Too often, buffet dining is a case of quantity over quality, but despite two out of three meals (breakfast and lunch) being served buffet-style, the food on MS Nordnorge is exceptional.
Full board passengers eat all meals in the main restaurant, Torget, which has the fitting subtitle -- "Norway's Coastal Kitchen". Everything served in the restaurant is locally sourced Norwegian fare -- fresh fish, fresh meat, yoghurt, cheese, bread and more is picked up from ports en route, and this freshness can be tasted in every bite. Tags on buffet food displays tell you the exact provenance of each food and the dinner menu gives a far more in-depth description of each of the courses served as part of the three course set menu.
This is a chef and a ship that cares about its cuisine and is very proud of what it serves to guests. A vegan menu has recently been introduced (one of the first at sea), which is inventive and tasty. A typical vegan dinner menu might be green pea soup to start, vegan pancake and bean ragout for main course, and raspberries with dark chocolate and almond milk for dessert.
Also, whilst dinner is typically a three course set meal, the kitchen team are very flexible and happy to accommodate children (or adults) who don't like what's on the menu -- just inform your waiter of any likes/dislikes or allergies.
Torget: Norway's Coastal Kitchen (Deck 4): Located at the front of the ship, Torget has floor to ceiling windows and mirrors which allow guests to enjoy the scenery from wherever they are in the restaurant. Luckily the food matches up to the view.
Breakfast (7 - 10 a.m.) is a European-style buffet with plenty of hot and cold options including sausages, bacon, meatballs, pancakes and eggs (cooked every which way), as well as a large deli selection that includes smoked salmon, herrings (the Norwegians do love their fish) and cold cut meats. The cereals, yoghurts, fruits, fresh bread and fruit jams are top notch, and the displays always look clean, neat and appetising. Coffee/tea/juice/water are included at breakfast. Seating is open.
Lunch (12 - 2 p.m.) is traditional husmannskost (rustic regional dishes), including a daily choice of meat, fish or vegetarian main dish. What's on offer might include soup, smoked and poached salmon, prawns, crab, cold meats, relishes, salads and cheeses. Examples of hot dishes include roast meats, fish, reindeer stew, potatoes and lots of root vegetables. Desserts are homemade and delicious -- enjoy cheesecake, carrot cake, fruit pies, meringues and brownies with plenty of berry and vanilla sauce to pour on top.
Depending on excursions and times of arrival, lunch service occasionally starts at 10.30 a.m. (just half an hour after breakfast stops), and you might prefer to skip one meal and opt for a brunch instead. Seating is open.
Dinner (6 - 8.30pm) Over-indulging at the breakfast and lunch buffets is understandable, so it's just as well there's portion control at dinner with the three course set meal. Menus are inventive and always make the most of what is locally available, advocating a "farm to fork" dining ethos. A typical dinner menu might dish up potato and leek soup, braised Norwegian lamb, and chocolate parfait with rhubarb sorbet. If the portions aren't big enough then the waiting staff will happily give you a second serving on request. Passengers are allotted a dining slot at the start of the cruise -- the first sitting is at 6 p.m., with the rest on the half hour until 8 p.m. (the last sitting). If you don't like the time given to you, it's no problem to get it changed. Seating is assigned, but you can ask to move if you're not happy with your table or dining companions.
As mentioned earlier, alcohol onboard is expensive. A bottle of house wine costs £67 and a glass £14. Beers range from £11 to £16, while a soft drink will set you back £6.50. There are drinks packages available and a £450.00 drinks package will buy you a fresh bottle of recommended wine every night (on a six-night voyage) as well as two bottles of water daily. It's worth noting that the sommelier chooses this wine for you, and if you'd prefer a more expensive wine, you will have to pay the difference.
Top tip: cups for hot drinks are small. If you want a bigger cup of coffee or tea, you might want to do it French-style and use a bowl!
Brygga Bistro (Deck 4): Located in the middle of the deck, adjacent to the Kysten fine dining venue, this bistro offers informal, quick bites (hamburgers, sandwiches and pizzas etc.) and is primarily frequented by day or overnight passengers who are not travelling on a full board basis. Passengers who are not in a superior or suite cabin (which have kettles in the room) might want to purchase the occasional drink here. Coffee and hot chocolate costs around £5.
Kysten Fine Dining (Deck 4): This smart, white table-clothed restaurant offers á la carte fine dining, at an additional cost -- if you fancy a change from the main restaurant, you can upgrade for a fee (£34 per person for three courses) to eat here instead. The specialty at Kysten is king crab plucked from a display tank of live ones, and at least once every sailing there's an exclusive £90 per person offer to join the 'Arctic King Crab Club'. This indulgent feast includes an aperitif, the freshest king crab and a cheese platter.
Multe Bakery (Deck 7): This bakery and ice-cream parlour opens from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., selling smørbrød (open sandwiches), freshly baked cakes and pastries, and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) -- as well as delicious ice-creams made in Lofoten, which is one of the destinations the ship docks in. There are plenty of regular flavours to enjoy, but the really adventurous might want to try their stockfish or brown cheese ice-cream. A scoop of either will set you back £2.50, with two scoops costing £4.50. The cloudberry ice-cream (made from a rare berry which can only be found in the Arctic) is very nice indeed.