Specialty Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille on Jewel of the Seas

In:
03Oct2013

Chops Grille is an iconic Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant and is consistantly a restaurant Royal Caribbean fans flock to on every cruise they take.

So when our cruise on Jewel of the Seas came around and we had just one night to check out a specialty restaurant, everyone in our group picked Chops Grille and so we gave it a try (again).

Atmosphere

On Jewel of the Seas, Chops Grille is located on deck 6 near the Schooner Bar.  Walking in, you will find a restaurant that looks like the Chops Grille on other Royal Caribbean ships.  Dark woods complimented by lighter brown and beige colors in a large room of tables of various sizes.  Because of the restaurant's required dress code, you will find the restaurant with a more upscale look than other places on the ship.

Something we noticed immediately as we walked in was the noise.  Not from the restaurant, but from outside at the Schooner Bar.  Our reservation was at 8:30pm (the latest reservation possible) and the Schooner Bar was playing their music quite loudly.  So loud that it came right into the restaurant and since Chops Grille keeps its doors open when in operation, it was easy to hear the music inside the restaurant.  We asked for a table much further inside the restaurant and there was less noise but you could still hear the bass as well as cheers from the bar. 

I mentioned the noise factor to our waiter, who seemed to agree with me but kind of shrugged it off as just something that they can do about it.  She was sympathetic about it but mentioned that's just how it is.

Unlike our experience at Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas, the entire restaurant was in one large room.  One wall is made up of glass that overlooks the ocean, but because it's night, the glare of the lights inside the restaurants makes seeing outside virtually impossible.  Perhaps someone sitting at the window might be able to see something if they peered against the glass directly but I can't comment on that.

Eats

The menu at Chops Grille is pretty simple and I think that's part of why it's so consistantly good.  Bread is served to you upon being seated with two spreads.  Starting with the appetizers, there's a lot to choose from.  Our group of 4 chose the Asian-Inspired Spicy Tuna, Not So Traditional Caesar Salar, Oyster Duet and Cheese N' Onion Soup. 

Three of us got the Spicy Tuna, which was more of a tartare than say thin slices of tuna.  From a consistancy basis, some might not love it but I found it very tasty (I have yet to find a tuna appetizer I have not loved).  The wasabi and chips that accompany the tuna were great compliments and as someone who loves sushi, this was right up my alley.

Next I had the Cheese N' Onion soup, which is essentially french onion soup.  I commented to my tablemates was certainly not something out of a can and or me, the first sign of a good soup is determining that it was infact made from scratch and this one certainly fit the bill.  I thought it was good at the time but I didn't get a real appreciation for it until later in the cruise when they had French Onion Soup on the menu in the main dining room and I could see (and taste) the difference.  

The oyster duet was also quite tasty and a nice choice for seafood fans.  It's also not a typical steakhouse appetizer, which was nice to see as a choice.  The oysters tasted fresh and since there were no side effects health wise later on, we deemed it a good appetizer as well.

Lastly, the Caesar salad is, well, massive and came across as good.  My wife had the Caesar salad at dinner every night in the main dining room and commented this Casear salad from Chops was definitely better.

Now was time for entrees and not surprisingly, we all opted for steaks.  If you recall from my Freedom of the Seas Chops Grille experience, the waitress talked me out of getting the New York Strip steak because of complaints from other guests. So this time I once again tried to order the New York Strip and succeeded.  I found the strip steak to be quite good, albeit not as flavorful as say the porterhouse.  That being said, I found the strip steak to be a much more manageable cut of meat and part of my reasoning for ordering the strip instead of the porterhouse was to not eat so much steak that I could not enjoy the sides.  Overall I liked the strip steak and found very little fat on it.

Our table ordered two filet mignon steaks, which were both cooked to perfect and as tender as steak gets.   The girls loved it and for anyone unsure of what to order at Chops, I'd recommend the filet because it's consistantly the best cut available and the safest bet.  I should mention my wife ordered her steak with bleu cheese on top, which is not standard.

The porterhouse was as big as expected and a really juicy cut of meat.  The porterhouse offers arguably the best flavor but does have a fair amount of fat to cut around.  Having had the porterhouse on Freedom, I was okay not having it this time but next time I might just order the porterhouse and only eat what I feel like (although I have yet to actually leave food on my plate in Chops Grille).

From our last trip to Chops Grille, we knew about how great the sides are here and so we made sure leave plenty of room for them.  We ordered the mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes with prioscutto and parmesan and the broccolini.  I really think the side dishes are the hidden gem of Chops Grille so leave plenty of room for them.  The roasted potatoes were probably the best of the sides, with the melted parmesan cheese on top mixing with the soft potatoes.  

As good as the entrees were, the desserts at Chops are also really good.  All over the restaurant we saw tables ordering the crème brûlée, which was noticable because the dish came out of the kitchen on fire.  From my last visit I remember the red velvet cake so I had to get that.  

The crème brûlée was good, but the red velvet cake was just as good as I remember.  Frankly, the cake part is just fine but it's the icing that is amazing.  I'm sure it's the pure sugar combined with some sort of animal fat that makes it so tasty, but if I ever need a food to eat before the apocolypse, this is a strong contender.

Overall

What I like about Chops Grille is the consistancy and on Jewel of the Seas, it was another solid meal.  The price per person is $30 is a bit pricey but if you need one night out for dinner, then it's hard to go wrong at Chops Grille.  And given the amount of food you get for the money, it's still a good value.

In terms of the food offered it's good steakhouse food and if you like a good steak, then this is the place to eat onboard.  Given the uninspiring steaks offered in the main dining room, there isn't much choice really for anyone looking for a good steak dinner.  The ambiance, despite the noise factor, also make it one of the better romantic places on Jewel of the Seas.

In short, Chops Grille is a great choice for a specialty restaurant meal on Jewel of the Seas, despite the price and noise outside the restaurant.  The food holds up and even across Royal Caribbean's fleet, Chops Grille is too consistant to worry about having an off night.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode 2: Specialty Restaurants

In:
14Aug2013

Hello Royal Caribbean fans, here's some great news for all of you podcast fans.

We're proud to release episode 2 of the Royal Caribbean Blog podcast is now available and ready for downloading.

In this episode, we will look at an aspect of the Royal Caribbean cruise vacation that has arguably changed the most over the last decade or so, specialty restaurants.  We will discuss the evolution of dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise, the various restaurants to choose from and where dining aboard Royal Caribbean is going in the future.  We will also include some of your great listener feedback .

Here is the podcast page for episode 2.  And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think!

Restaurant Review: Johnny Rockets

In:
08Apr2013

Johnny Rockets has become famous for its simple menu of burgers, fries and milk shakes combined with a 1950s décor and for many years now, Royal Caribbean has offered passengers the chance to experience Johnny Rockets at sea aboard a few of their cruise ships.  Today we review this specialty restaurant and look at what is available for you to enjoy.

Johnny Rockets is featured on Freedom class ships, Voyager class ships, Oasis class ships and Majesty of the Seas.

Atmosphere

If you've never been to a Johnny Rockets before, on land or sea, it's a '50s style diner that features a lot of chrome, white and red.  It's simple enough and its staple is serving up "all-American favorites" like burgers, milk shakes and fries.  The Royal Caribbean experience is pretty similar to what you find on land, with perhaps a smaller venue but largely it's hard to find differences between the two.

Johnny Rockets offers three seating options, indoor booth, outdoor booth and indoor bar stools.  By far the indoor booths are the most popular because of the climate control but since most Royal Caribbean cruises that feature Johnny Rockets serve warm-weather ports, sitting outside is usually a viable option. 

As you walk in, you will find the restaurant playing music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with nickel operated jukeboxes at each booth (although none of them were functional on our cruise).  There's old fashioned straw dispensers on the table and every so often the entire staff of the restaurant breaks into a dance number to entertain the guests.

Eats

The Johnny Rockets menu is pretty straight forward in terms of what is offered.  Burgers are what the restaurant is known for, but there's melts, salads, hot dogs and a sandwich or two to round things out.  Their milkshakes are also famous for being quite good.

To start with, everyone is served french fries and onion rings.  They are on the menu but my guess is they are so popular that Royal Caribbean decided to just serve them to everyone in the way other restaurants serve bread as you are seated.  The fries and onion rings are fine but you can tell they were frozen and have been microwaved.  As a matter of personal taste, I did not care for the onion rings because there was more breading than actual onion, never mind that they are probably the same quality onion rings I can buy in my supermarket's frozen food section.

Looking at the menu, I felt compelled to order what Johnny Rockets is best known for and opted to start with a bowl of chili and then ordered the Rocket Double burger and a strawberry milkshake.  For the purposed of the review, I wanted to get what I felt was representative of the restaurant.

First up was the milk shake and I have to say this did not disappoint.  Milk shakes are the one item on the menu that costs extra on top of the cover charge to eat here and it I'm sure the rationale behind that decision is because everyone enjoys these bad boys and would otherwise order milk shakes constantly.  My shake was quite good, with the right thick consistency that is more than just ice cream in a cup without going overboard.  Definite two thumbs up and frankly, I probably drank too much of it before my meal came out.

The chili was fairly bland, although the grated cheese and chopped onion on top helped.  In addition, the chili was luke-warm and once again I suspect this was pre-made (probably frozen) and just reheated.  I saved a little bit to add to my burger but it's not something I'd recommend.

After a long wait, my burger arrived and it looked okay but once again, I was not impressed.  It was just okay and I'm not sure I could not have come up with something similar at the Windjammer lunch buffet for less cost and probably a lot quicker.  Yes, the burger is better than your average fast-food burger but it's nothing great and about half way through I decided it was not worth finishing.  Considering this is what Johnny Rockets prides itself on, I was disappointed.  

Overall

This was my third time at a Johnny Rockets on Royal Caribbean and my experience here is similar to my past times as well.  The food here just is not that great and everything tastes like it was once frozen.  If I'm paying extra to eat here, I expect the quality to be better than what I received.  Combined with the fact there's almost always a long wait to eat here and the cover charge, I find it hard to recommend dining at Johnny Rockets.

I will say the milk shakes are quite good and if you can get a coupon in your Crown and Anchor Society ultimate value book for buy one get one free (as we did this time), it's probably worth it.

My recommendation is if you do eat at Johnny Rockets, just munch on the fries and order a milk shake and skip the rest of the menu.  The slow service and mediocre food just aren't worth it and I felt like we were better off dining at the Windjammer than here.  Given the fact that my experience this time mirrors other times dining here and more than likely there is a Johnny Rockets near your home town, you are best served to skip the one at sea and save your money for another specialty restaurant onboard.

Johnny Rockets is open between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. and we reviewed Johnny Rockets aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Have you eaten at Johnny Rockets?  Do you agree with our review? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Portofino

In:
12Mar2013

For Italian food, Royal Caribbean offers its specialty restaurant Portofino aboard many of its cruise ships.  We decided to try this popular alternative restaurant and see if this restaurant is worth checking out.

Portofino is featured on Royal Caribbean's Voyager class ships, Freedom class ships, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.

Atmosphere

We ate at Portofino aboard Freedom of the Seas and compared to Chops Grille, located across the way near the Windjammer, Portofino is much brighter and seems slightly more open.  Where Chops has dark woods with light accents, Portofino goes for lighter colors all around and seemed less "dark" than Chops. 

The word "portofino" is actually the name of a small fishing village in Norhern Italy that is famous for its picturesque harbor and historical association with celebrity visitors.

Like Chops, the restaurant has two "rooms" that make up the restaurant.  The first room is where you enter and has tables lined up against the window for views of the ocean (assuming it isn't too dark to see outside) and the second room is more of a cul de sac, with tables arranged around the room.

Eats

Portofino prides itself on Italian food, with a mix of classic dishes and some new things the chefs have come up with.  They aren't trying to change what we think of when it comes to Italian food, rather, they just want to provide quality Italian food that you can't find elsewhere on the cruise ship.

The menu at Portofino is simple, with an antipasti (appetizers) and pietanze (main courses) making up the menu.  All the food is referred to by their Italian names, although the descriptions for each item is sufficient to getting an idea of what the food is.

Like Chops, there's a bread appetizer that is served for everyone although there's a greater variety of breads and spreads to find.  I was very, very tempted to indulge myself here and try them all but I didn't want to fall for the faux pas of eating too much bread before my meal (thanks mom!). The spreads consisted of cloves of garlic, a pesto paste and Kalamata olive spread.  

For our appetizers, I chose the minestrone alla Genovese along with the Carpaccio di Tonno (I just can't say no to tuna).  My wife opted for Insalata alla Cesare (Caesar salad) and Prosciutto in Insalata.

When I saw the minestrone soup, I was a little surprised because every minestrone soup I've ever seen comes in a tomato broth.  This was a clear broth and definitely not traditional.  That being said, it tasted wonderful and I could tell this was not soup from a can or anything else of that low quality.  I could taste the freshness of the ingredients and really enjoyed it.

My tuna carpaccio was again, not what I was expecting.  Rather than deep red tuna, this tuna was might lighter in color and topped with oranges and a citrus-dill dressing.  It tasted good and I enjoyed it, although in this case, I think I prefer a more traditional tuna carpaccio but that's just my personal taste.

My wife started with the prosciutto and enjoyed the different take on her dish.  By now we realized the appetizers were not what you'd find at your local Olive Garden and that was a definite plus.  We may not have known what we were ordering, but every appetizer we tried was interesting and a welcome change. Her Caesar salad was probably the most "routine" appetizer we had.

For our main courses, we went with the tonno ai ferri (I really, really can't say no to tuna) and the taglierini al pesto.

The tuna filet was great not just because of the tuna itself, but the marjoram-garlic drizzle and vegetables it came with.  When I combined it all, I really enjoyed the dish and wished I had more of it to eat.  

The pasta in pesto sauce was just plain good.  It's a classic Italian dish and I love having "safety dishes" to fall back on to use as a baseline of good food.  The pasta tasted fresh (no boxed stuff here) and the pesto sauce was quite good as well.  I'd recommend this for something to share among your group.

For desserts, the menu is fairly basic and offers some traditional Italian desserts to try.  Nothing jumped out at me, so I opted for the sampler so I could try them all.

The dessert sampler offers four petit desserts to try and for me, it was just enough to get a sense of what they all were without committing to just one.  The chefs here aren't rewriting the book on Italian desserts, rather, it's simple yet indulgent choices.

My wife was intrigued by the tiramisu and went with that.  From just presentation alone, it looked exquisite and after tasting it, it was pretty darn good.  It was really hard to go wrong with any of these choices.

Overall

For the money, Portofino ($20 per person) is a great choice for a specialty restaurant.  The obvious comparison is between this and Chops Grille and given that Chops is $10 more expensive and the experiences between both, I really enjoyed my time at Portofino a little more.  It's not to take anything away from Chops, but if I could only eat at one specialty restaurant aboard Freedom of the Seas, I'd have to go with Portofino.

The other comparison that is easy to make is putting Portofino against Gionvanni's Table. Personally, I prefer individual portions to family style meals and the food at Giovanni's was definitely more traditional than Portofino.  Looking back at both meals, I'd have to lean towards Portofino for the edge it has in trying some new things, especially with my appetizers.

I felt like the quality of the food along with the "je ne sais quois" that the chef provides really made this more than just another Italian dinner.  With an interesting selection of traditional and new Italian dishes, you'll find Portofino is a specialty restaurant worth trying.

Portofino is open for dinner between 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. and we reviewed Portofino aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille

In:
05Mar2013

One of the oldest specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships is Chops Grille, their steakhouse restaurant and today we are going to review this fan favorite location.

Chops Grille is featured on Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships, Radiance class ships, Freedom class ships, Mariner of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Splendor of the Seas.

Atmosphere

On Freedom of the Seas, Chops Grille is located near the Windjammer and looks like a typical upscale restaurant.  There are dark woods complimented by light beige accents throughout the restaurant.  Given the restaurant's smart casual attire, dining here definitely has the look of an upscale appearance.

There are two main rooms, the first room when you enter the restaurant is the larger of the two and offers most tables a window side view.  Unfortunately since Chops is only open for dinner, there's usually not much to see given the glare from the lights inside (Chops is open during the day for high ranking members of the Crown and Anchor Society for use in the Windjammer so those people can benefit from the view).  

A second, circular room is attached to the main room and offers less windows but greatly expands the restaurant's capacity.  Neither room has a real motif or theme to it, it just looks, well, nice.

Eats

Chops Grille offers a fairly simple menu of appetizers, entrees and sides.  The appetizers and entrees are served individually but the sides are served family style. Given the serving size of the sides, it makes sense to share them although it does require some planning to ensure you don't over order.

When you are seated, you will receive a loaf of bread along with two spreads to try.  It's a good starter and the bread and spreads are great, but you're best served to save room for the food ahead rather than loading up on bread (sorry to sound like your mother).

For our appetizers, we went with the Asian-Inspired Spicy Tuna and Not So Traditional Caesar Salad.  In Chops, you can order more than one appetizer or entree if you choose, although for this meal we were not as hungry as we could have been.  

The tuna was quite small and had I known how small it was going to be, I may have ordered a second appetizer.  Nonetheless, despite its small size it tasted quite good.  For sushi lovers, this starter will be perfect because of the rare cut of fish complimented by the unagi sauce (which to me, tasted like wasabi).

The Caesar salad, unlike the tuna, was massive in size and is served whole but the waiter will offer to cut it up for you.  The salad was tasty and  in the grand scheme of Caesar salads, was probably "above average".  The salad was also far more filling than the tuna.

My our entrees, there's a few choices but considering Chops is a steakhouse, you'd be best served to stick with the steaks.  That's a personal philosophy more than anything, with the rationale that you stick with what the cook is best at and in this case, it's steaks.  My wife opted for the petit filet mignon while I went for the New York Strip.  When I went to order, the waitress tried to talk me out of the strip and instead order the filet mignon or the porterhouse.  I asked her why I should not order the strip and she told me the restaurant has gotten a lot of complaints from guests that the New York Strip is too tough and is often sent back.  I commented to her I found that amusing that the strip is a "problem steak" considering on the menu it is bolded with a large black box around at it.  At any rate, I ordered the porterhouse.

The filet mignon is about what you'd expect a filet mignon to be.  It's tender and flavorful and as soft a steak as you can find.  There's no question it's a good choice and considering each entree is the same cost to you, it's hard to go wrong with the filet.  I should mention my wife ordered her steak with bleu cheese on top, which is not standard.

As you might expect, my porterhouse was massive.  The thing I do not enjoy about porterhouse steaks is there is a lot of "work" involved since I choose not to eat the fat and have to cut off the fatty pieces.  Of course, the chief benefit of the steak is its flavor and I did enjoy how good it tasted so it is a fair trade off.

Chops Grille also offers for all their steaks various sauces to try including classic bearnaise, chimichurri sauce, green peppercorn sauce and cabernet reduction.  Personally, I'm of the opinion a steak should taste good on its own, but I did try the chimichurri sauce on the side.  I thought it was a nice change, but I think steak lovers will prefer their steaks to remain au natural.  You can, however, ask for the sauces on the side to try.

To say the least, both steaks were better than any steak in the main dining room and you could tell these were cooked to each guest's request, as opposed to mass-produced steaks.  I will be honest and say above a certain threshold I cannot tell the difference between a really expensive steak from a high-end steak house and a steak from Outback steakhouse.  They both taste good to me and these steaks were about what we expected.

The sides offered were better than we anticipated.  We chose three of them, the double whipped mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes with prsciutto and parmesan and the fried onion rings.  The onion rings were nothing special but both potato dishes were quite good, with my wife absolutely loving the roasted potatoes.  She specifically told me to convey in this review how amazing they were.  Do yourself a favor and order as many sides to share as you can, because they really make the meal.

We just had to try the desserts and I went with the red velvet cake and my wife chose the chocolate mud pie.  These desserts were very rich and very good. I ordered the red velvet cake simply to have a taste but before I knew it, I had eaten half the slice.  Saving room for either of these is a must-do.

Overall

In terms of pricing, Chops Grille is a fairly expensive specialty restaurant with a per person cover charge of $30.  I think it really comes down to your personal preference if specialty restaurants on the cruise ships are worth the price.  For me and my wife, we paid $60 total, which if you factor in the cost of our dinner including appetizers, sides and desserts is still a better value than our local Outback steakhouse.  

Quality wise, their steaks are good, but maybe not the best I've ever had.  Certainly if you want a good steak onboard the ship, this is as good as it gets and when you try for the beef filets they have in the main dining room, Chops' steaks will seem like divine intervention.  The rest of the food (appetizers, desserts and sides) are good choices and all met or exceeded our expectations.

The bottom line is I enjoyed eating at Chops Grille for its good food, but I have reservations about the cost.  For a special night out, Chops is a good choice especially for people that really like steaks.  

Chops Grille is open for dinner between 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. and we reviewed Chops Grille aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Guest Review: 150 Central Park on Oasis of the Seas

In:
30Oct2012

Please welcome Marc Schwartz as he shares his review of 150 Central Park restaurant on Oasis of the Seas.

Background

My wife, Dianna, and I have been cruising since our honeymoon in 1981 and to date we have been on 9 cruises total, 5 on Royal Caribbean.

We have also more recently come to enjoy specialty dining, which is at an extra cost over the main dining room on the ships, but provides for a superior experience, both in food and service. On Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships, there are multiple options to choose from and I offer my thoughts on one of them here.

150 Central Park

150 Central Park (150), located on the Central Park area of the ships on Deck 8, is arguably the premiere specialty restaurant on the Oasis and the Allure and perhaps all of Royal Caribbean’s ships. The service charge for dinner at 150, as of this writing, is $40 per person (includes gratuities). There is an optional, 6-course dinner with wine pairing, for an additional $75 per person ($115 total per person, including gratuities).

The atmosphere is upscale and dress is recommended to be semi-formal to formal. I would also strongly urge that you make pre-cruise reservations unless you are doing a specialty dining package, where you may have to wait until you are onboard the ship to make some of the reservations.

On our Oasis and Allure cruises, we did the wine pairing both times and are not sorry that we did. The entire meal, from beginning to end was a wonderful experience with a selection of food and wines that was phenomenal. I would recommend planning at least two and a half to three hours for dinner, especially if you do the wine pairing, to give yourself sufficient time. Consider this if you have other after dinner plans, such as one of the ship’s shows, as you do not want to be rushed. During our first experience at 150 on the Oasis, we had planned to see the main theater show after dinner and only gave ourselves about two hours for dinner. Our server, Mladen, who is from Serbia, indicated that he could “speed things up for us”, but gently urged us to take our time to relax and enjoy the evening. I am glad that we elected to take his advice and see the show another day. We did not make the same scheduling mistake on the Allure.

Dinner

The dining experience starts with an optional, extra cost, Cucumber Martini. This is the signature drink at 150 and is only available there. I was hesitant at first, but had heard of the drink from friends before we sailed. It is a wonderful and refreshing pre-dinner palate cleanser, as the alcohol (Grey Goose Vodka) is very light. It would be too easy to have several of them, but save yourself for the wine. We liked them so much that we got the recipe from Mladen and now make them at home frequently.

Dinner then proceeds with a selection of breads, fresh butter and a wonderful assortment of flavored salts. Your server will introduce you to each salt, its country of origin and of course the flavor. Butter your piece of bread and sprinkle one of the salts over the butter to experience the unique flavors and textures. You may find that you like some and not others.

As dinner proceeded, each pour of wine was served just prior to the course it was to be paired with, as our server described the wine to us. Each bottle of wine was served using the Il Decantino decanting flask. We ended up buying one of the Royal Caribbean logoed Il Decantino units to take home with us and use it all the time with newly opened bottles of wine.

From that point on, we slowly enjoyed each course and the paired wine. The presentations were very fresh and colorful, appealing to your visual senses, as much as they would ultimately take over your nose, tongue and taste buds, all of which are of course, biologically intertwined. The size of each course is very typical for today’s internationally influenced, fine dining experiences. Sufficient to provide you with a enjoyable experience of each, while not being so large that you would find yourself filled before reaching the end of the meal.

Pumpkin Bread Gnocchi

Cheese Selection

Citrus-Chipotle Crab Salad

While enough time has now passed that I cannot comment in detail on each course, I will say that each was wonderful and I have no recollection of any particular course that I did not care for. They were each quite unique and provide an opportunity to expand your culinary horizons.

Our servers were not overbearing in their presence during the evening, but were exceptionally attentive and engaging.

Berkshire Pork two ways

Broiled Sablefish with dijon mustard

When time came for dessert, we took our time, enjoyed some coffee, an after dinner drink and of course, the dessert.

150 Central Park Candy Bar

Conclusion

If you have not already guessed, we would go to 150 Central Park again, without hesitation, on future cruises. Is it expensive? Of course, but it is a fine dining experience at sea that would compete with any similar land based experience. We paid $230 (at current pricing) for the two of us and some extra for an additional tip, for superior service. However, consider that a similar, land based, fine dining experience, with a wine pairing, would easily be over $400 for two, before a tip.

If you are taking a future cruise on the Oasis or the Allure and are considering experiencing specialty dining, I would urge you to include 150 in your plans. It’s that good.

Cruising 101: Specialty Restaurants

In:
09Oct2012

Royal Caribbean offers a wealth of food to try on your next cruise but an emerging trend aboard their ships are specialty restaurants that are not included in the base fare.  These restaurants focus on a particular cuisine or food style for an additional cost.

Cost of specialty restaurants

Royal Caribbean offers two cost structures to pay for their specialty restaurants: cover charge and a la carte.

Many restaurants have a simple cover charge per person to get in and then guests may order as much as they want from the menu (alcoholic beverages would be extra, like they are elsewhere on the ship).  Cover charges can range from a few dollars per person to $75.  Most are between $10-$30 per person.  

Some restaurants offer an a la carte menu, with a small cover charge.  Here, guests pay for admission and then pay an additional fee for each item they order off the menu.  You will typically find this pay structure at Izumi, a sushi restaurant.

Getting into the specialty restaurants

There are two ways to dine in one of the specialty restaurants aboard your Royal Caribbean cruise.  You may make a reservation for the restaurant either before your cruise even begins or during your cruise.  Reservations are a recommended way of ensuring a spot at the restaurant of your choice.  Specialty Restaurants can typically be reserved online up to 4 days before your sail date.  Advanced reservations are limited to parties of six persons or less in all Specialty Restaurants.

Alternatively, you can try simply showing up at the restaurant at the time of your choice and see if there's availability.  Quite often, there will be availability for restaurants to walk up to but popular restaurants may fill up, especially during popular dining hours.

What are the specialty restaurants available?

The specialty restaurants vary from ship to ship across Royal Caribbean's fleet but here is a list of all the restaurants available

  • Chops Grille (Steakhouse)
  • Portofino (Italian)
  • Johnny Rockets (American)
  • 150 Central Park (American)
  • Izumi (Sushi)
  • Solarium Bistro (American)
  • Giovanni's Table (Italian)
  • Samba Grill (Brazilian Steakhouse)
  • Rita's Cantina (Mexican)
  • Seafood Shack (Seafood)

Are the specialty restaurants worth it?

Many passengers we speak to generally enjoy the food at the specialty restaurants.  It's not to say that if you don't dine there, you will be disappointed with the complimentary food on the ship.  Rather, specialty restaurants are a perk that you can opt to pay for in the same way some people find it enjoyable buy a massage or gamble in the casino.

Generally speaking, the food at specialty restaurants can be of a finer quality than the complimentary food but personal tastes will vary.  Specialty restaurants are a great way to have a fun night out or celebrate special occasions. 

Royal Caribbean offers new specialty restaurant dining packages

In:
06Dec2011

Royal Caribbean is offering new dinner packages at its specialty restaurants to help trim the cost of dining on four of its most popular ships.

Offered on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas...

  • Central Park Dining Package
  • Chef's Dining Package
    • $120 per passenger
    • Dinner at
      • Five-course meal at Chef's Table (with wine pairing for each course)
      • 150 Central Park
      • Chops Grille
  • Choice Dining Package (Oasis of the Seas)
    • $50 per passenger
    • Dinner at
      • Chops Grille
      • Giovanni's Table
      • Choice of Izumi or Solarium Bistro
  • Choice Dining Package (Allure of the Seas)
    • $55 per passenger
    • Dinner at
      • Chops Grille
      • Giovanni's Table
      • Samba Grill

There is also a dining package on Radiance of the Seas that offers dinner at Chops Grille, Giovanni's Table, Izumi and Samba Grill for $70 per passenger.  There is also the Chef's Dining Package that offers the Chef's Table in addition to every extra-charge specialty restaurant onboard and will cost $120 per passenger.

Splendour of the Seas is offering a Chef's Dining Package for $105 per passenger and includes a meal at Chef's Table, Chops Grille and Izumi.

Royal Caribbean offers largest automated wine serving system

In:
30Nov2011

Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas can add a new achievement to their list of accolades: they both feature the the largest of its kind, state-of-the-art automated wine serving system in the Vintages Wine Bar.

With just one swipe of a passenger's SeaPass card, guests can sample selections of wine from around the world using the automated WineStation intelligent dispensing system.

The WineStation preserves wines perfectly for up to 60 days by utilizing temperature control.  The system allows passengers to try 48 varities of wine not usually offered by the glass. Using the WineStation's LCD screen, guests can see the  the varietal, year and region, and the lit bottles encourage guests to experience the labels.

Royal Caribbean's Director of Fleet Beverage Operations, Bob Midyette, talked about the new system, "We pride ourselves on always seeking the newest and most effective solutions to provide our guests with an unmatched vacation experience.  The WineStation has become a very successful option to help our guests explore wines on their own, or with one of our knowledgeable, friendly and engaging wine tenders. We look forward to offering this on more ships in the future."

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