The cruise line has made some major changes to its main dining room menus, but that’s not all passengers need to know about Royal Caribbean dining.
Royal Caribbean changed its main dining room (MDR) menus earlier this year and that set off a wave of complaints from long-time cruisers. Basically, the cruise line got rid of the “classic” section of its menu. These were basic items like New York strip steak and pasta bolognese that appeared on the menu every night.
The cruise line dropped those items and moved to a new set of menus where each night has a theme like “Italian,” “Mexican,” or “Caribbean.” Not every offering each night fits the theme, but Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Free Report did slim down its nightly offerings in the interest of cutting down waste and speeding up dinner service to roughly 75 minutes.
When you sail with Royal Caribbean, however, the MDR is not your only choice. You can actually have a wonderful culinary experience on your cruise without ever stepping into the main dining room.
You should, however, know these three things before you get onboard.
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Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Dining Can Be a Great Deal
Nearly every Royal Caribbean ship has at least three added-fee sit-down specialty restaurants while Oasis and Odyssey-class ships have a lot more. You can dine at those eateries on an as-you-go basis paying a set fee to eat at each restaurant, but you can get a much better deal if you buy the cruise line’s “Ultimate Dining Package” (UDP).
Sold at a set price that varies based on the length of your cruise and demand, the UDP allows you to eat dinner at a specialty restaurant each night. It also lets you eat at a for-fee restaurant on sea days and gives you $20 daily credits at extra-cost options like Playmakers and Johnny Rockets on ships that offer those eateries.
On a 7-night sailing, you can often find the UDP for around $220 per person plus an 18% gratuity (though it can be more or less expensive). If you assume that each dinner is worth $50, you are getting a tremendous deal without even using any of the sea day or extra credit benefits.
The UDP may be the best value in cruising as Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants generally offer a top-tier experience with higher-end food than offered in the MDR.
Ask Your Royal Caribbean Waiters for What You Want
Royal Caribbean’s main dining room waiters want to cater to your needs. if you eat in the MDR at a set time, you will have the same waiters each night and they can greatly enhance your experience. Your waiters will ask your preferences on the first night and, if you want a glass of wine waiting when you arrive or extra bread, they will handle those things.
Your MDR waiters can also take care of important things like food allergies and other dietary restrictions. What many people don’t know is that if you ask, your waiters can sometimes do the impossible.
Just because an item isn’t on the menu does not mean it’s not available. It’s not official policy, but sometimes Royal Caribbean waiters have been able to get guests menu items offered on one night on nights they’re not being offered.
Let’s say that before the menus changed you used to get shrimp cocktail or escargot every night (both were on the “classics” menu). Your waiter might be able to make that happen if you make the request on your first night. Waiters can’t always make the impossible happen, but more often than not they usually can find a way.
Eat at the MDR for Lunch, Breakfast and the Windjammer for Dinner
Many passengers don’t realize that Royal Caribbean’s main dining rooms offer sit-down breakfast and lunch. Both offer a much less chaotic experience than what you find at the Windjammer buffet. You don’t need a reservation for either meal, but you should look in the Cruise Compass (found in the Royal Caribbean app) to see which of each ship’s multiple MDRs will be serving breakfast and lunch.
In both cases, you order off a menu and are served by waiters. And while many people don’t know that the MDR is an option for these meals, it’s not only a choice, it’s included in your cruise fare.
Conversely, if you don’t feel like a sit-down dinner or have show plans that make a 75-minute meal impossible, the Windjammer actually serves much of the MDR dinner menu. Usually, a large portion of that night’s theme menu will be served on the buffet.
You won’t get lobsters on lobster night, but most other choices will be offered. And, while the Windjammer is usually a madhouse for breakfast and lunch (especially on sea days) it’s less crowded at dinner.