If there’s one thing cruise ships have in abundance, it’s definitely food. Food can be found in all sorts of places and all manner of ways. A passenger could spend their entire cruise eating if they wanted to, moving from one food venue to another. Cruise ships have dining rooms with multi-course meals, buffets, room service and usually some sort of 24-hour food venue, all at no extra charge. And if that’s not enough, there’s late night buffets and the special eateries that cost a bit extra.
Norwegian‘s free style cruising includes even more dining options than the average ship. A number of them do cost a bit extra, but after having eaten at several of the places with a surcharge on a variety of ships I’ve always found them worth the price. I used to wonder why anyone would spend money to have a meal on a ship with so much good food to chose from at no extra charge, but actually trying some of the fancier eateries changed my mind.
The Pearl has two main dining rooms. Passengers can choose to eat in either or neither, whatever suits them. We had a couple meals at the Summer Palace, the more formal of the two. It sits at the stern of the ship with great views through large picture windows. It had good service and good food.
I did think Winter Palace would have made a better name for it though. Not only was it decorated in Christmas colors, the temperature in the room was downright frosty. On the plus side they had plenty of tables so people on our cruise always got right in with no waiting.
The other dining room, called Indigo, is smaller and less formal. Although since jeans and a t-shirt would more than meet the requirements for Norwegian’s minimal dress code even at the “formal” dining room, dressing for dinner really shouldn’t be a problem at either place. Indigo kept the temperature of the room at a far more comfortable level than the Summer Palace.
That was my reason for preferring it to the Summer Palace, as they served the same food. Other people also seemed to like Indigo better, since often they had a wait to get in for dinner. Our pager always went off in under half an hour though so the waits were not too bad.
Another option for free meals on the Pearl was the Garden Cafe Buffet. Entering the buffet meant holding out your hands for the “Happy, happy, washy, washy” crew to spray them with hand sanitizer. Once inside a number of different stations offered quite a variety of food. Some came up from the main galley, but a lot got prepared right there at the station where they served it. We especially enjoyed the made-to-order turkey and veggie burgers. One night the buffet served an excellent late-night chocolate buffet.
The Blue Lagoon 24-hour cafe also offered food at no extra charge, and daytime room service came free as well.
Other free food included BBQ served lunch daily at Topsider’s Grill by the pool, and the Great Outdoors Bar served complimentary buffet food with outdoor seating. On our behind-the-scenes tour we saw a pig roasting in the galley for a Bavarian themed lunch at the Great Outdoors. For yet another free outdoor dining choice, passengers could try the Sky High Bar & Grill above the pool.
The choices for pay-extra eateries seemed limitless. We gave Teppanyaki – where your dinner is the show – a try and loved it. Not just the food, but the whole grilling and knife trick experience. Chefs there cook with a flair right at the guests’ table, which mostly consists of a very large grill.
With an eatery to meet pretty much any taste or desire for a particular type of food, the Pearl had quite a variety of premium places to choose from. They had Cagney’s Steakhouse, which served breakfast and lunch complimentary to suite guests and VIP’s as well as being open to everyone for dinner for a fee. In addition to the Japanese food at Teppanyaki, the Pearl had many other choices for ethnic food with varying fees at La Cucina Italian, Le Bistro French, Lotus Garden Asian (which also has an a la carte sushi bar), and Moderno Churrascaria Brazillian.
In case all that isn’t enough they also had pizza delivery available to passenger cabins 24/7 for $5.