Do Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises Include Meals? – Included Food Guide


I’ve been cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line since I was a child, the thing that really keeps me coming back time and time again is the flexible approach to dining. I love the lack of dress codes and the variety of food available.

If you’re considering your first cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line you may be wondering what is included in the cruise fare in regards to food.

Do Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Cruises Include Meals?

Yes. Breakfast lunch and dinner are all included on cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line. The main dining room and buffet are free on all ships in the fleet and there is usually another free option such as a bar/pub. Norwegian Cruise Line do feature a lot of ‘speciality dining’ options onboard their ships but these have an extra cost. 

When I cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line I usually stick to the complimentary options. You do not have to pay extra for any food when cruising on any Norwegian ship if you don’t want to.

During this post, we explore the options that are included in the cruise fare and talk briefly about the paid for extra options.

norwegian getaway in mexico

Buffet

Almost all cruise ships have buffets and Norwegian Cruise Line’s are, in my opinion, some of the best.

YOU CAN EAT AS MUCH AS YOU’D LIKE IN THE BUFFET AND EVERYTHING IS FREE!!! 

The buffet is open almost 24 hours and you’ll find lots of variety in the food offered. They tend to have food from around the world with different evenings having different themes. Most buffets on Norwegian Cruise Line ships are split into sections so you may have an Indian section an Omelette section etc.

Our quintessential buffet offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Action stations include meat carving, made-to-order pastas, omelettes, waffles, soft serve ice cream and more.- Norwegian Cruise Line.

The buffet is a great option if you want to grab something to eat quickly as the buffets are all self serve. When changing from breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner the buffet will rarely close completely, instead closing off part of the buffet while setting up another.

Norwegian Cruise Line Included Food Buffet Cakes Norwegian Encore

The buffets on the newer Norwegian Cruise Line ships are massive

During dinner most Norwegian Cruise Line buffets will include the following sections:

  • Meat Carving
  • Pasta Station
  • Pizza Station
  • Grill Station
  • Daily Specials
  • Indian Section
  • Special Diets & Menus
  • Bread Section
  • Salads
  • Desserts and Cakes
  • Ice Cream Machine

Norwegian Encore Buffet Noodle Station

Kids

Eating in the buffet can be a great option if you are cruising with kids. Norwegian Cruise Line are one of my favourite cruise lines which I recommend to families and young cruisers, to find out why, check out our recommended cruise lines page here: Recommended Cruise Lines

What Drinks Are Available In The Buffet?

Tea, Coffee, Water and some lemonade/flavoured water is usually available in the buffet. These are available whenever the buffet is open.  With breakfast juices are also available. At a minimum you’ll find orange and apple juice but you also may find things a little more exotic like pineapple or tomato juice.

Most of the newer Norwegian Cruise Line ships have a bar in the buffet where you can order a drink. These will cost money.

Main Dining Rooms

On most Norwegian Cruise Line ships you will have more than one ‘main’ dining room to choose from. Main dining room is often abbreviated as MDR and basically just means the included restaurants onboard. Most cruise lines will only have one but Norwegian often have many.

It is worth noting that although Norwegian do have a couple of different main dining rooms the menu is usually the same. On Norwegian Getaway/Breakaway/Epic and Encore you fill find restaurants called Taste and Savor which are opposite each other. The menu in both is exactly the same.

It is your decision if you want to eat in the main dining room or the buffet. You don’t have to make reservations for the main dining room or buffet.

Norwegian Cruise Line Main Dining Room Norwegian Encore Manhattan Room

Freestyle Dining Times

One of my favourite things about Norwegian Cruise Line is the lack of fixed dining times. On most cruise lines you’ll have dinner at a set time and may even be allocated a table to share with other cruisers.

Norwegian don’t do this. To dine on a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise you simply show up at the restaurant similar to how you would do on land.

It’s very easy and I rarely have had to wait for a table. If you eat at a particularly busy time (7-8pm usually) or are in a big group you might have to wait for a table and will be given a buzzer for you to take away while you wait.

When you are finished with your meal you simply stand up and leave! It’s amazing not having to wait for a bill/cheque.

Main Dining Room Drinks

Water will be offered to the table for free but any other drinks must be purchased. If you don’t want to buy any drinks and instead want to stick with the water this is completely fine and quite normal. I do it all the time.

Norwegian Cruise Line Taste Savor Included Food Encore

Is There Any More Complimentary Food On Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises?

Pub/Bar

On most ships you will find a bar/pub which is open 24 hours a day. On the older ships this is sometimes called the Blue Lagoon, it is called O’Sheehans on the majority of the ships and on the newest ships it is called ‘The Local’.

Despite the different names the idea behind the restaurants is the same. It is a quick place to grab food in a relaxed setting. I’m a big fan of having meals in the pub in the UK so maybe that is why I enjoy it so much.

O’Sheehans/The Local typical menu items:

  • Burgers
  • Hotdogs
  • Chicken Wings
  • Sandwiches
  • Nachos
  • Chili
  • Fish & Chips
  • Pie
  • Apple Pie/Cheese Cake

Norwegian Cruise Line The Local Menu Norwegian Encore

Asian Restaurant

On quite a few of Norwegian’s ships you will find a noodle bar/asian restaurant. The restaurant serves wok fried dishes and traditional soups. I have dined in this restaurant on the Norwegian Epic and really enjoyed it. It does get quite busy so I would recommend you eat at a less popular time if at all possible.

You can dine as many times as you would like, on some cruises have eaten lunch in a venue and then come back for an afternoon snack. One of the best things about cruising is that there is no limit how much you can eat.

What About Room Service?

Room service is available on cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line but it does come at an additional cost.

The new menu offers an expanded selection for breakfast, in addition to a wider variety of options available 24 hours. Individual items on the menu remain available on a complimentary basis and a convenience charge of up to $7.95 USD will be added to each order placed (Morning coffee, continental breakfast and orders placed by guests sailing in The Haven will not attract a charge). – Source

Speciality Dining On Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line have a LOT of speciality dining options onboard their ships. Speciality restaurants are restaurants which cost extra for guests to dine in. They can be priced in two different ways:

  • A flat charge to dine in the restaurant
  • A charge per item – similar to dining on land.

When eating in the speciality restaurants you will be asked to sign for the meal at the end and then the charge will be added to your onboard account.

Q Texas Smokehouse Norwegian Encore Speciality Restaurant BBQ Signs

How do you book speciality dining on Norwegian Cruise Line?

There are a number of ways you can book speciality meals.

  • By phone – There is usually a reservations desk that you can phone free of charge from the phone in your cabin.
  • In person – You are normally able to book at the restaurant of choice.
  • On the app – If you are cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line make sure you download the app, you can book speciality meals using it and also check your reservations.
  • On the tv – In each cabin there will be a TV which is capable of booking speciality meals.

Speciality Restaurants

Each ship has different speciality restaurants but there are a number which are on multiple ships.

Below are a few, but not all speciality restaurant options available on Norwegian Cruise Line cruises.

To learn more check out Norwegian’s website here: Speciality Dining.

  • Cagneys (American style steakhouse)
  • Le Bistro (French)
  • Moderno (Brazilian steakhouse)
  • La Cucina (Italian)
  • Teppanyaki (Japanese)
  • Food Republic (Worldwide)
  • Los Lobos (Mexican)
  • Q Texas Smokehouse (BBQ)

Up selling

I usually don’t find that there is too much up selling in regards to speciality dining on Norwegian cruises. The up sell can be quite annoying on a few other lines but I’m pleased to say that I don’t find that to be the case with Norwegian.

The cruise line will have promotions and, of course, want to encourage cruisers to try the more expensive options but I’ve never felt pressured into doing so. If you don’t want to eat in any speciality restaurants that is no problem at all. I usually don’t.

Specialty Meals as a Perk

Norwegian Cruise Line often offer speciality dining as part of a booking perk. This may be in the form of a certain number of meals in speciality restaurants or with the addition of a ‘dining package’.

If you are somebody who knows that they’ll want to try speciality restaurants it can make more financial sense to buy the package or book ahead of time.

To recap: Norwegian Cruise Line offer free food in the main dining rooms, buffet and usually another option. You don’t have to spend a penny extra on food during your cruise if you don’t want to, I usually don’t! 

The first thing that I loved about Norwegian Encore was the main dining rooms! If you’d like to learn more about the main dining rooms check out this video and don’t forget to subscribe!

Where To Next?

If you’re considering your first cruise, or would just like to learn a little more about cruising, this post is a brilliant place to start: 67 Cruise Tips From 67 Cruisers. 

The post shares tips from 67 real cruisers and takes you through from embarkation to disembarkation. By reading this guide you’ll be better prepared for your cruise than 99% of other cruisers!67 first time cruise tips from 67 cruisers ultimate cruise tips guide

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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