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Royal Caribbean to Cut Traditional Buffet Once Cruises Resume

May 15, 2020

By Aaron Saunders

(12:45 p.m. EDT) – The traditional cruise ship buffet is about to go overboard when sailings resume, according to Royal Caribbean executives. 

In a virtual Coffee Chat call with Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of sales and trade support & service, Vicki Freed, president and CEO Michael Bayley conceded that the hygiene changes that will go into effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic line will likely strike down the standard buffet offering, which has been a staple of cruising for decades.

"I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet…that's how I see it," said Bayley during the session. " We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability, it won't be a classical buffet. It will be something more akin to a restaurant. with opinions from both buffet loyalist and those who are ready to move on. 

"Will be very disappointed if they do away with the [Windjammer, Royal Caribbean's onboard buffet offering]," writes Ashland. "Why can't they just use servers like they do when there's a Noro outbreak onboard?"

"Oh man... that's the last plastic straw!" says Rocket3D. "What's next...no bars?"

Others, however, say they won't miss the buffet experience. 

"I find the experience of eating at Windjammer restaurants and other buffets somewhat disgusting and only eat there reluctantly if there is absolutely no other choice," says LibertyBella. "Eating becomes a competition and a race instead of an experience to enjoy."

"My thoughts — we will all be so glad to get back to cruising that whatever Royal comes up with will be accepted," writes Lady Hudson. "I am not a big Windjammer person so would not be a big loss for me. Unintended benefit — less noro[virus]?"

While Royal Caribbean has not announced exact plans for the Windjammer buffet aboard its fleet, Bayley stated that any changes to the casual eatery would have to be made with the coronavirus pandemic in mind.

"I think the key focus on dining is making sure that our guests have plenty of choices," said Bayley. "That choice has to be put through the lens of distancing, and safety and health."

Royal Caribbean already had hand sanitizing stations on every vessel outside the Windjammer buffet, and some ships had full-service handwashing stations located at each entrance. During a sailing on Explorer of the Seas in early March, the line had employees stationed outside the Windjammer with large containers of sanitizer, making sure everyone used it before going in. 

These changes, however, are also mandated in part by the "No Sail" order issued in March by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was extended in April to last for a period of no less than 100 days [July 24] as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

Other changes to Royal Caribbean's sanitation and hygiene practices have not been revealed yet. 



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Im sure they’ll come up with a great way to still serve up dried out hamburgers! ? 

I’ve never been a fan of WJ or buffets in general. Can’t stand all the crowding. We eat there maybe 2 times per cruise and only because we missed MDR breakfast. 

It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. Considering they need to figure out a way to create more space among passengers, maybe the WJ will become an extension of the MDR. I’ve been wondering how they will social distance in the MDR and where they’ll put people for dinner. 

One thing this virus has forced business to do is get innovative! 

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I love the windjammer. I did not love the line cutters, the people who used their hands instead of the utensils the lines provide.

I also disliked the people who bypassed the hand-wash basins at the entrance, to include hand sanitizer gels.  I have witnessed people pick up an item i.e. a piece of fruit, or a slice of bread then decide for whatever reason to place it pack on the buffet.

These people are incredible but because of them I will not miss it.

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My mind keeps exploding with the idea of what embarkation day lunch will look like if they change the WJ to be akin to a restaurant style.  Same can be said for breakfast on early a.m. port days and debarkation days.?

We typically do not eat in the WJ, but we do pop in for snacks to take back to the cabin or the Solarium, so it would impact us.



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my wife and I both love the Windjammer, not everyone likes the main dining and seek a variety of foods. The Windjammer is a well known highlight on royal Caribbean ships and people who eat there always say how they cant wait to cruise again to go to Windjammers. Its pretty simple either put servers in place to get the food you want like carnival cruise line, or put a restriction down that adults must prepare children's food due to they can't reach and be food safe. If you cant keep the Windjammer safe to serve food you can't keep a ship safe from one and another. Buffets are not a problem its the way you run then. Hope its not going to happen because I see alot of people going to other cruise lines for vacations.

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8 minutes ago, gerald pauken said:

put a restriction down that adults must prepare children's food due to they can't reach and be food safe.

So what age is adult to you?

I am not trying  to be antagonistic.  I am trying to see how they could draw the line from your perspective.  Are they going to give sea pass cards color coded for age range?  What age is the line drawn at?  8, 10, 12, 14, 16?

  • My youngest at 12, was 6 foot, he is 6'4.  My daughter is 5'1.  They are 2 yrs apart, and she is older than him.  If you looked at her at 16 at 5'1 you would think she was 12 due to her height and physical structure, but due to my DS's height you would assume he had to be at least 16.  He was my height of 5'5 by the time he was 10. 

We do visit the WJ, but rarely sit down and eat in it,  since we always book a balcony.  We will order the continental breakfast delivered to the room.  1 of us will go to WJ, get omelets and tasty triangular shaped hash browns on a plate while the other waits for room service.  Take it back and eat on our balcony instead of searching for a table.  

We also love their panini station in the WJ at lunch.  We live in the Solarium, so it is a repeat. 1 goes and makes the plates, the other stays in the Solarium.  

We eat dinner late (7:30+) so as soon as it opens for dinner I am up there making an anti-pasta plate with their deli meats, breads, appetizers in a cup, etc.  to not only eat b4 dinner, but as a late night snack compared to their pre-made stuff they offer late at night on our balcony.

Point is, we use it a lot, but more like take out than sit down.

Seeing as that is how we do it, I can tell you that I have seen gaggles of teens without their folks picking food and putting it back while a friend laughs about how they touched it!  The offender usually giggles and does the shush response!

They can make WJ work.  I can see it.  Look at how Solarium Bistro and the MDR breakfast/lunch works.  It is a mix of both aspects.  

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We don't love Windjammer as I like to dine, the whole craziness of the buffet is not enjoyable for us, but that being said we don't hate it either. We usually opt for it only on "off" times and then do enjoy trying different or unusual offerings. We would visit her no more than 2X a sailing, just don't really prefer that experience. 

That being said we do prefer if we had no other option the Windjammer to the DCL buffet, Cabanas offering. Ugh, we stayed away from there at all costs. The behaviors in that place were beyond words. 

cookie monster eating GIF

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I don’t like buffets as a general rule, mostly because I don’t like the idea of those who practice substandard hand washing being able to be in contact with my food or the utensil I use to serve it. 

That said, I appreciate the variety WJ offers and the immediate availability. I don’t see how having the food crew served instead of self serve would impact guest satisfaction, and seems a rather easy change. 

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I only went to WJ for breakfast, because of the great omelettes I could get each morning along with fruit, sausage, well-done bacon, and fresh-squeezed OJ. Yes, I can get the same in the MDR, but that entailed a wait with an often cool or lukewarm omelette instead of piping hot. But if that’s what I have to deal with going forward, so be it.

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I would be okay with food court style offerings. Turning the buffet stands into service stations for various items and utilizing half the the dining room bussers. I think it would cut down on waste because if you have to wait to be served an item, you are less inclined to get something and not eat it. Those few extra seconds or minutes could help your brain to process why piling your plate with 4 hamburgers doesn't seem quite right. There would be less people cutting you off or cutting the line. I always do Windjammer when I want to see a show or for lunch, as I don't want to wait hours to complete my meal in the MDR.

Happy The Simpsons GIF by FOX International Channels

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If I never eat at the WJ again, it will be too soon(ok this is only if we have the kids with us). I do prefer to avoid buffets though, and will not miss it as long as there are other quick food options. I am becoming a snob anyways and only want to cruise on Oasis class ships with the multiple food options. 

I'm also thinking they may move to 3 dinner times and try and shorten the experience to 1 1/2hrs (which many would be in favor of anyways).

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Honestly, I think doing away with the buffet and completely changing our way of life is ridiculous.  If you don't like the buffet then dont go.  There are plenty of other options available.  Covid-19 isn't the end of the world and some of the responses and policy changes over the last couple of months is going to set a dangerous precedent moving forward.  I can't wait for our next cruise but if the onboard experience is going to change drastically then I can't see spending money on a trip I will not enjoy.  Time will tell I guess. 

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The WJ for us is a way to eat fast when we do not want to spend two hours for dinner or 1 hour for lunch.

I do not like the breakfast in the WJ I think they are missing allot of items which I would like to see in breakfast but that's me .

Also we like the fact we can take a sample from something and if we like it we will go and get some more of it.  
So if they will have a way for a fast eating with ability to choose from a verity without the risk of people touching the food (and yes I saw many times people using their hands  , people return food after they touch it and many other bad habits) I will be OK with it.

Maybe as people offered , food court style , Maybe like the Solarium bistro serve the food in separate  individual dishes , or maybe pre order trays  (you will order your food via the application and a tray with the food you asked for will be ready for you when you enter the WJ .

Fast option is a much I think. 

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I always liked the variety of the Windjammer while at the same time I did not like what seemed like a competition food grab.

Some people can be very inconsiderate in buffet lines. I don't really care that the occasional person that just wants a roll or condiment, jumping in line, grabbing and going. But people that seem to have to push around every piece of food with tongs or what ever trying to decide exactly which piece they want is annoying. Then then there are the kids and slobs that strow food at every opportunity with indifference is inconsiderate to staff and passengers. Of course there is the proverbial table hunt during busy times.


On our last cruise I do not remember eating in the Windjammer but maybe once or twice during the week. There were several options that allowed us to eat breakfast and lunch at a different venue almost every day. Many times the food was as good if not better with a lot less stress and hubbub. In part, what allowed us to do this was a lot of new cruisers are just not aware there are options other than WIndjammer. That and we are early risers that puts us ahead of many crowds. If the Windjammer changes dramatically, I don't think RCCL will have much choice but to advertise options more heavily to spread people out. What were once the relatively unknown sanctums and eating options for those in the know will not be as peaceful and attractive.

Perhaps this will (or has) play into marketing to sell more tables at specialty restaurants which is what RCCL is turning to more and more where almost everything is optional at a price.

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As I started cruising multiple times per month and spending over 100 nights at sea per year several years in a row I stopped visiting the MDR.  I've gone months and only ate in the WJ, three meals per day.  I've never gotten sick on a ship and consider myself a WJ aficionado. 

I understand why people who cruise less frequently enjoy the MDR or specialty dining so I don't mean to challenge anyone's approach to cruising, to each their own.  For myself cruising often the WJ approached more to how I eat meals at home when I'm not on a ship offering both a faster dining experience as well as better choices to eat more healthy and smaller meals.  I could fashion a salad to my liking and add some proteins of the day for variety.  Had I eaten all those dinners in the MDR I'd surely be twice my current size.   

WJ dinners with fewer guests during evening hours have become a wonderful approach to dinner for the frequent cruiser and as I interacted with other frequent cruisers I discovered I wasn't alone in this approach to dining on board skipping the MDR each evening.

Having said all that I understand that a return to cruising in this day of the virus means examining everything on board to seek opportunities to reduce risk and spread.  Just because I never got sick some months spending more days at sea than on land doesn't mean there wasn't risk of illness present.

It saddens me that my beloved WJ must change but that is a change I understand and will embrace as a means to allow cruising to resume.  

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