By Cruise Critic Staff
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

"Freestyle Cruising" allows cruise passengers to dine in a variety of restaurants and to take advantage of menu options not available on other cruise lines at times that are convenient for the guest. Long shore day? You can dine as late as 10 p.m., or, if you want an early night, as early as 5:30 p.m. (There's also a 24-hour snack area and 24-hour room service for lighter fare).

Freestyle may not be for everyone -- and that's not an issue here. Purists, for example, who prefer set-seating, set-tablemate dining, can be accommodated in one of the ship's main restaurants.

There are two main dining rooms, Seven Seas, aft, which serves "contemporary" cuisine, and Four Seasons, midship, which serves "traditional" cuisine. Meals in these restaurants are tasty and attractively served, and the wait staff is attentive and considerate.

Three other alternative dining venues have no surcharge. The no-fee options include The Garden Cafe, the ship's buffet restaurant. Designed to serve food by creating specific areas for specific dishes (which alleviates lines), it can be accessed from two sides, and. While the areas are smallish, it does provide a wide variety of both hot and cold food items. Although it's fairly standard cafeteria-style fare, some items are exceptional (the grilled tilapia I had at one lunch was superb), and the carving station, with chicken, turkey, roast beef or pork loin was always good. This is also the best dining spot for breakfast, with fresh waffles, omelets made to order, and of course the regular line for scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pastries and croissants.

In the afternoon and evening, there are separate dessert and fresh fruit stations, and an Indian curry station that had started as an occasional special offering but proved so popular that it was made a regular fixture. At its busiest times it's occasionally difficult to find a table, but if the weather is nice, wander to the aft deck with your tray and sit outside. You can replenish your drinks at The Great Outdoor Cafe, located here, which also serves fast-food items and snacks (hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, cookies and cake) during the day.

Ginza, a free restaurant, serves a wide array of Japanese foods including sushi; the teppanyaki bar only seats 12, so make reservations early. Sushi is offered on an "all you can eat" basis for only $15. This is a terrific deal, considering the freshness and presentation of the offer.

The last of the no-surcharge dining spots is not really a restaurant; Las Ramblas is a lounge located on Deck 12 aft, near the entrance to three of the fancier restaurants on board and the spot of choice to meet before dining. It's a beautiful room that serves tapas, those little bites of Mediterranean food found in bodegas along Las Ramblas in Barcelona, served here often with the accompaniment of a guitarist/singer. You can, in fact, make a meal out of these delights, or have a couple for appetizers before you dine elsewhere.

Those restaurants that do levy a surcharge include Le Bistro, which offers French-Mediterranean inspired dining. The restaurant is simply gorgeous on this ship, with cozy booths set around the edges of the room, solicitous servers, and a menu that is filled with delicacies from escargot to foie gras. The signature dessert, chocolate fondue, is not to be missed ... a pineapple boat of fresh fruit is presented with a dipping pot of melted chocolate. It's all I could do to keep from licking the remaining chocolate out of the pot. There's a $19.95 fee to dine here.

Il Adagio is another option. Located on Deck 5 (but accessed via a stairway on deck six -- though passengers in wheelchairs can request entry via the main dining rooms), this tucked-away gem features northern Italian cuisine, with specialties of pizza and pasta, among others. Cost to dine here is $14.95.

Norwegian Sun has a steakhouse restaurant, which is similar in style to Cagney's, the steakhouse found on Norwegian Dawn and others -- and the surcharge is $29.95.

Moderno Churrascaria is a Brazilian-style steakhouse that debuted on Norwegian Epic. For $19.95, passengers can sample a variety of skewered meats presented by tableside passadors, as well as enjoy an extensive soup, salad and tapas bar.

Room service includes pizza, cold sandwiches, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cookies and chocolate cake, for a $7.95 convenience fee per order (Haven and suite passengers do not pay this fee). Continental breakfast and morning coffee, selected from a simple menu on a door-hung card, remains free for all passengers. One nice note is that the restaurant phones before they send your breakfast, to make sure you are awake and ready.

Suite passengers can order lunch and dinner off of the main dining room menus during dining times.

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