Norwegian Cruise Line is about to make a major change to onboard dining


Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free trip to the shipyard in Italy building Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Prima in order to get an early look at the vessel. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by the line.

One of the world’s biggest cruise lines is about to do away with one of the great traditions of cruising — a main dining room where the menu changes every night.

Norwegian Cruise Line on Tuesday will announce that the main included-in-the-fare restaurant on its soon-to-debut Norwegian Prima won’t offer a 14-day rotation of changing menus, as is typical for main dining rooms on cruise ships. Instead, it’ll offer a fixed menu of dishes that stay the same each night.

In that respect, it’ll be similar to other extra-charge “specialty” restaurants on Norwegian ships.

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“Think of it not as a main dining room but as the largest specialty dining room at sea,” Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Harry Sommer told TPG and a handful of other travel outlets Monday in Venice, Italy, in advance of the announcement, during an exclusive preview of menu items for the new restaurant and other eateries planned for Norwegian Prima.

The preview took place at an art gallery in Venice in advance of an exclusive hardhat tour of Norwegian Prima at the nearby shipyard where it is under construction.

Scheduled to debut in August, Norwegian Prima is being built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, which is just across from Venice on the mainland side of the Venice Lagoon.

Related: The 7 most anticipated new cruise ships of 2022

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Harry Sommer speaking at a preview event in Italy for the line’s new Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

To be called Hudson’s, the new main restaurant on Norwegian Prima will take the place of the main dining rooms called Taste and Sabor found on other Norwegian ships.

Speaking with TPG at the preview event, Sommer said the concept of a main dining room with a menu that changes every night on a 14-day rotation was a throwback to the days when passengers ate almost all their meals in a single main dining area. The idea was to offer cruisers something different to eat every night.

But those days are long gone, he noted, as most passengers now often move night to night between the many specialty restaurants now available on ships. Some Norwegian ships can have as many as 18 different dining venues, and the typical Norwegian customer only visits the main dining room on such vessels a couple of times per cruise, Sommer noted.

“We sort of sat around a table six months ago and said, ‘why do we still do that?'” Sommer said of the rotating menu concept at main dining rooms on cruise ships.

Switching to a single menu for Norwegian Prima’s main restaurant will greatly improve the quality of the experience, Sommer suggested.

“Let’s face it, if you have a 14-day rotating menu, there aren’t 14 good ways to make beef and chicken,” he said. “So if you happen to be in the restaurant on the 13th best day for beef and chicken, you’re not getting as good a dish as you could otherwise.”

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

Sommer said the culinary team at Norwegian were still locking down the final menu for Hudson’s, which will be found at the back of Norwegian Prima with 270-degree views. The menu has already changed “16 or 17 times,” he quipped, noting that the head of Norwegian’s parent company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, is also involved in the process.

The line is due to announce on Tuesday that menu items at Hudson’s will offer a mix of international cuisine ranging from Spanish Paella and Italian mussels prepared in a white wine sauce, to fully vegetarian options such as mushroom risotto and cauliflower piccata.

The Hudson’s menu also will have a build-your-own-pasta section where guests can request a tailormade Italian classic pasta dish by selecting their choice of pasta, sauce, and topping, providing more than 24 meal combinations.

The menu also will include a “specialties” section with dishes from the ship’s specialty dining eateries.

Sommer told TPG that the new fixed menu concept will roll out to the main dining rooms across the Norwegian fleet in 2023 — assuming it is well-received on Norwegian Prima.

Norwegian will also reveal on Tuesday its plans for a new upscale Mediterranean seafood eatery on Norwegian Prima, to be called Palomar, and a new, elevated “hibachi-style” restaurant called Hasuki. In addition, the ship will have a new-for-the-brand sushi restaurant concept called Nama that will focus on “upscale sushi and sashimi masterpieces.”

A sample of a langoustine dish that will be served at Palomar, a new restaurant planned for Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
New desserts planned for Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Other new food and beverage concepts for the ship to be unveiled Tuesday include what Norwegian is billing as its first sustainably-focused cocktail and wine bar. Dubbed The Metropolitan Bar, it’ll feature what the line is calling zero-waste cocktails, prepared from surplus ingredients to minimise waste. The bar’s signature drink, the Primadonna, will be a variation of an Old-Fashioned crafted with surplus banana peels and Flor De Cana rum that is produced with 100% renewable energy. More than 20 “biodynamic” wines available are produced using organic farming methods such as employing compost as fertilizer and avoiding most pesticides.

Norwegian Prima is one of the most notable new cruise ships debuting this year. Under development since 2017, it’s the first vessel in a major new series of six ships that Norwegian plans to add to its fleet between now and 2027 that promise to transform the brand. The so-called Prima Class will be Norwegian’s first entirely new class of ships to debut in nearly 10 years.

At 142,500 tons, Norwegian Prima will be notably smaller than the vessels the line has added in recent years, such as the 2-year-old, 169,116-ton Norwegian Encore — a feature that will allow it to access smaller ports around the world. But Norwegian Prima still will pack a lot of over-the-top amenities, including a go-kart track that spreads over three decks (a cruise industry first).

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Norwegian cruise

The ship also will boast The Drop, a 10-story dry slide that the line says will provide more G-force than an accelerating F1 racecar. Additionally, the vessel will be home to a three-deck theater that converts into a Las Vegas-style nightclub, and a list of interactive real-life gameshows, including at-sea versions of “The Price Is Right,” “Supermarket Sweep,” “Press Your Luck” and “Beat the Clock.”

Norwegian Prima also will mark a more upscale turn for the line. The cruise line says Norwegian Prima will offer the largest variety of suite categories (13) for a large ocean ship as well as the largest three-bedroom suites of any new cruise vessels and the brand’s largest-ever inside, oceanview and balcony cabins.

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Featured image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

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