Food, it’s everywhere on a cruise ship. One of the best parts about cruising is getting to enjoy the delicious meals offered at the various onboard venues. While many of your meals on the ship are included in your cruise fare, not all of the food onboard is complimentary.
Many cruise ships now feature “specialty” dining options. These for-fee restaurants often serve select menus and provide travelers with the option to enhance their dining experience during the cruise.
As avid cruisers on Royal Caribbean, we have enjoyed many meals in both the complimentary and specialty restaurants. If you are new to the cruise line, or you are thinking about expanding your palate on your next trip, this complete guide will give you everything you need to know about specialty dining on Royal Caribbean.
The Complimentary Restaurants on Royal Caribbean Ships
On all Royal Caribbean ships, the main dining room will serve a complimentary dinner each evening during the cruise. Breakfast and lunch will also be offered on select days in the main dining room. For a quicker option, you can enjoy other included meals and snacks at the casual buffet, the Windjammer Cafe.
Some of Royal Caribbean’s newer ships have additional casual options that are complimentary as well. For instance, Sorrento’s pizza dishes out hot and fresh slices through the day, and Park Café is a sandwich and salad stop that is open for breakfast, lunch, and late afternoon snacks.
The Basics of Specialty Dining on Royal Caribbean
Besides the complimentary dining venues, there might be additional restaurants on your ship that are not included in the cruise fare. These specialty restaurants will have additional costs above what you have paid for the cruise. All of these specialty restaurants will be open for dinner, and some of the venues will also be open for lunch on select sea days (e.g. Johnny Rockets, Sabor and Jamie’s Italian).
For dinner, it is highly recommended that you make reservations in advance. You can make reservations prior to cruising using the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean’s website, or you can book onboard the ship. Unlike other cruise lines, it is often difficult (but not impossible) to walk up to a specialty restaurant and get seated on Royal Caribbean.
Most of the specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean do not have a dress code. Resort casual is accepted attire. This is also the case on formal nights. Most of the restaurants do not mandate formal attire on these evenings. Still, many frequent cruisers on Royal Caribbean may choose to dress up for these occasions.
The dining staff in the specialty restaurants are specific to each venue. So, you will have a different waiter or waitress at each restaurant, and these individuals will be different to the team in the main dining room.
The Costs of Specialty Dining on Royal Caribbean
In most instances, the specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean charge a flat fee. This is often referred to as the cover charge. For that price, you can eat as much as you want. All the starters, mains, and desserts you want to enjoy will be included.
There are a few exceptions to this policy. The steakhouse Chops Grille, a popular venue on many ships, charges an additional fee for every second main course ordered. However, you can still get as many starters, sides, and desserts as you want at this restaurant for no extra cost. Another popular venue that differs in the pricing model is Izumi Sushi. This restaurant is one of the only specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean that is still priced à-la-carte.
Note that the cover charge at these specialty restaurants does not include beverages. If you have the Royal Caribbean Deluxe Beverage Package, you can use it at all of the specialty restaurants. The same beverages are included and the same restrictions apply. If you don’t have a drink package, you will have to pay the menu price for all beverages ordered.
The costs of the specialty restaurants vary by venue and even between ships. Below are some of the approximate costs (as of 2017) for many of the popular venues. These are subject to change at any time. It is best to check your Cruise Planner for most recent pricing.
- Johnny Rockets ($6-7)
- Sabor Modern Mexican ($19 for lunch, $29 for dinner)
- Giovanni’s Table ($15 for lunch, $25 for dinner)
- Jamie’s Italian ($20 for lunch, $30 for dinner)
- Wonderland ($45-50 for dinner)
- Chops Grille ($45-50 for dinner)
If you book the reservation pre-cruise, Royal Caribbean will charge you for the total costs of the dinner. If you need to cancel the reservation, as long as you do so 48 hours in advance, your money will be refunded. Booking early can sometimes save you money too. Royal Caribbean will occasionally offer Cruise Planner sales with 20-30% off items such as specialty dining.
Unlike other cruise lines that add an additional service charge to the specialty restaurant fee, Royal Caribbean includes the service charge (or gratuity) in the stated costs.
Royal Caribbean Specialty Dining Packages
For cruisers who want to sample a few specialty restaurants, you might save money with a Royal Caribbean specialty dining package.
Currently, you can purchase a 3 to 5-night dining plan for a 7-night cruise. These per-dinner costs average $21 to $25 per night, depending on the length of the package you purchase (costs are slightly higher on Quantum and Oasis Class ships but so are the overall costs of specialty restaurants).
With the specialty dining packages, Royal Caribbean will make your first reservation for you at a restaurant for night one based on your preferences. You can adjust the reservation if desired once onboard the ship. You can also only make the remaining reservations for your package once onboard the ship. This is one of the limitations of the dining package with Royal Caribbean, as your restaurant selections and time availability might be limited.
Recently, the cruise line has also been experimenting with an unlimited specialty dining package on larger ships. With so many different specialty restaurants, the flat fee (currently $24 a day) includes dinner at a specialty restaurant each night of the cruise (a few exceptions apply) as well as lunch in a specialty dining venue on sea days. The package can save you quite a bit of money if you take full advantage of the benefits.
If you’re keen to make the most of Royal Caribbean’s dining options, why not head over to our dedicated page, here, for a great selection of itineraries? Or for a little extra guidance, call our helpful sales team on 0808 274 6777.
Images sourced from Royal Caribbean Press Center