If you think that dining on a cruise ship is all buffets all the time, well, you’re wrong. With 25 restaurants onboard Oasis of the Seas, you’re bound to find a dining option or two that suits your palate perfectly. I’m covering the restaurants I visited during my October 2014 transatlantic sailing, but keep in mind that as of March 14, 2015, Royal Caribbean will introduce “Dynamic Dining” to the Oasis of the Seas. Until that time, dining is as it has been on the Oasis of the Seas, but with the introduction of a few new venues. Since I am a vegetarian, I ended up finding restaurants I could eat at and avoiding those where I couldn’t. Some restaurants weren’t open yet either, like Wonderland and Izumi, but somehow I made do.
As someone who has had the opportunity to cruise often, I have cruised on several different cruise lines and many different ships. My goal is to never lie to my readers and to present an honest opinion of my experience. Since I pay for my own cruises, I own nothing to the cruise lines since they aren’t paying my way and expecting a favorable review. Alternatively, I don’t go out of my way to write horrible reviews simply because I can. Travel is expensive and I merely present my opinion to help you compare everything you read, whether from travel writers or bloggers that have been compensated or not.
AMERICAN ICON GRILL (Complimentary): One of the new restaurants onboard the Oasis of the Seas is the American Icon Grill located on deck 3. Looking to mix things up a little, we paid a visit to the American Icon Grill the last day of our cruise. A fight nearly broke out when the hostess started randomly seating people out of the line. Calm down people – there’s enough food for everyone! The whole seating process took quite a while despite the restaurant not being full. Yes, it was busy, but there were many tables open. I must say how impressive it that they managed to have so many full scale restauarnts on baord this metropolis of a ship! The kitchens are equipped with state of the art equipment like the newest nbs meat slicer parts. The level of preparation and scale of operations is truly remarkable.
Once seated, we waited… and waited… and waited some more. I think we probably waited 20 minutes before the server finally came to our table. The assistant server came by earlier and gave us water took our coffee/tea and Bloody Mary order, but the coffee was forgotten, the Bloody Mary tasted like tomato juice, and as we watched people come in, get seated, order, eat and leave, we knew there were issues in this restaurant. Perhaps having worked in the hospitality industry, I do pay attention to the station I’m seated in and those around me and to say that no one works together in here is an understatement. One server was cleaning tables and setting up for the next service while our server seemed to be struggling under the weight of far too many tables.
I asked if we could go up to the buffet since it was never suggested and surprise! Same exact food I could’ve grabbed up in the Windjammer. Aargh! I picked up some Bircher Muesli and a pastry, neither of which I ended up eating because of the taste and believe me, I was so hungry! When the food finally arrived, I had to laugh. My pancakes were smaller than my Hello Kitty phone case and tasted something similar to Eggo frozen pancakes of the past. Ok, I’m spoiled because when I do have pancakes, I make yummy, fluffy vegan pancakes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ cookbook: The Post Punk Kitchen. The Eggs Benedict minus the Canadian Bacon was served with greasy and old tasting hash browns. Not sure if the oil was old or the potatoes were, but something was off and the entire dish was avoided by my breakfast companion. We asked for the Bloody Mary’s to be replaced and the second ones tasted identical to the first.
TSG Tip: One of the bartenders in the Solarium Bar said that the dining rooms use tomato juice, not Bloody Mary mix. This explains why the drink tasted like just tomato juice. If you’re looking for a good Bloody Mary, visit a bar first and bring it with you to breakfast.
HIT OR MISS: This one is definitely a MISS. While I wasn’t looking for fast food service at all, I didn’t expect such an extraordinarily long wait for less than extraordinary food.
SOLARIUM BISTRO (Complimentary for breakfast and lunch): Royal Caribbean says this about the Solarium Bistro: “A hearty but healthful lunch destination in Solarium with lighter options for breakfast and lunch. Try soups and stews, crepes, salad bars, fresh-cut fruits and more.” On my last Oasis cruise, I ate here nearly every day for breakfast and loved it. This time around, however, not so much. The food quality seemed a little off, like iceberg lettuce and canned corn on the salad bar. I tried the miso soup and it tasted like it had meat in it even though they insisted it didn’t. For someone who hasn’t had meat in many years, I can always tell when there’s meat in something I’m eating. Not saying that the recipe was supposed to have it in the soup, but quite possibly chicken stock or pork was added and there was no way I felt like I could trust the food after that.
The items on the menu never seemed to change at all meaning the vegetable crepe served on day one was the same on the last day, too. That and the lack of seats made hunting for a table similar to the Windjammer. I will say that it was the only place I found tofu and that was once during a 12-night cruise, but still. The black olive tapenade and hummus were delicious, too!
HIT OR MISS: This one is somewhere between a hit and a miss only because of the lack of food options available for non-meat eaters. Had there been a little more variety (less seafood and meat in the salads, for example), there would’ve been more choices for me.
SOLARIUM BISTRO RESTAURANT ($20 per person for dinner): Now take the light and airy Solarium Bistro by day and turn it into a completely different restaurant by night. “Let the starlit ocean sky set the mood after dark, when the Solarium pool transforms into a fine dining destination. Explore a menu of inspired, sumptuous dishes that embrace healthful living through healthy eating.” Chair covers and mood lighting at night turns this daytime casual buffet restaurant into a beautiful and intimate dining venue. Light and healthy courses are served that remind you that healthy eating is still a possibility even on a cruise.
I especially liked my salad (Cucumber Arugula Ribbons), entrée (Toasted Barley Mushroom Risotto) although not creamy in the slightest, and the side of broccolini, but some of the other dishes, mostly my dining companions, were a huge miss. The Mediterranean Ratatouille was an anemic and dry baked eggplant with other veggies kind of piled on the plate. I had to push that dish away.
I’m seriously glad that I could at least have a few options available that tasted good so the Solarium Bistro Restaurant pulled through for me on that account. I think the menu needs a little updating or retweeking, but is good otherwise.
HIT OR MISS: I’ll call this one a HIT because I had more than one option from which to choose.
JOHNNY ROCKETS (Breakfast is complimentary; Lunch and dinner: $4.95 per person): If you’re looking for an old fashioned hamburger in a 1950’s themed restaurant with a jukebox at at every table, then you must visit Johnny Rockets. While this isn’t my usual kind of restaurant in which to dine, on a cruise I’ll go for the atmosphere and for variety. We’ve always had fun in Johnny Rockets while on a Royal Caribbean cruise so why would this be any different? Let’s say it was and was so far from what I had known it to be that it made me really sad.
Where do I being? Usually in Johnny Rockets the waiter sing and dance. I’m not talking a full production, but they seem to enjoy that as part of their job. I kind of thought that’s why they took the job, but in this restaurant, there was no singing of any kind. I saw someone cooking and three servers and when not waiting on tables, they were talking a lot. As I sat waiting for our server to take our order, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly filthy this place was. Dirty is when they don’t wipe down the seat or the top of the jukebox between customers. Filthy is when there is so much dirt on the windows, ledges, table, chairs, counter that you can’t possibly ignore it. When we tried to get our server to come help us, she seemed annoyed that we interrupted her chat with the other employee. The only time she demonstrated any care about us or her job was when she presented the check. “Remember me when you add a tip onto the check!” her eyes seemed to say.
The food was pretty much what I expected with burgers, fries, and milkshakes. I don’t generally eat a lot of dairy, but haven’t had a milkshake in years so I thought I’d try one. I was so sick that night and vowed never again. A few days later I tried Johnny Rockets again minus the milkshake because I could get the #12 burger with a veggie burger so I was all in. I got sick again with the worst stomach pains ever. Not so sure what that was about, but it will be enough to keep me away for some time.
HIT OR MISS: This one is definitely a MISS mostly for the apathetic servers and filthy restaurant, which neither represent the Johnny Rocket brand or Royal Caribbean.
SABOR TAQUERIA (á la carte): I previously wrote about Sabor on day one of the cruise, which you can read here, but I ended up returning during the cruise because I enjoyed it. Many people speak of their Sabor experience on other Royal Caribbean ships, but this Sabor seems to have been modified for the Boardwalk area of Oasis. I love the open air concept and the margaritas, although I do wish they had the tequila flights, too. The menu is not the same as on other ships, but offers some of what you may have had before. It’s a basic menu, but a great place to relax on a sea day or any other day of your cruise.
I’m fairly certain that someone who has neither eaten or cooked Latin food was involved in the preparation and cooking of my meals. I had seen on the menu that one of the entrees came with “smoked plantain mash” so I asked if I could get that as a side. It came and I had completely forgotten what I ordered. It looked and tasted like most disgusting baby food and was such a disservice to one of my favorite things in the world, plátanos (plantain). I’m not completely unfamiliar with either the plantain or yucca as I grew up on both. Hummus has more texture than that mash did and both times I tried the yucca fries they were so dried out that one might say it had the texture of beef jerky. I think about those people who might never have tried Mexican or Latin food and this could easily turn them off to trying anything else like it. That aside, the Gazpacho Mexicano was my absolute favorite item that I had on the entire cruise and while the table side guacamole was an incredibly small portion, it was tasty and fresh.
HIT OR MISS: This one is definitely a HIT. While not the very best Mexican or Tex-Mex food I’ve ever had, it was different, tasted fresh, and the view was fun.
PARK CAFÉ (Complimentary): Royal Caribbean says this about the Park Café: “A casual-eats deli cafe offering made-to-order salads, paninis and freshly prepared sandwiches. Don’t miss the signature “Kummelweck” roast beef sandwich – a guest favorite.” On my last cruise on the Oasis, this was one of my favorite restaurants. I could go in for a salad and sit outside in Central Park.
Of course, that wasn’t going to happen on this cruise as all of the seats inside and outside were usually taken and I ended up hovering near tables that looked like they were finished, which I always hate when other people do that to me. In addition to their paninis and quesadillas, I finally got my salad one day and when I returned the next day, surprise. No more salad to be had. Why? They said they ran out. Now read that again. They said they ran out. That was on Thursday and we would be on the ship until Monday. Instead they were offering bagels, the same bagels I could get in the Windjammer. Specialty coffee drinks were additional and there was absolutely no atmosphere in this place as it felt cramped with people waiting to take your seat the second you vacated your table.
TSG Tip: Food is not prepared fresh to order anywhere except for the line to the left when you arrive, like for salads. The line in front where paninis and quesadillas are made use pre-made items. Basically, all the prep is done elsewhere and the crew places those items on the griddle and “cooks” them up there. If you’re like me and want a regular item minus the meat, they’ll tell you that they can’t do that.
HIT OR MISS: This one can go either way depending on whether or not they have all the items on hand to make what’s on the menu.
SILK (Complimentary): Although the exterior says Silk, during my cruise it was an expected main dining room experience. I did have a reservation, but that didn’t really seem to matter to the host. After waiting for some time for him to locate a table, another host came up and started the process again and then had us wait to the side saying that they were going to “try” to find us a table. There was an older couple sitting down and I overheard her say to the host that she was told to sit and they had been sitting for a half hour while other people were seated. Finally we were seated just inside the door next to the incredible high traffic area filled with people coming and going out of the restaurant. I can easily say that there was zero chance of a quiet dinner that night!
I immediately felt confused when I started looking at the menu and saw that it said “Chops Grille.” Apparently, it’s a different restaurant every night. I’m guessing this is pre- Dynamic Dining as they’ll get their own menu in March.
For a starter I had “English Cheddar Cheese Sticks” served at room temperature and the most I could say about them is “meh.” The vegetarian entrée was a Yukon Gold Potato Pie, which was a small quiche so I didn’t eat it, served with “succotash” or what I would call soupy peas and carrots.
Desserts were as one might expect, neither bad or good, and I ordered them to take pictures and give them a taste. If I ever push a dessert away then you’ll know they must not be very good because I’ll cut back on eating my meal to save room (and calories) for dessert. This was the first and only time I ate in Silk during my entire cruise because of both the food and the overall experience.
HIT OR MISS: This one is definitely a MISS if you’re looking for a quiet dinner with attentive servers and food that’s fresh and exciting.
GIOVANNI’S TABLE ($15 for Lunch/$25 for Dinner – per person): In 2010 I thoroughly enjoy my meal at Giovanni’s Table and couldn’t wait to dine there again. We had sat out on the terrace and enjoyed live music played in Central Park. What could be better than that? Royal Caribbean describes Giovanni’s Table as this: “A casual Italian trattoria with indoor and al fresco seating, Giovanni’s Table offers rustic dishes with a contemporary flair, including toasted herb foccacia, pastas, braised meat dishes and stews, served family-style.” Sounds great, right?
The tables inside the restaurant were pretty packed, but I wasn’t concerned because it was the second to the last night of the cruise and the temperature outside was perfect. We sat outside on the terrace and waited for our server.
Caprese Salad: This little salad contained greens, very little mozzarella, and sadly, no overall flavor.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana: This is where I knew the dinner had taken a turn for the worst. The dish was hot at the center, but not consistently hot throughout. Did someone heat that up in the microwave just for me?
Crespelle di Ricotta e Spinaci with pomodoro sauce: How is it that there’s a blob of tomato sauce and the entree is buried under the same cream sauce as the gnocchi? Very rich, calorie laden, and no texture.
Gnocchi di Patate con Crema al Gorgonzola: Love the uniformity of frozen pasta don’t you? Same sauce, same garnish as last dish.
Dessert option 1: Mini Cannoli all Giovanni: If you get something in two different flavors, shouldn’t they taste different? One was ricotta and marsala and the other was a chocolate rum hazelnut. So why did they both taste like lemon? I am a fine connoisseur of cannolis and these weren’t worthy of the name at all. Normally I would simply say I wouldn’t like them, but honestly these were beyond disgusting.
Dessert option 2: Tiramisu all Giovanni: A non-creamy, non coffee-like dessert that they referred to as tiramisu. I think not.
Needless to say, for a $50 dinner plus wine, the overall quality of the food was worse than a fast food meal. I would think that in a specialty restaurant food is made to order, but I suspect it is still prepared banquet style like in the main dining rooms of the past and kept warm (or somewhat warm) until service. Add to that the fact that our server was also waiting on tables inside and came out only to take our order, deliver food, and present the check. No check back at all and little to no interaction with us throughout the meal.
HIT OR MISS: This one is definitely a MISS. While sitting outside on a terrace at night at sea is nice, I could easily make the same food or at least microwave something frozen that’s comparable in taste, texture, and temperature at home.
WINDJAMMER (Complimentary): If you’ve never cruised before, then the Windjammer will fulfill all of your expectations as to what dining on a cruise ship is like. Lots of food, waiting in line to get your food and find a table, and food that is more college cafeteria-like than anything else. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you’ll find lots of meat, carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes), and salads with meat and seafood, sandwiches, burgers, an international section (usually Asian inspired), and desserts. The unusually strange thing about this cruise is that I ate in the Windjammer compared to my last Oasis cruise where I didn’t dine in there once. While it might be fine for most, it’s just not the kind of food I prefer, which includes healthy, fresh food and at least a little vegetarian protein. I know I will probably never find a cruise line that can accommodate my dietary restrictions, but can’t a few at least try to move toward healthier, lower carb, fresh cuisine?
I would walk up every morning and walk around the Windjammer expecting to find something I could eat, but that never seemed to happen. Every morning I found fresh juiced juice, but the juice was a dark red, almost purple color while the sign said wheatgrass juice. I finally had it after about a week and asked one of the crew putting them out. He said he would get the chef and within a few seconds, there he was. I asked why the wheatgrass juice looked and tasted more like beet juice. He said that they start with beets, cabbage, and other vegetables and then add wheatgrass powder. Unbelievable! Why can’t they just say beet juice then? The wheatgrass is insignificant. Maybe I’m easily insulted, but I felt like they were thinking they could pull one over on the passengers because no one would be smart enough to figure it out. Honesty is always the best policy.
The theme for this restaurant is volume, volume, volume because people do love to fill their plates up in here.
HIT OR MISS: Back at home I’d say this is a MISS but while on the ship I needed to eat, so it at least provided me with somewhere to eat when everything else was overpriced or had no food options. Therefore I’d call it half a HIT.
As the cruise lines continue to change and evolve over time, it’s important to not only shop around and price out the cost of your cruise, but the cost of dining as well. If you end up eating at only specialty restaurants on your cruise, you should absolutely factor that into the price when comparing overall price. Strangely enough today I was fact checking the price on the restaurants and called Royal Caribbean twice. Both times I was told that Sabor is not on Oasis. Hmmm… considering I ate there twice, I kind of know that it is. Considering there’s no pricing information available online until after you book your cruise, I think Royal Caribbean should make that information available right on their web site and to their agents who represent the company.
Have you cruised more than once on Oasis of the Seas? Did you notice a change? I would love to hear about your experience so please feel free to share below.