Royal Caribbean My Time Dining versus Traditional Dining


Royal Caribbean offers its guests two choices for enjoying dinner in the main dining room: My Time Dining or Traditional Dining. 

Each option allows for a style of meal aimed at the individual cruiser's preference and if you are wondering if My Time Dining is a better choice or if traditional dining is the way to go, then this blog post should help sort it all out.  

Traditional Dining

Traditional dining is an option for dinner where you choose between an early or late seating (sometimes referred to as "first seating" or "second seating").

In traditional dining, you are assigned the same table to dine at for each evening of your cruise and you will have the same dining time, table mates, and wait staff for each evening of the cruse.  

In some cases, you may be seated with other guests from the cruise (especially if you are traveling in a smaller group).

The advantages of traditional dining are:

  • Simple planning: Same time each night for dinner, so nothing to plan ahead
  • Personalized waiter service: Since you will have the same wait staff each evening, they will make an effort to get to know your habits.
  • Great for larger groups.
  • Evening show times are often scheduled around traditional dinner times.

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a choice you have to have dinner at the Main Dining Room, where there is no assigned time or table.  Rather, you have the choice of making reservations in advance or simply showing up and waiting for an available table.  

You can make reservations for My Time Dining either before the cruise on Royal Caribbean's site, or once you are on the ship.  My Time Dining is a lot like dining out in your local town, where you can opt to call ahead and make a reservation or walk up to the restaurant and see what availability there is.  Moreover, the flexibility in dining times means being able to eat dinner on your schedule.

With flexibility comes responsibility, as it is up to you to make reservations when to dine.  While you can show up and wait for a table, we highly recommend making reservations in advance to limit wait times.  

If you like, you can request the same wait staff each evening, but it may result in a longer wait for an available table.

The advantages of My Time Dining are:

  • Greater choice of dining times: My Time Dinner is available each evening between the hours of 6:00 and 9:30 p.m.
  • Great for scheduling around shore excursion plans.
  • Getting a table is simple for smaller groups.  
  • Less likely to be seated with other guests.

Choosing between My Time Dining and Traditional Dining

Ultimately, the decision of which option is better will come down to your personal preferences, as well as some other factors related to your group.

In a nutshell, My Time Dining offers greater flexibility in what time you eat, but there can be waits for to be seated.  Sometimes the wait can be as long as 45 minutes during peak times.  This can be mitigated by making reservations in advance, although for some people planning ahead defeats the point of My Time Dining to some extent.

Traditional dining is a simpler approach to dinner in the main dining room since it requires very little work up front.  Traditional dining requires you to adhere to one of two dining times, which may be too early or too late for your taste. Moreover, you may be seated with other guests and that has been hit or miss in terms of personalities clashing.

Larger groups (more than six people) will find it significantly easier to stick with traditional dining so that they can have the same table assignment each evening.  Getting larger groups seated near each other at the same time in My Time Dining is not a simple task.

If you place a high priority on seeing the shows each evening onboard, you can go with both, but traditional dining times are usually already scheduled around the entertainment.

Both My Time Dining and Traditional dining adhere to the main dining room dress codes each evening, which includes formal night.

Your thoughts

Which dinner option do you prefer? Is there an advantage to one over the other, in your opinion?  Share your experiences and post your questions in the comments below.

Video: Culinary Creativity in Royal Caribbean’s Test Kitchen


At Royal Caribbean’s test kitchen, located at the cruise line’s Miami offices, great culinary minds come together to experiment with tasty ideas. From concept to reality, many signature Royal Caribbean dining experiences first came to life in the kitchen. The recipes that rise to the top are tested on board, where guests can get a taste and offer feedback until they have been tweaked and perfected, resulting in mouthwatering fare that thrills travelers at sea.

Avoid these ten Royal Caribbean dining mistakes


Whether this is your first Royal Caribbean cruise or your fiftieth, there are certain nuances and "secrets" to dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise that can be overlooked.  These lapses can result in time or money wasted, or perhaps simply missing out on something you might have otherwise preferred to try. 

Here are a few Royal Caribbean dining mistakes to avoid on your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise.

Waiting to book specialty dining onboard

When researching your Royal Caribbean cruise, it is easy to make note of the really enticing specialty restaurants onboard, and then deciding to dine there once you get onboard the ship. Perhaps this decision is made in an effort to spend onboard credit or just an assumption that there will be plenty of tables available any night of the cruise.

The reality is specialty dining has never been more popular on Royal Caribbean ships.  If you value dining at a specific time and day, or want to enjoy a meal on a formal night or holiday, booking a reservation in advance is critical.  

Royal Caribbean allows guests to book reservations online prior to a cruise, which ensures you get the exact time and day at the restaurant of your choice.  And you can even use your onboard credit for pre-cruise purchases now!

Only ordering one entrée

Did you know that in the main dining room (and some specialty restaurants) you can order as many entrées, appetizers or desserts as you like?

Often first-time cruisers will order food like they do when they go out to a restaurant at home: one appetizer, one entrée and maybe a dessert. But on a Royal Caribbean cruise, not only can you order as much as you want, you should!

The serving sizes of entrées in Royal Caribbean restaurants tends to be on the small side. Plus, you are absolutely allowed to order as much as you want in the main dining room.  This is a great opportunity not only to indulge, but to also try out some new foods, like escargot!

Not bringing wine onboard with you

If you enjoy wine, did you know Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom onboard?

While Royal Caribbean prohibits bringing beer or other alcohol on your Royal Caribbean cruise, guests are permitted to bring up to two bottles of wine with them.  If you have more than one room, start multiplying that allotment by the number of rooms you have.  And yes, champagne is allowed too since it is technically considered "sparkling wine."

Not checking your table on embarkation day

If you are in traditional dining for dinner, each guest will be assigned a table in the main dining room upon embarkation.  The table number and dining room is denoted at the bottom of your SeaPass card.  But did you know you can change your assignment?

On embarkation day, a smart idea is to head down to the main dining room and locate your table to see where you are located and what size table you have been assigned.  If the location is not to your liking, or perhaps you are seated at a table larger than your party (which likely means you will be seated with other guests), you can speak to the head waiter on duty and request a change.

The head waiter will do their best to accommodate you, but we have found there is a bit of flexibility with changes.

Not making My Time Dining reservations

If you opted for dinner on your schedule in the form of My Time Dining, while you can just show up and get a table for dinner, we believe it is best to make reservations in advance.

Unless you eat dinner very early or very late, there can be a wait associated with guests who walk up for dinner.  

The wait may be short or long, but it is still a wait.  Prior to your cruise (or even once onboard), you can (and should) make reservations for each evening to ensure you are seated quickly. No one likes to wait to eat, and since the option is there, take advantage of it.

Skipping lunch in the main dining room

Were you aware on sea days the main dining room is open for lunch?

The main dining room for lunch is an easily overlooked lunch option, because many guests either are unaware of it or assume the menu is not different from other venues.  In fact, the lunch menu is quite different and will change every day it is open.  Moreover, lunch in the main dining room features the amazing salad and pasta bar, known as the Tutti Salad bar.

Not buying a drink package before the cruise

If you decide a Royal Caribbean unlimited drink package is worth it, do not wait to buy it onboard the ship.

First, if you purchase it onboard you will have to spend time buying it.  Often there are lines on embarkation day to buy the drink package, and then there is a bit of paperwork associated with its purchase.

Second, if you buy the drink package online before your cruise, it will absolutely save you money on the total cost! There are discounts offered for the drink package if purchased prior to the cruise, which means money saved for something else on your vacation.

Skipping specialty dining because it costs extra

If you are new to cruising, it is easy to skip over specialty restaurants simply because there is an additional cost to them.   I get it, on principle why should you pay more for food when there is plenty of great food available that included with your cruise fare?

The specialty dining onboard a Royal Caribbean ship augments the complimentary food, and offers cuisines and service not found elsewhere on the ship.  Sushi, steak, Mexican, hibachi and much more are available with specialty dining and these restaurants are a great way to celebrate a special occasion, or toast to a wonderful holiday.

You certainly do not have to dine at a specialty restaurant every day, but sprinkling in one or two meals at a specialty restaurant is a great strategy for enhancing the cruise experience.

Missing out on pool deck ice cream

Whether you are six or sixty, do not miss out on the free soft-serve ice cream (technically it is frozen yogurt) available on the pool deck.

If you hang out near the pool long enough, you will likely see guests walking around with ice cream cones.  No pool day is complete without a frigid treat from the soft-serve machine.  If you cannot locate the ice cream machine, ask a crew member for directions.

One great tip is to grab a cup from the Windjammer and fill that up with ice cream.  Better yet, bring ice cream to the pool bar and amazing drinks can happen!

Paying full price for kids at specialty restaurants

If you have kids that are 12 years old or younger, do not pay for them when making a specialty restaurant reservation before your cruise.

Royal Caribbean offers special pricing for children at specialty restaurants, but there is no option online to take advantage of kid pricing.

Instead, make reservations just for the adults in the group, and then inform the restaurant upon check-in that you have children with you.  

We want to hear from you! What is your best tip for avoiding a Royal Caribbean dining mistake? Leave a comment and share with us below!

How to eat healthy while on a Royal Caribbean cruise


Many of our readers may have taken the first step in trying to better themselves with a New Year's resolution to lose weight and eat healthy (or healthier).  It is an admirable decision that takes a lot of hard work to reach the goal that they may have in mind, but a Royal Caribbean vacation does not mean those goals have to fall to the wayside.

Eating healthy on a Royal Caribbean cruise is far from an oxymoron.  Rather, it is a state of mind that is definitely achievable with the right kind of planning, and a little motivation.  While Royal Caribbean cruises are well-known for their amazing indulgences, there is no reason you cannot have a great time and still lose weight on your trip!

It is also worth noting that I am not a nutritionist, doctor or health official.  I do not even play one on television.  This post is about sharing tips and strategies I have learned over years of cruising that one can use to help reduce weight gain onboard.

Determine your goals before you leave

Before you take a bite of any food onboard, or even step onto the ship, it is important to define what measures of success you want to achieve.  For some people, it might mean losing weight while onboard, while others may simply endeavor to "minimize the damage done" onboard. Regardless of what your opinion, you should have a goal in mind.

Depending on what your objective is, how you dine onboard will reflect those ambitions. There is quite a wide gamut of ways to eat healthy onboard, so it is important to know what you are aiming for before starting.  Trying to ensure no weight gain is going to be much different than trying to drop ten pounds.

Regardless of what your goal is, everyone's body is different and weight loss regiments are also equally specific.  One strategy might work for one person, while that same methodology might not work for another.  Your best bet is to figure out before your cruise what works best for you.  Is it a low-carb diet? Avoiding fats? Avoiding meat? Speaking with your doctor or nutritionist might be a logical first step.

With that in mind, let us jump into some general strategies for keeping those pounds off while onboard!

Spend lots of time on the sports deck

Before we even talk about one morsel of food, one solid strategy to keeping the weight off is engaging in physical activities.  Royal Caribbean ships offer quite a bit of onboard activities, including lots of sports activities on the sports deck.  Every Royal Caribbean ship offers a multi-purpose sports deck that has plenty of physical fun, including basketball, dodge ball, soccer and rock climbing. 

Likewise, there is a complimentary fitness center on every Royal Caribbean ship that offers free weights, weight machines, treadmills, exercise bikes and more.  There are also optional fitness classes that can really get your cardio going, albeit for an additional cost. Heck, taking the stars instead of the elevator helps a little bit too.

The more time you can spend on the sports deck and expending plenty of energy, the more calories you will burn and that is a great way to offset a lot of what you may end up eating onboard, healthy or not.

Ask for food not on the menu

Do not assume what is on the menu is the only food available to you.  When dining in the main dining room or even the Windjammer, you can always ask the wait staff for something else that is more suitable for your diet.  Assuming they have the ingredients onboard, I have found the culinary team extremely helpful in accommodating these sorts of requests.

You might order a dish on the menu, but with a different preparation (no salt or grilled instead of fried). I always order a serving of Indian curry with my main dining room dinners because I prefer Indian cuisine, and they tend to be a healthier choice too. On some cruises, I requested a plate of chopped vegetables for a Mediterranean salad be prepared each morning in the Windjammer. 

Your best bet is to speak to the head waiter and discuss options.

Skip the alcoholic beverages

Generally speaking, alcoholic beverages are one big area of the cruise experience worth skipping to keep those calories off.  Cocktails and beer have alcohol in them, which the body will convert to sugar and nearly every diet and nutritional regiment I have ever encountered has recommended limiting your sugar intake. It may not be nearly as fun to follow this suggestion, but it is a great way to cut down on a very common area of empty calories.

There is also an added bonus for skipping the booze: you will save a considerable amount of money too.  Royal Caribbean drink prices are not exactly inexpensive, so by skipping the drinks not only are you limiting your sugar intake, but you are also saving a lot of money.

It is worth noting that some diets do allow for a glass of red wine or two per day as part of a nutritional day. Depending on your goals and weight strategy, this might be one way to leave a little indulgence in your day.

The best variety will be in the Windjammer...

Ordinarily, buffets are not the place someone on a diet is recommended to visit, but the Windjammer buffet is also the best spot to find the greatest variety of choices. I feel one of the stumbling points of any diet is the feeling of, "there is nothing for me to eat here."  At the Windjammer, you will find plenty of unhealthy foods, but also more healthy options than anywhere else onboard.

For breakfast, the egg station is your best bet for a cooked-to-order omelet. You can get most kinds of omelets here (unless you are on an Oasis class ship, then head to the main dining room).  For lunch and dinner, there will be grilled fish, curries, steamed vegetables and lots of salad choices.

I freely admit the Windajmmer is a double-edged sword and there are lots of other foods that will be very tempting.  Stay strong, soldier!

...or skip the buffet

If the buffet is too much of a temptation island for you, then you might find refuge in the main dining room for breakfast and dinner (lunch on sea days).  

The main dining room has a menu that you can choose from, and it also allows for more customizations.  As mentioned earlier, speak to the head waiter about any dietary restrictions you may have and they are quite accommodating.  Keep in mind that requests should be made as early as possible. Often, the dietary request will be ready for the next meal because the chef needs to prepare the items ahead of time.  Nonetheless, the staff in the dining room work very hard to accommodate guests' needs.

Another advantage of the main dining room is portioning is easier and self-control is easier than in the Windajmmer.

Check out the Tutti Salad bar

On sea days, make a point to eat lunch in the main dining room.  You will find a custom salad station, known as the Tutti salad bar.

This is the kind of all salad bars, with fresh ingredients that are prepared just the way you like it.  You tell the staff what you want in the salad, and they will chop it all up for you. Because of the wide array of ingredients available, it is a bit hit with those looking to find healthier choices.

Your ideas

Have you tried to eat healthy while onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your experiences in the comments!

25 must-read Royal Caribbean dining secrets


A Royal Caribbean cruise is a family vacation that millions of people look forward to taking each year, and good planning can enhance that vacation experience even further.

After more than a decade of Royal Caribbean cruises, we have perfected some expert tips and advice to get the most out of your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Today, we are sharing our 25 must-read Royal Caribbean dining secrets to ensure you have the best possible cruise experience!

1. Make dining reservations

Simply put, the best way to ensure you get into any Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant that you want is to make a reservation in advance.  You could wait until you arrive onboard the ship, or even chance it to simply walk up and ask for a table, but you are risking the restaurant of your choice filling up.  Make a reservation online via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site or as early as possible once onboard the ship.

2. Do date night on a cruise

Royal Caribbean cruises are the perfect vacation for honeymooners and anyone looking for a romantic evening out.  Plan ahead and treat your favorite person to a signature dinner at 150 Central Park or Chops Grille. Or order ice cream and cookies to your stateroom via room service, or take a ride on the carousel together in the Boardwalk.

3. Don't miss the must-eat items

After years of eating on Royal Caribbean ships, we have amassed our own list of "must-eat" dishes, treats and snacks across the fleet. Fan-favorites, such as the Tutti salad bar, Labadoozie, escargot, savory bites and pretty much anything from Sabor are high priority when onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. 

To read up on our favorites, check out our list of 15 amazing things you can eat on Royal Caribbean article.

4. You can reserve specialty restaurants around 90-60 days before your cruise

A very common question we receive is, "when can I start booking specialty restaurants on my Royal Caribbean cruise?" and the answer is "it depends." Generally speaking, specialty restaurant reservations will open up sometime between 90 and 60 days prior to embarkation day on your cruise. The exact time frame will depend on a variety of factors.

The best reason to book dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise. By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

5. There are free beverages available throughout the ship

Believe it or not, you do not have to pay an extra dime onboard for beverages on your Royal Caribbean cruise. There are plenty of drinks included in your cruise fare to keep not only your thirst quenched, but also satisfied.

Here is the list of drinks that are included in your cruise:

  • regular coffee
  • decaffeinated coffee
  • tea
  • iced tea
  • tap water
  • milk
  • chocolate milk
  • lemonade
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast, not fresh squeezed)
  • hot chocolate (via instant packets)

These drinks are available throughout your cruise at a number of locations, so there will always be somewhere to get something to drink for free.

6. Research your dining options

Royal Caribbean ships offer more dining locations than ever before - everything from upscale dinners, to restaurants serving up burgers and fries. Take your time and research your options, and to that point, Royal Caribbean Blog has a list of Royal Caribbean restaurant reviews to provide a good starting point for learning about each dining choice available.

7. Free breakfast in Johnny Rockets

On Oasis class ships, Johnny Rockets is open for breakfast and it is included in your cruise fare. During breakfast, you will find classic American fare (just like the other meals), including pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, eggs, French toast and more.

Besides the price tag, Johnny Rockets is often a less crowded spot for breakfast, so if you need a break from breakfast in the Windjammer, head over to the Boardwalk and start your morning there.

8. Try My Time off peak hours

Royal Caribbean's My Time Dining allows guests to enjoy dinner on their schedule, but if you want to avoid the dinner rush, try eating off-peak hours.

We have found the most popular times to have dinner in the main dining room while on My Time Dining is between 6:30pm and 8:00pm.

Guests can make reservations for shorter waits, but if you want to truly avoid lines, try to go early or late: before 6:00pm or after 8:00pm.  

9. Research the Specialty Dining Packages to see if it meets your needs

One of the hot new choices many Royal Caribbean guests are opting for are the dining packages, which allow guests to get a discount on multiple specialty restaurants. Guests can choose between 2, 3, 4 or 5 specialty restaurants on their Royal Caribbean cruise with up to 40% off the price if they were purchased individually.

The only caveat to the dining packages is one of the restaurants must be experience on the first or second night of the cruise.  Nonetheless, the cost savings offered by the dining packages is perfect for someone who wants to experience many of the best Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants.

10. Book a DreamWorks character meal

Whether your kids love the DreamWorks films or you just enjoy hanging with the crew from Madagascar, then be sure to book a DreamWorks character meal.  Available on Royal Caribbean ships with the DreamWorks Experience, this is an opportunity to have breakfast in the main dining room with popular characters from DreamWorks films, including Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar films. This is a great opportunity for some very fun photos!

11. Communicate food sensitivity or special diets before your cruise

If you have a dietary restriction, special need or just prefer to have your food prepared in a certain way, your best bet is to let Royal Caribbean know about those kinds of requests prior to your cruise.

The best way to do this is by emailing special_needs@rccl.com; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.

You should also make a quick stop in the main dining room on embarkation day.  There will be a head waiter on duty to speak with, and that person can confirm they have your dietary needs on file and make any necessary changes too.

12. Try samples from the specialty restaurants

In an effort to get guests to book specialty dining, Royal Caribbean will often offer complimentary samples of food from that restaurant during the cruise. Sometimes there is a table set up to offer samples, and other times there are demonstrations offered with samples handed out at the end. Keep your eyes open and be sure to check the Cruise Compass for scheduled events.

13. Bring food from onshore

The ports of call your ship will visit offer a tremendous array of amazing food, but your culinary indulgences are not limited to when you are on shore.  Aside from alcohol, you can bring food back onboard the ship with you to enjoy later. Whether that is a freshly baked baguette, chocolates or something jarred for later, you can take it back with you for enjoyment later in the cruise or back home.

Keep in mind that the United States has strict laws about bringing back certain fruits and vegetables, so be sure to read up on these laws prior to bringing anything home.

14. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask.

If you have questions about the food or the menu at a restaurant, do not be afraid to ask your server about it. Royal Caribbean offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for the most part when it comes to making substitutions or accommodating dietary needs. They truly want you to be happy, so be sure to communicate any needs to the wait staff. In the main dining room, you can speak to the head waiter about any gluten-free, vegan or other dietary needs.

15. Fill up at the buffet

At the core of any Royal Caribbean cruise is the Windjammer buffet, which offers all-you-care-to-eat choices throughout the day. This is a fantastic choice for families or groups of guests that have wide variations in taste, as well as for picky eaters. For these reasons, the Windjammer buffet can be a wise choice for keeping everyone happy. 

Not only is the Windjammer very accommodating in tastes, it also offers a wide variety of choices and we have found the food quality to be quite good. In fact, some guests will eat exclusively at the Windjammer during their cruise.  That might be a bit much for our tastes, but keep in mind it is available most times of the day and evening.

16. Look for the cooking stations in the Windjammer

In addition to the array of food available in the Windjammer buffet, there are also cooking stations that offer custom-made dishes.  In the morning, this usually takes the form of an omelet station and each evening, there is a different choice offered.  There are custom-made pasta, Asian stir-fry, crepes and more regularly offered. 

Check with the Windjammer wait staff for a schedule of options.  These cooking stations not only offer the freshest food choices, but they will make it exactly to your taste.

17. Consider booking a dining event

In addition to traditional restaurants, Royal Caribbean offers on select ships dining events, including a Chef's Table experience, mystery dinner and prohibition party.

These events are a fun alternative to a typical mean, and offer entertainment in addition to the food and drink that these specialty restaurants are well-known for offering.

18. Drink packages work at all specialty restaurants

Royal Caribbean's drink packages have become extremely popular with guests, and the good news is the drink package benefits work at specialty restaurants too.

Be sure to ask your waiter about any exclusions, but a majority of cocktails, beers and liquors will be included in the drink package benefits.  This means extra value from a drink package and an opportunity to sample some exclusive beverages available only at specialty restaurants.

19. If this is your first cruise, do not underestimate the importance of specialty dining

Even if you have visions of riding the FlowRider, hanging by the pool and catching a show on your first Royal Caribbean cruise, first time visitors should not overlook the important of planning your meals.

Royal Caribbean dining choices, both complimentary and specialty, offer unique dishes and impeccable service that has the potential to be every bit as memorable as time spent at the pool or onshore. 

20. When all else fails, order room service

Sometimes you just need to take it easy, and room service on your Royal Caribbean cruise is complimentary. Ordering is as simple as picking up the phone and calling in your order.  Soon thereafter, your food order will be brought up to your room and served wherever you like. This can be great for when you need a break and want something quick and easy for a meal, or just a snack to tide you over.  

21. Have picky eaters?

Many of us go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and would prefer to eat chicken nuggets for every meal than try something new... and that is okay! Royal Caribbean is a safe haven for those with specific likes and dislikes. Check out the menus before you make your dining reservations to ensure there is something that everyone can eat.

Anything on the menu can be served as an entree, regardless of if it is listed as an appetizer, side dish or kids' menu item. Here are a few more tricks and tips for dining with a picky eater on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

22. You can bring your own water onboard

Royal Caribbean's rule about bringing bottled water, or any beverages onboard its ships, is simple: Guests are not allowed to bring beer, hard liquor, fortified wines or non-alcoholic beverages onboard for consumption or any other use on boarding day or while in port.

In practice, when it comes to bottled water and even soft drinks, we have rarely seen this rule enforced.  We cannot guarantee you will not have your water confiscated, but if you felt very strongly about trying to bring bottled water with you, then we would recommend putting the bottled water in your carry on luggage and hoping for the best. 

23. Take advantage of dining discounts onboard or pre-cruise

Royal Caribbean is known to offer pre-cruise discounts on various aspects of the cruise experience, including specialty dining.  In an effort to spur reservations, Royal Caribbean will discount specialty restaurant reservations and dining packages to guests that prebook on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

Check your Cruise Planner site often, because offers can change from week to week.  And you can always cancel and rebook if prices drop!

24. Include your companions in the dining planning.

Traveling on a Royal Caribbean cruise with picky eaters, disinterested teenagers, first timers, a stressed out spouse? The best way to ensure that everyone has a great time on the cruise is to make them all feel invested in the trip planning. And who does not want to give their opinion on food? Share menus, reviews, and restaurant options with the family or your other traveling companions and get their feedback and favorites. This is an especially great idea for budding chefs!

25. Enjoy eating outdoors

On certain Royal Caribbean ships, there is an outdoor seating option that is available to enjoy a little al fresco dining.

The Windjammer on Radiance and Quantum class ships offers an area at the rear of the ship to enjoy any meal with a fantastic view of the ship's wake.  Also, restaurants in the Central Park and Boardwalk neighborhoods of Oasis class ships also offer outdoor seating.

On any Royal Caribbean ship, food from the Windjammer buffet may be brought to anywhere on the ship, which means the kids can stay in the pool while an adult gets the food and brings it back to the pool area.

Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise


There is no question that dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise has become a major aspect of the cruise experience.  The food available onboard ranges from simple and classic to extravagant and contemporary.  In short, there are a lot of great dining choices available on Royal Caribbean.

With so many choices, often guests preparing for their cruise have many questions about what is included, which options are available and how it all works.  What follows is our guide to understanding better the basics of dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Complimentary food

Simply put, there is plenty of great food included in the cost of your Royal Caribbean cruise.   One can easily go an entire food and enjoy nothing but food that has no additional cost from morning to night. After all, that is what the concept of a cruise has been for a long time.

Royal Caribbean ships have different names and venues for its dining options, but you will find some basic characteristics among them all to prepare you for what to expect.

Main dining room

The main dining room is the stalwart and institution upon which cruise ship dining was established.  It has changed over the years, but the principles remain the same and is available on all Royal Caribbean ships.

Guests may dine in the main dining room for dinner every night and breakfast every morning. Lunch is served in the main dining room on sea days only. The basics of the main dining room are it is a large, sit-down restaurant with waiter service that is included in your cruise fare.

For dinner, Royal Caribbean offers a traditional set time with assigned seating, or an alternative first-come, first-served option (My Time Dining).  Both offer the same menu, which changes every night and in both cases, there is the possibility that you will be seated with other guests.

Dinner is the most popular and common time to dine in the main dining room, when the main dining room offers appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from each night and you may order as much (or as little) as you like and it's nearly all complimentary.  The exception for food that is not complimentary in the main dining room are a few premium dishes that have an additional surcharge and premium beverages, such as soda, alcohol and specialty coffee.

Breakfast and lunch is less formal than dinner, with guests seated as they arrive, with posted hours of when the dining room is open. In both cases, the meals are served to you at your table.  The breakfast menu does not change, but the lunch menu does.

On Empress of the Seas, breakfast is sometimes replaced by a brunch option.

The main dining room has a dress code.  Dinner has a dress code that changes each day, while breakfast and lunch have a more casual dress code requirement. When guests hear the word, "dress code," that often causes a lot of concern about what to wear.  The reality is on most nights, guests can easily wear what would be defined as "resort casual," which can mean a sundress or skirt for women and a collared shirt and slacks for men.  "Nice" jeans are appropriate for both men and women too.  On formal nights, the suggested attire gets a bit fancier, with cocktail dresses or gowns for women and suits for men.

Windjammer Cafe

First time cruisers often imagine a large buffet when they think of eating on a cruise, and the Windjammer is the closest thing to that concept.  

The Windjammer Cafe is a buffet restaurant that is included in your cruise, which serves meals throughout the day.  Most are not open all the time, but have long enough hours to cover nearly all the times guests would like something to eat.

The Windjammer has lots of seating and even more food variety than anywhere else on the ship. You will find burgers, soups, sandwiches, ethnic dishes, salads, pastas and much more every day. Guests will find the greatest variety of food at the Windjammer compared to any other dining location on the ship, complimentary or paid.

Guests serve themselves from the buffet and then bring their food to a table in the area. Guests are also free to take their food elsewhere on the ship, like the pool deck.  There are wait staff who will clear plates, clean tables and bring you drinks.  

Unlike the main dining room, the dress code for the Windjammer is casual.

The Windjammer is a great alternative to any sit down restaurant, including the main dining room.  Some guests opt to eat exclusively at the Windjammer for dinner instead of the main dining room for a variety of reasons.

Quick service restaurants

The bulk of complimentary food on a Royal Caribbean cruise is available from quick service restaurants, which offers prepared and short-cooked food to guests.  The sort of food you find here are sandwiches, snacks, pizza and everything between.  Each Royal Caribbean ship will offer a number of these locations around your ship, so you are never too far away.

There is usually limited  seating available at these locations, but most guests go into get the food and then bring it somewhere else on the ship to eat, such as their stateroom or by the pool.  It is designed for guests that want something quickly to eat on their way to somewhere else.

Room Service

Room service is available 24 hours per day on your Royal Caribbean charge.

Since March 27, 2017, Royal Caribbean charges a $7.95 per order fee for room service. This means, whether you order one item or ten items, a $7.95 fee per room service order will be levied.  A complimentary continental breakfast option remains complimentary and will not incur the $7.95 fee.

Just like room service at a hotel, you can call room service and place an order to have a crew member deliver the food to your room.  Royal Caribbean has also added a room service ordering option via the stateroom television, which simplifies the ordering process.

The room service menu does not change and is limited in scope.

Specialty dining

In addition to all the food that is included in your cruise fare are specialty dining options, that carry with it an extra cost to enjoy the food there. The exact amount extra will vary from restaurant to restaurant, and ship to ship.  

In most cases, the specialty dining options offer a greater variety of food choices than what is available at complimentary dining locations. Royal Caribbean has designed its specialty restaurants around themes or cuisines (Italian, steakhouse, sushi, etc).

Royal Caribbean recommends making a reservation in advance for its specialty restaurants to ensure there is a seating available, but there is usually walk-up availability although there is a greater risk of waiting to be seated.  Unlike the main dining room, you will not be seated with other guests with the exception of the Izumi Hibachi experience.

Specialty restaurants are priced in one of two manners: cover charge or a la carte pricing.  With a cover charge, there is one price for all the food on the menu (except for beverages).  There can also be a surcharge for ordering more than one entree, although this rule varies based on the specialty restaurant you happen to be dining at.  A la carte dining charges you just for what you order, and is similar to how food is billed at a conventional land-based restaurant.

Specialty dining can be booked prior to a cruise via Royal Caribbean's web site or once onboard the cruise.  Reservations made online for a specialty restaurant with a cover charge will charge that amount at the time of booking.  Reservations made for specialty dining onboard your ship will not be charged to your SeaPass account until you dine at the restaurant.

Specialty restaurant costs

The cost of specialty dining varies considerably and we even see different pricing across the fleet.

Most specialty dining has a flat-fee surcharge, ranging from $6.95 (Johnny Rockets) or $25 (Giovanni's Table) to $85 (Chef's Table).  Most specialty dining restaurant cover charges fall into the $20 to $45 range.

The a la carte priced restaurants will have item prices of just a few dollars to around $20.  

Specialty restaurant hours

All Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants are open for dinner, with some open during breakfast and/or lunch.

Lunch meals at specialty restaurants usually are priced a bit lower and only on sea days.  Breakfast is quite rare to be offered at Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants. Some specialty venues, like Johnny Rockets on Oasis-class ships and Chops Grille, transform to offer breakfast for no additional fee.

For breakfast or lunch, advanced reservations are not usually available nor required.

Kids at specialty restaurants

Royal Caribbean welcomes children that are 13 years old or younger to its specialty restaurants (when accompanied by an adult) and even offers them special pricing.

Kids ages 6-12 can dine at specialty restaurants for a $8 cover charge. Kids 5 years old and under eat free.

In fact, some specialty restaurants have a special kids menu, which kids can order off that offers kid-friendly favorites from the regular menu.  Children under the age of 5 will have a menu similar to the kids menu from the main dining room.

Royal Caribbean does recommend, but does not restrict, Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, 150 Central Park, and Chef's Table are best enjoyed by children 13 years or older.

Dietary restrictions and special requests

Royal Caribbean is very accommodating when it comes to guests who have special dietary needs. The cruise line can handle a number of requests, such as food allergies, Gluten-free, Kosher, Low-fat, and Low-sodium.

Vegetarian Meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe every day. Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and kosher meals are available no extra charge. All you have to do is notify Royal Caribbean at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries).

For any and all dietary requests, contact your travel agent or Certified Vacation Planner and request that the remark be noted in your reservation details. If you made your reservation online at royalcaribbean.com you may add your request to the "update personal information." section. You may also send an e-mail request to special_needs@rccl.com; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date. E-mails will receive an automated response. 

More Royal Caribbean food info

This blog post is just the beginning of the many options, choices and tips about dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Here are a few more resources that will help you better understand what to expect once onboard:

5 awesome local restaurants to try on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean


The destinations Royal Caribbean brings you to are fantastic ports of call that are fun to explore each and every time you stop there.  For us, the local cuisine is a major attraction and it reminds us of the old saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" and that means sampling the culture of the area you are visiting by enjoying their food.

Each Caribbean port offers something different with influences from around the world. Dining at the restaurants locals frequent is a great way to get an authentic look at what the port offers, as well as pick up some new favorite dishes.  

We selected five restaurants across our Caribbean travels on Royal Caribbean ships to share with you as our top picks to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

5. Cuzzin's Restaurant - St. Thomas

When we look for the best local food in a town we are new to, we always look at crowd sourcing reviews for a good idea of where to go, and the top ranked restaurant in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas was a little place called Cuzzin's Restaurant.

A short walk from the ample shopping of Charlotte Amalie, Cuzzin's offers some of the best Caribbean food available.

Curried chicken, conch, BBQ ribs, fried shrimp and more are just some of the authentic dishes that draw on the restaurant's local specialties.

In addition, there is a full bar that serves up something called, the lambada boomer drink.  Drink and enjoy the rest of the day!

4. Fish Fry's - Nassau, Bahamas

Many Royal Caribbean cruise ships make stops in Nassau, and if you are in the mood for something local, head over to Fish Fry's for reasonably priced local cuisine.

Fish Fry's is actually the name of a row of restaurants to choose from.  Most of the restaurants here have similar menus, with dishes like lobster, chicken, conch salad, shrimp, burgers and other of course, fresh fish.

You will find a wide selection of food made by locals and pretty good prices too.  The heart of these restaurants is offering fresh and authentic Bahamian food.

3. El Jibarito - San Juan

Old San Juan is full of wonderful restaurants, but if you want the best Puerto Rican food in the old city, you need to stop by El Jibarito.

What El Jibarito lacks in stately decor, it makes up for in its freshly made dishes. Mofongo, shrimp, yellow rice, tamales and more are all available here and it is the place to sample Puerto Rican food.

The word is out on El Jibarito, as there are often lines around meal times but it is worth a stop for the great food.

2. La Sucrière - St. Martin

The island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is half Dutch, and half French and that means there are lot of great spots to enjoy food from both cultures.  If you happen to be craving a traditional French breakfast, look no further than La Sucrière in the French capital.

Set right on the Marigot waterfront, La Sucrière bakes fresh breads, quiches, sandwiches, croissants and other French specialties each day for its customers.  There is nothing fresher without crossing the Atlantic.

Starting your day with breakfast or brunch at La Sucrière is the right way to experience St. Martin!


1. Comida Caseras Tonita - Cozumel

The holy grail of great authentic food is something made with pride and love, and at Comida Caseras Tonita, you will find a family run restaurant that will frankly ruin all other Mexican food for you.

Just a few short blocks from the Cozumel waterfront is this hidden gem that has a menu full of fresh and authentic Mexican food. If you are looking for the kind of food the locals eat, Tonita is the place for you.

The staff really do not speak any English, but you can easily point to what you want on the menu and shortly thereafter enjoy some incredible dishes. We have visited Tonita on multiple occasions and it never disappoints.  Come hungry!

Your recommendations

Have you found a great local restaurant that you swear by? Share the details in the comments!

4 Royal Caribbean dining hacks


Dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise is a favorite activity, because Royal Caribbean put so much into its dining options.  There is plenty of great cuisine to enjoy on every Royal Caribbean cruise, and we have four great tips for getting a little bit more out of your dining experience onboard.

These tips are designed to give you the knowledge ahead of time to be properly prepared for your cruise, rather than perhaps running across one or more of these tips in the course of your vacation.

Order off-menu food in dining room

Each evening in the main dining room, there is a printed menu that guests can order from, but there are many more options you can consider beyond what is written on the menu.

The main dining room dinner menu is designed to appeal to a great majority of guests, but perhaps you have a dietary restriction, or you just really want something else.

Guests can ask to speak to the head waiter at any point and order something special, provided the chef in the galley has the ingredients to make it.  

The example I often share is Royal Caribbean used to offer Indian dishes on its old main dining room dinner menus, but the current version does not offer it.  As a result, I always speak to the head waiter and ask to have an Indian dish prepared for me each evening.  Sure enough, my waiter brings me that special dish every night.

Starbucks is (sometimes) included with the drink package

Royal Caribbean's Ultimate and Royal Replenish drink packages include premium coffee and tea, and on select Royal Caribbean hips that includes Starbucks beverages.

On non-Oasis class cruise ships, Starbucks beverages are brewed at Cafe Promenade or Cafe Latte-tudes locations, which gives guests with these beverage packages the ability to order drinks from the Starbucks menu.

Keep in mind, Royal Caribbean ships that have a free-standing Starbucks location (Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) do not allow for use of beverage packages to order Starbucks.

First night discount

Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants are incredibly popular, but an under-advertised special offer is some specialty restaurants will offer a discount for guests who dine there on the first night of the cruise.

There is something about the first night of the cruise, where it seems to be the least desirable evening to eat at a specialty restaurant. Perhaps guests prefer to explore or dine in the main dining room on day one, but for whatever the reason many specialty restaurants offer a first night discount.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to reserve a time at a specialty restaurant in advance of your cruise for this discount.  Most of the time, you just go to the restaurant on embarkation day and inquire about the availability of the discount.

Ice cream in a cup

This tip is something I learned from someone on Periscope, and it is sheer genius for someone that loves ice cream.

On all Royal Caribbean ships, there is complimentary soft-serve ice cream on the ship.  Usually, it is near the pools and there are ice cream cones available to pour the ice cream onto.  Ice cream cones are great and all, but you really cannot load them up too much without an incredibly elevated risk of it falling over and you becoming that guy.

For those that want to load up on ice cream without multiple trips to the machine, grab a drink cup from somewhere onboard.  Usually, the water cups in the Windjammer are perfect for this.  Take the cup and fill up the cup with as much ice cream as you can handle.  The result is that ice cream fix you have always dreamed of!

Your tips

Do you have any Royal Caribbean food hacks to share? Post in the comments below the tips and tricks you have learned over the years!

What to do if your Royal Caribbean dining preference is not available


We get a lot of questions on the blog, and a common question is about what to do if the dining choice for dinner that a guest wants is not available.

Sometimes a guest will book a Royal Caribbean cruise, but discover that a particular traditional dinner seating is not available.  Or perhaps My Time Dining is booked up.  Is there any chance to change it?

The answer is, there are two strategies to use when trying to get into the dining option you really wanted.

Add yourself to a waitlist

When a particular dining option gets filled up, Royal Caribbean will allow guests to be added to a waitlist.

These waitlists are virtual queues, where if another guest leaves that dining option for some reason (usually due to cancelling or transferring their cruise reservation), the next guest "in line" can take their spot.

To be added to a waitlist, you need to contact either Royal Caribbean directly or have your travel agent do it on your behalf.

Once you are added to the waitlist, you should see a notation on your reservation in the My Cruises section of Royal Caribbean's web site.

In many cases, the waitlist will eventually come through and you will be automatically added to the dining option of your choice  You will likely not be notified of the change, so you will have to log in periodically to your cruise reservation to see if something has changed.

The fallback: speak to the head waiter

Sometimes, the waitlist option does not work and your next best option is to go speak to the head waiter on embarkation day.

Once you board your Royal Caribbean cruise, go to the main dining room in the afternoon to speak to the head waiter.

There should be a head waiter on duty in the main dining room for a few hours in the afternoon.  

Politely explain your request to the head waiter and ask if there is a way to be moved to the dining option you prefer.

In our experience, this fallback usually gets the job done.  Royal Caribbean wants their guests happy and the head waiters have a good sense of the guest dinner distribution.

More dining room tips

Check out these other helpful posts about dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Hopefully one of these two choices will get you the dining preference you really want!