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We love the Main Dining Room because the food is good, the service is excellent, and we feel like royalty.  We find that when we get to know the wait staff, we have a richer cruise experience. The Windjammer is fine for breakfast or lunch (especially made-to-order omelettes or stir fry), and it is useful for dinner when you don't want to dress up to whatever the dress code is in the MDR.   That said, there have been changes over time, so you can't compare the MDR five years ago with the MDR today.   In a cruise last month on the Harmony, we noticed items that we used to see all the time weren't there or were available only occasionally.   I was chagrined I couldn't have escargot on one of the formal nights (it's a thing...) On the other hand, we've tried specialty restaurants and noted the following: (1) they aren't that special (decor/ambience), (2) a growing number of guests don't dress appropriately. (3) the food isn't much better than the MDR and occasionally worse, (4) the service can be slow, but (5) the wait staff usually do whatever they can to please you.  If you want a particular food item, you will want to check the restaurant menus to see if the item is available.  A lot of guests swear by the specialty restaurants, which are generally less crowded, but I really don't see the value proposition.  Remember a dinner in MDR is penciled in about $25 or so (when you calculate the 18% gratuity built in to the daily rate, the food now pars out at $45-$50 per day per person).  Thus, when you pay an extra $30-$45 for a specialty dinner, it is like paying $55 to $70 or more per person.  My specialty dinners haven't been that good..... The strength of the WJ is the incredible variety, the disadvantage the crowds at peak periods.   Every cruise our family looks forward to eating duck, lamb, lobster tail, and pork loin/shank in the MDR. 

PS.  If you are ever on a vessel with a norovirus outbreak, you will see certain measures put in place on buffet lines.  In Australia/NZ in 2018, the Windjammer rules changed -- guests couldn't fill their own plates in the buffet line -- only staff could handle the food.  it was a bit slower and more tedious. 

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I loved both, windjammer (deck 11) for me was easier as I was mostly at the pool (deck 11) and also my stateroom was deck 11. I also loved the food, there was variety and flavour. The main dining room offers an actual dining experience though. I love dining so I also loved the MDR. For me it all depended on mood, I can't prefer one or the other as they have their perks. 

Windjammer= tasty, variety, quick, efficient (for me due to stateroom location)

MDR=tasty, service, dining experience 

Overall, try both and see what you find easiest and prefer 👍

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We spent 12 nights on Serenade last fall, and the MDR was fine.  Food was always hot and well-prepared.  Our waiter Mario was the best, and worked hard every night.  We ate in the MDR I think 9 of the 12 nights.  One night we did Izumi, and the other two we went to the WJ.  WJ is hit or miss, depending on what you are eating.  We're primarily plant-based so we're not trying the meat options.  My husband does eat seafood and wasn't interested in any of the seafood options in the WJ.  

We were sick of the MDR by the time we reached the final night, and honestly only went to say good bye to our wait staff.   We reluctantly ate our meal there, but as it was a repeat of a previous menu (that only has one vegetarian option) we really were not interested in the same dish again and just picked at our food.  I think I ended up eating pizza at Park Cafe for dinner later. 

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9 minutes ago, KathyC said:

We spent 12 nights on Serenade last fall, and the MDR was fine.  Food was always hot and well-prepared.  Our waiter Mario was the best, and worked hard every night.  We ate in the MDR I think 9 of the 12 nights.  One night we did Izumi, and the other two we went to the WJ.  WJ is hit or miss, depending on what you are eating.  We're primarily plant-based so we're not trying the meat options.  My husband does eat seafood and wasn't interested in any of the seafood options in the WJ.  

We were sick of the MDR by the time we reached the final night, and honestly only went to say good bye to our wait staff.   We reluctantly ate our meal there, but as it was a repeat of a previous menu (that only has one vegetarian option) we really were not interested in the same dish again and just picked at our food.  I think I ended up eating pizza at Park Cafe for dinner later. 

We actually skipped the last night on majesty! Dropped the tip off at the beginning of the meal and then went to windjammer!   But this mdr was a huge step from our last experiences on freedom and allure!  It truly just depends on the day! Your preferences and the ship.  Jane

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3 minutes ago, mom2mybugs said:

We actually skipped the last night on majesty! Dropped the tip off at the beginning of the meal and then went to windjammer!   But this mdr was a huge step from our last experiences on freedom and allure!  It truly just depends on the day! Your preferences and the ship.  Jane

From May 2018 to May 2019 we spent 30 nights at sea with RCCL.  We noticed on our last sailing this past April, we had no interest in the MDR.  I think we made it 3 of the 7 nights.  We are definitely tired of the same menus over and over.  Our next sailing is on Celebrity and can't wait!! 

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37 minutes ago, KathyC said:

From May 2018 to May 2019 we spent 30 nights at sea with RCCL.  We noticed on our last sailing this past April, we had no interest in the MDR.  I think we made it 3 of the 7 nights.  We are definitely tired of the same menus over and over.  Our next sailing is on Celebrity and can't wait!! 

I look forward to celebrity someday when my teen isn't still sailing with us and we are only paying for 2!!  Will look forward to your pics!  When do you go?Jane

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9 hours ago, ChessE4 said:

We love the Main Dining Room because the food is good, the service is excellent, and we feel like royalty.  We find that when we get to know the wait staff, we have a richer cruise experience. The Windjammer is fine for breakfast or lunch (especially made-to-order omelettes or stir fry), and it is useful for dinner when you don't want to dress up to whatever the dress code is in the MDR.   That said, there have been changes over time, so you can't compare the MDR five years ago with the MDR today.   In a cruise last month on the Harmony, we noticed items that we used to see all the time weren't there or were available only occasionally.   I was chagrined I couldn't have escargot on one of the formal nights (it's a thing...) On the other hand, we've tried specialty restaurants and noted the following: (1) they aren't that special (decor/ambience), (2) a growing number of guests don't dress appropriately. (3) the food isn't much better than the MDR and occasionally worse, (4) the service can be slow, but (5) the wait staff usually do whatever they can to please you.  If you want a particular food item, you will want to check the restaurant menus to see if the item is available.  A lot of guests swear by the specialty restaurants, which are generally less crowded, but I really don't see the value proposition.  Remember a dinner in MDR is penciled in about $25 or so (when you calculate the 18% gratuity built in to the daily rate, the food now pars out at $45-$50 per day per person).  Thus, when you pay an extra $30-$45 for a specialty dinner, it is like paying $55 to $70 or more per person.  My specialty dinners haven't been that good..... The strength of the WJ is the incredible variety, the disadvantage the crowds at peak periods.   Every cruise our family looks forward to eating duck, lamb, lobster tail, and pork loin/shank in the MDR. 

PS.  If you are ever on a vessel with a norovirus outbreak, you will see certain measures put in place on buffet lines.  In Australia/NZ in 2018, the Windjammer rules changed -- guests couldn't fill their own plates in the buffet line -- only staff could handle the food.  it was a bit slower and more tedious. 

Yes, this is what I don't get either. You're already paying for dining on board and now they have more and more pay for options that add up to a lot of money. I know RCL want to make money but hopefully not at the expense of the quality of the included foods! 

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5 hours ago, KathyC said:

We spent 12 nights on Serenade last fall, and the MDR was fine.  Food was always hot and well-prepared.  Our waiter Mario was the best, and worked hard every night.  We ate in the MDR I think 9 of the 12 nights.  One night we did Izumi, and the other two we went to the WJ.  WJ is hit or miss, depending on what you are eating.  We're primarily plant-based so we're not trying the meat options.  My husband does eat seafood and wasn't interested in any of the seafood options in the WJ.  

We were sick of the MDR by the time we reached the final night, and honestly only went to say good bye to our wait staff.   We reluctantly ate our meal there, but as it was a repeat of a previous menu (that only has one vegetarian option) we really were not interested in the same dish again and just picked at our food.  I think I ended up eating pizza at Park Cafe for dinner later. 

Thanks! This is really helpful. It's only my second cruise (first was on Majesty 4 nights to Havana) and my first 7 night cruise. Also we're on my time dining and I'm hoping the flexibility will be useful as it's a port intensive itinerary.

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20 hours ago, Tira04 said:

But what does everyone think of the MDR? Is the food quality in decline? What about the MDR versus the WJ? Does anyone prefer one over the other? 

We've had decent but for the most part, nothing special food at the MDR.  I agree with an analogy that I saw on the boards, where they compared the MDR food to really good banquet food.  I personally think the WJ dinner food is just as good, if not better.   Some things are better than others obviously but I think it comes down to what dining experience you want.  Do you want to be waited on in a nicer setting or are you okay with serving yourself and eating at your own pace (and depending on where /when you sit in the WJ, the views are just as good)?  That will determine MDR or WJ imo.  

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As anytime we dine out in our lives, we find some food we like, some we don't care for, and some we cannot get enough of.  The mushroom risotto when we were on Oasis in December 2018 was one of those "cannot get enough of."  You  had to roll me out of the MDR that night between my starter, entree, and dessert.  I enjoy MDR for the time to chill, relax, and be served.  MDR is really similar to WJR in that if you don't like something, get something else or get multiples of whatever you want.  Only want dessert that night?  GO FOR IT.  Only want two different appetizers and then dessert, you can do that too.

My husband and I prefer to save our money for excursions and skip the whole specialty dining.  We just didn't think there was value in it when we went with my family on our BOFS cruise in December 2016.

I firmly believe to fully know your own take on MDR vs WJR vs Specialty Dining is to try them all out for yourself 🙂

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I'm going on my first cruise December on Oasis and going solo.  The concern I have with the MDR is how long it takes to eat.  I've seen some people on here say it takes about an hour or more.  I like to get in and out and go do something else instead of sitting at a table waiting for my food.  Plus there are so many places to get something to eat I would rather do that.  Is anyone else like this?

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@griswold81 I understand what you mean by it takes a while to eat.  That is definitely something to consider and is much like what you would consider when deciding between a restaurant and buffet and fast food.  The best thing is that there are a LOT of options and until you explore (and try some) those options, you don't really know what works best for you.

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I prefer the MDR over the WJ for dinner. My family and I liked the food very much in the MDR, and unlike the WJ I don't have to get up and make sure someone is saving my seat in order to get a second glass of wine with dinner (I've learned to bring the first glass into the MDR with me, usually from Vintages), or an after-dinner cocktail should I want one.

But more than the food, the social aspect is a big thing for us. We really enjoy having table-mates to talk to during the meal, and that's almost impossible to achieve in the WJ since it's all small tables, and almost everyone there has the simple goal of find what they want to eat, eat it fast, and get the heck out so they can get to their show or back to the pool / club / other space.

Not a common goal, at least from many many posts that I've read here, but that's how we roll on vacation.

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I go through phases but rarely buy specialty dining.  Sometimes I get one from a travel agent which tends to be the only time I visit specialty.

I'm in a Windjammer phase right now.  When I vacation on land or at home I don't have big sit down meals nights after night after night.  Occasionally having the full service meal is cool but most of the time I prefer to dine and dash.  I also find greater variety in the Windjammer.  I can have mostly a salad one night or I can create a meal that's not available in the MDR.   

Sometimes the MDR is too much for me, sitting for periods of time between courses when I could be out and about doing something on the ship.  Sometimes a full 3 course meal is too much food.

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Its a matter of preference and interest.... my gf and I are not foodie's...we eat cause we have to basically.... Just like we only book interior cabins as we spend NO time in there....except to shower and sleep....but others wont cruise without at least a balcony room.

 

We have done 4 cruises together and only one meal in a MDR(and not on Royal)....we always hit up the WJ or whatever buffet or snack area there is. The food is always good..selection is great.....sitting for 2 hrs would be a buzz kill for me and be ready for bed by the end of a 3 course 2 hr dinner. There is so much going on to see and do that we would rather be doing.

 

That being said, our upcoming cruise is a 7 night one..so I am guessing we will hit the MDR once for the experience.

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1 hour ago, monctonguy said:

We have done 4 cruises together and only one meal in a MDR(and not on Royal)....we always hit up the WJ or whatever buffet or snack area there is. The food is always good..selection is great.....sitting for 2 hrs would be a buzz kill for me and be ready for bed by the end of a 3 course 2 hr dinner. There is so much going on to see and do that we would rather be doing.

 

That's a really good point! The 3 course dinner does take time away from all the other fun activities in the evening! 

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I like the variety in the WJ  but find that for dinner, it lacks ambience and I don't line the plastic plates (they don't bother me at breakfast or lunch!) and add Joe said, I don't like having to make sure there's someone saving my seat whilst I'm up getting food/drink meaning that you don't really end up eating together. 

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Yes, and one of the advantages of a 1st or 2nd seating in the MDR is that if you want to meet others, you can request to be seated at a group table instead of by yourself.  I forgot to mention that earlier.  We usually request a group table when we make our initial cruise reservation through our agent.

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6 hours ago, griswold81 said:

I'm going on my first cruise December on Oasis and going solo.  The concern I have with the MDR is how long it takes to eat.  I've seen some people on here say it takes about an hour or more.  I like to get in and out and go do something else instead of sitting at a table waiting for my food.  Plus there are so many places to get something to eat I would rather do that.  Is anyone else like this?

If you want the sit down to be faster, and don't necessarily care about table mates, then set up my time dining and when you sit down tell them you don't want to be there a long time.  We found at the mdr it was challenging to move quick because we had a tablemate who was a very slow eater.  They serve by course.  Or certainly you can do a mix of mdr/my time with eating at the windjammer.  Or try a specialty... They are usually a bit faster but a good sit-down.  I would experiment and see what you like!  You can always schedule mdr and if you don't care for it and the pushing, switch to my time.  Jane

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6 hours ago, JLMoran said:

I prefer the MDR over the WJ for dinner. My family and I liked the food very much in the MDR, and unlike the WJ I don't have to get up and make sure someone is saving my seat in order to get a second glass of wine with dinner (I've learned to bring the first glass into the MDR with me, usually from Vintages), or an after-dinner cocktail should I want one.

But more than the food, the social aspect is a big thing for us. We really enjoy having table-mates to talk to during the meal, and that's almost impossible to achieve in the WJ since it's all small tables, and almost everyone there has the simple goal of find what they want to eat, eat it fast, and get the heck out so they can get to their show or back to the pool / club / other space.

Not a common goal, at least from many many posts that I've read here, but that's how we roll on vacation.

We like meeting people but until this last cruise on majesty (where the specialty is very limited) we found that we were often eating alone because the other 6 or 8 people were at specialty or windjammer that night!  

We went back and forth on Europe but finally decided to do my time.  We think we will just be too tired some of the nights, and we are doing 5 nights (of 12) either at specialty or chefs table, which I don't think is fair to the mdr table.  

I think, like @twangster, cruise to cruise I tend to vary it!  Just depends on the cruise and my mood.  Jane

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5 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

We like meeting people but until this last cruise on majesty (where the specialty is very limited) we found that we were often eating alone because the other 6 or 8 people were at specialty or windjammer that night!    

I think, like @twangster

That also happened to us on Majesty - marooned on a table for 8 by ourselves! 

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