Pride of America Dining
Norwegian's signature Freestyle Cruising concept means you can dine anytime you want, with whomever you choose. To that end, the ship has eight restaurants, including two main dining rooms, the casual buffet-style Aloha Cafe and the no-charge Cadillac Diner. The four specialty restaurants levy a surcharge, and reservations are recommended.
The main dining rooms, Liberty and Skyline, are located at the aft, one above the other. Both carry through the Americana themes, with Skyline serving as a Deco-version of New York City and Liberty paying homage to American patriotism. Liberty is open for dinner only, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., though hours may vary slightly. Skyline serves breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Depending on the itinerary on any given day, Skyline also offers lunch. Service gets high marks, but plan on sitting with other passengers at large tables in the two dining rooms.
During the 2013 refurbishment, a dance floor will be added to Skyline to accommodate dinner dancing. Both restaurants offer basically the same menus. Core entrees include beef rib-eye or New York strip steak, pork tenderloin medallions, grilled chicken breast, braised lamb shank, filet of salmon and pasta.
Coming in 2013, due to customer demand, there will be more attention to lighter fare and indigenous foods. Low-carb, heart-healthy, Kosher and other special diets can be accommodated in the two main dining rooms with advance notice, but they are not, at present, part of the menu.
The Aloha Cafe, Pride of America's Lido Deck restaurant, is set up with self-serve stations for breakfast (6 to 11:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 3 p.m.) and dinner (6 to 9 p.m.). A continental breakfast starts at 5:30 a.m.
The full breakfast includes French toast, waffles, pancakes, Eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelets, bacon, pork sausage, fresh fruit, hot and cold cereals, yogurt and pastries. Lunch and dinner feature hot entrees like Spanish chicken with chorizo, and shrimp and scallop paella; Asian fare like veggie stir-fry and Kung Pao chicken; and a selection of individually sized salads (Caprese, Cobb, calamari). There is usually a "carving board" with meats like prime rib, as well as a made-to-order pasta and a couple of soups. You'll find pizza, sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers at lunch. There's also a fruit and cheese buffet, an ice cream stand and a dessert bar that offers everything from Jell-o and no-sugar-added strawberry Napolean with raspberry coulis to ricotta cheesecake with lemon honey syrup and Italian casata cake.
On the starboard side of the Aloha Cafe is a small area created just for kids, with a junior-sized buffet table, small chairs and tables, and adult seating adjacent. It's great fun, and it gives kids a place to call their own. Brilliant!
For us, the crowning glory on this ship is the duo of espresso/cappuccino/cafe au lait makers available to passengers in both the Aloha Cafe and at the Aloha Cafe's aft stations. There is a coffee bar/patisserie, where you have to pay for cappuccino and espresso, but these machines are gratis -- and so welcome!
The no-charge Cadillac Diner -- a favorite for a basic breakfast, family lunching, early dining and late-night snacks -- is located on Deck 6 with access to limited outside seating. The diner's hallmark is comfort food, such as slow-roasted meatloaf, grilled burgers and English-style fish and chips. It also has a kids' menu, and it's open 24/7.
These restaurants, and the super-casual Key West Grill near the pool on Deck 12 (open during the day only), would be enough for most cruise lines, but Freestyle Dining offers more -- four more, to be precise. These additional venues carry a surcharge and all provide a first-class dining experience. They are open for dinner only, 6 to 9 p.m.
One of the most popular spots on all Norwegian's ships is the French-influenced Bistro, named the Jefferson Bistro on Pride of America and designed like a little slice of the library in Monticello. For $20, you can dine on scrumptious French-inspired cuisine, and, for $10 apiece more, you can add on "fruits de mer" in a puff pastry, a butter-roasted lobster tail or a 32-ounce premium black Angus rib-eye steak for two.
Lazy J's Steak House is dedicated to the Paniolos, America's first cowboys, who continue their traditions today at the Parker Ranch on the Big Island. Menu items include butter-soft filet mignon, double cut lamb chops, a 16 ounce T-bone, and half rotisserie kosher chicken. Also offered is an array of sauces: bearnaise, au poivre, cabernet demi-glace and mushroom. The surcharge there is $25. An add-on of $8 will get you a six-ounce lobster tail.
East Meets West is a gathering place for several types of Asian-inspired cuisine, including Asian fusion ($15), shabu-shabu ($15) and teppanyaki ($25). Teppanyaki is a selection of meat, poultry, fish and veggies prepared table-side by a slicing, dicing and juggling chef. "No clap, no food," our chef told us. We all clapped. The meal was fabulous, and the theater that accompanied it was worth the price of admission.
At $10, Little Italy, on the Lido Deck next to the Aloha Cafe, is the least expensive of the specialty restaurants. The menu features crowd favorites like fried calamari, spaghetti carbonara, pork saltimbocca and freshly prepared pizza.
Reservations are recommended for the specialty dining spots as soon as you board, but don't go to each restaurant. Check in, then call from your room. If, by any chance, you are told that a restaurant is full for the whole week, don't despair. Pride of America has nifty TV's strategically located in public spaces that tell you which restaurants have openings at any given time. If you're flexible, you'll more than likely get to dine where you want. Note: In the specialty restaurants, kids from ages 4 to 12 can eat for free from a children's menu or order from the full menu for one-half of the adult cover charge.
Room service is available at all hours, but the menu for passengers in standard accommodations is limited. The pizza and children's grilled cheese sandwich are good, as is the chicken Caesar salad. Suite passengers can choose menu items from the main restaurants during meal times; those in upper-level suites have a butler to deliver it. There is a charge for some room service items.
At one time, Pride of America hosted a deck-side luau during its cruises -- but no longer. Instead, it has added a shore excursion, Luau Kalamaku, in Kauai. Not surprisingly, the luau is wildly popular, although there is a fee.
Note: Pride of America does permit passengers to bring wine onboard, but it charges a $15 corkage fee per bottle, even if the wine is enjoyed in one's stateroom.