I ate all seven dinners in the main dining room while onboard Symphony of the Seas to try Royal Caribbean's new menus.
It's been about five years since the last time Royal Caribbean refreshed their dining menus, which is why they first tested the menus in late 2022 on Symphony of the Seas to receive guest feedback.
During the testing phase, they sent a team of six people onboard who were responsible for conducting in-person meetings with 30-40 passengers per day. In addition, surveys were sent out via email.
Now, Royal Caribbean is in the process of rolling out the new menus fleet wide by February 2023.
To be clear, I'm not a food critic and not classically trained in anything cuisine related. Others may come to their own conclusions, as everyone has different taste buds and preferences. But since a lot of readers want to know what I thought of the new menu options, I decided to share my opinions.
Here's how I'd rank everything I ate while dining in the main dining room.
Night one: "Welcome Aboard"
My first night onboard, I was seated at 8:00pm on deck 3. After a long day of traveling, I was ready to eat, and I wasn't the only one! Twenty minutes prior to our seating time, there was a massive line outside of the main dining room's entrance.
We prefer making reservations for My Time Dining ahead of time, so this was my first time having traditional seating since 2010.
Appetizer: Spinach and artichoke dip
The dip was creamy, and the chips were just salty enough; however, my one main problem with this dish was the dip to chip ratio. I ran out of the dip with about four chips left, which by themselves, I just thought were okay.
Main course: Southern fried chicken
While I loved the presentation, this course was probably one of the ones I was most disappointed with. The fried chicken wasn't crispy at all; there was no crunch when I bit into it. I also wish the mashed potatoes were just a little creamier, as they had a stiff texture to them.
That being said, the chicken did taste good, particularly when dipped into the tabasco honey sauce. I enjoyed the sauce so much that I poured some over my mashed potatoes!
I was also satisfied with the portion. The two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn were plenty for me.
Dessert: Boston cream pie
The dessert was my favorite course of the evening. The cake was fluffy, and it wasn't overly chocolatey (I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate heavy desserts). I do wish it was just a tad bit sweeter, though.
Night two: French night
The theme for the second night's dinner was French. For the remainder of the week (with the exception of the last night), I was seated at 5:30pm on deck five with a family of five. I was thankful for the earlier seating, as 8:00pm is personally too late for me.
As always, they were garlicky, buttery, and rich. The bread was a nice touch, as I was able to enjoy more of the sauce.
I've always appreciated the portion sizing, as I don't think I could eat many more than 6 snails with how heavy the sauce is.
While I made it a plan to try as much as I could throughout the week, the escargots made another appearance on the Royal night and were enjoyed again by many in my dining party.
Main course: Roasted beef tenderloin
The beef was tender, and I liked the peppercorn sauce. A huge plus was that the mashed potatoes were softer than the previous night. I wish there were a few more asparagus, though.
Four people at the table had the seafood linguine, and everyone cleared their plates!
Dessert: Cappuccino chocolate cake
The cake was moist, and the foam on top was light. The description of the dessert said that the cake was a "rich chocolate sponge cake"; but I found that it was overpowered by the coffee flavor.
In my opinion, it did not have a very strong chocolate flavor, and I liked that!
Night three: Italian night
On the third day of my sailing, the evening's theme was White Night, while the dinner's theme was Italian. Everyone got a chuckle of people showing up to dinner dressed in all white preparing to eat dishes heavy on red sauce.
Appetizer: Golden polenta fries with spicy dip
When my appetizer was served, the dish was almost too hot to touch! The polenta fries were, as advertised, golden and crispy; however, the sauce wasn't spicy at all. Honestly, I thought it was a tad bit sweet.
Someone else at the table ordered the same appetizer and agreed that the sauce didn't have any kick to it.
Plus, the bed of spinach at the bottom of the dish was a bit random.
Main course: Chicken parmesan
I was served a healthy portion, but like my fried chicken on the first night, the chicken's crust could have been fried a little bit longer.
The dish was overpowered with a little too much basil for my liking, especially since the layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken was pretty thin.
On the other hand, I thought the pasta was cooked very well, and I enjoyed the marinara sauce.
I thought the tiramisu was better than the cappuccino chocolate cake. Honestly, it was one of my favorite desserts served in the main dining room!
It was rich, creamy, and light all at the same time; however, the description said that there was a hint of Kahúla liqueur, but I found that flavor to be completely absent.
Night four: Caribbean night
Caribbean night was one of the ones I was most looking forward. I wasn't sure how other guests would react, but I could tell by the multitude of empty tables that it wasn't all that popular.
Appetizer: Crispy coconut jumbo shrimp
This was the chef's recommended appetizer, and I can see why. The shrimp were crunchy and fried perfectly, but they only had a subtle hint of coconut, which didn't really upset me.
The sweet chili dipping sauce is what made this dish so incredible. Someone in my party even got a second order of them!
When his second plate arrived, I noticed some inconsistency in plating. They came out in an entirely different dish, the shrimp were noticeably larger, and there was much more of the sauce on the bottom.
Overall, this was one of my top three dishes that I had!
Main course: Garlic-herb buttered tiger shrimp
If you haven't noticed by now, I love sauces that enrich the flavors of what I'm eating. Sometimes, seasoning just isn't enough, and in my option, they have the ability to make or break the dish.
In the case of my tiger shrimp, I found myself wishing that they included more of the sauce. In general, I thought there could've been a little bit more of everything.
There were only five shrimp, a relatively small bed of vegetables, and a half scoop of rice.
Dessert: Sugar-free blueberry cobbler
I don't really know what I was expecting, but I could immediately tell that it was sugar-free. That being said, it was served warm, and the amount of oatmeal crumble on top was just enough. It didn't make the dish crust heavy.
Night five: Mexican night
From what I gathered onboard, Mexican night had mixed reviews. I heard guests say that it wasn't necessary since El Loco Fresh was on deck 15. Others, like myself, were excited for it (I can never get enough Mexican food).
Even though the "classics" section is no longer present on the menus, I found that there was usually aa option or two each night for the main course for those who might be a little pickier. On Mexican night, they were spaghetti bolognese and grilled chicken breast.
Appetizer: Roasted poblano pepper soup
This soup landed itself in my top three favorite dishes. Fair warning, though, I thought it had a kick to it, which surprised me because the description never said anything about it being spicy.
The only thing that could have made it better was including more of the roasted corn, red peppers, and sautéed chorizo. I would've enjoyed having texture and taste in each bite.
Main course: Carne asada
You could only order the carne asada medium rare or medium well. I don't love too much red in my steak, so I went with medium well; I think I would have liked it more if I had it prepared medium rare.
My steak ended up being more on the dry side. The salsa verde, however, was delicious, and I ended up asking for more of it to add to my steak.
Like the polenta fries, I found that the spinach on top of the pinto beans was random. I wish there had been more peppers instead.
All of that being said, I was satisfied with the portion of steak I was given!
Dessert #1: Warm chocolate chip cookie
Rating: 10/10 (I would go higher, though!)
I asked for two desserts, mainly because our head waiter had
recommended the warm chocolate chip cookie multiple times. Everyone felt like they had to try it, and it was better than we all imagined!
It was the best thing I ate on the cruise!
The deep dish cookie was served in a piping hot ramekin and topped with vanilla ice cream.
The outside was crisp and golden, while the inside was perfectly ooey and gooey. It never became too soft, even with the melting ice cream on top.
Dessert #1: Caramel flan
I'm really glad that I ordered the warm chocolate chip cookie because I would've been disappointed if this was the only dessert I got.
The caramel taste was minimal, and the syrup topping was pretty runny.
Night six: the Royal night
I wasn't surprised that the main dining room was the most crowded on "dress your best" night when lobster was listed as a complimentary menu option.
Everyone in my dinner party ordered at least two of one course, whether it was two appetizers, two main courses, or two desserts.
Appetizer: Chilled shrimp cocktail
The shrimp cocktail is a classic onboard Royal Caribbean ships. I wish, though, that there were more than four shrimp. At least six would have been nice. I found myself itching for my entree while others enjoyed their second appetizer.
Main course #1: Broiled lobster tail
Three other people at the table ordered the lobster as their first entree, too. All of them were around one pound.However, since additional lobster tails are no longer complimentary and cost $16.99 each, nobody ordered a second to see how it compared to the first.
My lobster was tender, and they provided just the right amount of butter. Plus, the rice was moist and served as a great compliment.
I was a little disappointed with the sides, as I would have liked a few more carrots and more than one piece of broccoli. If that had been my only entree, I think I would've had to order something else!
Main course #2: Cheese tortellini
The cheese tortellini wasn't served until after I had finished my lobster.
I wasn't the only person who ordered this dish, and we agreed that the sauce was creamy and rich.
In my opinion, the portion was pretty small, and I wish there was more fresh parmesan, as it was condensed to one area of my pasta.
Dessert #1: Sugar-free strawberry shortcake
After the blueberry cobbler, I was expecting this to also be noticeably sugar-free, so I was not surprised by that. I was mainly disappointed by the lack of fresh strawberries, and it was definitely missing that strawberry flavor.
The cake, however, was perfectly light and spongey. It would be a great choice for someone who didn't want a heavy dessert!
Dessert #2: Warm chocolate cake
If you're a fan of chocolate, this dessert is for you, trust me! Personally, with the moist chocolate cake and heavy sauce, it was way too rich for me.
Night seven: Mediterranean night
On the last night, the family that I had been dining with decided to eat at the Windjammer. The all aboard time for CocoCay was 5:30pm, which was also our fixed dining time. Since I was alone, the waitstaff had me in and out of the main dining room in an impressive thirty-eight minutes!
Overall, however, Mediterranean night was my least favorite.
Appetizer: Mediterranean tapas medley
The tapas was the best part of my meal. I liked the tzatziki but found the hummus to be a little bland.
Three slices of pita bread wasn't enough for two dips. I had to ask for more, and the additional slices that were brought out were bigger than my original ones.
I enjoyed the classic Greek salad, particularly the marinated olives!
Main course: Vegetable Greek moussaka
Truthfully, I found the entire dish to be lacking flavor and wish I had ordered the grilled Mediterranean steak instead.
There were far too many breadcrumbs on top, and they were unusually dry. The small side of tomato salsa wasn't enough to give this dish the added moisture. It was difficult to finish the first layer of the moussaka to reveal the vegetables underneath. Plus, the olives on top did not taste fresh.
Other than texture, I was unable to tell the vegetables apart; they all tasted the same.
Dessert: Warm apple cobbler
When I first tasted the apple cobbler, I thought that it was sugar-free. I had to double check to make sure that it wasn't! It was served warm with a nice sized scoop of vanilla ice cream, though.
While I did not order any gluten-free food, a member of the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group, Sue Riggs, shared some photos of their gluten-free main dining room options!
Chicken cordon bleu
Steak with chimichurri
Other main dining room options
The kind family that let me sit with them at dinner also let me snap some photos of their food throughout the week, and I've included those pictures below.
Seared beef carpaccio
Pan-seared filet of sole
Lasagna al forno
Italian chocolate-hazelnut cake
Asian-style pork bao tacos
Jerk seasoned pork chop
Pineapple sunshine cake
Chili-lime crusted salmon
Overall thoughts on the new menus
Personally, I enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things. I knew that if I ordered an appetizer, main course, or dessert that I ended up not liking, I could simply ask for something else-- such are the joys of cruising!
Truthfully, I came into this expecting there to be some trial and error for the kitchen staff. Overall, I was satisfied with the new menus.
Of course, there were some courses that I wasn't a fan of and would not plan on getting again, but I'm looking forward to seeing how the main dining room compares to my upcoming sailings.