First up, we have the buffet that's open from morning until about 9pm. You can take anything you want at anytime. The one thing about cruising is that drinks are NOT free, alcohol is a given, but pop also cost money. You can get a pop card for about $6 a day which entitles you to unlimited refills. However drinks at the buffet is always free, which include coffee, tea, ice tea and water. During breakfast they also serve milk and juice.
This would be a typical breakfast plate. They have fresh waffle made to order, and as well as a egg/omelet station where you can request any style you like. They even had just pure egg white if you are on a diet. They also served smoke salmon, sausage, crispy bacon, fresh fruit and assorts of baked goodies. I gotta say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we were definitely happy with the selection. The above pictures are typical for a lunch buffet, there were the sandwich/wrap station, a salad bar, a carving station (their pork roast was very good), and a hot food area where they serve rice, and various of dishes. They usually have ONE wok station where they make some sort of non-authentic Chinese food. But when you are on a cruise and craving Chinese food, it soon becomes your favorite station.A typical fruit station. I find their watermelon is very sweet and watery, maybe because it's the tropics. It also happen to be the only fruit that I ate on the entire cruise. The desserts constantly changes, but only in appearance and taste. The texture remains the same. It seems like everything is gelatin based. Doesn't matter if it's pudding, jello or mousse cake, it all wiggles. LOLIn the afternoon, the sandwich/wrap station is transformed into the fondue station where they serve it with mini cupcakes and fruit skewers. Also the soft serve ice cream machine came out at about 2pm, and it closed at 5pm. My friend fell in love with the soft serve, he ate more than one everyday. Near the end of the cruise, he even got 2 bowls of it, because he thought the cones were too small. Sometime they have special event happening on the pool deck, at time like this they would move certain aspect of the buffet outside, such as a pool side BBQ. This would be the giant seafood paella we had for one of those days. It was actually quite good. The seafood was fresh and the rice was soft and flavorful.
Restaurant Meal - FreeAlthough the appetizers looked appetizing, but that was not the case. I don't know what's wrong with the soups on this ship, but all of them are so overly salty. I had only a couple of spoonful and had to stop. The spring roll appetizer was just that, except with better plating. The fruit soup tasted like canned peaches in sweet syrup with a hint of star anise. The skewer was mediocre at best. In fact, I think the food at the buffet tasted better.The entrees were slightly better than the appetizers, but once again it didn't really stand out either. The gnocchi was a bit too starchy. The sauce for the chicken pasta had too much of a soy sauce taste. The desserts were generally good, except the cheesecake. I mean it certainly looks like cheesecake, but it tasted more like jello. Even it's texture was jello like. I guess they just put gelatin powder in all their desserts. The chocolate mousse was actually quite good.
There are 2 main dining room on NCL Sky: The Crossing and The Palace. Both offer meal service at night. These are the 2 free restaurants that are included in your cruise package. Every night the menu changes.
Cover Charge Restaurant - $10-$25/personThe first thing you notice walking into a paid restaurant is that the decor is much nicer. The food also tasted much better. Not only do they use quality ingredient, the cooking techniques also got more complex. We had seared scallops, mussel, escargot, and foie gras. All were very good.
The picture below was taken at Le Bistro ($15), but they also have 2 other paid restaurants on board. One is called Il Adagio and the other is called Cagney's Steakhouse. We had the pleasure to visit Il Adagio as well, that one was only $10 cover charge, and it was absolutely worth it, as everything was very delicious. Our favorite has gotta be their tiramisu dessert (drool).
This would the some of our entrees. As I already mentioned the quality dramatically increased. The leg of lamb on the left was succulent and juicy. The duck breast was equally good. The only thing I didn't like was the pan seared foie gras at the top, it was so fatty and extremely oily. Overall, the entrees are delicious and well worth the money. Oh I forgot to mention, the desserts are also excellent, they actually taste like what they are suppose to be, not at all jello like.
So the lesson of the day is dine at the paid restaurant, and you will get excellent food for excellent value. Because you can reorder anything you liked, and you are not limited to just one appetizer, entree or dessert. In fact at one point, one of my friend had 2 appetizers and 2 entrees.
- Buffet: good food for a buffet, and you can eat anytime of the day, and you can even take it to go, great for getting a drink, since it's convenient and free. Also if you are disembarking for shore, you can always grab a few things before you go.
- Free Restaurant: the food is mediocre at best, but worth trying out if you don't want to spend extra money, as the ambiance is nicer than the buffet
- Cover Charge restaurant: well worth the small cover charge price, it's also pretty much an all you can eat, as their is no limit on how many dishes you can order.
- Drinks: Pop and alcohol drinks cost money, the only free drinks are available at the buffet. You can bring your own drinks, but you can only drink in your own cabin. If you bring alcohol, they will charge you a fee to bring it on board.
- Tipping: Since NCL charges you about $12/day/person, tipping at any restaurant is entirely optional. However they do charge a service charge on all alcoholic drinks.
- a little tip: if you really want to bring alcohol on board, and you didn't want to get charged, pour it in a water bottle or soft drink bottle. This tip was given by our friends, but we didn't actually attempt it.
The above is my experience on NCL Sky only. I haven't tried other cruise lines or other ships, so it's purely a first impression on my first cruising experience. Yours may differ :)