few, but not all, of the speciality restaurant options available on Norwegian Cruise Line cruises.
To learn more check out Norwegian’s website here: Speciality Dining.
- Cagneys (American-style steakhouse)
- Le Bistro (French)
- Moderno (Brazilian steakhouse)
- La Cucina (Italian)
- Teppanyaki (Japanese)
- Food Republic (Worldwide)
- Los Lobos (Mexican)
- Q Texas Smokehouse (BBQ)
I usually don’t find that there is too much up-selling in regards to speciality dining on Norwegian cruises.
The upsell can be quite annoying on a few other lines, but I’m pleased to say that I don’t find that to be the case with Norwegian.
The cruise line will have promotions and of course, want to encourage cruisers to try the more expensive options but I’ve never felt pressured into doing so.
If you don’t want to eat at any extra charge Speciality Restaurants that is no problem at all. I usually don’t...
Specialty Meals as a Booking Perk
Norwegian Cruise Line often offers speciality dining as part of its “Free at Sea” booking offer.
This may be in the form of a certain number of meals in speciality restaurants included in your fare.
You can also buy a ‘Dining Package’ which covers a certain number of speciality meals.
If you are somebody who knows that they’ll want to try speciality restaurants, it can make more financial sense to buy the package or book ahead of time.
Before You Go
Find out everything I ate on my recent sailing on Norwegian Prima below, the food was amazing and there was loads of choice:
Find out if it is better to book directly with the cruise line or use a travel agent to get the best deal here: