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 nine restaurants, including two main dining rooms, the casual buffet-style Aloha Cafe and the no-charge Cadillac Diner. The five specialty restaurants levy a surcharge. Reservations are recommended if you have your heart set on dining at a certain venue at a specific time, but otherwise they aren't necessary. Wednesdays and Fridays tend to be the busiest nights in the extra-fee restaurants; Sunday is the slowest. Not all specialty venues are open on embarkation day.
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. Both have pianos, and occasionally a musician will provide background music for your dinner. Liberty is open for dinner only, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., though hours might vary slightly. Skyline serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Skyline also offers lunch from noon to 2 p.m. on embarkation day and the final afternoon (Friday). Capacity has been increased in the main dining rooms, but couples will usually be asked if they'd like to sit with other passengers at a larger table, as a way to cut down wait times.
Both restaurants offer basically the same menu. One side of the menu changes daily, and this page is where you'll find more regional fare. On the other side, unchanging 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.
Menus indicate healthier choices and items that contain undercooked meat or fish (like salmon tartare). 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. Vegetarian items are always available, but are not marked as such, so be prepared to ask.
Service was hit or miss. We found waitstaff to either be very friendly (and a bit too familiar at times) or standoffish and confused by simple requests (like choosing an appetizer as a main course or ordering two starters).
The Aloha Cafe, Pride of America's Lido Deck restaurant, is set up with self-serve stations for breakfast (5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 3 p.m.), snacks (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Additional no-fee buffet breakfast options are available in Moderno (buffet 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., continental 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.). One coffee and juice station is open around the clock.
The full breakfast includes French toast, waffles, pancakes, Eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelets, bacon, 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 Napoleon 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 and small chairs and tables. It's great fun, and it gives kids a place to call their own. Brilliant!
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. There, oldies play on the radio, pictures of Elvis adorn the walls, and the center booths are done up to look like a classic '50s car. 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 milkshakes for all ages are available for an added fee. Cadillac is open 24/7 and can be quite hopping in the late evening after the shows let out. It also has an always-open coffee/tea/hot chocolate station in one corner -- help yourself.
The super-casual Key West Grill above the pool on Deck 12 serves steam-table burgers and dogs from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Occasionally, a barbecue is set up poolside.
East Meets West is a gathering place for several types of Asian-inspired cuisine, including Asian fusion (really just Chinese -- but free of charge), sushi (a la carte), shabu-shabu (where you cook your own meat in boiling water -- $15. East Meets West and the sushi bar are open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., while Shabu-Shabu is a set seating (6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for the former and 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. for the latter). We found the cuisine at East Meet Wests to be solidly mediocre, while the sushi was as good as you'd expect from a mid-range sushi joint on land.
The aforementioned restaurants are all included in your cruise fare; Pride of America offers five additional venues that carry a surcharge. These alternative restaurants, each with a culinary specialty, are open for dinner only from 6 p.m. 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 $19.95, 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.
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. Teppanyaki is a huge crowd pleaser.
Cagney's Steakhouse is Norwegian's signature meat and seafood venue with an old Hollywood feel. Menu items include butter-soft filet mignon, double cut lamb chops, a 16 ounce ribeye and truffle chicken. Also offered is an array of sauces: bearnaise, green peppercorn, chimichurri and port wine jus. The surcharge is $29.95, with a $10 add-on for any additional entrees ordered.
La Cucina, on the Lido Deck behind the Aloha Cafe is the ship's Italian venue. At $14.95 per person, the menu evokes New York's Little Italy with crowd favorites like fried calamari, spaghetti carbonara, chicken parmesan and freshly prepared pizza.
Moderno Churrascaria is the ship's Brazilian steakhouse. For $19.95, you can eat all the veggies, soup, sliced meats and cheeses you want from a robust salad bar and all the beef, lamb, chicken and pork you can manage from skewers brought to your table from roving waiters. Oh, and did we mention the sides (like fried bananas and garlic mashed potatoes), the insanely addictive cheese bread, the brown sugar-coated pineapple and your choice of desserts? Eat a light lunch, and skip all snacks before dining there.
To make reservations for any of the specialty restaurants, you can call from your room or stop by the reception desk, where a dedicated staffer is available to find you a table. If, by any chance, you are told that a restaurant is full, don't despair. Pride of America has nifty TVs 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. The ship's hotel director told us that waits are rarely long enough to warrant a pager; typically, a table is available, but you will simply have to wait for passengers with reservations to be seated before you can be assisted. 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. Children younger than 4 always eat free.
Room service is available at all hours, for a $7.95 fee per order. The pizza and children's grilled cheese sandwich are good, as is the chicken Caesar salad. Door hanger cards are available for morning coffee and Continental breakfast, which remains free. Suite passengers can choose menu items from the main restaurants during meal times; those in upper-level suites have a butler to deliver it. Room service is free for suite and Haven passengers.
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 passengers' staterooms.