Inevitably a conversation will always turn to how good the food is on a cruise ship, so let’s talk about the food on board Royal Caribbean. Keep in mind that every ship is a little different and that’s true even within a cruise line. The short 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas will have different dining options than the 7-night Alaskan cruises or a 7-night Caribbean cruise on board one of the megaships like Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean does a commendable job of offering not only healthy options, but also vegetarian options. I know I can’t go on vacation as a vegan and expect to get the food that I would like to eat so if I can at least get vegetarian options, I’m more than happy. During dinner service there is always an Indian option available complete with rice, naan, and raita. You can always expect to find chicken, beef, and pasta entrees during dinner service in the main dining room and the food will appeal to everyone. If you have special dietary needs (diabetic, kosher, vegetarian), let your travel agent know at the time of booking so they can accommodate you on board. I have been able to get tofu for dinner every night just by speaking with the head waiter after embarkation. This is an example of the center page of the menu on our Mariner of the Seas cruise February 2010.
If you are interested in trying something a little different, check out the restaurants on the ship that charge a per person fee. Usually I hear everyone groan at this point because they feel their cruise fare should cover all meals. The truth is that it does, but if you want a special meal (i.e., romantic meal), the surcharge to dine in these restaurants aren’t going to break the bank. For example, many of the ships have a Chops Grille, a classy steakhouse where every meal is good from start to finish.
The surcharge means that once you sit down, there are no additional charges, but for beverages and gratuities. For $25 per person, you will enjoy an appetizer, entree, and dessert in a restaurant full of ambiance while at sea. Dishes are seasoned with Royal Culinary Collections blend of spices. Meat dishes offer a choice of traditional béarnaise sauce, their famous peppercorn sauce, garlic-herb butter or Royal Caribbean steak sauce. Steaks are juicy, service is impeccable, and the desserts… well, plan to wear loose fitting clothes to dinner! Their desserts are little pieces of tasty artwork.
My favorite dining experience on a Royal Caribbean ship has to be on board the Oasis of the Seas. I can’t say that one venue was the absolute best because they were all so fantastic. I loved the healthy food options in the Solarium Bistro for breakfast (muesli, yogurt, etc.) and lunch was many different salad options and a variety of vegetarian hot options as well. The tapas in Vintages in Central Park was also fantastic as were the paninis and salad in Park Cafe. Don’t forget about the pasta offerings in Giovanni’s Table, too! Since there was such a variety of options available, we never got bored and we were always interested in trying yet another new place to eat.
When on board a Royal Caribbean ship, take advantage of trying every dining option available and ask the servers what they recommend. Believe me, the waiters know what is the freshest and tastiest options and they want you to enjoy your meal. While on board, explore the ship and you might find a hidden gem. We’ve been on the Majesty of the Seas several times and I didn’t realize until the last time that the Compass Deli even existed. On the second floor of the Windjammer opposite Johnny Rockets sits a quiet little restaurant that few seem to notice is there. They have salads, sandwiches, but wait —- crepes, too! As you walk around the ship, don’t hesitate to explore and you might be surprised at what you find.
In St. Maarten, one of my favorite ports of call, we love heading into Philipsburg and enjoying a casual meal and a few drinks at Taloula Mango’s. I admit it was the bar inside this restaurant that initially caught my attention with the unforgettable name of the Blue Bitch Bar. They have some wildly insane cocktails and pub grub including burgers, pizza, tapas, and salads as well as island specialties, such as fish prepared Creole style and Caribbean conch and dumplings. We know we’ll get a good meal with a great view as well as great drinks and live music. Then we head outside and pay a few dollars for a couple of lounge chairs and enjoy the water before going back to the ship. There’s nothing better than a great afternoon with good food and drinks and a dip in the water.
The food available on Royal Caribbean is not your run of the mill cruise food although doesn’t all classify as fine dining. I wish the buffet in the Windjammer offered some better food choices than hamburgers, hot dogs, and the like, but as long as people eat it, then they will keep making it. If you’re a foodie, you’re probably going to feel a little disappointed in the food choices on board a Royal Caribbean ship, but it’s not like cafeteria food either. Compared to other mass market or contemporary cruise lines, Royal Caribbean does do a good job and what I think sets them apart from other cruise lines in this category is their abundance of options. Bring your appetite and your workout clothes because like everyone else, you’re probably going to enjoy the food on board.