Food on Norwegian Prima is generally very good, whether you're eating in one of the included restaurants or the upcharge specialty restaurants. Norwegian subscribes to a Freestyle approach to cruising, and for dining that means you can eat when you want, where you want. The caveat is, you really do need reservations if you have your heart set on a certain type of food.
The main dining rooms are Hudson's and the Commodore Room. Hudson's is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while the Commodore Room generally serves as a spillover area for dinner. Both offer the same menu every day, which is a bit of a departure from the usual cruise ship approach.
Several other included restaurants are peppered in, and you'll find eight alternative restaurants that cost extra. The variety of food will keep most guests happy, as will the depth of the menus.
Ostensibly, Norwegian Prima really only has four spaces for free dining, but one of those spaces is a big food hall, loaded with 11 individual restaurants/food trucks. Which means if you want to do nothing but eat at the included restaurants, you'll find enough variety to satisfy.
The most formal of the restaurants are the ship's two main dining rooms, Hudson's and the Commodore Room. Hudson's is a breathtakingly beautiful space with windows that span floor to ceiling and wrap the entirety of the back of Deck 7. Gorgeous gold and crystal chandeliers, with leaf-shaped fronds, hang over the neat white tables and granite floor. We call it formal because this is a sit-down meal, not because you need to dress for dinner. (Freestyle, remember?)
Breakfast and lunch are only available at Hudson's, while dinner is available at both restaurants. (The Commodore Room, located on the starboard -- right -- side of the ship on Deck 6, is also lovely, but nowhere near as striking or memorable as Hudson's.) Breakfast has a good selection of hot and cold items, including fruit, cereal and yogurt as well as eggs, pancakes and French toast. Lunch offers soups, salads, sandwiches and hot entrees.
Dinner offers the broadest menu, with an extensive number of choices from categories including appetizers, soup and salad, meatless, from the sea, from the land, sides and desserts. There's even a create-your-own Italian classic option, for those who want a mid-course pasta dish (or a pasta entree). We visited the MDR several times during our cruise and were happy with our picks, especially a well-prepared sirloin and grilled mahi-mahi.
Indulge Food Hall. A new concept introduced on Norwegian Prima, Indulge Food Hall offers (technically) 11 restaurants, most of them included in the cost of your cruise. (Coco's and Starbucks come with an additional fee here.)
Indulge is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The concept is that you can order, from a tablet, dishes from any of the restaurants and have them delivered to your table as soon as they're prepared. It's ideal for groups and people who want to try a little bit of everything. You're not restricted to just one restaurant; you can pick from all of them: Nudls (a noodle restaurant offering Asian, German and Italian dishes); Tapas (a Spanish-inspired tapas food truck); Q Texas Smokehouse (barbecue); The Latin Quarter (Latin-inspired appetizers); Seaside Rotisserie (grilled and skewered meat); The Garden (salads); Tamara (Indian), Just Desserts; Just Ice Cream; Coco's (gelato and huge shakes and sundaes); and Starbucks.
Breakfast is mostly egg dishes and cold options like muesli and yogurt. This was the least-inspiring meal, basically replicating what you'd find in the buffet. It felt a bit like a missed opportunity to push the envelope and offer interesting and exciting international dishes. Lunch and dinner, though, were the real winners, and made Indulge a place we visited multiple times on our cruise.
The dinner menu is more expansive than the lunch menu, offering some of the same dishes as well as a host of heartier options. Regardless of which meal, Tamara was our favorite. We loved that the options went beyond chicken tikka and that the flavors were bold, and dishes didn't shy away from the spice. (Try the aloo gobi!) Meat lovers should indulge in the beef options at Seaside Rotisserie, which are flavorful and well-prepared. At Nudls, skip the Pad Thai (meh) and try the Chinese noodle soup (available for dinner only), which punches you in the taste buds with depth and spice.
Tip: Order a few items at a time. They are delivered as soon as they're made, and some take longer than others. It's easy to over-order here, even though portion sizes are purposely small. You can always order more.
Indulge Food Hall is a large space located at the aft of Deck 8, and it includes indoor and al fresco dining options. Inside, you'll find lots of large tables/booths, with only a few options for just two or four. It makes for a lovely space, but it also means you'll see lots of parties of two taking up large tables. Ask to join, as seating is pretty limited, especially during the lunch rush. You also have the option of sitting at a bar at each of the restaurants, but this means you're restricted to dining only at that restaurant. (If you're seated at one bar, you can walk up and order at other counters; you'll be handed a pager so you can go pick up your meal when it's ready.)
Unsurprisingly, The Garden bar always seemed to have spots available. Somehow, salads never seemed to be on anyone's mind, even though the options here are solid, especially with protein add-ons. (Don't laugh: The teriyaki tofu salad topper is excellent.)
Tip: Lunch is by far the busiest time in Indulge. Show up 15 minutes before the restaurant opens and grab a seat. Invite new friends if you have room at your table, as people will be circling looking for a spot.
Surfside Cafe & Grill. This is the ship's buffet restaurant, located aft on Deck 17. As with virtually every restaurant on Norwegian Prima, it has indoor and outdoor seating, complete with overhead heat lamps for cold weather.
The space is fairly small for a buffet, compared with other ships in the fleet and other cruise lines. For the most part, this won't matter, as there are other options for free dining. Still, it's noticeable during rushes at breakfast and lunch, when seating is hard to come by and queues can form at places like the egg station.
Open for all three meals every day, Surfside has a good variety and quality of food. We enjoyed the made-to-order eggs as well as the daily lunch options, ranging from pasta to sandwiches and everything in between. The pizza was excellent, though only available a couple of days during our cruise. It's worth seeking out and might become your mid-afternoon snack.
In the evenings, Surfside is pretty quiet, as diners tend to look for other, more formal options. Still, you can find a variety of dishes to keep you happy and satisfied.
The Local. This pub feels like an upscale sports bar, with big TVs and sophisticated decor. This is where you a burger and wings, chili or fish and chips. The menu is the same at lunch and dinner, but it also was our favorite spot for breakfast, when you can get French toast, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches and eggs made to order.
Located on Deck 8, The Local restaurant is located on the port (left) side, and the lounge, complete with swinging chairs, a big bar and conversation areas is just opposite. There is outdoor seating for both the bar and the restaurant.
Tip: Even if you're not sitting at the restaurant section, you still can order food in the lounge area.
The Haven Restaurant. This restaurant is for guests staying in the ship's private suite enclave, the Haven. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu here is drool-worthy, as are the views; Norwegian Prima is the first ship in the NCL fleet to offer al fresco dining at the Haven Restaurant.
Menu highlights at dinner include a Delmonico steak and a pork tomahawk.
Norwegian Prima offers plenty of choice when it comes to specialty dining, with three new-to-fleet restaurants: Nama, Palomar and Hasuki. All of the restaurants except Hasuki are priced a la carte, and the fees are comparable to what you'd pay at a fine restaurant on land.
Tip: For those who love trying out the extra cost dining, your best bet is to purchase a dining package. This is the best bargain you'll find. Essentially, you'll pay a flat fee, and you'll be able to order four items off the menu at each restaurant. Pricing varies depending on which package you buy but run roughly from $25 to $45 per person per meal. You could pay $40 for just a steak, for example, from Cagney's.
Pricing noted here assumes you'll order an appetizer, soup or salad course, entree and dessert. Drinks aren't included in the estimates. Restaurants designated at $$$ will run between $30-$50 per person; $$$$ indicates $50 or more per person.
Cagney's Steakhouse, $$$$. Cagney's is Norwegian's signature steakhouse, located on Deck 6, port side, and it's routinely a favorite for NCL guests, who love the steakhouse ambience and excellent options. Don't miss items include the classic iceberg wedge, filet mignon and ribeye.
Nama Sushi & Sashimi, $$$. One of the more innovative sushi and sashimi restaurants we've tried on the big cruise ships, Nama offers a variety of sushi rolls that go beyond the yawn-inducing California classic. (The yellowtail, with hiramasa, crab, yuzu juice and truffle oil, was our favorite.) The crunchy nori bistro chips were also a delight. Pair your meal with any of the hot or cold sake options or put together a sake flight.
Hasuki, $$$. Teppanyaki isn't new to Norwegian, but the elevated concept on Prima is. You get dinner and a show at Hasuki, where dining bars surround a teppanyaki grill. A chef prepares your options in front of you, joking along as they show off their knife and food-flipping skills. Seafood, meat and vegetarian selections are available, though all are cooked on the same hibachi grill.
Le Bistro, $$$$. Not for fans of a light meal, Le Bistro is the ship's traditional French restaurant. This is the spot to go if you love lamb or veal chops, foie gras, escargot or coq au vin. This is also one of the prettiest venues onboard, with gorgeous floor-level chandeliers and blue velvet chairs sitting beneath stark white trellised ceilings.
Los Lobos, $$$. An upscale Mexican restaurant, Los Lobos is a fun and funky spot on Deck 8 that's easy to miss because it's overshadowed by the popular Indulge Food Hall and The Local. Los Lobos offers guacamole made tableside along with entrees like carne asada and slow-braised pork.
Onda by Scarpetta, $$$$. This might be our favorite restaurant on Norwegian Prima. Offering a wide range of Italian specialties, Onda somehow feels both rustic and luxurious. The pizza is a must (our margherita was the perfect appetizer), as is the braised octopus. We also enjoyed the lobster tagliatelle. You'll want to fill up on the bread, especially the stromboli, which is filled with cheese and meat. But don't. You'll want to savor every dish here. This restaurant is also gorgeous, with bright white sculptural elements built into the ceiling that are stunning.
Palomar, $$$$. New to Norwegian, Palomar is a take on Mediterranean food. Heavy on seafood, this little gem is a great compliment to the international flair Norwegian Prima brings to dining. What we loved: the incredible variety of seafood offerings. (If you're not a fan of seafood, Norwegian Prima has better choices for you.) What we wished there was more of: traditional Mediterranean dishes, like hummus and tzatziki or even desserts such as baklava. That's a minor niggle. We found the food fresh and the service excellent here.
Food Republic, $$$. A breakout hit on Norwegian's Breakaway-Plus class of ships, Food Republic is a sharing restaurant, with small plates designed for groups with big appetites. As with Indulge, food in Food Republic is ordered by tablet, and it's brought to your table when it's ready. Items run the gamut, from sushi to noodle dishes, dumplings and fried rice. Note: If you're craving good sushi, head to Nama instead. We found the quality superior there. That said, we loved the creative dishes offered at Food Republic, especially the Tijuana street fries, the pork belly bao and the firecracker shrimp
Without a doubt, Indulge Food Hall is the spot you'll want to go to again and again. You can visit several times without sampling the same place twice. Nama is a must for sushi fans; try eating at the counter and watching as your dishes are made in front of you. If we had to pick only one spot for spending money, that would be Onda by Scarpetta, which earns our favor thanks to the care taken to make creative Italian dishes that feel new and fresh. Palomar is a great pick for seafood fans who also appreciate great service and a cool, open kitchen.
Tip: With all restaurants, you should make reservations early -- before you even cruise, if possible. Restaurants on Prima are smaller and more intimate than you'll find on other ships, and they will fill up.
Vegetarian and vegan dishes are available at every restaurant, and they're mostly well marked either on the menu, tablet or placards in front of the item on a buffet.
Allergies and food restrictions are accommodated, but your best bet is to mention your food requirements when you book and tell the maitre d at each restaurant when you check in. All servers will ask if you have an allergy, at every meal. They take orders on tablets, and your allergy indication theoretically will follow you no matter where you eat. When in doubt, ask.
Tell NCL about your allergy or food restrictions at least 45 days before you sail and fill out a Special Needs Request Form.