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I feel like I'm slowly becoming a Specialty dining person the longer I hang out with Royal Caribbean Blog and I've never even done a specialty restaurant before. I've always enjoyed building relationships with the people at our MDR table and our servers, but the longer I listen to Matt talk about food the more I want to try some others. I better start budgeting in for a dinner or 2... 

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As I stated in an earlier post we do late seating. We always book a balcony.  We hit the bar for cocktails @5:30 and go to Windjammers and make a plate of shrimp, veggies, deli meats, cheeses, olives,

^^  Wall of text...my eyes are bleeding.

If you are tiring of MDR traditional dining try My Time one cruise.  I’ve done the UDP twice recently and to be honest I’m tired of specialty dining.  The menus get old very quickly but I cruise often

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I feel like I’m slowly not finding the mdr a good fit.  I don’t feel connected to my table mates if I’m gone and they are for specialty dining some nights and at my time our two seat table might as well have been a 6 seater because the lady in the two next to me was pretty much in my lap.  We have never tried windjammer for dinner and we might just do that or park cafe.  Meanwhile I’m still panicking over the bogo and if I get into 150 Central Park.   Look out people when I board...I might knock you over on my way to book times!  Jane

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If you are tiring of MDR traditional dining try My Time one cruise.  I’ve done the UDP twice recently and to be honest I’m tired of specialty dining.  The menus get old very quickly but I cruise often. 

Windjammer is a solid dinner option.  Quick and easy with good variety.  

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We have drifted over to the Windjammer style option more and more, its a shame because one of our early memories that we really thought set cruising apart was getting the "special" level of service that you got from building the relationship with the waiters and really having a different experience than you got elsewhere.

More and more now we find the waiters are so stressed just getting it done that there is no relationship, throw in tablemates that randomly appear and disappear and it just isn't the same anymore.

We tried MTD a bit and it doesn't fix any of the things I miss about the MDR experience but certainly gives the flexibility of eating when you want, in all honesty though the buffet food is typically pretty similar and its easier just to go eat when I am ready. The service is nothing special so im not missing anything, I have to get my own drinks anyway, etc.

Have done some Specialty, hit and miss, sometimes worth it, sometimes not. I think the NCL model of eat where you want, when you want (subject to lines for some venues) is where we are drifting too.

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I started to lose my love for the MDR in 2016 when I noticed a slight decline in the quality of food.  Took a couple of cruises in between where we had access to CK and did not revisit the MDR until this past summer.  The MDR food quality and variety was even worse than I remembered in 2016.  Just got off Indy and the MDR was worse this cruise than in the summer.  So bad that we even opted for the WJ one night, and I hate the WJ! 

We are not big specialty dining people.  Mainly because in the past we could not justify paying the extra cost when there are so many complimentary options available.  We have only ever dined at Jamie's, Wonderland, and now Giovanni's.  My least favourite of the 3 that I've tried is Giovanni's.  Next cruise on Harmony, we are going all Specialty or CK since it's available to us.  Hubby and I are going to have conversation shortly after that on what we want to do for dining for future cruises (he just doesn't know it yet 😉). #NOTteamMDR

And we never dine with other table mates so I cannot comment on that.

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3 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Next cruise on Harmony, we are going all Specialty or CK since it's available to us.  Hubby and I are going to have conversation shortly after that on what we want to do for dining for future cruises (he just doesn't know it yet 😉). #NOTteamMDR\

And we never dine with other table mates so I cannot comment on that.

See... Another reason for you to stay suite...CK!!!!   Jane

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6 hours ago, jticarruthers said:

More and more now we find the waiters are so stressed just getting it done that there is no relationship, throw in tablemates that randomly appear and disappear and it just isn't the same anymore.

This was my experience on Anthem the one time we did MDR for breakfast. Can't speak to dinner time since we had CK (jay JS booking!), and the only word to describe the place is "serene". All the wait staff are relaxed and laid back, cracking jokes and telling riddles to keep our minds busy while our bellies filled up. Never once felt any stress or tension from the wait staff.

That said, when we sailed Freedom last April we did the MDR every night and it was a totally fine experience. Yes, it was busy, but our waiters got to know us and us them, and it was always a pleasant time. But, we had late-seating dinner. I feel like this is the key. Not as many want the later dining time, so it's when the wait staff finally get to slow down just a little bit and share more of the "classic" experience with the guests.

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We did late seating MDR on Anthem and had the most fabulous time.  The restaurant on a whole was empty.  We walked straight in to our table.  Our waitstaff knew us so well by the 3rd night they knew we were coming, what our likes and dislikes for all 10 of us, including which beverage package we had, and what beverage we typically ordered.  I will say I was impressed...I drink chardonnay with dinner, hubby drinks jack and coke, brother and cousin drank beer, sister in law and cousin drank red wines, one drank sparkling water only, another was soda, etc.  Within minutes our drinks were at the table.    The waitstaff knew our food likes too.  They would bring even more food just for us to taste because they thought we may like it.  They knew I love crème brulee but was always too full to eat it, so they would pack it up for me to take back to the room.  We requested savory bites the 1st night and they were there every night afterwards.  Needless to say they got a very nice tip from 5 couples on the last night.  

Maybe, my experience was different because we did the 8 pm seating.  I will also say that although MTD is great, I won't do it anymore, especially on a larger ship.  Look at Anthem.  They have 4 MDR restaurants 2 set times and 2 MTD restaurants.  Many want the MTD and this is where impo they get frustrated with the MDR.  I saw this when we did MTD at 6:15, a peak dinner time on one of our cruises.  They are trying to flip the tables and get backlogged bc some just want to hang a little longer before the 7 pm show. which meant we had to wait for 15 more minutes.  The Set dinner times are set.  The early seating even if they lag won't be there for 2+ hrs. because they want to be at the early show.  The late diners can lag, but they want to make sure they can make the Quest, Love and Marriage, late night comedian.

 

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1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

This was my experience on Anthem the one time we did MDR for breakfast. Can't speak to dinner time since we had CK (jay JS booking!), and the only word to describe the place is "serene". All the wait staff are relaxed and laid back, cracking jokes and telling riddles to keep our minds busy while our bellies filled up. Never once felt any stress or tension from the wait staff.

That said, when we sailed Freedom last April we did the MDR every night and it was a totally fine experience. Yes, it was busy, but our waiters got to know us and us them, and it was always a pleasant time. But, we had late-seating dinner. I feel like this is the key. Not as many want the later dining time, so it's when the wait staff finally get to slow down just a little bit and share more of the "classic" experience with the guests.

My small group always gets late seating at a large shared table. Last cruise on the Symphony the waiter was from the RP and brought Filipino dishes (family style) for the table after I greeted him in Visayan.  The food was great, but the people Royal chooses to sit together has never let me down in 14 years.  That time there were a couple who just retired from the US State Department Foreign Service as Cultural Attaches, a couple who were both retired US Air Force Officers, and a tattoo shop owner/landscape photographer.    We'd miss meeting folks like that eating by ourselves at a premium restaurant - and I'm basically an asocial person.  We've been seated at a small table by ourselves a couple times and it just wasn't the same.  Obviously YMMV if you're newlyweds or traveling as a family.

 

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My wife and I have experienced great attention and food from the  later MDR slot. More relaxed and staff seemed more available. Since we are Diamond the lounge allows drinks, apps and social interaction to meet most needs. Must agree that MDR tables are not consistent with people showing each night. Last cruise our table of 12 was usually 4 to 8 and staff said it was to be full table. Tried MTD and found it didn't fit well with entertainment available on ship.

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Hmm, this thread just made my head spin.  Not sure what I'm gonna do on the next one now. I think we'll stick with late seating in MDR(we are from seattle so with the time change it works well). We actually have always had a great experience with MDR, but we usually cruise with friends so our table is full with our group. 

The only time we were disappointed with the MDR was our last weekend getaway that we did without the kids. We had a 2 top table and the waiter was so busy with the larger tables that we seemed like an afterthought.

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9 hours ago, jticarruthers said:

Sounds like late MDR is a lot like what I miss about early MDR, no way I am waiting that late to eat though so not really an option for me unfortunately.

 

As I stated in an earlier post we do late seating. We always book a balcony.  We hit the bar for cocktails @5:30 and go to Windjammers and make a plate of shrimp, veggies, deli meats, cheeses, olives, bread, etc to take to our room.  We sit on the balcony and watch the sunset while we eat and drink what we brought back to our room.  It satisfies our stomach and holds us over to the 8 pm dinner. The trick is to look at WJ as an early appetizer and not let your stomach scream take everything!  We leave the plates on the table in the room and VOILA it is gone when we come back at the end of the night.  I will admit that I usually bring a little bit more and place it in the mini-fridge aka cooler.  I would rather have a sandwich that I pick and choose the meats/cheeses than ones they off late at night.  I also will bring back the desserts in a cup, or their key lime pie to snack on late at night instead of the cookie option.  

 

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Pima1988, Love the way you approach this, we do late dinner and have drinks and snack at the Diamond lounge before hand but the WJ seems like another nice option. Don't know if I can just stick to a light WJ snack/appetizer. I have asked MDR to pack a couple deserts to go (Key Lime Pie, Cheesecake) for late night with coffee on balcony as well.

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On 1/4/2019 at 10:41 PM, JasonL said:

the longer I listen to Matt talk about food the more I want to try some others

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the main dining room experience. To me, it's not only a classic part of cruising, it is a staple of our cruise and we are in the MDR more often than specialty.

I enjoy specialty dining, and it certainly does get a fair share of attention because it's different and there's far more interest in those restaurants by readers/listeners than the MDR which rarely changes.  

I'd just hate to have you write off the MDR completely. I think it's still a lot of fun to dine there and I generally enjoy the food...especially that spaghetti bolognese (am I right @Lovetocruise2002)!

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1 hour ago, Matt said:

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the main dining room experience. To me, it's not only a classic part of cruising, it is a staple of our cruise and we are in the MDR more often than specialty.

I enjoy specialty dining, and it certainly does get a fair share of attention because it's different and there's far more interest in those restaurants by readers/listeners than the MDR which rarely changes.  

I'd just hate to have you write off the MDR completely. I think it's still a lot of fun to dine there and I generally enjoy the food...especially that spaghetti bolognese (am I right @Lovetocruise2002)!

We are Italian foodies.  We make our own homemade pasta, including tortellini and call spaghetti sauce...gravy.   I would never consider ordering their spaghetti Bolognese, but I would say that their risotto is definitely worth ordering.  On our July cruise I am going to try their gnocchi.

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I too have noticed a huge decline in the mdr. Its such a shame as recently as last February on the Oasis I had such a great experience the food quality selection preparation were outstanding so much so that on the last night of the cruise the staff the chefs the wait staff all got a standing ovation from the entire room all three levels not just the usual napkin waving.November on the Brilliance terrible food mediocre preparation very obvious the menu selections were chosen out of cost consideration not what everyone wanted consisting of mostly pastas and some form of steak they called strip steak it wasn't not even shaped like a strip it was more like a sirloin tip steak which is dry by nature and has no fat and very chewy unless cooked in fluid. The food quality in the windjammer on the other hand was great. They dedicated one whole table to American cuisine even having burgers to order and had a great selection of toppings including bacon and bleu cheese. Fast forward to my recent Adventure cruise 8 days with for the most part hit and miss quality selection and preparation the poor wait staff was so rushed and just plain tired that they had no time for the socializing we have grown accustom to in the good old days of Royal cruising. I should have known something was amiss when on embarkation day in the windjammer I asked where on the ship were the kummelweck sandwiches being served the  in the windjammer looked at me like a deer in the headlights and asked "a what?"i tried to describe it she went and got the head lunch chef who said the exact same thing. In his defense he said he would research and have them on the food list the next day and true to his word he did just that BRAVO great customer service.i wish that was all I had to report BUT now to Giovannis my family and I look forward to visiting Giovanis every cruise for a great Italian meal, we have never been disappointed till now this was worse than some crummy land based Italian chain restaurant food was so dry overcooked beef short rib raviolis were old and dry oh did I mention beef short ribs were on the MDR menu the night before. The food and service on Royal ships is definitely in decline in my opinion and I guess the only way to deal with it is take each cruise not expecting anything so I wont be disappointed. I am fortunate to have been a Royal cruiser when perfection was there goal and seemed to come naturally.In my humble opinion. I guess its now more important to feed the bottom line then to stand out in the crowd.😢I will continue to be there for Royal and can only hope they will learn the importance of returning the favor.

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Going on Allure in 3 weeks & hope the food is good as this was one of the reasons I went with RC over Carnival this time. Haven't been on a cruise in awhile (last was with Carnival) & didn't enjoy it as much as I did my previous RC cruise. I usually due MDR for dinner & than elsewhere for breakfast & lunch.

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4 hours ago, Pima1988 said:

On our July cruise I am going to try their gnocchi.

I had this the 2 nights we ate in Giovanni's on Freedom, it was excellent, you should enjoy it.

I agree with everyone else who has noted they eat at the late seating, I have always eaten at the late seating and have found the food and service to be exceptional. What has not been great has been the table mates, we always seem to get other couples that just don't work with my wife and I, one example was we were seated with a couple from Argentina, super nice people but they didn't speak any English and my Spanish is terrible, so it was a long week trying to communicate, other times it was a large age gap, don't get me wrong I love and respect my elders, but we just don't have a lot to converse about. And yes we have asked to be seated at another table, but that is just rude to the other people sometimes.

We now eat almost exclusively in the specialty dinning, as noted by @twangster , this can get old if you are not on a O or Q class ship, Freedom and Voyager have Chops, Giovanni's and Sabor (Wife doesn't like Izumi, except the hibachi), so on a 7 night cruise you are eating at each one at least twice, don't get me wrong, I love all of them, but it will be nice to go on an O class in a week and have more choices for dinner.

We haven't done it yet, but we still say we are going to do WJ for dinner.

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1 hour ago, tiny260 said:

We now eat almost exclusively in the specialty dinning, as noted by @twangster , this can get old if you are not on a O or Q class ship, Freedom and Voyager have Chops, Giovanni's and Sabor (Wife doesn't like Izumi, except the hibachi), so on a 7 night cruise you are eating at each one at least twice, don't get me wrong, I love all of them, but it will be nice to go on an O class in a week and have more choices for dinner.

On our 12 night Christmas/NY cruise on Grandeur last month we had the Ultimate Dining Package.  While I love Chops, Giovanni's and even Izumi, I have to say....by that last night, I was SO DONE with these 3 restaurants.  Not only did we eat dinner there EVERY night, but we had lunch there on 8 of 12 days.

I love the specialty restaurants but I would never recommend to ANYone that they should avoid the MDR completely - especially if they have never tried it.  I think one of the 3, 4 or 5 day packages would be more than adequate to allow you to try both the MDR and the specialty restaurants.

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We did the UDP on the Vision last week (New Year’s Cruise). We always buy a three or four night specialty dining package on a seven night cruise because it changes things up a bit but there were no dining packages but the UDP available at all for this New Year’s cruise. We went to Chef’s Table one night and alternated eating dinner in Chops and Giovanni’s; we ate lunch once in Izumi’s.

We, too, found it a bit boring. While there are enough entree choices (beef/fish/chicken/vegetarian), they need to create more variety in soups/salads. I suggested to an officer, (he came into the Diamond Lounge for coffee one morning and struck up a conversation with us) that a little change they could make for these restaurants is add a soup of the day/salad of the day option. Very easy to do and may alleviate some of the “sameness” each evening.

As someone mentioned earlier, NCL seems to have mastered the art of flexible dining. We have sailed with them many more times than with Royal and dining on an NCL ship has never seemed as “hectic” as it is with Royal. Bottom line — we will not purchase a UDP again but, when available, will buy four or five night dining packages (depending on cruise length)and the Chef’s Table; this will give us a (somewhat) similar feeling as to choosing restaurants on a land vacation.

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