By Tiana Templeman
Cruise Critic Contributor
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

With Freestyle Cruising comes a daily choice of where you want to dine, when and with whom for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The options are so varied, it's sometimes hard to decide. Fees charged by some of the venues help you sort that out, particularly as every specialty restaurant (except for the 10-person teppanyaki room) charges for dishes a la carte. For many, the decision comes down to how much extra they want to spend onboard. Food is available 24/7 with Blue Lagoon open around the clock.

Vegetarian and gluten-free options are always available in the main dining rooms and identified on the dinner menu. If you have specific dietary needs, discuss them with the maitre d' before your first meal, or ask specific questions about the items you select. In the specialty restaurants, dishes are not marked vegetarian or gluten-free so diners with dietary requirements need to ask their waiter.

 

Free Dining

Windows and The Garden Room Main Dining Rooms (Deck 6): The ship has two main dining rooms, Windows and The Garden Room. Of the two, Windows is the more elegant, located aft with dramatic Palladian-style windows overlooking the ship's wake. With its classic ocean liner decor -- think dark woods and padded chairs -- the space is downright romantic, especially if you get one of the tables for two that line both sides of the dining room. These are spaced far enough apart for private conversation, a rarity in shipboard main dining rooms, and most have ocean views. Windows is open for breakfast, lunch (sea days only) and dinner.

The U-shaped Garden Room restaurant seats 304 passengers and has a more modern look. It does not have aft views like the larger dining room, which is twice the size, but also has windows along the side. The Garden Room has a more intimate feel and is popular with passengers who enjoy a quieter dining experience. Though the menu is the same in both venues, having two separate main dining rooms, each with distinct decor, provides cruisers with a sense of variety, particularly on longer itineraries. The Garden Room is open for dinner only.

Breakfast is served 7 to 9 a.m. (or 8 to 10 a.m. on sea days) and includes coffee and juice, fresh fruit, cereals, yogurt, pancakes, eggs a few ways, bacon, sausages and hash browns.

Lunch is available on sea days from noon to 1:30 p.m. with a changing daily menu that includes dishes such as shrimp penne pasta, roasted rosemary chicken leg, fish 'n' chips or a tuna sandwich. Burgers, soup and salad are also available. Desserts range from peanut butter cup souffle or bread and butter pudding to ice cream, or sliced fruit.

Dinner is a multicourse affair served from 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily and has enough mainstay and rotating options to please any palate. On the menu's left page are starters such as French onion soup and escargot cassoulet and classic entrees such as grilled New York strip steak and beef lasagne, which are available every evening. On the right you will find a daily changing menu of entrees featuring dishes such as linguine with clams, Thai green chicken curry and mushroom stroganoff. Coffee and tea are served, but specialty coffees and drinks like wine or soda are additional.

Blue Lagoon Cafe (Deck 7): Drop by for comfort foods such as burgers, fish 'n' chips, sticky Buffalo wings and New York cheesecake. While primarily a lunch and dinner venue, a self-service continental breakfast is also available each morning. Seating is limited but when the restaurant gets busy, crew will take orders and serve meals in the adjoining Shanghai Bar. Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours a day.

Shogun Asian Restaurant (Deck 8): Shogun has a full menu of Chinese and pan-Asian delights such as Singapore noodles, stir-fried beef and vegetables, and sweet-and-sour pork. Dishes lack the requisite chili hit -- the Kung Pao chicken was positively bland both times we ordered it -- but they're still tasty. We especially enjoyed the combination fried rice packed with prawns, roast pork and vegetables. Dinner is available from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. but be prepared for waits of up to 50 minutes if you dine at peak times. Cruisers are given a buzzer so they can sit in a nearby bar. However, it is annoying when it finally goes off and you arrive to discover a half empty restaurant.

Raffles Court & Raffles Terrace (Deck 12): The ship's buffet, Raffles Court is beautifully designed, with pleasing light and airy decor and a choice or indoor or outdoor seating. Breakfast is served from 6 to 11 a.m., with typical morning fare such as made-to-order omelettes, scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, cereal, pastries and fruit.

Lunch is served daily from noon to 2:30 p.m. and features dishes such a grilled fish, schnitzel and pastas. Sandwiches and salads are also available, as is a dessert counter with treats such as chocolate mousse, cheesecake and colorful gelatins. Self-serve soft serve ice cream is available whenever the buffet is open, from lunchtime onward. During lunch and dinner, hand-scooped ice cream is available from a staffed counter with vanilla and chocolate or strawberry available each day, plus a changing daily flavor such as butter pecan or lime sherbet.

Dinner features similar options plus a changing selection of dishes with a different theme such as Mexican or Indian. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 9.30 p.m.

Raffles Court does get busy at peak times during breakfast and lunch, especially if the weather is chilly and no one wants to sit outside on the Terrace. However, it is always possible to find a table if you are willing to wait a few minutes for someone to leave.

Bier Garten Grill (Deck 13): This counter next to the Bier Garten bar serves hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and the like on sea days, with plenty of seating available under a large sun sail. If the weather is good, this is a great spot to enjoy a drink and something to eat while you listen to whichever performer or band is playing on the pool deck.

Room Service: The only complimentary room service offered on Norwegian Spirit is a basic continental breakfast, which includes choices such as croissants, muffins, juice, and coffee or tea.

Fee Dining

With so many passengers opting for a dining package, specialty restaurants onboard Norwegian Spirit frequently sell out. Add the fact they're especially good and you could be out of luck if you don't book favorites like Cagney's or Le Bistro online in advance, before the start of your cruise. While the dining packages offer the best value, you can still afford to treat yourself if you dine a la carte, particularly if you opt for two courses rather than three.

Le Bistro (Deck 7); a la carte; This elegant French restaurant has plush surroundings with fancy chandeliers and romantic banquette seating, and is the ideal restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. Dishes include classics such as baked escargots with herbed garlic butter ($5.99) to start, and entrees such as beef tenderloin with a peppercorn sauce ($19.99) and roasted rack of lamb ($18.99). Desserts such as profiteroles ($3.99) and a chocolate fondue with chunks of fruit ($8.99 for two) tempt diners seeking a sweet finish. The only thing rivaling the food is the service, which is exceptional. Le Bistro is open for dinner only.

Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 7); a la carte; The line's signature steakhouse serves Angus beef, as well as a variety of fish, chicken and lamb dishes, plus veggie and potato sides. Try the beef short rib confit ($4) or a traditional steak house wedge and blue cheese salad ($4) to start, followed by a ribeye steak ($20) or double-cut lamb chops ($19) served with or without sauces, which include options such as bearnaise, chimichurri and green peppercorn. Sides such as truffle French fries, onion rings, creamed corn and roasted mushrooms ($2 each) are addictive. For dessert, there is an Oreo cheesecake or a decadent chocolate fudge brownie ($4). Open for dinner only. Passengers in suites can also dine at Cagney's for breakfast and lunch, but it's an entirely different menu.

Cafe 49 (Deck 7); a la carte: Located in the atrium, this cafe serves specialty coffees and sweet treats for a fee. It is open from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Teppanyaki (Deck 8); $29.95: Chefs perform a stir-fry meal before your eyes, flipping knives in the air, juggling eggs and turning onion rings into a volcano, in the 10-person teppanyaki room. Many teppanyaki experiences are more about the show than the food but the one on Norwegian Spirit is different. Steak is a premium cut and cooked to order, prawns are large and everything is perfectly seasoned. Our only complaint was the 1.5-hour session (which in reality is shorter as it includes set up time for the next group) felt rushed, particularly at the end. We had barely finished our last mouthful of dessert when it was time to leave so the crew could prepare for the next sitting. Lunch is available from noon to 1:30 p.m. on sea days. For dinner, make reservations for seatings at 5, 6:30, 8 or 9:30 p.m. With only 10 covers per session and no advance reservations available online, you should book this dining experience on embarkation day or risk missing out, especially on shorter cruises.

Sushi Bar (Deck 8); a la carte: Shogun, the complimentary Asian restaurant, also has a for-a-fee sushi bar. Individually priced rolls range from $5 for a salmon crispy rice roll to $6 for a California roll and $7 for a spicy tuna roll.

La Trattoria (Deck 12); a la carte: A section of the Raffles Court restaurant goes Italian from 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly, serving a tasty selection of Italian favorites such as osso buco ($17.99), spaghetti carbonara ($8.99), minestrone soup ($2.99), and tiramisu ($3.99). Service is casual and relaxed and there are plenty of window tables. With pasta dishes all priced under $10, La Trattoria is a particularly good specialty option for passengers without a dining package.

Room Service; $7.95: Available 24 hours a day, room service offers a menu of sandwiches, burgers, soup, pizzas, salads and desserts such as New York cheesecake and chocolate cake. A delivery charge of $7.95 applies to each order, except for suite passengers who are not required to pay the room service fee.

Norwegian Spirit Ship Stats

  • Crew: 975
  • Launched: 1998
  • Decks: 13
  • Passengers: 2,016
  • Registry: Panama
  • CDC Score: 100

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