Dining Package

4 Easy steps for getting a Royal Caribbean dining package

In:
Category: 
10Jan2018

Have you heard about Royal Caribbean's specialty dining packages? These are convenient options that allow you to enjoy multiple specialty restaurants on your Royal Caribbean cruise at a discount.  By purchasing a package, you can save a fair amount of money compared to trying to eat in the same amount of specialty restaurants individually.

If you have not heard of the dining packages before, or want to learn more about how they work, check out this overview

If you are considering purchasing a specialty restaurant package, here are the four easy steps you need to follow to ensure you have a fabulous dining experience once onboard.

1. Pick a dining package

This may seem obvious, but you will start off with actually purchasing a dining package before your cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

Royal Caribbean offers a number of dining packages, so compare the offerings for your sailing and see which fits your needs the best.  Deciding on the right dining package boils down to how many specialty restaurants you would like to dine at during the cruise.  Some guests like to sprinkle in specialty dining, while others prefer to dine exclusively at a specialty restaurant.

If you do not see any specialty dining packages listed yet for your cruise, don't worry.  That may simply be a result of your sail date being too far from now.  You will just have to periodically check back, as there is no set window of time when Cruise Planner purchases like a dining package become available.  You just have to check back now and then to see if they are available.

2. Pick a time for first meal

Once you pick the right dining package for you, you will have to select a day and time for your first meal. 

Part of the arrangement with any dining plan, is you must dine at one restaurant on either the first or second day of your cruise.  The Cruise Planner site will allow you to pick a day and time, although not the restaurant.  

You should not worry too much about the day and time you pick, nor the restaurant Royal Caribbean will pick for you, because you can always change this once onboard the ship (we will get to that in step 4).

Pick a day and time that make some sense to you and then go ahead and purchase the package.

3. Consult the Cruise Compass for schedule of events

Between when you purchase the dining package and your actual cruise, carve out some time to look at a schedule of events to get a sense of when you might be busy, and conversely, want to dine at a specialty restaurant.

Royal Caribbean does not publish a schedule of entertainment in advance of your cruise, so your best bet is to look at a past Cruise Compass for a recent sailing on the same ship you are going on soon.  While the Compass is for a past sailing, a lot of the schedule of events (especially the evening show times) tend to be the same from sailing to sailing. 

Your goal is to look at the show times, and then figure out which restaurants you would like to dine at and at what time.  

The reason you want to do this now, and not on your ship, is this will save you time once you get onboard.  Plus, you will be one step ahead of everyone else and that means less time on your cruise planning, and more time having fun!

4. Make reservations once onboard

The last step is board your Royal Caribbean cruise and on embarkation day, make reservations for your specialty restaurants as early as you can.  Booking the restaurants on embarkation day and as early in the day as you can will ensure you the largest array of availability.

You can go to any specialty restaurant or Guest Services to make reservations for your dining package.  Alternatively, we have seen on some Royal Caribbean ships stations set up exclusively for those with dining packages to make their reservations quickly.  Look in the Cruise Compass when you board the ship for that option.

If you completed the previous step, this step will be quite quick.  You can always change your mind later about restaurants and/or times, but locking in reservations early will provide you the most choices.

Spotted: Deluxe Beverage and Ultimate Dining Package combo

In:
16Aug2017

Royal Caribbean has a new pre-cruise purchase option on select sailings that combines the deluxe beverage package and the ultimate dining package in one.

The Deluxe Beverage and Ultimate Dining Package offers a bundle of the Deluxe Beverage Package and Ultimate Dining Package for one price.  With this package, you will enjoy

  • Unlimited beverages
    • coffee
    • juices
    • sodas
    • bottled water
    • beer, wine
    • spirits
  • Discount of 40% off bottles of wine under $100 and 20% off bottles above $100 while dining in specialty restaurants
  • Dine at specialty restaurants every night and
  • Dine at specialty restaurants at lunchtime on sea days

For restaurants with a la carte pricing, you will receive a $50 food credit.

Thus far, we have spotted this option on Oasis class ships.

Thanks to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Andrew Punch for alerting us to this new offering.

Royal Caribbean Ultimate Dining Package Costs and Review

In:
Category: 
11Jul2017

Royal Caribbean introduced the ultimate dining package for guests to purchase in early 2017, which offers the opportunity to dine at specialty restaurants throughout your cruise for a fixed price every night of their sailing. Plus, they can also eat lunch in specialty restaurants on sea days.

Seeing this option, many guests wonder how the package actually works, and if the ultimate dining package is worth it.  This primer is aimed at explaining the ins and outs of Royal Caribbean's ultimate dining package and making it easier to understand overall how it all works.

Ultimate Dining Package overview

Royal Caribbean offers its guests the ultimate dining package, which promises a specialty restaurant dinner each night (plus lunch on sea days) for a fixed price.  This fixed price is cheaper than trying to book each restaurant individually at the restaurant's listed price.

Specialty restaurants constitute the additional cost restaurants on a Royal Caribbean ship, where there is a cover charge or a la carte fee for guests that choose to dine there.  The exact cost will vary from ship to ship, but each specialty restaurant charges each guest that elect to dine there for the meal.  

The ultimate dining package will include the cover charge for a specialty restaurant, or provide a stipend for restaurants that charge per item ordered off the menu.  Alcoholic beverages and certain items on the menu may not included in what the ultimate dining package provides (i.e. dry aged steaks at Chops Grille).

Guests may not make individual specialty restaurant reservations until they are onboard the cruise ship.  Royal Caribbean will make an automatic reservation for the first night on behalf of the guest, but guests may change that restaurant or time once onboard (subject to availability).

Booking the Ultimate Dining Package

Guests can purchase the ultimate dining package via the Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner site prior to their cruise. A package must be purchased for each guest that wishes to take advantage of the dining package offering.  

Parents should not purchase an ultimate dining package for children because kids enjoy a discounted price at specialty restaurants.  

Once purchased, the dining package will associated with each guest's onboard account. Guests simply need to tell their server they have the dining package, and the waiter can apply the package benefits to the bill.

Onboard the cruise, guests could (and should) make reservations for each restaurant as early as possible.  There is usually a designated time and place for guests with dining packages to go to on embarkation day to make all the dining plans they need.  This is much more convenient than going to each restaurant and making reservations individually. Moreover, making reservations on embarkation day will afford the greatest selection of days and times for meals.

Ultimate Dining Package cost

The exact cost of the Ultimate Dining Package will vary from sailing to sailing, but we have largely seen a $24 per day, per guest rate ($168 per guest for a 7-night sailing). Specialty Dining Packages must be booked at least two days prior to boarding and may not be available for every sail date.

Packages include service charge and food portion only for dinner and, when available, lunch service. Package valid for one specialty dining restaurant per meal. Beverages not included.

For each person that purchase an ultimate dining package, that includes

  • Dinner each night of your sailing at a specialty restaurant
  • Lunch at specialty restaurant on sea days from the hours of 12:00PM to 2:00PM
  • 40% off bottles of wine under $100 in bars and dining rooms
  • 20% off bottles above $100 in bars and dining rooms

For restaurants with a la carte pricing, you will receive a $50 food credit.

The ultimate dining package is not valid for Chef's Table, Izumi Hibachi, or Culinary Experiences/Activities. Guests will receive 20% off when booking Chef's Table and/or any Culinary Experience/Activity onboard.

Children ages 6-12 can be added to reservation for a $10 cover charge once onboard.

Ultimate Dining Package review


 

Having used the ultimate dining plan, it has the potential to save a lot of money and allow guests to enjoy their favorite restaurants onboard a Royal Caribbean ship without much hassle.  There are certainly benefits and disadvantages to the ultimate dining plan, and here they are.

Savings: Overall, Royal Caribbean's ultimate dining package can save you a lot of money compared to trying to dine at the same amount of restaurants individually on a cruise.  In fact, it represents a significant potential savings.

At $24 per day, per guest, the daily cost of the dining package is often much cheaper than the cost of specialty restaurant cover charges.  Which restaurants you choose to dine at is up to you, but here is an example from a recent Harmony of the Seas sailing to illustrate the savings potential.

  • Day 1 (Port Day): Dinner at Chops Grille: $49 per guest
  • Day 2 (Port Day: Dinner at 150 Central Park $45 per guest
  • Day 3 (Sea Day): Lunch at Sabor: $19 per guest
  • Day 3 (Sea Day: Dinner at Izumi: $50 stipend, per guest
  • Day 4 (Port Day): Dinner at Wonderland: $49 per guest
  • Day 5 (Port Day): Dinner at Jamie's Italian: $35 per guest
  • Day 6 (Sea Day): Lunch at Jamie's Italian: $20 per guest
  • Day 6 (Sea Day): Dinner at Sabor: $19 per guest
  • Day 7 (Sea Day): Lunch at Johnny Rockets: $5.95 per guest
  • Day 7 (Sea Day): Dinner at Chops Grille: $49 per guest

Total cost without package: $340.95
Total cost with ultimate dining package: $168

Total savings with ultimate dining package: 172.95

The exact savings will vary, especially if you skip meals or opt to dine at specialty restaurants with a lower or higher cover charge.  In addition, the $50 stipend at Izumi is a lot of money per person.  Even as an avid sushi lover, I found myself order much more food than I would have if I was paying out of pocket.

Amount of food: One issue with the ultimate dining package is guests end up getting much more food than they might have otherwise wanted/ordered.  Dining at a specialty restaurant up to twice a day means you will access to a lot of food.  While I consider myself a big eater, at times, the ultimate dining package felt like I was getting too much food.  There have been occasions when I otherwise would have just grabbed something small at the Windjammer or Park Cafe, but because I had the dining package, felt obligated to eat at a specialty restaurant to take advantage of the package benefits.  This was especially true at lunch. Not only did this result in over-consumption, but it also burned valuable vacation time.

For longer cruises, spending time in a specialty restaurant may not be a concern since you have more time to enjoy.  Plus, the wait staff are fairly responsive to requests for an expedited meal.  

While you can get value out of the ultimate dining package, that savings requires sitting down for longer meals and eating a lot of food. If you do not normally eat as much food as the ultimate dining package provides, you are not actually saving money–the savings are illusory. You are over-consuming in the name of (false) savings.

It is worth noting that how much you budget for specialty dining depends on how much you might otherwise like to enjoy specialty dining.  There is a plethora of really good complimentary food on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Specialty dining has long been regarded as a great way to augment your dining experience, and not necessarily replace it.  On Royal Caribbean's newer ships, specialty restaurants have become more and more prominent, but we are firm advocates of the complimentary food found in the main dining room, Windjammer and other locations.  It is important to have an honest conversation with yourself about how much specialty dining is important to you, and if you really want to dine at one restaurant every evening, or if one of the other dining packages may more more logical sense.

Budgeting: Guests can pre-purchase prior to the cruise and break up the total cost of the cruise experience.  From a budgeting standpoint, this can make affording a total cruise vacation much simpler to manage in the long run.  

In addition, going to the specialty restaurants and ordering whatever you like and walking away with a bill for $0.00 does feel really good.  This is especially true if you want to focus more on the cruise experience and not worry about cover charges and what your final bill at the end of the sailing may look like. Not having to think about money on vacation means a lot to many guests.

Convenience: There is no question having the ultimate dining package adds a great deal of savings, but it comes at the expense of some convenience. 

We mentioned earlier the importance of making reservations for each restaurant on embarkation day.  By purchasing a dining package, you trade the ability to reserve a specific restaurant and time for the additional savings.  Royal Caribbean offers this because it ensures a baseline commitment to onboard spending at their dining venues.  Essentially, it is a safe bet for Royal Caribbean to have you pre-pay, rather than let you book on your own and opt out of specialty restaurants later in the cruise.  As a result, guests will have to wait for embarkation day for their first chance to make a reservation.

While you can certainly show up to any specialty restaurant and asked to be seated, reservations are recommend by Royal Caribbean and by us.  Specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships are small, and reservation times go quickly.  In fact, as the cruise goes on, availability overall drops precipitously.  Your best bet is to make all (or as many as you can) reservations on embarkation day while there is the most amount of tables available.  

Be sure to reference the show schedule for the week to ensure the times you select for dining line up with the shows you want to see.  The biggest issue we ran into with the dining package is realizing the dining times we made earlier in the cruise, conflict with a show or other activity we had planned on attending. Last minute changes to reservations are possible, but frequently can be an obstacle. 

Conclusion

Overall, whether Royal Caribbean's ultimate dining package is right for you is a highly personal decision based on a lot of variables.  It is doubtful most guests on a Royal Caribbean cruise even want to eat a specialty restaurant each evening of their cruise, but there are some cruisers (especially veteran cruisers) that relish the opportunity.  The ultimate dining package has the potential to save guests a lot of money, but it requires some planning and follow-through once onboard the ship.

On Royal Caribbean ships that have a number of specialty dining venues (i.e. Oasis and Quantum Class ships), the ultimate dining package can be a tantalizing choice.  This is especially true if you are new to this class of ship, and wish to experience the various specialty dining available. The cost savings combined with greater variety of choice is a powerful combination.

However, we stress that while specialty dining is a fun way to augment your cruise experience, it is absolutely not necessary to completely replace the great food served onboard. In fact, prior to the advent of dining packages, most guests sprinkled in specialty dining to their cruising repertoire.

The decision to purchase the ultimate dining package comes down to your desire to enjoy a lot of specialty dining at a reduced cost, with the understanding of having to plan your dining schedule once onboard.

Your thoughts

Have you tried the ultimate dining package yet? Thinking about using it?  We would love to hear your thoughts about Royal Caribbean's ultimate dining package, how it works-or does not work-for you, in the comments!  If you have any questions, ask them there, too.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean offering ultimate dining package

In:
Category: 
28Apr2017

Fans of Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants will love the cruise line's Ultimate Dining Package offer.

The Ultimate Dining Package has been spotted on Harmony of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, and allows guests to pay a fixed price and enjoy dinner at a specialty restaurant every night of their sailing. Plus, they can also eat lunch in specialty restaurants on sea days.  The Ultimate Dining Package can be purchased online at Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

For restaurants with a la carte pricing, guests will receive a $50 food credit.

Just like the other dining packages, Royal Caribbean will make a courtesy dinner reservation on the guests' behalf in a pre-selected restaurant. On Day 1, a reservation confirmation will be waiting in the stateroom.  Guests are free to amend or to complete additional dinner reservations by visiting a Hospitality Desks or any specialty restaurant.

The Ultimate Dining package is valid for one specialty dining restaurant per meal. Beverages not included.

Children ages 6-12 can be added to reservation for a $10 cover charge once onboard. Not available on holiday sailings. Not valid for Chef's Table, Izumi Hibachi, or Culinary Experiences/Activities. Guests will receive 20% off when booking Chef's Table and/or any Culinary Experience/Activity onboard.

The Ultimate Dining Package is non-refundable, non-transferable and not combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts or any other offer or promotion.

Thanks to Michael for alerting us to this new option.

Is the Ultimate Dining Package an option you will be purchasing? Share your thoughts on the appeal of this kind of option in our comments!

Spotlight: Royal Caribbean dining packages

In:
Category: 
28Jan2016

Royal Caribbean offers its guests that are fans of specialty dining the opportunity to purchase dining packages that promise to save guests money on the total cost of the restaurant experience.

Photo by Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean offers a variety of dining packages based on the number of nights you want to take advantage of the offer.  These packages can save guests up to 40% off the price if they were purchased individually.

There are dining packages for

  • 1 night (referred to as First Night Done Right)
    • Only available on first night of the cruise
  • 2 nights (referred to as BOGO package)
    • Only available on first two nights of the cruise
  • 3 nights
  • 4 nights
  • 5 nights
  • Ultimate dining package (good for the duration of the sailing)
    • The ultimate dining package includes lunch on sea days

Photo by Royal Caribbean International

Via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner, guests may select their dining party and preferred dining time and a courtesy dinner reservation will be made on your behalf in a pre-selected restaurant on day 1 or day 2.

On Day 1, guests will receive a reservation confirmation in their stateroom. If you would like to amend or to complete your additional dinner reservations, simply visit a Hospitality Desk or any specialty restaurant.

Guests then can make additional reservations on your first day onboard to guarantee preferred dining time and restaurants.

Kids ages 6-12 now dine at our specialty restaurants for only $10. Ages 5 and under eat free.  Royal Caribbean's staff can add children to your existing reservation at kid's prices once onboard.

For restaurants with a la carte pricing, package includes a $30 credit towards the food portion of your bill.

The main advantage of the dining packages are the cost savings compared to booking the individual specialty restaurants individually. 

Will you book one of these dining packages for your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Tell us in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean offering new dining packages on Allure of the Seas

In:
24Nov2015

Royal Caribbean has started offering dining packages on select Allure of the Seas sailings, that allow guests to enjoy multiple specialty restaurants for a fixed price.

There appear to be three dining packages to choose from

  • 3-night package: $80 per adult
  • 4-night package: $95 per adult
  • 5-night package: $110 per adult

Guests that reserve a dining package will be asked to select their dining party and preferred dining time.  Royal Caribbean will then make a courtesy dinner reservation will be made the guest's behalf in a pre-selected restaurant on day 1 or day 2.

On Day 1, guests will receive reservation confirmation in their stateroom. Guests are able to amend or to complete additional dinner reservations by visiting a Hospitality Desk or any specialty restaurant.

For restaurants with a la carte pricing, package includes a $30 credit towards the food portion of your bill.

Kids ages 6-12 dine at specialty restaurants for only $10. Ages 5 and under eat free!  Royal Caribbean staff can add kids to existing reservations at kid's prices once onboard.

Earlier this year, we have spotted similar dining packages offered on Explorer of the Seas and some Freedom class ships.

It is not clear yet if these dining packages are available for all sailings yet.  Royal Caribbean Blog reader Calvin Harris spotted the deal offered on his December 12, 2015 Allure of the Seas sailing.

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean Blog readers have spotted similar dining packages on Oasis of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas & Serenade of the Seas.  

Will you book one of these dining packages for your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Tell us in the comments below!