All free restaurants onboard Norwegian Sky fall under NCL's Freestyle Cruising concept, which gives passengers open seating and flexible, extended hours. Passengers can elect to eat at the same table with the same waiters each night by informing the maitre d' once onboard. Reservations are required at the ship's specialty restaurants, which have less capacity than the main dining rooms or buffet options onboard and therefore fill quickly. Passengers have a number of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we were especially happy to discover the ship's Pool BBQ, which begins after lunch closes in other venues -- a boon for passengers returning later from shore excursions.
Quality from venue to venue -- and even meal to meal -- varied widely but generally was solid, and service was very good. Passengers with food allergies or special dietary needs should indicate those before they board and follow up with the maitre d' once onboard. A reminder each night to the waiter or waitress also is helpful, as the Freestyle concept means you'll likely have different servers every time you dine. (We recommend those with exceptional dietary needs elect to dine at the same table with the same waiter each night.) Healthier items as well as vegetarian items -- mostly pastas -- are available, but they're not marked as such on the menus, so check with a waiter to make sure you'll get what you need if you have any doubts.
Because the sailings on Sky are short, specialty restaurants get booked quickly. If you want to eat at a specialty restaurant, book it online before you sail or right away when you get onboard. Otherwise, you might miss out (or end up with a less-than-desirable dining time). An 18 percent gratuity will be added to your bill at all specialty restaurants.
Crossings (Deck 5): One of the ship's two main dining options, Crossings is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant has a beautiful multilevel entryway highlighted by blue glass and paintings featuring fish. Inside, decor is heavy on shades of blue, with dark wood and lots of natural light thanks to big windows and large, glass chandeliers. Breakfast includes entrees like traditional or salmon eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy or eggs and omelets made to order. Passengers also can order hot or cold cereals, fruit, yogurt, pancakes, French toast, waffles, pastries and sides like bacon or ham.
Lunch at Crossings is fairly straightforward. Lunch can be a multicourse affair, with a starter such as soup or salad, a main entree (items like poached salmon or sandwiches and burgers) and desserts, including ice cream. We found most passengers elected for other lunch options, so seated meals in Crossings don't tend to linger longer than necessary.
Menus at Crossings change for dinner each night, and the variety is decent. Appetizers include items such as duck pate, vegetable spring rolls or salmon tartare. Main course options might include crab and fish cakes, spaghetti carbonara or New York strip. Dessert could include warm bread pudding or Mexican chocolate brownie, for example. Sky offers several "Classic Dishes": favorites offered every night. Those include roast chicken breast, flounder Milanese, spaghetti Bolognese, a burger and meat lasagna. The restaurant also offers a Taste of Cuban menu. This menu includes items such as Frituras de Malanga (malanga fritters), Pescado de Habana (Cuban-style fish) and flan, all served with Cuban cocktails, like a Havana Old Fashioned or La Floridita. The Cuban menu was our favorite from the main dining room.
The Palace (Deck 5): The Palace, decorated in pinks and blues, with a bold floral carpet, is only open for dinner. It serves the same dinner menu that you'll get at Crossings, but The Palace is the designated restaurant for passengers who wish to eat at the same time, with the same waiters, at the same table each night.
The Coffee Bar (Deck 7): Grab pastries and light snacks at the ship's coffee bar. Coffee will cost extra and is priced a la carte.
Garden Cafe (Deck 11): The ship's buffet facility, the Garden Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Decorated to look like an indoor garden, this tends to be where most passengers head for breakfast and lunch and is therefore the busiest dining venue onboard. While it's actually the biggest restaurant onboard in terms of capacity and square footage, the space can feel pretty tight quickly, as passengers crowd in at mealtimes. At breakfast, you'll have plenty of options, including breads and pastries, cold cuts and smoked salmon, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, pancakes, French toast and waffles, along with fruit, yogurt and juice. There's an egg station, where you can order eggs and omelets made fresh.
Lunch includes burgers, fries, sandwiches, a carving station, a small salad bar and various hot entrees, often including Indian selections, which we routinely found to be the best options on the buffet. Fresh fruit and desserts, such as cookies and cakes, are also available. We also saw hot, just-pressed Cuban sandwiches on our sailing to Havana.
Dinner offers slightly heartier food, including entree items like roast chicken, lasagna and, again, a carving station (which has different options every night). Passengers can load up their plates with sides like mashed potatoes, rice and vegetables (including a salad bar). Asian and Indian entrees show up routinely, and the dessert portion of the buffet is extensive, with options like cakes, tarts and ice cream. There's also cheese and crackers for those who prefer a savory finish.
The Garden Cafe closes between all meals.
Great Outdoor Cafe (Deck 11): Really just a wonderful extension to the Garden Cafe, the Great Outdoor Cafe sits at the very back of the ship, just off the ship's indoor buffet. It has its own stations, replicating what you can get indoors, but the lines tend to be shorter, and passengers can dine outside under shade. The only downside to the space is that it can get pretty windy when the ship is moving. The Great Outdoor Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch; it also is the first venue open each day, offering an early-risers breakfast, with continental items. It also is open for late-night snacks.
Il Adagio (Deck 11): Il Adagio ended up being our favorite breakfast option onboard. The restaurant, a for-fee option at night, serves a complimentary breakfast of eggs (made to order) and fresh waffles, with your choice of toppings. While the throngs head to the Garden Cafe, Il Adagio appears to be a little secret, and we loved the serenity of the space as well as the fast, friendly service.
For lunch, also complimentary, you can get pizza and pasta. As with breakfast, it seems few people have discovered Il Adagio, as there is plenty of space.
Pool BBQ (Deck 11): This is another spot where Norwegian Sky really gets it right. Offered only a couple of times during your cruise, the Pool BBQ takes place between lunch and dinner. We especially loved this option on days when our shore excursions had us off the ship over lunchtime but didn't provide food. For the Pool BBQ, chefs wheel out real charcoal grills, but these monsters are bigger than anything you have in your backyard. They proceed to whip up burgers, dogs, pork chops and chicken, while another might prepare the biggest tray of paella you've ever seen. To keep the operation moving, passengers grab sides, buns and condiments from a table off to the side, then order up their main. The paella was our favorite -- loaded with seafood.
Longboard Bar (Deck 11): For a snack between lunch and dinner (or after dinner), head to Longboard Bar, which serves a variety of bar food, like burgers and hot wings.
Le Bistro (Deck 5); a la carte: The ship's French restaurant is a long, narrow space tucked away on Deck 5. It's actually a bit hard to find; look for the sign on Deck 6, then take the stairs down to Le Bistro. The views here are excellent, as the restaurant features large windows along its entire length. Le Bistro features dark wood, deep gold booths that accommodate up to six people and a number of tables for two, topped with crisp white tablecloths. The booths are U-shaped and elevated so they face the windows but look over the tables for two, which are actually nestled right next to the windows. The design feature is smart, as everyone ends up with wonderful views.
The menu at Le Bistro is traditional French, so plan to leave full. Appetizer options include escargots bourguignonne, steamed mussels au Pernod and grilled asparagus with orange hollandaise sauce. Soup and salad courses include a cheese and brandy onion soup or a duck and frisee salad with Champagne vinaigrette. Entrees include a delicious cote de boeuf (rib eye) for two, carved tableside, as well as bouillabaisse or coq au vin. Save some room for dessert, which features creme brulee or a Napoleon. There's also a cute fondue for two, which features fresh fruit and a personal-sized pot of chocolate fondue. If you really want to go all-out, add a glass -- or bottle -- of Veuve Clicquot (not included in your beverage package).
Il Adagio (Deck 11); a la carte: At night, Il Adagio is the ship's Italian restaurant. Decorated in purples, reds and greens, Il Adagio has tables for two, four and more. The restaurant has a nice selection of upscale Italian dishes. For starters, try the beef carpaccio or classic fried calamari. Pizzas, sized for sharing, include sausage and pancetta, artichoke, mushroom and black olives, and Bolognese. The menu has a good selection of pastas and risottos; we really enjoyed the shrimp risotto as well as the beef lasagna. But the hit of the menu is probably the bistecca fiorentina, a delicious T-bone topped with herb butter and served with arugula and cherry tomatoes. If you're looking for something lighter, try the seared salmon. For dessert, choose from items including tiramisu or lemon curd cheesecake.
Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 12); a la carte: Cagney's is Norwegian's signature steak house and features some terrific cuts of Angus beef, as well as a variety of fish, chicken and lamb, plus veggie and potato sides that are big enough for sharing. If you're going to get a starter, try the shrimp cocktail served with a Jack Daniel's sauce, or the Wagyu beef sliders. Salads include a traditional steak house wedge and blue cheese option, as well as a Mexican Caesar dish. But the star is definitely the beef. We loved our perfectly seasoned filet, and opted to skip the sauces, which include options such as bearnaise, chimichurri and green peppercorn. Our table split sides of truffle french fries (which we liked so much, we ordered them at another specialty restaurant, and the waiter happily obliged) and the mac 'n' cheese. For dessert, try the cheesecake. Cagney's also serves complimentary breakfast and lunch for select past passengers as well as suite guests.
Plantation Sushi Bar (Deck 12); a la carte: The smallest dining venue onboard, the Sushi Bar is located in Plantations, right across from Cagney's. It's easy to miss, as it's a bit tucked away. Here, sushi chefs serve up rolls and sashimi.
Room Service: Room service is available 24/7, but it carries a flat $7.95 service fee for everything except continental breakfast items (cold cereal, muffins and rolls, and coffee, tea and juice), which you can order via a paper you hang on your doorknob at night. For breakfast, you can order items like omelets and French toast. There's a pretty extensive all-day menu, which includes sandwiches, burgers, pizza and salads, as well as kids' faves, like PB&J, chicken fingers, mac 'n' cheese and grilled cheese. For dinner, you can order from meals such as spaghetti Bolognese, skirt steak and fish and chips. Desserts are also available.