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Meals on a Havila Coastal Voyage

French fries, soup, bread with vegetables on top.

Before boarding our Havila cruise in Norway, we were excited about the meals on board: Instead of offering us a homogenized buffet, the company promised to feed us dishes based on the regions we were passing through.

Although I can’t say that I had ever given much thought to Norwegian cuisine, the food on our Havila Voyage turned out to be a highlight of our trip.

Havila Voyages’ food concept

Like a lot of details of this cruise, the whole dining situation took a little figuring out.

This coastal cruise is a new route for Havila, and I think they need to improve their communications and simplify their systems to make them more user friendly. But one thing that you don’t need to worry about: The food on Havila’s Coastal Voyage is delicious, and it’s a very special part of the whole experience.

A bowl of soup, a plate of cucumbers and a cast iron pan with food in it.
Potato soup, cucumber sashimi and hot klippfisk brandade for from the Fjords lunch menu. (I believe the cheese is not part of the sashimi plate; it was from a salad.)

A big part of discovering a new country is trying local food, so I was really glad that our cruise along the coast of Norway would feature Norwegian food. Better yet, in Havrand, the main restaurant, they serve food special to each region as you pass through.

a plate of pork
Our waiter turned out to be Italian the night I ordered the porchetta … and now I will never mispronounce it again. It’s pork-etta, not porch-etta!
  • From Bergen to Trondheim, the menu is called Flavours of the Fjords. Our favorite dishes from that segment were the braised leg of beef and lamb shank with creamy mushroom sauce.
  • From Bodø to Kirkenes, you get Flavours of the Polar Region. We loved the baked cod and porchetta (from Norwegian free-range pigs!).

On the Southbound route, you could try two different regional menus:

Bowl of soup with mussels and ginger on top.
The fish soup was so delicious!

At any location, you could choose from the “Round Trip” menu. Our favorite dishes –the porcini mushroom soup and the Norwegian fish soup — were part of the round trip menu.

schnitzel and soup
Crisy pea schnitzel for lunch and (I think?) the artichoke soup.

Vegetarian options were available at every meal, and we tried a number of those as well. I liked the following on the RT menu: crispy pea schnitzel, risoni with mushrooms the french fries (Havrand’s crispy potatoes). However overall I don’t feel that the vegetarian dishes were as tasty as the meat dishes. (And I like vegetarian food.)

thin sliced pickles on a plate
One of my least favorite dishes, the “cucumber sashimi.”

A few dishes I didn’t care for on our Havila Voyage: On the RT dinner menu, the broth of the Vestland fish stew was unpleasant to me, although the seafood in it was good. On the Flavors of the Fjords, the lunch items vegetables tartlet and cucumber sashimi. The tartlet was a pastry shell full of shredded raw vegetabes and a lot of mayo, and it just didn’t seem to go together. The sashimi tasted like a plate of thin sliced pickles, and it’s not that I don’t like pickles, but pickle slices on a plate just didn’t feel like lunch.

The desserts were all small and delicious. A few favorites: In the fjords, Hardanger apple cake (which was like apple pie). In the polar land, the chocolate mousse. Round trip, the panna cotta. On the lunch menus, for dessert is says: “Today’s sweet secret. Please ask your waiter.” At first we always asked our waiter, Vikram, what the sweet secret was. But he always admonished us: “Do not ask this. We do not know this secret.” So eventually we just ordered dessert to find out. It was never bad.

I skipped several breakfasts, but when I showed up, the breakfast food was also yummy. My parents said the bacon and fried eggs was exceptional. My favorite thing to have for breakfast on our Havila Voyage was bread and cheese. They had several kinds of bread to choose from — country, farmer’s, rye — and they were all delicious. Most of the breakfast menu stayed the same for the whole trip, with just a few regional specialities, most of which were different kinds of smothies and porridges. Since Toth slept through even more breakfasts than I di, I often brought him back a smoothie and a croissant or something like that from the restaurant. The wait staff did not complain.

Eating at Havrand Restaurant

A waiter wearing an apron enters an order into a tablet for a woman, seated.
Our waiter Vikram was so funny and personable. We miss him!

This is where we ate the majority of our meals. You had to learn the system, but besides a few bumps in the road, it’s a pleasant experience.

  • Reservations. When you board, you’ll reserve set times for your group to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, these are not set in stone. If you have an excursion that’s going to interfere with your scheduled time, ask at the desk outside the restaurant and they’ll let you know the best time for you to come in. Your reservation will be for the same table every day, so you can just go in and sit down when it’s your time.
  • Ordering. When you come in, the breakfast, lunch or dinner menu should be on the table. The waiters take your order using a handheld device. (The waiters sometimes had some challenges using these devices, but we weren’t in a hurry.) This seems to be where your waiter’s responsibility for your table ends. They may not come check later to make sure you received what you ordered, or if you want anything else. Occasionally our ordres did not get filled, and we learned we needed to tell the person who had brought the food, or anyone we could flag down. We didn’t need to wait until we saw the waiter who had taken our order.
  • Breakfast. You can order as many of the small dishes on the menu as you want. It’s important to indicate how much of each item you want. If you just ask for bacon, you’ll get one slice. Coffee with milk and OJ (but not fresh-squeezed OJ) is included.
  • Lunch. Like breakfast, order as many small dishes as you want.
  • Dinner. You can order one starter, one main course and one dessert. If you want more dishes, you have to pay extra. They bring the vegetables to accompany the main dishes on a shared tray for your whole table.
  • Drinks. There is a restaurant beverage list with wine, beer and a few standard cocktails. For best results, stick to these options. My parents tried multiple times to order cocktails in the restaurant that were not on the menu. This always slowed things down, because the waiters had trouble figuring out how to input special drink orders. When we got our bill at the end of the cruise, we found that we had sometimes been charged for a cocktail plus a soda, as if the soda and mixer were two different items.

Eating at the Hildring Fine Dining restaurant

  • scallop
  • A small piece of crab in sauce with fish eggs.
  • raw lamp chops on a plate
  • A piece of fish with greens and mushrooms on top, on a plate over sauce.
  • Fancy panna cotta
  • A boy smiling with a slice of cake with a Norwegian flag on it.

Hildring is Havila Voyages’ one “specialty” restaurant, which also serves Norwegian food — just fancier. We ate there one night. The meal consisted of five small courses, and the flavors — especially the sauces — were exceptional. The service was slow, since only one waiter (one of our favorites, sommelier Antoine) had to serve the small dining room on his own. We didn’t mind, though, since all the tables in Hildring have a window seat. Between courses, we enjoyed the scenery as the sky turned pink.

The night we dined in Hildring, the menu included scallops on the half shell, king crab, lamb chops and possibly other courses that I have forgotten. (I think there was a fish course?) Because we were celebrating Toth’s 14th birthday that night, after our dessert, a number of waitstaff came over from the main restaurant (including some of our favorite people) and sang a Norwegian birthday song, while presenting him with a second dessert, a wedge of flourless cake with a Norwegian flag in it. At the very end, they brought out a plate of fancy chocolates, which we brought back to our room.

I loved the Hildring dining experience, but I don’t think I would have upgraded more than one meal, because it takes several hours of your evening to dine there, and because I wanted to try as many menu items from the regular restaurant as possible.

The Havila Gold menu is discontinued

One of the many slightly confusing things about dining on a Havila Coastal Voyage was the Gold package. This now discontinued program provided special menu items and a non-alcoholic drinks package for an extra fee. We didn’t get this package, but honestly it didn’t seem worth it to us, so I don’t think the end of Havila Gold is a great loss.

Eating at the Havly Cafe

In addition to the two table service restaurants, another option for eating on your Havila Voyage is the Havly Cafe, open all day (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.). At the Havly Cafe, you order at the counter and either have your food handed to you or delivered to one of the cafe tables. The cafe sits right outside the Havrand restaurant. Unlike the other two restaurants, you don’t need to eat there at an appointed time. This makes it handy if you are going to be off the ship when your regular meal reservation comes around. I have also read (on Facebook) that you could order something off the cafe menu to be delivered to you in the Havrand restaurant, but we never tried that.

The cafe seems to be the source of many of the questions about eating on a Havila Voyage. Like, what does the cafe serve, and do we have to pay for it?

What we learned is that if you have full board (which comes with cabin fare when you are sailing the whole route at least one way, but not port to port), you don’t have to pay for a meal at Havly. (At least, this was the rule when we sailed.) But be careful: There are a few menu items that will be charged to your account if you order them here, like espresso drinks and packaged items. The Havly menu includes pastries, sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and — our favorite — fish soup. The prices listed on the menu are for port-to-port passengers.

We ate lunch in Havila’s Havly cafe once, but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience because the cafe was really popular that day due to a noontime port. The sole cafe worker was kept running, and he urged me to go eat in the restaurant instead, and never mind that it wasn’t my reservation time. But the rest of my family had already ordered in the cafe, so I didn’t want to go sit at our restaurant table all alone. In the end, I received my food before it was time for us to head out to port, so it was fine.

Once or twice, we ordered pastries from the cafe when we had slept through breakfast. They were OK, but nothing to write home about.

FAQs about eating on a Havila Coastal Voyage

crab salad
I think this is crab salad.

Q: Norwegian food sounds like a lot of fish. Is there anything to eat if you don’t like fish or if you have dietary restrictions?

A: Yes! Although there were a lot of delicious fish dishes, every menu comes with vegetarian options for both starters and main dishes. And they were every bit as flavorful and well prepared as the meat dishes.

Q: Will picky eaters find foods that they like?

A: I think so. If you only want to eat pizza, burgers or sandwiches, ask your waiter in the restaurant to get thoes for you from the cafe. My dad is pretty picky and he really enjoyed the food. He ordered the steak on the RT menu more than once and loved it.

Q: What if we miss our scheduled dining time due to a port or excursion?

A: Check with the host outside the restaurant. Most likely they can seat you at another time. If not, have your meal in the cafe instead.

Q: Will the cost of meals be included?

A: If you are sailing on one of Havila’s “packaged voyages,” then food is included. Packaged voyages include the round trip or one-way from Bergen to Kirkenes or from Kirkenes to Bergen. If you book “port to port,” choosing your own start and end points, food is not included, but you can pay for meals a la carte.

Q: Will my whole party be seated together even if we are in different cabins?

A: Yes, you can make your dining reservation as a group. The largest tables were round ones seating 6. Since we were a party of 5, we sat at one of those with one empty chair. The only downside to sitting at the biger tables is that they are farther from the windows.


Our Havila Coastal Voyage, Part II

Our Havila Coastal Voyage, Part I

How the Havila Coastal Voyage is Different from Other Cruises

Everything You Need to Know About Boarding a Havila Coastal Voyage

Day 7 Part II: Boarding the Havila Castor

Day 7: Last Day in Bergen

Day 6: Exploring Bergen

Bryggen Walking Tour Review

Moxy Bergen Hotel Review

Day 5: Reykjavik to Bergen

The Iceland Phallological Museum (NSFW!)

Reykjavik Airbnb Review

Reykjavik Lebowski Bar Review

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Day 4: Iceland’s Golden Circle

Day 3: Reykjavik in a Day

Day 2: Arriving in Reykjavik

The Blue Lagoon

Day 1: Traveling from Chicago to Reykjavik

My Iceland Recommendations

Overview: Multigen Trip to Iceland and Norway Cruise


Monday 1st of April 2024

fyi: Havila's website says "food is not included for port-to-port voyages and must be purchased as either a meal package during the booking process, or on board from the ship café." This appears to be the case even if you purchase a cabin.


Monday 15th of April 2024

@Todd, Thank you!


Monday 15th of April 2024

I just called Havila customer service. The representative confirmed that meals are extra (in addition to the cabin fee for people who booked using the port-to-port option). A discounted meal package can be purchased in advance or people can pay separately for each meal.

Monday 1st of April 2024

So cool that you are looking at this trip! I would check with customer service on that. I think we were told, "If you have a cabin, you have meals." But they have changed a bunch of things since we sailed last summer as well -- for instance they discontinued Havila Gold.