Cruise Addicts
Inside Cruise Vacations with Chris Owen

Cruise Dining Options: A Quantum Leap Forward

 One of the most appealing parts of a cruise vacation is that all meals are included in the price. Comparing to land vacation options, that’s huge and takes one great big unknown expense off the table. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s always been. Until now as Royal Caribbean prepares to roll out Dynamic Dining, a new focus that will totally reinvent how we eat at sea.

How We Got Here

Tweaking the experience over the years, cruise lines added alternative dining options, initially offering a choice of cuisine and service a step above what was included in the price. Making a clear distinction between the main dining room experience, a cavernous space filled with huge banquet tables and alternative dining, more of an intimate steakhouse-like experience an additional fee was charged and cruise travelers voiced their opinions. Some liked the idea, celebrating special occasions in a space more suited for such events. Some did not care for it at all and just ignored the idea, happy with the main dining experience. Still others were radically against the notion, saying “why should I have to pay for the good stuff?”

And The Focus Continued

Regardless of which team we cheered, the evolving cruise industry continued to develop the concept of alternative dining, rolling out an open seating concept that provided more flexibility, as opposed to a fixed dining time with the same people at the same table every night. Some cruise travelers loved the idea and liked meeting new people every night. Others did not care for it at all, choosing the early or late seating and scheduling their days around it. All along, the culinary experts at Royal Caribbean International rolled out new products to their family of brands, all aimed to satisfy their target audience. It worked. It worked so well that more alternative dining options were introduced to the point that the main dining room experience became second, third or fourth choice for many cruise travelers.

Re-defining Dining At Sea

When new Quantum of the Seas debuts, on board will be no main dining room experience whatsoever. Not an option. Gone will be the same table with the same people at the same time every night, as assigned by the cruise line based on availability. Like the idea that your waiter knows you drink iced tea and has it waiting when you arrive on time to ‘your’ table in the dining room? Not going to happen.

Instead, Royal Caribbean is taking its rich history of pleasing people at sea with outstanding culinary offerings and giving us a choice. A number of restaurants will be included in the price of the cruise, focusing culinary efforts intensely on that one style of cuisine. As opposed to being ‘something for everyone’, Royal Caribbean will take the specialty focus and bring it mainstream, at no additional cost to us.

Yes, there will be up-charge options for dining, nothing new or scary to any one who has sailed on a major cruise line in the last decade. But looked at for what it is; specialty dining for no additional charge, the new Royal Caribbean Dynamic Dining program is a clear win for cruise travelers.

The Included Options Have A Familiar Ring To Them

Choosing among five complementary main dining restaurants, each will offer a basic menu, available on request with steak, chicken, salmon and a simple pasta for guests who prefer to eat something other than what is on the menu. Still, the choices at each different venue look to have wide appeal and it would not surprise me if one or two become favorites, based on our individual tastes.

  • American Icon Grill will offer a take on the classic American road trip, pulling together best-loved regional favorites into one comfort-style menu. American Icon Grill will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Chic is where you’ll find contemporary cuisine made with the freshest ingredients that are evolved for a modern pallet for dinner. The décor in Chic is glamorous and sophisticated.
  • Silk offers an exotic Pan-Asian menu that is inspired by the spice trade route to India and the Far East. Silk is open for dinner.
  •  The Grande is where every night is formal night. This main restaurant is inspired by the classic European ocean liners and featuring classic dishes for dinner.
  • Coastal Kitchen fuses Mediterranean influences with the riches of California’s bountiful farmlands. Coastal Kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is exclusive to suite guests

Easier To Rate, On The Horizon

In the past, rating ‘the food’ has been a difficult task for anyone. What one person likes, another might hate. For me, that’s sushi. You could not pay me enough to try it but others I travel with love it. With Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining, rating and recommending (or not) dining options takes on a new perspective. With each venue focused on one particular style of cuisine, as opposed to one main dining room that does it all, the results should be (and better be) spectacular. It’s a tall order to fill and you can bet we’ll be watching this closely to see how the results work out in real life. This is as yet an unknown.

But one thing is for sure: if any one cruise line can pull it off, Royal Caribbean, the cruise line that has made ‘delivering the wow’ just what they do, is a good bet.

Photos- Royal Caribbean International

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