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How much do you use the MDR?


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We are going to stick to main dining for our 2 booked cruises, except 1 night where my mother-in-law will be keeping our daughter for the night allowing my wife and I to have a date night during our sailing.  I like the specialty restaurant options, but we are going to focus our extra spending elsewhere.  I will be "sneaking" to Izumi a few times though :)

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For $120 that better come with a "happy ending"

I have never done any specialty dining. I love the classic MDR experience (knowing my waiter, trying different foods, etc....) and I cant see paying for food when great food has already been paid for?

I will not pay extra for dinning. I have had it as a bonus for booking the cruise and we went to Chops, but pay extra? No way! We have done all the other dining for breakfast and lunch, but stay

I have never done any specialty dining. I love the classic MDR experience (knowing my waiter, trying different foods, etc....) and I cant see paying for food when great food has already been paid for? I will admit ive been accused of not having a discernible palate. Im not a foody, and food is fuel to me. Just my two cents....

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I'll stick with the MDR too. I used to sail with Disney and everybody was saying "Oh, you must go to Palo's!.....Palo's is well worth the price, trust me!.....Palo's must be experienced!", etc, etc. (Mainly from the Disney Suite Snobs who lowered themselves to speak with me). You would think it was going to be one of the finest meals you'd ever have. So I tried it. Mistake. It was Olive Garden with nicer napkins. Cost me $120.00 with a couple drinks for 2 of us. And that was years ago. Plus I was required to wear a tie. Not gonna fall for that kind of hype again.

 

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On 9/6/2019 at 10:23 AM, MaryS said:

I love going to the MDR for breakfast on every cruise everyday.  Oh I will graze at the Windjammer after the MDR breakfast for a little pastry or muffin.  I don't think I've ever had lunch in the MDR.  I'm not really a lunch person.  I always go the the MDR for dinner too.  I like getting to know the waitstaff.  

We never seem to get waiters that keep my coffee cup from getting empty. We do MDR for breakfast occasionally, though.

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On 9/6/2019 at 7:06 PM, Fuzzywuzzy said:

I'll stick with the MDR too. I used to sail with Disney and everybody was saying "Oh, you must go to Palo's!.....Palo's is well worth the upcharge.....Palo's must be experienced!", etc, etc. (Mainly from the Disney Suite Snobs who lowered themselves to speak with me). You would think it was going to be one of the finest meals you'd ever have. So I tried it. It was Olive Garden with nicer napkins. Cost me $120.00 with a couple drinks for 2 of us. And that was years ago. Plus I was required to wear a tie. Not gonna fall for that kind of hype again.

 

For $120 that better come with a "happy ending"

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On our upcoming Allure cruise we have 4 nights planned in the MDR. We will be at Izumi for the first formal night (we aren't really a fan of them), going to the Windjammer after St. Maarten (for something a little bit more laid back), and then to Sabor after our day at Labadee. 

We like the MDR and an occasional formal night (husband loves lobster night) but sometimes for dinner just enjoy something a bit more low key. 

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I think a lot of a cruise is dependent upon how many cruises you have sailed and what is important to you.  I say that because our last few cruises we have used the Ultimate/Unlimited dining plan.  We enjoy the ambiance of the specialty restaurants as well as the better service we get in the specialty restaurants.  I feel the food in the MDR sounds good, but lacks flavor other than salt.

 

Our last several cruises as well as our future cruises booked are on Oasis class ships and there are quite a few specialty restaurants.  We tend to go to Chops several times on a cruise as well as to Giovanni's on Allure and Jamie's on Harmony.  When we went to Chops the first time, we loved the waiter we had so we requested  him every time we dined there.  The same with Jamie's or Giovanni's.  

 

I love breakfast in the MDR, but with using the UDP, we don't eat breakfast on sea days as we get to have lunch in a specialty restaurant and there is no way we could eat a big lunch and dinner.  To us, because we have cruised many times, port excursions are not important any longer so the specialty restaurants are our excursions.  I realize not everyone feels as we do and that's great as there are choices for everyone.

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We love the main Dining Room. We can order fast and  be on our way to have more fun within an hour or usually less. We also love the food. I usually get prime rib sometimes twice each cruise. I love the lamb dishes and the duck!  And did I mention lobster. There are many many other dishes that are very good! But, occasionally, I will order a steak from the specialty restaurant.

 The major problem with the specialty restaurants is that it takes so long. Granted the food is very good also, but you have to pay. 

  In summary, we usually eat only in the Main Dining Room and on a rare occasion eat in a Specialty restaurant or the Windjammer.*

   * Exceptions: We enjoy the fun Mexican Specialty restaurants, like Sabor,  for lunch. And, we do want to try Hooked on Seafood when we cruise on a ship that has that.  

 

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Only been on 2 cruises, so somewhat constrained point of view, but we ate in the MDR every single night of our very first cruise (minus one night for me when I did Chef's Table solo), and I also ate in the MDR every breakfast and most sea day lunches. We found the food totally fine at all of our meals, and our wait staff at dinner was always great and attentive. And we loved the company we had at our meals, whether assigned table-mates for dinner or the random guests I got seated with at breakfast or lunch when I requested a shared table.

I'll be experiencing the MDR on Anthem for dinner for the first time this October; last year's Anthem sailing we were in a JS and had dinner in CK every night (#goTeamCK!!), but we did eat in the MDR for breakfast once. Only once. That was a disaster, because of how Anthem splits the MDR into four separate small venues but only opens one of them for breakfast; it's a madhouse, insanely crowded and busy the whole time. Never again for breakfast on Anthem, will just do Wind Jah'mehr or Cafe Two70 or Solarium Bistro.

I'm hoping that dinner on Anthem will be better, since we have late traditional seating. If that goes well, it will (to me, anyway) prove a theory I've developed over the last two years while reading others' reviews of the MDR and comparing with my own experiences.

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We sailed on Allure a couple of weeks ago (right before Hurricane Dorian); had the three-night specialty dining package (did specialty on night 2, 3, and 7). We split breakfast in the Windjammer and Solarium Bistro. Loved doing lunch in the MDR--great selections (both a menu and buffet option). Only did MDR for dinner on a couple nights, including our second formal night. (Did first formal night for specialty dining; second formal was collared shirt and slacks.)

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@JLMoran  I agree breakfast in the MDR on Anthem is my least favorite.  We did late seating and felt the service was excellent.  We had a group of 10 and our wait staff was on the ball.  By day 2 he knew that my cousin only eats fish due to medical issues, I swear anything and everything served in any restaurant as appetizers that was seafood was placed on our table while we were perusing what to order for dinner.  We all were shocked.  I enjoy the wedge salad, every night he would ask if I wanted it for the next night and it was there.  I eat to live, and I become full after 2 or 3 bites.  The 1st 2 nights he thought I just didn't like the food so he would bring out another entrée thinking maybe I would care for that instead.  My husband had to finally say, stop, whatever she doesn't eat, she makes me eat so as not to offend.  

That was the only cruise we have done only the MDR.  We did so bc several in our group feel no need to pay for specialty dinners.   They are people that cruise typically 2x a yr. and have done so for 20 yrs.   I believe that there are 4 things that makes eating in the MDR a great option over specialty

  1.  Expectations for day 1.  Day 1 always has its hiccups.  Staff change over can be a factor.  Just be prepared, day 2 will run smoother
  2.  New cruisers do not know you can go off menu, just give a days notice.  Instead, they feel that they have to stick with whatever is on the menu.  Frequent cruisers know you can request something off the menu.  
  3.  My opinion, if you can do the late seating.  We have done the early, we have done MTD, but our very favorite is late traditional seating.  We have found the vibe in the restaurant to be really laid back and that the servers are more efficient because it is not as crowded.   I have children, but they are adults now,  and I think that is also why the vibe is more laid back....no flaming, but it is rare to see any kids at the late seating.  
  4.  Many people now buy the specialty packages so those restaurants are filling up more and more, with less people in the MDR, but they still keep that table for you regarding traditional seating.  For waitstaff they do get the grat added in whether or not you eat there, but I am sure that the MDR staff is seeing loss of money now, i.e. end of cruise tipping.  Thus, I have found they have upped their game, so that those that eat there nightly will tip them out.  

We enjoy the specialty restaurants, and feel for the cost, it is worth buying the 3 night (we use a TA, so she gifts us a 4th night).  I am on the fence regarding the ultimate, because at the cost it becomes buy the 3 night + the TA comp + Chefs table @ the same cost as the ultimate.  This is when it comes down to the ship.  I am not a fan of Wonderland (been there, done that, paid the check), I am not a sushi person so if Izumi does not offer hot rocks or teppynaki I could do a pass on it.   Thus, the specialty + Chefs is a better option for us, and that means we will be in the MDR 3-4 nights out of the cruise.

I will say like everyone else that I think RCL MDR does an amazing job regardless of the ship for their lunch on sea days.  Can we all say tutti salad?  If you have not had their spinach gnocchi at lunch, you are missing a treat.  Trust me, being married to an Italian family from NY/NJ, when they all look like they have found nirvana after the 1st bite, than you know it is good.

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MDR only for me, never eaten at a paid restaurant on the ship, except johnny rockets.

I am sure they are great, but $30+ for a meal is a lot of money IMO, especially when I already have a great meal easily worth $20-30 waiting for me at the MDR.

Ill save that $30 and go out to eat when I am not on vacation.

though, I dont eat that much food in my normal life.  When I know I am going out to dinner, I will often eat very small meals that day so I am extra hungry to enjoy that dinner.  When I am on a cruise, eating a big breakfast AND lunch, Im already stuffed when dinner comes around, also contributing to my disinterest to spend MORE money on food that I can barely eat.

also worth noting that I am wierd and do not like steak (not that Im vegan or unable to eat it, just do not enjoy it), so everyones favorite restaurant, chops, holds no appeal to me.

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We like having breakfast in the main dinning room. We had never done that before until our last two cruises.  We did love breakfast and Johnny Rockets on the Oasis too.  We have never done the specialty restaurants before; however, we have 3-night specialty dining on our upcoming NCL cruise in November.  We like having the same wait staff throughout the week.  On our NCL cruise coming up they have my time dining so I guess I will find out if I hate it or love it.  

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3 hours ago, Pima1988 said:

My opinion, if you can do the late seating.  We have done the early, we have done MTD, but our very favorite is late traditional seating.  We have found the vibe in the restaurant to be really laid back and that the servers are more efficient because it is not as crowded.

You're another data point in my theory. Based on everyone's feedback here over the last two years, I'm theorizing that the introduction of My Time Dining has drastically changed the way the MDR gets used. Just from personal and anecdotal evidence, seems to me that the vast majority of passengers who have dinner in the MDR are either doing

  • 5:30 traditional dining; I'm guessing this is now focused on two main "brackets":
    • Elderly folks already used to eating early before turning in early (the "blue plate special" / "diner senior special" crowd)
    • Families with infants or other very young children, who want to put the kids in AO after dinner and have some time to catch the earlier shows before putting the kids to bed and having to stay in their cabins for the night
  • My Time Dining with reservation time between 6:00 and 7:00
    • This group is pretty much anyone from mainstream American home dinner time, who refuse to have their dinner time scheduled and insist on sticking to what they're used to, just like they do on every other vacation, thank you very much

And this just crushes the dining room and kitchen staff. It would totally explain the constant complaints I read about lack of attentiveness, food that comes out less than great, staff that always look overworked, etc. The wait staff never get a chance to breathe, never mind learn about their assigned passengers, because they just can't take the time with so many requiring service at once. And the kitchen is likewise overwhelmed; while we've seen from @twangster's live blogs and others who have done the galley tours that they prepare the evening's dishes well in advance, they still need enough time to get them out of refrigeration and get them to the right temperature, or cook the meats or fish so they're freshly hot, etc. And they get too many orders to give everything the attention it needs, leading to complaints about the food.

 

And then the late traditional shift comes along.

Fewer people want this slot. It's a late time to eat for a lot of people; they don't necessarily want to see the earlier show; the late seating doesn't finish up in time for other performances they want to catch, like the adults-only comedian slot; they'd rather have a quick bite in the Windjammer at that point; etc.

So things naturally slow down, and the staff actually gets to breathe again. Attentiveness returns, food gets prepared better, and the people in this time slot just generally find it a great overall experience.

What do you all think? Sounds about right, or am I missing something?

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Do you prefer to eat in restaurants that are very popular where you can see a lot of people? Or do you prefer the intimacy of a smaller venue. We never eat in the MDR. Its not for us. Too crowded and too loud for us. We prefer the smaller venues for quieter dinners. Its worth the xtra money to us. I think it all depends on what you are used to at home.

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@JLMoran  We have never missed a late show, and never had to rush through dinner.   I think the only times we kinda had to rush was on Adventure for the Ice Skating show and We Will Rock You on Anthem, but we still got there @15 mins. prior to the shows.    We have this down to a system now.  we always get a balcony. 

We go to the WJ at 6 and make 2 plates.  With every cruise I have seen the WJ get busier and busier at dinner.

Our 1st plate is meats, cheeses, bread, etc like an anti-pasti salad.to nosh on our balcony while the sun sets and we get ready for dinner. It holds us over until the late seating.  We than either go for drinks or the early shows.  Shows last 45 mins.  Thus, the 7 pm show is over by 8, and many ships actually keep their doors closed for traditional.  IOWS, even if you have a late traditional seating, no need to rush to be there at 7:50 bc the doors will be closed until 8 on the dot.

The 2nd plate is snacks for late night, such as, desserts in a cup, cookies, and also, their salads,  fried chicken, or Mongolian stir fry, etc anything that we can eat cold (to fit in the mini-fridge aka cooler place it in their small bowls).  We prefer this than eating pizza or their limited sandwiches, every night.  

@whenismynextcruise  I get your point about being over crowded in the MDR.  I have found it that way for MTD.  I also find that compared to traditional seating that it appears they seem to have those tables right smack on top of each other, whereas, in the traditional dining rooms, they are roomier.

Again, my belief that with all of the specialty options plus, MTD the traditional dining room is used less now. Caveat I have never done the 5:30 traditional so I don't know how crowded it is for that seating.  We have never asked for a window table, but luckily for us 90% of the time that is what we have always been given.  

I would say the late seating regarding occupancy has been basically the equivalent of eating in the MDR for lunch on sea days.  Lots of open tables around you.  I have found the specialties are much more crowded now than the MDR, but than again the specialties are smaller in size, so I think that is why it might feel more crowded to me.  That and we do specialty, we usually do a 6:30 or 7 pm reservation, which is peak time.

I am not anti-specialty.  Heck, I will pay for it for just 1 item on the menu that you can't get elsewhere on the ship.  IE Goat cheese salad in Chops.  The bread tray in Giovannis with their roasted garlic.  Spicy shrimp tempura roll in Izumi.  The world in Wonderland. 

I do agree that it is a personal desire when it comes down to it and also a wallet issue.  I am someone with a budget.  If upgrading to a better cabin, or doing a unique (expensive) 1x in a lifetime excursion means that I have to forego specialty I would in a heartbeat.  Heck if it came down to the Chefs table or 3 nights specialty, Chef's table wins hands down.  

Than again like we both are saying it comes down to your personal desires, and I think RCL is doing a good job at trying to offer everyone different options for eating preferences.   Want to try Chops, but not buy the dining package, than you can just do the lunch.  Want sushi, but not the dining package you can do the sushi class for 1 (they allow extra people to come after the class and share what you have made).  Want a long meal paired with wines than you have Chefs.  

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Only cruised once so far but we did every night at MDR. I could not reason to pay so much extra for specialty dining when there is outstanding food with excellent service included (= I have already paid for it!).

I have our next cruise booked and I did book "the key", which include first day lunch at Chops grille. Of course we are going to try that (because it is included or as a matter of fact I have already paid of). This might be an eyeopener for specialty dining... ... or not well see it then.

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I will agree that the specialty restaurants are getting more and more crowded.  I am not happy with the way they are shoving 2 tops so close to each now, just like they do in the MDR.  I won’t sit at one of those if they try and put us there.  I’m not sure where you go once the specialties start looking and sounding like the MDR.

I put this in my last post cruise survey (not that I think they will read it).

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@FManke  I think a little bit of both.

They are making it cost efficient to do 3 nights ($69 for our cruise), use a travel agent and they gift you a specialty and now you have 4 nights for a total of 70 pp out of pocket.  Pretty cheap.  The problem is that certain restaurants are always going to get more people.  Not everyone wants a dininng experience like Wonderland,  or sushi, so if they have 5 specialty restaurants and 2 are not to your liking, you will go to the remaining 3 or 4.  

The MDR traditional is impo becoming less popular because of MTD.  With MTD passengers are feeling like they are not getting that "special" attention, so on the next cruise, why not spend that $$ on the 3 night dinner, afterall we have been to the Bahamas so much, that we have no desire to get off the ship, which saves them excursion costs.  To me the same would be true for NE cruises, you really don't need to buy an excursion for Halifax or Portland if you have done it before.

Now add in The Key.  So many people are buying it, that they are getting to experience it and like a balcony it is hard to not book that again.

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18 minutes ago, Pima1988 said:

With MTD passengers are feeling like they are not getting that "special" attention

I'm sorry, but with MTD why should passengers expect any "special" attention? Like I noted above, if you're doing MTD it's because you want the dining hour that you and every other person expects as "normal". So you're no longer booking dining in a special place, you're booking at the local Applebees / Olive Garden / cheap chain restaurant of your choice that always gets packed in the standard dinner rush time. No one expects fantastic service at one of those places during the dinner rush, why should they expect it in the MDR of a cruise ship during MTD hours?

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19 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

I'm sorry, but with MTD why should passengers expect any "special" attention? Like I noted above, if you're doing MTD it's because you want the dining hour that you and every other person expects as "normal". So you're no longer booking dining in a special place, you're booking at the local Applebees / Olive Garden / cheap chain restaurant of your choice that always gets packed in the standard dinner rush time. No one expects fantastic service at one of those places during the dinner rush, why should they expect it in the MDR of a cruise ship during MTD hours?

For ourselves, we didn't choose the MTD to eat with the "standard dinner rush" we chose it for flexibility to eat when we wanted. Be it 5pm or 8pm, or anywhere in between. It doesn't make it any more "special" just because you choose not to eat at a set time. And being that the dining rooms are different, I don't know how one form of seating affects the other? I shouldn't expect less attention because I choose to eat when I want.

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19 hours ago, JLMoran said:

nd then the late traditional shift comes along.

Fewer people want this slot. It's a late time to eat for a lot of people; they don't necessarily want to see the earlier show; the late seating doesn't finish up in time for other performances they want to catch, like the adults-only comedian slot; they'd rather have a quick bite in the Windjammer at that point; etc.

So things naturally slow down, and the staff actually gets to breathe again. Attentiveness returns, food gets prepared better, and the people in this time slot just generally find it a great overall experience.

What do you all think? Sounds about right, or am I missing something?

Yeah, I dont do late dinner because it conflicts with pretty much every show.  You have to pretty much not care about shows to do the late dining option.  If you could do a late MTD, maybe that would work for certain nights depending on your schedule, but to commit to it EVERY night?

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10 minutes ago, FManke said:

For ourselves, we didn't choose the MTD to eat with the "standard dinner rush" we chose it for flexibility to eat when we wanted. Be it 5pm or 8pm, or anywhere in between. 

Sorry, should have said "the majority" or another term instead of "you". I still stand by my statement, though; I do believe the vast majority choose MTD because they want to eat when they're used to eating at home. And that's naturally going to lead to an hour or 90 minutes that is just insane and makes any kind of attentive service impossible for everyone. Those who don't 

And full disclosure -- when my wife and I got to enjoy CK last October on Anthem, guess what time we ended up booking every night? Yup, 6:30 PM, right when we're used to eating dinner at home! Only time we changed it was the night we saw Spectra, when we booked for 6:00 instead so that we didn't have to rush our meal. I was honestly stunned when CK was empty all but the last night, even allowing for the fact far fewer cabins can eat dinner there relative to the rest of the ship.

Just now, Constantino said:

Yeah, I dont do late dinner because it conflicts with pretty much every show.  You have to pretty much not care about shows to do the late dining option.  If you could do a late MTD, maybe that would work for certain nights depending on your schedule, but to commit to it EVERY night?

Usually the "standard" theater shows are done twice to accommodate the two traditional dining times -- earlier show for the late dinner seating, later show for the early seating. But yes, the Broadway shows and comedians and other specialty acts are either one show time or a time that conflicts with late dining. I almost have one on my upcoming Athem sailing, where We Will Rock You starts at 6:30 PM and won't finish until about 8:30, right when our late seating begins. Thankfully that's close enough that I'll just let our wait staff know we'll be a few minutes late that night.

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