Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review: Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas


Ever since Royal Caribbean introduced the Wonderland restaurant on Quantum of the Seas, the concept has resonated with many guests who find the aura of this sort of not-so-typical restaurant truly attractive. With Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has seemingly "doubled down" on the idea with its largest Wonderland yet.

Of all the specialty restaurants on Harmony of the Seas, perhaps no other restaurant has attracted as much intrigue surrounding what it is like to dine there, so I made very certain on a recent sailing to try it out for myself.  I had dined at Wonderland on Quantum of the Seas, but I was curious how similar (or dissimilar) the version on Harmony of the Seas was and how this experience stacks up to my memory.

In full disclosure, Royal Caribbean invited me to try Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas as their guest for the purposes of this review. I promise I kept at least one eyebrow raised at any given time, in an effort to be as inquisitive as possible during the meal. 

Time to go through the looking glass (and eat)!


If you are unfamiliar with Wonderland, it is a specialty restaurant developed by Royal Caribbean that is loosely based on the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland novel by Lewis Carroll.  Like all Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants, the food available is different than anywhere else on the ship, but it also is big on the experience.

Wonderland is located in the aft of Deck 12, in a rather quiet part of the ship. Unlike other specialty restaurants that are in busy neighborhoods, or areas of the ship with a lot of foot traffic, Wonderland is on what is otherwise a deck of staterooms, so one really has to go in search of Wonderland to come across it (unless your stateroom happens to be on Deck 12).

Unlike Wonderland on Quantum class ships, this restaurant does not feature a whole lot of ornate decorations outside the restaurant. Instead, it squeezes them on the interior of the space.  So while you might not get the same sense of curiosity simply by passing by on Harmony of the Seas, the restaurant's look more than makes up for it once inside.

Entering the restaurant is via a tunnel that leads to a golden door.  The door is symbolic, and can easily be side-stepped, but it represents the disconnect between the "real world" and the experiences you will encounter in Wonderland.

Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas is comprised of two decks, a first for any Wonderland restaurant.  The entrance area, along with a bar and a few tables are located on the top deck of Wonderland, while a majority of the seating and the kitchen are located down the stairs on the lower deck.

Like all Wonderland restaurants, the decorations are quite ornate. The motif of the decor is meant to intrigue.  Wonderland is purposefully different, both in look and experience, so stepping foot inside should instantly accompany a thought that this is somewhere unlike anywhere else.

The most prominent part of Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas is the view of the Boardwalk. On the Quantum class ships, Wonderland had no view to speak of, but we have here a floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks the Boardwalk.  It is a stunning view, which really looks amazing at night when the ship is lit up.

There are plenty of decorations on and around the tables.  Guests will find odds and ends that evoke the overarching story that you are dining somewhere very different than you are used to dining on land or at sea.

Like Wonderland on other Royal Caribbean ships, the serving staff also dress for the part.  You will see them wearing velvet jackets and playing their part in acting just a little bit silly.


Sitting down for your meal, the experience of Wonderland begins immediately with the menu.  Each guest is given a picture frame with a blank menu and paintbrush. 

Guests are then instructed to dip their paintbrush into water and "paint" the picture that reveals the menu.  A bit of a spoiler if you have never dined there before, but it is always a fun experience.

Like the restaurant, nothing is conventional with the menu.  For our meal, the waiter brought us out a number of choices he picked from the menu to sample, followed up with an entree of our choice. In all of my meals at Wonderland, this has been the typical experience with the waiter bringing out a variety of bite-size appetizers to sample before the main course.

Each appetizer was shared at the table, and they all tend to look a little different, but ended up tasting better than they look.  The idea is to intrigue guests with the the presentation of the food, and then follow that up with food that is quite tasty.

In terms of the entrees, the terroir beef is still my top pick for what to order.  I had it on Quantum of the Seas, and my wife tried it again on this sailing and it is simply very, very good.  The meat is fall-off-the-bone quality, and the flavor is just perfect.

I also tried the branzino in crispy bread, because the waiter recommended it.  It was a small portion, but tasted great.  Still, hard to beat that terroir beef.

The desserts were a bit different than I had on Quantum of the Seas.  We had three dessert options for us to share at the table.

By far, the chocolate globe was the best.  It tasted like a Snickers candy bar and was something I wanted to have just to myself.


Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas attracts a lot of attention from guests who are intrigued by the concept, and it is safe to say that it is well-deserved.  On a cruise ship filled with plenty of dining options, Wonderland stands apart as an unique option.

The reason to dine at Wonderland is the blend of an eclectic motif and some very good food. Unlike any other specialty restaurant, the experience and "schtick" of Wonderland are what endears the restaurant to many guests and makes it as compelling an option as it is.

It is important to note that Wonderland does come with a rather high price tag for a specialty restaurant. Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas costs $45 per person, which is not a cheap specialty restaurant, but then again, there is no other specialty restaurant  that compares to the overall experience.

Wonderland certainly has a wide-ranging appeal.  Guests that are new to cruising will love the prospect of trying something new like this, and veteran cruisers will find Wonderland a welcome change from the typical specialty restaurant scene.

In short, Wonderland on Harmony of the Seas is a very different experience and perhaps the most intriguing Royal Caribbean dining experience that needs to be tried at least once to fully appreciate.

Wonderland is open for dinner and we reviewed Wonderland aboard Harmony of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas


There is no denying Chops Grille's place in Royal Caribbean lore as being the preeminent specialty restaurant of the fleet. After all, it has been around the longest and constantly regarded as a great dining experience.

While Royal Caribbean has been adding a dizzying myriad of new specialty restaurants across its fleet, Chops Grille remains a signature dining experience and while onboard Freedom of the Seas, we wanted to see if that reputation is still well deserved.

In my opinion, a good dining experience and a restaurant I can recommend to others must offer excellent food and great service, at a fair price. While onboard Freedom of the Seas, I wanted to see if Chops Grille still offered that kind of an experience.


Chops Grille is in the same spot it has been since Freedom of the Seas launched in 2006, on deck 11 near the entrance to the Windjammer.  

Chops Grille evokes that look and feel of a high quality steakhouse, be it on land or sea. A blend of dark browns and lighter browns and whites sets the restaurant apart from anywhere else on the ship.  It is a classy look that will have anyone that has dined at a Chops Grille on another Royal Caribbean ship feeling like they have been here before. By the same token, new diners to Chops Grille will find the restaurant's atmosphere evocative of a fine dining establishment that lets its cuisine make the statement.

Upon entering Chops Grille, there is a noticeable glass wall that provides a great view of the ocean and area surrounding Freedom of the Seas, provided you dine there early enough to have enough natural light to see outside.  Views of the ocean are always a welcome spectacle, and any guest in the restaurant should be able to see to that window without much effort.

The restaurant is comprised of a long rectangular dining room that extends to a circular shaped space that makes up the back half of Chops.

Simply put, the decor and theme of Chops Grille reminds guests they are somewhere a bit fancier than elsewhere onboard Freedom of the Seas, and that elegant touch is reinforced by the food served.


If you talk to someone about their experience at Chops Grille, the discussion will likely begin and end with the food.  Chops has quite a positive reputation among Royal Caribbean fans for the delicious food, and it is one aspect of the restaurant that brings guests back time and time again.

The Chops Grille menu on Freedom of the Seas is nearly identical to Chops Grille locations we have dined at on other Royal Caribbean ships in the last couple of years.  In general, Royal Caribbean tends to standardize its specialty restaurant menus fleetwide, although there can be some variations here or there.  At Chops Grille, you will find a menu that mirrors that of many other ships and that kind of consistency is at the heart of what has earned Chops Grille its glowing reputation over the years.

Once seated, guests are offered bread and butter to begin their meal, along with any beverages they desire.  It is worth pointing out the pretzel bread was not available anymore, nor the salted butter that we have enjoyed previously.  What we did have was good too, but admittedly I preferred the pretzel bread and salted butter.  Alas, c'est la vie.

While I may have missed out on my prized pretzel bread, I would not be denied any other favorites, such as the incredible French Onion soup.  

There are many great choices for appetizers, but my go-to choice is there melted Gruyére, Asiago and Parmesan cheese soup that tops a warm broth, mixed in with plenty of onions.  

While I may describe the virtues of my soup worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet, I would remiss if we did not discuss arguably the Chops Grille appetizer everyone seems to love, the grilled black pepper bacon.

When someone hears the word, "bacon," they are likely to conjure up an image of a thin strip of fried pork that might be served at a diner.  There is nothing wrong with that staple of American breakfasts, but Chops Grille's bacon is worthy of an annotation in any well-respected dictionary to refer to what is served by Royal Caribbean as a bacon without equal. Simply, it is massive, well-seasoned and tastes amazing. 

When getting to the entrees, there are many choices and very often, guests wonder if the dry-aged steak option is worth the extra price.

When Royal Caribbean revamped the Chops Grille menu in 2014, they added a few dry-aged steaks to the menu, which promise the best flavor of any steak on land or sea.  Dry-aged steaks are quite the steakhouse phenomenon, and Royal Caribbean has capitalized on the idea by offering them for a modest additional charge.

While I do enjoy a good steak, I freely admit that I am no steak connoisseur. That being said, if you want a terrific flavor to your steak, and want the best meat on the menu, then the dry-aged steaks are for you.  Each is $18-19 and offer the pinnacle of flavor, tenderness, and aroma.

This time around, I opted to stick to the regular part of the menu.  The filet mignon that is offered at Chops Grille is excellent, and I would not hesitate to recommend it as an option.

We also ordered the Everything Crusted Tuna, which was a nice change of pace, although I cannot say it tops the steaks offered at Chops in terms of overall flavor.  

No Chops Grille meal is complete without ordering a number of side dishes.  The side dishes are served family-style, with plenty of refills if needed. 

All the side dishes are quite good, and I found myself adding the sautéed mushrooms to pretty much everything on the table because they seemed to be so darn complimentary and tasty.

Arguably, the least talked about but most deserving of your drool, are the desserts.   Chops Grille has always had a great dessert selection and it is difficult to go wrong with any of the choices.

Of course, the red velvet cake and Huckleberry cheesecake stand out as real winners for their amazing consistency and forget-your-own-kids-names taste.    Your best bet is to order many desserts and sample them all, because they are worth holding back on a few servings of sautéed mushrooms to save room for.


Having dined at Chops Grille on many ships over the years, I came into Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas wondering if the restaurant is worth the cost.  The cover charge fluctuates across the fleet, with newer ships charging more, but on all ships, it remains the most expensive specialty restaurant cover charge that is not a private dining experience.

I can safely say that Chops Grille is worthy of a swipe to your SeaPass account for the great food, from start to finish.  Dinner at Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas reinforced the notion that Chops is the premier Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant, and I believe it remains just as good a value today as in years past. 

The focus of Chops Grille remains the terrific food, and nothing that we ordered even hinted at mediocre.  The ambiance is worthy of any kind of celebration, evening out or occasion, and the food will leave you smiling and very satisfied. 


Guest Review: Chef's Table on Freedom of the Seas


Please welcome Christie McLarty as our guest blogger today, with her first-hand review of Chef's Table on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas.

When we booked Freedom of the Seas for our anniversary trip, we knew we had to book Chef’s Table. We had eaten at Chef’s Table on Oasis of the Seas in December, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. While the experience was slightly different this time, it still lived up to our expectations of a delicious meal paired with great wines.

The Chef’s Table seats 10-16 people and is usually priced between $80-$90 depending on the ship. On our sailing they had a low number of bookings, so they were advertising a discount of 20%. This discount makes the dinner an exceptional deal, because you probably drink that much in wine alone. The location of the Chef’s Table varies per ship. On Oasis it was held in an alcove between Coastal Kitchen and the Concierge Lounge and on Freedom it was held in a closed off portion of the Windjammer. They did a great job of decorating so that we did not feel like were in the Windjammer. They asked us to arrive a few minutes early and greeted us with a glass of champagne.

Once we were seated at the table, the chef came out and introduced himself and prepared us for the evening. He presented an amuse-bouche that was not included in the menu. This “little bite” was made with a gelatin made from an ice-wine reduction topped with Alaskan king crab and seaweed.

Each subsequent course was paired with a wine. Chef Andre would first present the dish and go over in extreme detail how they prepared the dish. Our waiter then would discuss the wine and why it paired with the particular dish. Who knew you could cook a beef tenderloin in the oven while wrapped in plastic wrap? (Apparently it was a particular kind of oven, but my goodness was that beef tender). The menu appears to be the same fleet wide, but each ship can choose the wine they pair with the particular courses.

Dinner lasts about three hours, and it is fun to get to know the people sitting at the table as well. We had a slight issue with one of the guests at our table being disruptive, and the host handled the situation perfectly. They even presented a dessert with a candle for someone who was celebrating their birthday, which was a nice touch.

My husband and I both agree that this experience is something we will continue to enjoy on Royal Caribbean. If we were to attend an event similar to this on land, we would pay well over $100 per person. The food truly can’t be beat onboard and experiencing this with other guests makes each dinner unique.

Restaurant Review: Sabor Modern Mexican on Freedom of the Seas


Many of us know that Sabor Modern Mexican on Royal Caribbean cruise ships is one of the best-dept dining secrets in all of cruising.  But these days, it is become less of a secret, and more of an established must-eat!

Frankly, if your list of specialty restaurant reservations does not include Sabor, then you are missing out.

Having had an opportunity to cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, we could not resist dining at Sabor Modern Mexican on a few different occasions.


One goal Royal Caribbean had with Sabor was to create a restaurant experience that was not just another typical American-Mexican restaurant. When you walk into Sabor, there is very little that would remind you of a typical Mexican restaurant.

The decor of Sabor features lots of blues, reds and yellows and the restaurant evokes a very bright mood with its festive, yet not over-the-top, design.

Seating in Sabor is functional and comfortable.  Much of the seating are tables that have booth and chair options, with a few smaller tables that have just chairs.  

Unlike Chops Grille or Giovanni's Table on Freedom of the Seas, Sabor has no windows and is also considerably smaller in size. A view is always nice, but with the kind of food offered in Sabor, you will not want to look anywhere but what is on your plate.

The focal point of Sabor Modern Mexican on Freedom of the Seas are the colorful dahlia flowers that line the ceiling and wall of the restaurant.  It is quite pretty and a lovely backdrop.


After a busy day on Freedom of the Seas swimming, exploring and playing, lunch or dinner at Sabor is sure to please.

The Sabor menu on Freedom of the Seas retains many of the same options that are on other Royal Caribbean ships that offer a Sabor Modern Mexican restaurant, but there are some appetizers and entrees that are different on Freedom of the Seas.  Moreover, the drink menu of available cocktails has also been simplified, although the famous margaritas remain.  Nonetheless, there is a wide variety of Mexican classics, such as tacos, burritos and quesadillas.  There are also more sophisticated choices as well.  

If you party is large enough (more than 4 guests usually), the server will offer to bring all the appetizers out and serve them family-style.  Most of them can be enjoyed in this manner, with the exception of the soup.

Every table is served with table side guacamole and frankly, no Sabor meal is complete without the guacamole.  

In short, the Sabor guacamole is amazing and will more than likely become the best guacamole you have ever eaten.  Even if you have had guacamole for years or swore it off, you must try the guacamole at Sabor Modern Mexican.

In addition, chips and fresh pico de gallo salsa are served.  As much as I wax poetically about Sabor's guacamole, I have an unspoken love with Sabor's salsa.  Salsa is not so much a garnishment as it is a topping when I eat chips, and the salsa here has this salsa fiend's seal of approval.

The chicken-stuffed Jalapeños are the most popular options and when you read the description you will know why.  Chicken wrapped in bacon on a stick with Mexican garnishments.  Sold!

The queso fundido is also a winner, and not your typical cup of melted cheese.  This gooey and super-tasty appetizer is a great choice for even the pickiest of eaters.

While dining at Sabor, one must also indulge in the margaritas available exclusively at Sabor.  

There are five margaritas on the menu (plus a few other cocktails, including sangria) and they are like children. You do not have a favorite, but you might like one more than the other at any given time.  I highly recommend getting at least one margarita during the meal to compliment the food.

The Avocado and Jalapeño-Cucumber martinis are at the top of my list, but you cannot go wrong with any of them.  

Avocado margarita

Jalapeño-Cucumber margarita

The staff might also be able to create a Mezcal margarita, which is not listed on the menu but has a very distinct taste (reminds me of Rome burning).

The Sweet and Spice Margarita has a very unique taste to it, but is a great choice if you enjoy a non-traditional and somewhat spicy cocktail.

In terms of entrees, there are a lot to choose from and it is no easy decision.

The tacos are popular and I absolutely love the Tuna Crudo tacos, which are essentially ahi tuna tacos.  Amazing flavor and great fish!

Yes, I did order double tuna tacos.

I wanted to try something else new and ordered the Pato Gordo slow-cooked duck burrito.  I know what you are thinking, and I was thinking the same thing.  Duck is not exactly a typical burrito meat and moreover, duck is not usually my favorite meat.  But I gave it a try and I was so happy I did!

The Pato Gordo had incredible flavor and was much smaller than I was expecting.  While the Tuna Crudo tacos may be my absolute favorite entree on the menu, these burritos are really, really good too.

If you prefer a simpler entree, the quesadillas are all really good choices. They are large, oozing with freshly melted cheese and will hit the spot.

The Chicken and Roasted Corn Empandas are also very filling, and I enjoy topping them with the salsa and/or guacamole from earlier in the meal.

Every table will also receive an assortment of side dishes to enjoy with your meal.  Try them all, because they each will work well with whatever you order.

Arguably the most difficult aspect of dining at Sabor is leaving room for dessert.  Bring your stretchy pants because it is totally worth it!

Dessert is served to all guests on a tray and feel free to ask for more.  Royal Caribbean describes them as "Caja de Dulces", which means "box of sweets" and it is an indulgent selection of Mexican-inspired mini desserts.

All the desserts are rich, delicious and will leave you questioning why you ever ate anything earlier in the meal (Oh yea, it was because that food was awesome too).  

My top picks are the chocolate crepe filled with cayenne chocolate & marscapone sauce, chocolate & banana empanadas, cafe con leche.  I would not fault you for loving any of the others, because they are all outstanding.


Sabor Modern Mexican's great reputation remains unchanged.  While it may be hidden on deck 4 in what used to be a night club, savvy Royal Caribbean guests know this is where you go on your Royal Caribbean cruise for some of the best food onboard.

If it sounds like just about everything I sampled was excellent, then it is because that is exactly what happened.  There is a wonderful fix of Mexican favorites and contemporary classics to satisfy all guests.  There is as much flavor as there are options to choose from on the menu.

If you were to run into another Royal Caribbean fan and start talking about the amazing food onboard, most of the time a restaurant like Chops Grille gets mentioned, but Sabor is quickly on its way to becoming the best restaurant on a Royal Caribbean ship because of the tantalizing dishes available and incredible flavor each item has.  The word "sabor" means "flavor" in Spanish and few restaurants offer as much flavor as Sabor Modern Mexican.

Sabor Modern Mexican is open for lunch on sea days between noon - 1:30 p.m. and dinner every night between 5:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m. for dinner. We reviewed Sabor Modern Mexican aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Cost: The price for Sabor Modern Mexican on Freedom of the Seas for lunch is $19 per guest and dinner is $29 per guest.

Restaurant Review: La Sucrière in Marigot, St. Martin


Royal Caribbean cruises that stop in the island paradise of St. Maarten/St. Martin will often find guests heading over to the French side of the island to enjoy the many terrific activities, and certainly French cuisine has to be at the top of that list.

Those that want to enjoy an authentic French cafe experience, will absolutely love a stop at La Sucrière in the French capital of Marigot for the fresh foods, cafe atmosphere and little taste of France in the Caribbean.


Across the street from the ocean are a great many restaurants, including the La Sucrière bakery.

Before you even set foot in this boulangerie, you will have a great view of the harbor in Marigot, with its many yachts and sail boats anchored just off shore.

La Sucrière is set up like an open-air cafe, with plenty of seating underneath a roof that has no walls.  Like many French cafes, dining at La Sucrière is as much about enjoying the ambiance and weather around you, as the food itself.

Inside the bakery is a semi-circle shaped large room with plenty of freshly baked good to consider.  The area is lined with fresh breads, pastries, sandwiches and beverages.

The staff speak French and English, and nearly everything available was made fresh earlier in the day.  In fact, the smells alone as you walk in are worth the visit.


You will find a fairly wide selection of baked good to purchase at La Sucrière.  The French bakery advertises itself as a boulangerie and patisserie, which means it is a bakery and pastry shop.

Frankly, there is a lot of great choices and we quickly found ourselves in danger of over-ordering because everything looked so good.  You should definitely skip eating on your cruise ship prior to visiting this bakery.

La Sucrière features freshly baked breads, French open-faced sandwiches (known as tartines), quiches, cakes, fruits and more.  

If there is one thing missing, it would be cheeses.  Some of the sandwiches have cheese with them, but if you want to enjoy bread with your favorite kind of cheese, you should consider stopping elsewhere prior to eating here so you can combine it.  

The food can be enjoyed at the cafe or wrapped up for a meal later.  Certainly if you are planning on spending time elsewhere on the island, taking some of the amazing food with you is not a bad option.

In terms of the food, it certainly is fresh and sweet.  French breads, like baguettes and croissants, are always good choices and the fact they are baked on the premises really makes it taste better.


La Sucrière was a highlight of our stop to Marigot, because of the quality of the food offered here.  Part of the appeal of visiting ports of call on a Royal Caribbean cruise is the opportunity to sample the local cuisine, and La Sucrière is a fantastic example of French baking.

The combination of atmosphere, freshly baked goods (the smells!) and views from the cafe seating area made this a great meal.  There is some great shopping just steps away, so there are some nice activities to do before or after your meal here.

If you are going to visit the French side of St. Martin/St. Maarten, you ought to stop in at La Sucrière for a bite to eat.

Location: Front de Mer, Marigot 97150, St. Maarten-St. Martin

Review: Giovanni's Table for dinner on Navigator of the Seas


Nestled in the corner of deck 11 on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, Giovanni's Table is open for lunch and dinner.  When I have dined at Giovanni's Table in the past, I have tended to go for lunch, but this time I am trying out dinner.

Giovanni's Table has become the de-facto Italian restaurant across Royal Caribbean's fleet over the last few years.  I have always liked Giovanni's Table's simple, yet tasty menu that offers classic Italian dishes.  There is something to be said about having a plate of pasta in a delicious red sauce with warm bread to dip in olive oil.  

I was admittedly a little crushed when Portofino was replaced by Giovanni's Table.  But time heals all pain, as does a good lasagna!

We have dined at Giovanni's Table across a few different Royal Caribbean ships over the years, but wanted to try dinner this time, mostly because the dinner menu is slightly different than the lunch menu.


You will find Giovanni's Table on deck 11, adjacent to the Windjammer entrance and opposite Chops Grille.  As you walk into the Windjammer area, the entrance to Giovanni's Table is on the left side.

There is a very small waiting area near the podium, along side a Vespa that is on display.

Giovanni's Table inherited its dining room from Portofino, and it is a rectangular room that opens up into a circular end room.  The layout resembles a lollipop, if you were viewing the restaurant from above.

The walls and ceiling are made up of a dark wood, while the carpeting and furnishings are a blend of blues, yellows and whites. One of the nice things about the transition from Portofino to Giovanni's Table is the feel of the restaurant definitely feels less formal and a bit more personal to me.  Maybe it is the Prosecco talking.

There are windows all along one side of the restaurant, and if you dine there early enough in the evening, you will have a lovely view of the ocean.  Once the sun goes down, the glare from the lights in the restaurant prevent being able to see outside.


As I mentioned earlier, the dinner menu at Giovanni's Table is slightly different from the lunch menu.  Most notably, the lunch menu has lasagna, while the dinner menu does not.  Both menus offer a steak, but many guests have reported back to me that the steak at dinner is significantly better.

The dinner menu features a number of familiar Italian classics, like anitpasti, eggplant marmigiana, ravioli, ossobuco and more. For those not into carb-loading, there are a few meat and fish entrees as well.

Each meal at Giovanni's Table begins with a serving of warm bread, plus olive oil for dipping. 

Warm bread and olive oil is always a win with me, and I love that they put a little bit of vinegar in the oil.  

For starters, we picked a few options. Some were favorites and others new to try.

The eggplant parm is a favorite of mine, despite the fact I really cannot find any breading.  

It is more of a baked eggplant in sauce and cheese. That is fine with me, but this is not the kind of eggplant parm you might get on a sandwich at your local deli.

We also tried for the first time the warm mozzarella and prosciutto bake.

It comes in a crispy ciabatta and served with mixed greens and Dijon mustard drizzle.  This is essentially fried cheese with prosciutto and tasted great.

I rounded out my appetizers with the vegetarian lentil and root vegetables soup.

I know what you are thinking, and yes, it is really hard to resist any dish that offers lentils and root vegetables.  Honestly, it was not that bad.  Perhaps not my favorite soup of all time, but I enjoyed it and I think it was kind of, sort of healthy.

Moving onto our main courses, we had to try the 8-ounce grilled beef tenderloin.  Everyone always said it was great, so who are we to argue?

This steak definitely is a superior cut of meat when compared to its lunch companion.  What I noticed was the terrific flavor, as well as size of the cut. I understand now why folks rave about the dinner steak.

I also wanted to try something new and ordered the grilled lamb chops.

My fear with lamp chops is there will be a mere handful of bites of actual meat to get off the bone, and resulting in a not very filling meal.  I am pleased to inform everyone these are no scrawny lamb chops and the meat was as plentiful as it was tasty.  Delicious flavor and certainly enough meat on the bone to keep me happy.

Given we are at an Italian restaurant, we ordered a side of pasta just to say that we had pasta.  

As expected, quite tasty and hit the spot.

I also tried the risotto, which is made of Arborio rice and forest mushrooms, finished with porcini and truffle mushroom tapenade.

I do not usually order risotto, but the mushrooms sounded great and I figured this would be as good an opportunity as any to try it out.

I loved the flavor of the dish, but the consistency of risotto still does not sit well with me.  Oh well, E la vita!

For our desserts, we went with the chocolate cake and cannoli.

Dessert is an underrated aspect of the Giovanni's Table experience and the cannoli is worth saving room (and calories) for.


I always enjoy my meals at Giovanni's Table, and this visit was no different.  I enjoyed the dinner menu a bit more than I thought I would, although I did lament the omission of lasagna from the menu. I inquired if it were possible to get lasagna, but was told it was only available for lunch.

Most of the food we ate was very good, and I would not hesitate to dine here again.  

The thing with Giovanni's Table that always gives me pause to dine here is not anything about the restaurant, but relative to the other specialty options onboard, I would rather dine there. On Navigator of the Seas, Sabor Modern Mexican and Chops Grille are fantastic choices that eclipse Giovanni's Table.  This is not a knock on Giovanni's Table, just I end up gravitating towards the other choices because they are where I would prefer to eat.

Anyone considering Giovanni's Table should absolutely reserve a table for the classic Italian dishes that will hit the spot.

What are your thoughts on Giovanni's Table? Do you have a favorite dish? Share in the comments below!

Restaurant Review: Izumi on Navigator of the Seas


There are certain times I really love doing research for this blog, and when I get a chance to dine at Izumi on any Royal Caribbean ship, that would be one of those moments.

While on Navigator of the Seas I took the opportunity (okay, it was more like multiple opportunities) to dine at Izumi and try out a few different dishes. The reason why I relish returning to Izumi time and time again is because I am a self-diagnosed sushi fanatic and the sushi Izumi serves up has been consistently very, very good.

I also aspired on this trip to try something completely new (to me) on the menu and break out of my habit of ordering the same rolls.  How did I manage? How much sushi did I eat on one cruise? Read on to find out!


Izumi is located on Deck 14 of Navigator of the Seas, adjacent to the Cosmopolitan Club in the Viking Crown of the ship.  Of all the specialty restaurants on Navigator of the Seas, it is probably the easiest to miss out on because there is not nearly as much foot traffic up there, compared to where other specialty restaurants are located.

Walking into Izumi, you will notice one of the best aspects of the restaurant experience that is not directly tied to food: the views!

Izumi overlooks the ocean and the pool deck, which makes lunch time or early evening seatings quite desirable because you have some of the best views on Navigator of the Seas to enjoy a meal with.

The restaurant is one large, slightly curved room with mostly tables, some half-booths along one wall and bar seating.

Walking into Izumi and you will definitely notice the magenta and black motif, along with some eye-catching pop art along the walls.  

Izumi is an interesting blend of traditional Japanese dining mixed with a contemporary feel.


As you might imagine, Izumi is well known for their sushi (I believe I mentioned their sushi a few times already in just this post), but they do offer some other great Japanese cuisine.

Dining at Izumi means you will pay for your items a la carte, instead of there being a cover charge.  If you are on a Royal Caribbean specialty dining package, you will get $30 per guest allocation for your meal. You can read the entire Izumi menu and get an idea of prices and what is available.

Every meal at Izumi starts with a warm towel that you wash your face and hands with and a complimentary bowl of edamame.

Edamame is a kind of soybean that comes in a pod that is steamed and served with salt.  You pop the soybeans in your mouth like peanuts, discarding the pod.  These are highly addictive!

I dined at Izumi a couple of times on my cruise and on one occasion I was glancing at the drink menu and noticed the "Call a cab! Sakirita" listed.  I am a sucker for cleverly named drinks, so I had to try it.

I was concerned it would be overly sweet, but the drink was surprisingly smoother than I was expecting and I did not feel like my blood sugar levels were going to shoot up either.  Very tasty and it certainly put a smile on my face.

Anytime I have sushi, I always start my meal with a bowl of miso soup.  Izumi makes a darn good miso soup and it is the perfect starter for everything else to come.

In terms of main courses, there is a lot to choose from. Izumi is not a "one trick pony" that offers just a few sushi rolls. There are salads, soups, hot rocks and of course, plenty of sushi.

If you like sushi as much as I do, the sushi combos really offer some tremendous value.  My favorite is the DX Sushi Combo: 8 pieces of nigiri, 2 tamago and 8 pieces of spicy tuna roll for $16. 

While the value is good, the sushi is even better and it has become my go-to sushi dish of choice.

As I mentioned earlier, I also wanted to try something brand new to me and something I have never had at Izumi before.

I picked the Ahi and Albacore Tataki Salad, partly because it sounded good and partly because it was listed on the menu as a chef's recommendation.

This is a great pick if you are looking for something low-carb (there is no rice) or like to combine sushi-grade fish with a great assortment of greens. I thought it was a terrific salad and quite a large serving.

I still had to order some sushi, and went with a great standard: yellowtail.


As someone that loves sushi and dines at plenty of Japanese restaurants on land, I really love what Izumi offers on Navigator of the Seas (and across Royal Caribbean's fleet in general). Great quality sushi at reasonable prices leave me happy and satisfied.

One of the advantages of Izumi being a la carte pricing is that you can drop in for a bowl of soup and a roll and not have to spend a lot of money.  Whether you want a full meal experience or just something quick, I have always found Izumi to handle what I need.

I really feel like their menu is varied enough to meet the needs of pretty much anyone that enjoys Japanese cuisine. There are the usual "starter" sushi rolls (California rolls, rainbow rolls, etc) as well as the more adventurous rolls.  There is no lowest common denominator and I think that really works to make the restaurant as popular as it has become with Royal Caribbean fans.

There is plenty to try at Izumi and it is a fantastic spot for lunch, dinner or something inbetween.

Izumi is open for dinner from 6:00pm to 9:30pm and for lunch on most sea days from noon to 1:30pm. We reviewed Izumi on Navigator of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Sabor Modern Mexican on Navigator of the Seas


I have a little secret, and it is something you probably are keenly aware of if you have been reading Royal Caribbean Blog for a while.  I have some serious favorites among Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants.

But when it comes time to discuss some of the best choices for specialty dining, there are a lot of great choices out there.  Still, relative newcomer Sabor Modern Mexican continues to win my heart since it opened just a few years ago.

If you are wondering why, there are lots of reasons for that.  The restaurant boasts, in my opinion, the best guacamole I have ever eaten - some even better than guacamole in Mexico.

And truth be told, we make multiple reservations at Sabor Modern Mexican whenever we cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship that offers this restaurant in the name of "research" and seeing what is different, new and just plain tasty.


Stepping into Sabor Modern Mexican for the first time, you will likely be struck by a couple of things.

First, while Sabor Modern Mexican is a Mexican restaurant, it looks nothing like the kind of Mexican restaurants most folks dine at.  Royal Caribbean designed Sabor Modern Mexican to not be just another Tex-Mex spot.  Rather, they wanted to offer more authentic and fresh options.

I really love the colors of Sabor, with lots of dark reds, bright yellows and deep blues.

Second, you are very likely to notice crew members if you happen to glance around (especially at dinner).  It is always a good sign when you see crew members dining at a given restaurant, because it indicates they like it enough to go there on their time off (and on their dime).  

For a restaurant that is not that large in size, they fit a lot of tables and booths in.  

There is even a main table that will make you feel like the guests of honor, if you happen to dine here.  I am told there is nothing special to do to dine there, just request it if your dining party is large enough.

The other design element that you are likely to spot is the use of flowers.  Specifically, the dahlia flower, which is the official flower of Mexico. 


In Spanish, the word "Sabor" means flavor, and Royal Caribbean designed this menu to be a fiesta for all your senses.

An easily overlooked aspect of your Sabor meal are the beverages.

Sabor features a number of specialty drinks, including two hand-crafted margaritas that are made table-side.

There are no mixes here, the margaritas are a blend of tequila and fresh juices mixed with unexpected garnishes. 

The Sweet and Spice Margarita and the Sabor Grand Margarita are the premier choices, but you can pick from another half-dozen cocktails that are just as tasty and creative.

If you fancy yourself a margarita fan, I think you will really enjoy the variety of margarita choices.  You have the traditional margaritas (Sabor Grand and Simply Perfect), but there are also the avocado and jalapeno-cucumber margaritas.

Sabor is also a wonderful place to try tequilas, because their tequila flights are exquisite and quite potent.  They are a tremendous value and really do the trick.

To help soak up some of those drinks, you will be served chips and salsa upon being seated.

The chips are definitely not from a bag and the salsa is freshly made pico de gallo that I recommend keeping some always around to garnish your other dishes (in addition to crazily dipping your chips).

Of course, if we are talking about Sabor, then there is always one word that comes to mind: GUACAMOLE!

Sabor has built its reputation among Royal Caribbean fans (including this one) for its amazing hand-crafted guacamole.

A crew member will wheel over a cart to your table and ask how you would your guacamole prepared, so it suits your tastes.  You can get it extra hot, extra mild, no tomatoes, extra limes....whatever you like.

Regardless of how it is prepared, the stuff comes out simply outstanding.  Excellent flavor and texture combined with super-fresh ingredients.  It is the gold standard of guacamole I judge all other guacamole against.

Perhaps the worst thing I can say about Sabor is at this point in the meal, it is really difficult to exercise some self control to not fill up on just the food and drink I have described up to this point.

Moving onto the dishes, there are a lot of choices.  Sabor Modern Mexican has a simple cover charge, so you can order as many dishes as you want.

Our two favorite appetizers are the sopa de tortilla and queso fundido.

Both are great starters.  Even on a hot Caribbean day, the soup really hits the spot with its bold flavor.

The queso is more firm than your average cheese dip, and the dipping tortillas are an excellent contrast to the traditional chips you might use as well.

While I often wax poetically about the virtues of Sabor's guacamole, the "sleeper hit" of the menu has to be tuna crudo tacos.

The recipe is simple enough: 3 crispy corn tortillas, fresh tuna, salsa mexicana, guacamole.  

The thing is, they taste amazing and I could easily order just these and be happy.

I also tried for the first time the spicy chicken flauta, which are rolled tortillas, filled with a spicy chicken.

It is served with sour cream, salsa verde and tomatoes and onions, but this is the perfect dish to take some of that salsa you have on the table and drench these bad boys in it.

While it is safe to say the tuna tacos are still my favorite, the flautas are another great choice.

Speaking of great choices, Sabor's quesadillas are really quite tasty.

If you ask me, what makes a quesadilla different than just "Mexican grilled cheese" are the cheeses used.  In the tres quesos quesadilla, there is melted Monterey Jack, queso fresco and Chihuahua cheeses. It is a really solid combination.

If you like a little more variety in your quesadillas, try the El Juarez.

Portobello mushrooms, roasted poblanos and Oaxaca cheese are great for vegetarians or people that just like something tasty.  Again, use that salsa liberally to really turn up the flavor.

If there is one aspect of the Sabor Modern Mexican meal that goes unheralded and unrequited, it has be the desserts.

Sabor serves up a dessert sampler plate of a few different desserts and each is worthy of a plate of its own.

Unlike children, I do not have any problems choosing favorites. 

The chocolate banana empanadas and the chocolate crepes are, well, amazing.

The empanadas are warm, gooey blend of chocolate and banana in a fried casing.  Apologies for the drool on your keyboard.

The crepes are best described as "Mexican devil dog cakes".  It was worth the likely week of exercise required to burn away those calories.


As you can tell, I really love this place.  Sabor hits all the right notes with me, with its offerings of traditional and modern Mexican food.

I could be satisfied with just parts of this menu as a meal, so to combine them all only leaves me lamenting my stomach is not larger.

Arguably the main issue with dining at Sabor is the same issue nearly all specialty restaurants have: is it worth the extra cost?

In general, I think Royal Caribbean does a tremendous job with its specialty restaurants.  They offer food that is either nonexistent elsewhere on the ship or nowhere near the same quality. In fact, specialty restaurants are now a part of the cruise experience, just like shore excursions have been for years.  Yes, it costs extra, but it is a big part of the experience.

When you consider how many dishes I absolutely loved - the guacamole, salsa, tuna tacos, quesadillas, dessert sampler - it really justifies the additional cost because the meal at Sabor is a home run.

There are also ways to save on the cost of your Sabor meal: lunch is regularly cheaper than dinner ($5 less at last check) and there were special discounts offered if guests booked a reservation at one of the guacamole demonstrations held around Navigator of the Seas.

Add some fun cocktails, festive atmosphere and table-side fun, and you have a memorable Royal Caribbean meal.

Is Sabor Modern Mexican one of your favorite Royal Caribbean dining destinations? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts!

Restaurant Review: Johnny Rockets on Navigator of the Seas


While onboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, my daughter insisted on having lunch at her favorite specialty restaurant: Johnny Rockets.

My daughter was drawn to Johnny Rockets' no-frills atmosphere that serves up some really tasty comfort food.  Burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes are all available for a nominal fee.

With my daughter's passion for 1950's fare in mind, we re-visited Johnny Rockets on Navigator of the Seas once more to see how this favorite on land and sea holds up.


Johnny Rockets on Royal Caribbean's Voyager- and Freedom-class ships are so similar, I would wager one could not easily tell the difference between any two of them if they were blindfolded.

That is not a bad thing, just a statement on the restaurant's consistency with its sea-based implementation.

Guests dining at Johnny Rockets will find the burger joint on the rear of the ship, up on deck 12.  It is located just before the sports deck activities.

The restaurant is divided into an indoor dining area and an outdoor dining area.

The indoor dining is very typical of any Johnny Rockets you may have been to on land, whereas the outdoor seating seems to be uniquely Royal Caribbean.  Depending on weather conditions, eating outside will either be greatly preferable or impossible.  It really depends on your tolerance for the conditions.

Given the climate controlled environment of the inside restaurant, it seems like most guests prefer to be seated there.

Once inside, you have a combination of booths and bar seating.  

The restaurant is meant to evoke a 1950's diner feel, with plenty of chrome, red (p)leather and classic music tunes to hear.

Music is a big part of the experience at Johnny Rockets, with certain songs highlighted periodically throughout your meal, where the wait staff will get up and dance for your amusement.  

There are jukeboxes at every table, but they were not functional for our meal.  Quite frankly, I cannot recall a Royal Caribbean cruise on any ship where the machines actually worked.

One side of the restaurant has large glass windows, which gives a nice view of the ocean and other guests passing by.


Dining at Johnny Rockets is simply about enjoying classic American food: burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, floats and the like.

Every meal begins with a plate of fries and onion rings.  These will be refilled as needed, provided you can make a dent in them.

Johnny Rockets has a $6.95 per guest cover charge, and that cost includes all food and drink, minus milk shakes.  Soda is included in your cover charge, which comes in a variety of varieties and flavors.

My daughter absolutely loves their hot dogs.  I wish I could tell you why, but it is cooked well and not burnt (heaven forbid anyone that burns my daughter's hot dog) and seems to be her favorite.

I opted for the Streamliner, which is a veggie burger.  I have eaten many veggie burgers in my day, but Johnny Rockets' veggie burger is really quite good.

Top it with grilled onions and mushrooms and I presume this as close as we will all get to the feeling my daughter has when eating her hot dog.

My wife chose a cheeseburger and my youngest daughter gnawed on a grilled cheese.

Both were great choices and essentially are good examples of why Johnny Rockets has been so successful over the years.

You can order as much food as you like from the menu, so feel free to go crazy with multiple entrees. 

The milk shakes are the real deal, with a combination of ice cream and milk that is stirred by machine.  That is important to note since many times ice cream in a cup is passed off as a milk shake.

Perhaps the one negative I can say about Johnny Rockets is regardless of how busy or empty the restaurant is, meals just take a while here.  Not certain why, but do not expect a 20 minute quick meal here.


The best reason to go to Johnny Rockets is the same reason my daughter wanted to go: sometimes, you just want a really good hot dog or burger.

At $6.95 per person, it is still a great value when you consider it includes all the food you can eat, as well as sodas.  A soda outside the restaurant would cost you about $2 each and there is no cherry or vanilla flavoring options.

The Johnny Rockets food will likely not "wow" you with flavor, but it usually hits the spot.  Once you find your go-to menu item, it is hard to go wrong.

The milk shakes are always great choices and when you combine a good shake, burger and some onion rings, you have the recipe for a pretty good meal.

Review: Johnny Rockets on Allure of the Seas


There are so many great places to eat at on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas that it is easy to overlook some of them.  Johnny Rockets has been a staple of Royal Caribbean cruise ships since they debuted on Voyager of the Seas in 1999, and on Allure of the Seas, guests can enjoy a burger, hot dog or other classic American fare for just a few dollars.

Johnny Rockets on Allure of the Seas is a specialty restaurant with a cover charge, that includes all food on the menu (excluding beverages).

The Johnny Rockets menu on Allure of the Seas is virtually indistinguishable from Johnny Rockets on other Royal Caribbean ships, but there are some Oasis-class differences that make it a different kind of experience.


Johnny Rockets has become a fan favorite across all Royal Caribbean ships and on Allure of the Seas (and other Oasis-class ships), the Johnny Rockets experience is much larger (just like everything on this ship).

Unlike Johnny Rockets found on other Royal Caribbean ships, Johnny Rockets is set in the Boardwalk neighborhood and has a fairly large footprint.

The iconic 50's-style diner is still there, but there is a significant amount of outdoor seating that greatly expands the restaurant's guest capacity.

The outdoor seating area features basic metal tables and chairs that surround the entrance to the restaurant.  

Dining outdoors gives guests the option of not just extra space, but a view of the Boardwalk and being able to enjoy the weather.

Inside Johnny Rockets, you have that classic diner feel that Johnny Rockets is well-known for and guests have come to expect.

There is seating inside Johnny Rockets in booths and at the bar, and more often than not, this is the most popular areas to sit inside.

The nostalgia factor that Johnny Rockets brings is what many guests have come to enjoy about dining here.  The music of the 1950s and 1960s, the red and chrome motif and the wait staff that breaks into a dance every so often are all endearing parts of the Johnny Rockets experience.


Johnny Rockets on Allure of the Seas has two menus: breakfast and the day menu.

For breakfast, Johnny Rockets is complimentary for all guests, but lunch and dinner have a cover charge to them.

Breakfast is actually a great choice at Johnny Rockets because it is usually far less crowded than other places onboard and you can get a sit down meal here.

The breakfast menu consists of eggs cooked to your liking, breakfast sandwiches, French toast, pancakes and more.

Johnny Rockets is one of the few places on Allure of the Seas where guests can get custom made omelettes and that is a big deal (to me), because Royal Caribbean's mass-produced eggs are virtually inedible. 

The rest of the breakfast menu offers some good choices and it is classic American breakfast foods.  They may not be the best pancakes or French toast I have ever had, but they certainly taste good and considering they are complimentary, it is not a bad choice at all.

When the clock reaches the lunch hour, Johnny Rockets changes over to its more well-known menu and the $6.95 per person cover charge kicks in.

The cover charge includes the food only, with beverages costing extra.  However, it seems that getting a milk shake or cherry vanilla Coke is a must-do at Johnny Rockets.  Why? Well, it just compliments the food so well and is part of the experience.

Every table is served a plate of French fries and onion rings to start their meal with.  Royal Caribbean figures you are likely to want them anyway, so they just bring them out before you even order as a pseudo-appetizer.  

The service at Johnny Rockets can be somewhat slow, so these fries and rings are often a good way to avoid getting really hungry waiting for your main courses.

If you have been to a Johnny Rockets on land, the menu is similar to what you find there.  The Johnny Rockets at sea menu is not quite as large in terms of options, but all your favorites are there.

All of the food here is cooked to order, and for those looking for the best burger on Allure of the Seas, it is hard to beat these choices.

The burgers, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches are all solid bets and given that all the food is included, this may be a great opportunity to try a few different options out to see if you like them.


Johnny Rockets is just a fun spot that has earned its rightful place as a favorite among Royal Caribbean fans because it serves up really tasty American food that hits the spot as a snack or quick meal.

It is always interesting to eat at Johnny Rockets across various Royal Caribbean ships, but meals here tend to remain fairly similar and I think that is actually a good thing.

By far, if you are looking for a good breakfast spot, Johnny Rockets is a no-brainer considering it is complimentary. It is rarely busy for breakfast and the price is right.

Going to Johnny Rockets for lunch, dinner or something inbetween is never a bad idea. The worst thing I can say about Johnny Rockets is when they get busy, the service can take a long time.  Lunch on sea days are especially susceptible to this kind of situation.

If you are looking for arguably the best burger onboard Allure of the Seas, Johnny Rockets is the place for you. 

The thing about comfort food is it may not be the best thing you ever ate in your life, but sometimes you just need to indulge and Johnny Rockets is great for that.