Dining on Norwegian Joy is most notable for its variety, with more than enough venues to keep it interesting for a one-week cruise. Even if you choose not to indulge in any of the extra-fee restaurants, you'll have three choices (we're counting the three main dining rooms as one).
Food in the complimentary venues is mostly fine. Surprisingly, we found our favorite items were in the buffet, usually one of the weakest spots on a cruise ship. If you've got a little extra to spend, we can't recommend most of the specialty restaurants highly enough. The overall price is usually steep considering all the restaurants are a la carte (except Teppanyaki), but the food is definitely a step up from the free fare. Consider purchasing a dining package before your cruise to make the overall cost more reasonable.
Savor and Taste (Deck 6), and Manhattan Room (Deck 7)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
* May require additional fees
Norwegian Cruise Line's three main dining rooms: the smaller Savor and Taste are located across from each other and differ only by decor and furniture. Manhattan Room is the largest of the three, has a more elegant feel and is only used for dinner.
Dining for all meals is freestyle; there are no set times, no assigned tables and you only have to eat with other people if you request a sharing table. If you find a waiter you love, however, feel free to ask to sit at his or her table when you show up.
Breakfast and lunch are served in Taste and Savor every day. The menu is the same each day. Breakfast offers your usual morning dishes, while lunch is a mix of soups and salads, finger foods, sandwiches and burgers, and hot dishes.
Lunch and dinner are served banquet style with a multicourse menu. Food is mostly Pan-American, though you'll find Asian and Italian dishes most nights as well. As with lunch, the dinner menu is the same across all three restaurants, but it does vary from day to day -- though appetizer choices do repeat several times. In addition, there is a "classic" menu with basic steak, chicken, fish and pasta items that are available every night.
Garden Cafe (Deck 16)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
What's a cruise ship without an upper-deck buffet? There's something for everyone at Garden Cafe, from all the standard breakfast items to a wide variety of choice at lunch and dinner. Stations are mostly duplicated on both sides of the buffet (left versus right), but there are a few unique options so give the entire buffet a quick stroll for the most choice. Fans of Indian food will want to find the Taste of India station at lunch and dinner; the food is excellent. We also can't recommend the chocolate mousse highly enough.
Seating is as varied as the food, with round and square tables, high tops and booths, but seating can be difficult to find during high demand times (mornings on a port day, lunch on a sea day).
The Local Bar & Grill (Deck 7)
Meals: Open 24/7
This 24/7 venue is a casual spot to grab something to eat all day long, whether you're in the mood for finger foods for a quick snack (chicken wings, pretzel bites, etc.) or a proper sit-down meal (burgers, turkey potpie, etc.). You can choose to eat in the restaurant section, by the bar watching a game on TV or overlooking the atrium below for some prime people watching. We've had better bar food on land, but as an extra complimentary spot to grab food, it's not bad.
The Observation Lounge (Deck 15)
Meals: B, L
When you're in the mood for a light breakfast or lunch and don't want to deal with the crowds in the buffet or a full sit-down experience, head to the Observation Lounge for some light bites. You'll find items like yogurt parfaits, cereal, fruit and pastries at breakfast and DIY salad ingredients and finger sandwiches at lunch.
The Haven Restaurant (Deck 18)
Meals: B, L, D
A private restaurant for cruisers staying in any of The Haven-designated suites, you'll find more cultured menus than what's on offer in the three main dining rooms. Though you can still get all the standard breakfast items in the morning, the lunch and dinner menus are more expansive. Additionally, the chef is always willing to make something special with enough advance notice.
Pricing was accurate at time of review but may have changed since.
Teppanyaki (Deck 6); $29.95
One of Norwegian Cruise Line's most popular restaurants, Teppanyaki is a hibachi-style Japanese restaurant, where the chefs spend as much time performing as they do cooking. Expect to see a beating rice heart and slithering egg snake before your night is over. Oh, and the food is fantastic, too.
Q Texas Smokehouse (Deck 6); a la carte, $2–$24.99
Fans of barbecue will want to splurge on a dinner at Q, where you can get a variety of smoked meats and indulgent down-home sides. Our top recommendations: Go for the brisket, which is tender and tasty, but skip the half chicken -- it's too dry, even after adding on a sauce of your choice.
Starbucks (Deck 6); a la carte, $2.95–$3.95
While most people head here for their favorite specialty coffee or tea, you can pick up pastries here as well.
Food Republic (Deck 8); a la carte, $3.99–$13.99
With its eclectic menu (presented on touch screen tablets from which you order), Food Republic doesn't quite fit into any single culinary category. Items are designed to give diners a taste of various cultures around the world, with dishes from South America, Europe and Asia, as well as a large sushi menu. Plates are small and designed for sharing.
Ocean Blue (Deck 8); a la carte, $2.99–$31.99
Seafood-lovers will want to splurge a little on a dinner at Ocean Blue, where fresh grilled fish is the specialty of the house. There's also a small selection of meat dishes. If you're seeking a healthy meal, Ocean Blue is a good choice, but we don't recommend Ocean Blue for vegetarians unless you're content to make a meal of sides. Outdoor seating is available.
La Cucina (Deck 8); a la carte, $4.99–$29.99
Norwegian's ubiquitous Italian restaurant, you'll find all your favorites from pasta e fagioli to calamari and spaghetti carbonara to gnocchi, and, of course, leave room for the tiramisu. Outdoor seating is available.
Le Bistro (Deck 8); a la carte, $3.99–$26.99
The cruise line's signature French restaurant is one of Norwegian Joy's two fine dining establishments, and you'll need to dress up to dine here. It serves traditional French favorites, like escargot, coq au vin and veal in a morel sauce. Le Bistro is an excellent choice for a date night or to celebrate a special occasion. Keep in mind, everything on the menu is quite rich so try not to overdo it. Outdoor seating is available.
Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 8); a la carte, $5–$32
The second of Norwegian Joy's fine dining restaurants (and located just across the way from Le Bistro), Cagney's is a traditional American steakhouse serving a selection of meat cuts and seafood. Like Le Bistro, there is a dress code. Outdoor seating is available.
The District Brew House (Deck 8); a la carte, $5.99–$8.99
If you're in need of a snack with your brew, you can choose one of four small-plate options at The District. It's more gastropub fare (salmon tandoori naan, for instance) than traditional pub grub.
American Diner (Deck 17); a la carte, $2.99–$14.99
Meals: L, D
This Americana-themed "diner" (you'll find tables sporting U.S. state license plates and booths carved out of classic American cars) offers a diverse menu of diner classics, including appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, salads and fried food baskets.