The specialty restaurant craze has spread from luxury to premium cruise ships,  so we put dining on Prima class with Norwegian Cruise Line to a taste test.

Once it was a groaning buffet table. Now, gourmet dining is the new front line for premium-class ships. Holland America Line recently launched a first-of-its-kind fresh fish program. Cunard has commissioned the two-Michelin-starred chef, Michel Roux, to create menus for both the fleet and its next flagship, Queen Anne. Princess struck gastronomic gold with ‘360: An Extraordinary Experience’, which takes guests on a journey through the sights, sounds, textures and scents of local cuisines. 

Celebrity now has two of chef Daniel Boulud’s upscale restaurants and Royal Caribbean’s record-setting Icon of the Seas has 20 new food and drink concepts.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line’s generation-next, Prima-class ships have arrived with a new class of food. My task is to taste eight of the best offerings. Here’s my verdict.

 NCL Prima's Hasuki japanese restaurant includes seating in front of the kitchen.
Dining on Prima class includes Japanese restaurant Hasuki, stack up on NCL Prima?

Le Bistro 

The most opulent and romantic specialty restaurant on Prima ships is French-accented Le Bistro. Intimate and elegant, this sophisticated dinner option is resplendent in every detail, right down to the large ornate chandeliers hung at eye level for dramatic effect. On the main side, classic French dishes include coq au vin, beef tenderloin, lobster thermidor and roasted duck. Sumptuous surprises range from Moroccan-spiced lamb to a satisfying vegetarian entrée of portobello mushrooms. 

Not a single appetiser, soup or salad has disappointed on multiple visits, and of the desserts, one especially worthy of an ooh la la is the Marquise au Chocolat, made with 70-per-cent dark chocolate cremeux and a generous drizzle of Chambord raspberry sauce. 

If cheese is what you crave, Le Bistro’s assiette de fromage features some of the best camembert, muenster, roquefort and goat’s cheese this side of the Seine. The ship’s top sommeliers are always near to suggest the perfect wines to complement the meal.

A romantic couple dining at Le Bistro with sunset int he background
Dining on Prima class at Le Bistro.

Onda by Scarpetta

Scarpetta claims its footprint is “in all corners of the world”, and that must be because the chain of upscale Italian restaurants partners with NCL ships that travel the globe. In terms of standalone locations, they’re only in five countries, and none are in Australia. 

With Onda by Scarpetta, currently on Prima, Viva, Encore and Spirit, there’s no need to travel to Italy, England, Japan, Qatar or the US for the company’s amazing pappardelle Bolognese (with beef, pork and veal ragu), scialatielli (with shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari) and branzino (with lemony salmoriglio dressing). Open for dinner, Onda features many other signature pastas and yummy seafood creations, along with modern turns to such classic Italian desserts as tiramisu and panna cotta. 

The restaurants on Prima-class ships are especially stunning with a modern interior design blending soothing wood tones with intense white mouldings that hint at late Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi. The galley’s adroit plating of the food adds to the aesthetics.

Prime rib dish with asparagus and potato at Onda
Prime rib at Onda is part of dining on Prima class.

Nama Sushi & Sashimi 

Sushi is hit or miss on cruise ships, but it’s happily – and consistently – the former at Nama. Located across from Hasuki on Prima ships, Nama, open only for dinner, is an understated and intimate sushi bar with a surprisingly eclectic menu. Even better, on multiple cruises the raw fish tasted “Day 1 fresh” even after two straight sea days when gallies weren’t being restocked. The thinly sliced ahi (yellowfin tuna), kanpachi (yellowtail) and unagi (eel) were of like quality as that found in better land-based sushi restaurants. Those and other pieces also make for terrific rolls. 

Cold dishes include the Tuna Wonton Volcano with avocado and jalapeno, and a beef striploin carpaccio, and on the hot side is a flavourful karaage (fried chicken). The mochi comes in mango and green tea, but if it’s a special dessert you yen for, try the Pineapple Carpaccio kissed with lemongrass syrup and pomegranate. Nama has perhaps the most extensive sake list on the high seas. Kanpai!


Accented by 20th-century architecture and mid-century design, Norwegian’s signature steakhouse for dining on Prima class ships jettisons the once-standard dark woods, dimmed lighting and overall speakeasy vibe reminiscent of the United States’ Prohibition Era of 1920-1933. The contemporary ambience of Cagney’s on Prima, Viva and, as of 2025, Aqua, offers guests a pleasing contrast of contemporary and classic, as in design and menu, respectively. 

The ordinary becomes extraordinary at dinnertime, led by the traditional starters of lobster bisque, onion soup (topped with a large gruyere crouton) and iceberg wedge salad. While the double-cut Australian lamb chops and steelhead trout are excellent choices, Cagney’s is better known for premium cuts like prime rib, porterhouse, filet mignon and ribeye. 

For those who imbibe, all of the above pairs well with a savvy selection from Cagney’s extensive cocktail menu or award-winning wine list. Not ordering a side of their parmesan-dusted truffle fries and dessert of either the “OMG” caramel-butterscotch cheesecake or raspberry crème brulee is a sin.

Dining in Cagney's.
A couple at Cagney’s one of the options for dining on Prima class.


Modifications made between its debut on Prima and a second iteration on Viva have helped NCL’s first Mediterranean seafood restaurant go from good to grouse. Tweaks to the Lavraki (sea bass) and Dover sole give these mains more flavour with less oil. For a tasty trip to Greece and Italy, highly recommended is a three-course meal consisting of beautifully plated tuna crudo, roasted monkfish and citrusy galaktoboureko dessert. Eavesdropping on both Prima ships verified that the grilled octopus and sea scallops are also superb. 

With an atmosphere accentuated by natural light and panoramic windows, it’s a shame that Palomar isn’t open for lunch. That said, a reservation time that coincides with sunset is, like the cuisine itself, something to savour.

A dish of datiles con almendras or stuffed dates at Palomar.
A dish of datiles con almendras or stuffed dates at Palomar.


The majority of NCL’s fleet features a teppanyaki-style restaurant, and even though the master chefs are pretty much equal in terms of talent and showmanship across the near-20 ships with these Japanese-themed eateries, on Prima-class vessels the epicurean experience is enhanced with tasteful artwork and other modern elements. The menus between Hasuki, which is what they’re named on Prima ships, and the others (simply called Teppanyaki) are also similar. Mains include chicken breast, jumbo shrimp and New York strip, and whether ordered as a standalone or combination, meals are served with edamame, miso soup and salad with ginger dressing followed by fried rice, grilled vegetables, dipping sauces and dessert. 

Hard as each skilful chef tries to entertain while playing with the food you’re about to eat (the onion volcano is always a big hit), the experience is influenced by who is on your side of the steel grill. Being seated with lively people assures a filling and fun time even without a round of Shaku-Shaku signature cocktails.

Japanese ramen dish at Hasuki.
Dining on Prima class includes Japanese ramen at Hasuki.

Food Republic

The loose theme of this ambiguously named a la carte restaurant is international street food. Menu items are ordered on a touchscreen tablet, and unless done so one at a time, dishes come out as they’re ready – make note of this if the plan is to get chocolate cake after the chicken lettuce wraps. This isn’t so different from how things are done at Indulge Food Hall, which offers wider choices that don’t cost extra or require reservations. So, why pay $29 for Korean-style lamb kalbi gui at Food Republic when the rotisserie lamb top sirloin and a variety of Pan-Pacific dishes are included at Indulge? Because of free will, perhaps. 

Plus, good as the food is at the complimentary dining option, two things Food Republic has that Indulge doesn’t are to-die-for tuna poke nachos and the Green Tea Jar dessert – both worth the extra buckaroos. Food Republic is open for dinner nightly and lunch on sea days (our pick for the ocean view). Moreover, the understated ambiance of the restaurant and street food fare does give off a more lunchy vibe.

Food Republic on NCLs' Prima class.
Food Republic.

Los Lobos 

The modern twist on traditional Mexican flavours at Los Labos might win over a few dispassionate palates. The fajitas are rather ordinary for a dish listed as a “house specialty”, but three other mains in that subcategory are anything but boring. 

The slowly braised pork that headlines the cochinita pabil is succulent and, thanks to a splash of bitter orange juice, has appropriate tartness. It’s pretty, too, served on a banana leaf. The chorizo, spicy tomato broth and mezcal bring out tremendous flavour from the star shellfish in a winning mejillones borrachos (“drunken mussels”). The chile relleno is a perfect marriage of roasted poblano pepper, apple, raisins and earthy quinoa. 

The signature Tres Leches Cake with coconut cream is so worth the calories. Los Lobos on Prima ships offers indoor and outdoor seating, both of which are decked in a fiesta of colours. 

  • David Dickstein travelled on Norwegian Viva.

Norwegian Viva

Here are the top tips when you’re on board Norwegian Viva.

Indulge Food Hall 

With 11 different eateries, the menu changes throughout the day, so we recommend coming back for breakfast, lunch and dinner! To avoid the morning rush, Indulge is also a great option for casual grab-and-go breakfast.

The seating area of Indulge Food Hall and the Tapas Food Truck on  Prima class ships.
Indulge Food Hall and the Tapas Food Truck on Prima class ships.

Whiskey Bar 

If you don’t know where to start, amateurs and connoisseurs alike will enjoy sampling the curated American whiskey flights or trying the exclusive Bliss Boulevardier cocktail. For a more unique option, the Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is a menu standout. 

Observation Lounge 

If you need a place to unwind, this lounge features afternoon bites and tea and some of the most relaxing ambience on board.

Metropolitan Bar 

The Prima Class zero-waste cocktail bar is boasting a new, must-try drink – El Padrino. While sipping on sustainable cocktails, make sure to check out the more than 15-metre long interactive artwork, “Every Wing has a Silver Lining“, by British artist Dominic Harris.

Syd Norman’s Pour House and Improv 

When the sun sets, the party gets started! Arrive early to grab a drink and a seat before these venues become standing room only! Evening entertainment includes the Rumours of Fleetwood Mac cover band, karaoke and stand-up comedians. 

The Whiskey Bar on Norwegian Cruise Line Prima class shows a barman serving drinks to guests.
The Whiskey Bar on Norwegian Cruise Line Prima class.