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Royal Caribbean will make specialty restaurants reservable pre-cruise if you have a dining package

01 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

The biggest drawback to booking a Royal Caribbean specialty dining package is about to go away.

Wine at Giovanni's

Royal Caribbean is experimenting with a new way to allow guests that purchase a specialty dining package to make reservations pre-cruise.

Guests have the choice to augment their cruise ship dining experience by spending extra on specialty restaurants.

There's an option to book individual restaurant reservations and pay for the cover charge to dine there, or buy a dining package that includes more than one restaurant at a discounted rate if you're willing to commit to more than one restaurant.

Unlimited dining package in Cruise Planner

Up until now, guests that had booked a dining package had to wait until they got onboard the ship to make a reservation, and that created a pain point for them and added stress to the first day of the cruise as they would scramble once onboard to make reservations.

Read moreThe Ultimate Guide to Royal Caribbean's Unlimited Dining Package

Instead, you'll be able to book reservations pre-cruise for specialty restaurants if you buy a dining package.

Chops Grille on Utopia render

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider confirmed the change while brainstorming ways to make the embarkation day experience easier, "all dining, including dining packages will be reservable so that guests don't have to do that on day one. And people who book the dining package can actually have the same experience as people who book a specialty restaurant."

There isn't an exact date, but he indicated a probably first half 2024 launch, after the launch of Icon of the Seas. Sometime in the first half of 2024 is “likely”.

Don't worry, it's coming to the whole fleet, not just Icon.

Icon of the Seas sea trials from second trials

It's part of a new dining system Royal Caribbean is devising for the three Icon Class ships and Utopia, "It's for our new dining system, which is currently coming for one, two, three and Utopia. And then we'll roll out to the rest of the fleet."

This would be a major improvement as up until now, guests that bought a dining package had to wait until they got onboard the ship to make a specific reservation.

This meant they would have the last chance to grab a dining time, as well as add a task once onboard the ship to do instead of relaxing and enjoying the start of their vacation.

Read more: Should you book a Royal Caribbean dining package?

Testing on Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is already testing the option for those with a dining package to pre-book on one of its ships, Wonder of the Seas.

In fact, Wonder of the Seas is being utilized as a "test bed" for Icon of the Seas before it launches.

Mr. Schneider talked about this process, "We designed Wonder to have all of the technology that Icon will get. And so everything you see on Wonder is actually purposely being tested on Wonder because we won't do testing of new software on a new ship."

Other changes Royal Caribbean has rolled out to Wonder of the Seas already include notifications from the Royal Caribbean app when your dining room table is ready with My Time Dining, and the ability to chat with Guest Services in the app instead of waiting in line.

RC app

The new changes culminated last week.

"All the different pieces and parts as you see getting tested on Wonder are proof points for Icon."

The advantage is Royal Caribbean can work out any issues early, and have it ready to go for Icon of the Seas knowing it works.

Making boarding day easier

Boarding Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is making the change to allow pre-cruise dining reservations for two reasons.

First, it reduces crowding on the Royal Promenade when guests first board the ship.

"We spent a lot of time researching with guests what their day one experience is, " explained Mr. Schneider.

Royal Promenade on Adventure of the Seas

"And what we've learned in that journey is that there is a lot of heavy lifting that the Royal Promenade today takes, that we wish it didn't."

To that point, they learned a lot of guests were running around trying to make dining reservations because they couldn't do it online.

The second reason is to make it easier for guests, because Mr. Schneider reported his team found having to wait until the day of the cruise to book reservations generated a great deal of "angst".

The feedback from guests was to make it easier by not having to go to various booths that Royal Caribbean would set up only on day one of the cruise on the Royal Promenade.

How reservations will work with a dining package


Once the new change gets rolled out, you'll be able to reserve a restaurant with a dining package very similarly to how you book an individual restaurant.

The idea is to allow guests to make reservations via the Royal Caribbean app or Cruise Planner website before the cruise begins.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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