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.