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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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Not a fan when we first started cruising but learned to like at as a good standby option when the "schedule" didnt agree with the idea of a sit down dinner at a set time.

Actually upgraded WJ to my "go-to" on my series of Mariner cruises last year ... they really stepped up the variety and the quality and it was great to just wander over when you were ready rather than having to plan to abandon the pool, get cleaned up, etc. in order to make a scheduled dinner break.

 

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i don't mind the Windjammer, because they have a variety and different dinner themes that you can't get in the dinning room.  For example, I like german food and have on numerous occasions found jägerschnitzel on the buffet, Seafood...ie steamed shrimp, clams and various other items for when you don't want a lot, without going to a specialty dinnng venue. Call me an oddball, it wouldn't be the first time. ?

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On 5/17/2020 at 12:38 AM, Yo2slick said:

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. 

I *assume* once there is a vaccine and it's available for the "mass market" the windjammer will fall back to the way it was. Life on land will too be different for the foreseeable future.

On 5/17/2020 at 10:10 AM, twangster said:

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.  

We too share similar feeling about the Windjammer @twangster. In the beginning we packed the fancy clothing and did the sit down style eating. First Royal Caribbean cruise we got linked with a table for 6, but only 3 others made it nightly, 2 being a couple; We are still good friends with that couple to this day. However, without going into detail, we lost the taste for the traditional random seating. We did enjoy mytime dining but even that became an ordeal. Two hour dinners every night isn't our style at home and definitely not at sea...especially if it's just the two of us sailing. We just spent the entire day together, no need for an intimate meal, let's eat without the schedule and see where the rest of the night takes us. (We do try and have a few meals at specialty dining).

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For dinner, we like the MDR for dinner and have never gone to the Windjammer.

For lunch, we do go sometimes for the convenience and variety. I find it varies by ship if I like it or not.  It was good on Symphony.  Didn't love it on Mariner.  The MDR has a great lunch on sea days....although that is mostly due to the Tutti Frutti salad bar, which is buffet too.  So would be same issue.

For breakfast, we do enjoy the Windjammer.  It has great selection of hot and cold and quicker than sit down.  Our kids especially only like the Windjammer for breakfast and will protest the MDR.  Solarium is also a hit, but same thing, a buffet.  I should say that DH and I really like the MDR for breakfast, but if with our kids, we tend to stick with Windjammer or Solarium.

For snack, we will sometimes pop into the Windjammer after coming back from port or if by the pool and grab an afternoon snack.  Huge variety (which makes the decisions hard too...lol)

Will have to see how they transform the Windjammer.  If it's the same but they have someone serving, we will put on our patients hats and go.  Not sure if it will be more like Cafe Promenade or a full sit down. Can see them using the space though is some form to help with social distancing. Of course, they would need more staff.

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I like it for breakfast.  And if we have a late departure from a port and miss our MDR time we went to WJ to get something for dinner.  We discovered the MDR option for breakfast a couple cruises ago and like that too.    It’ll definitely be a change but as some have mentioned the craziness at certain times in WJ with people eating in line and then touching the spoons and I’ve seen on a handful of occasions a person licking their fingers and then handling the utensils.    That kinda turns your stomach but some folks just don’t understand common sense or courtesy and I get it.
 

but, considering the circumstances we are all in now it’s a new world.   They will come up with a workable plan to handle it.   

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I am not a big fan of the Windjammer, PLEASE do not get me wrong, I do enjoy eating there but I am not a fan of how absolutely disgusting some people are that go in there.  I mainly eat breakfast in there as well as stop in to get a plateful of their delectable oatmeal raisin cookies to munch on throughout the day.  I would gladly go without the WJ for awhile in order to keep everyone safe, I must say that I will miss getting onboard and having lunch and and debarkation breakfast but I am sure that they will have something else set up. I also wonder what they will do to feed people on places like CocoCay and Labadee since its basically a buffet day.  I hope that they have something suitable that is going to be able to handle the masses without having to wait too long.  But either way, it is DEFINITELY better than being at home and cooking myself!!??

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What we enjoy most is the CHOICE..  some nights we eat in the MDR, some, depending on activities and excursions, we eat in WJ. That the choice is now being removed is disappointing. We know it is a breeding ground for germs, but that can be controlled. Make it mandatory to wash hands, not a suggestion. Have hand sanitizer around the area. Change out the serving utensils often. 

We are always careful when we go to WJ. We know it's likely we will pick up something from the area.. so we hold plates with one hand, server with another. When we get to our table, wipe it down and sanitize our hands. Not perfect, but we have never had an issue.

I really do not see WJ being any worse than the elevator, boardwalk, cafe's, the theater etc in regards to covid.  The main way that covid is being past is in droplets, not surfaces.

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On 5/19/2020 at 12:03 AM, bytheslice said:

will bring our own Clorox.  I don't trust what type of bleach the waiters may be serving in the restaurants.

The concern we have is that we keep seeing items being cleaned with the same wipe..  like the grocery carts etc. We saw the person cleaning self checkout with the same piece of cloth over and over and putting it in her pocket. Not sure what the spray they were using, but if we can't smell bleach, then there is no way it is strong enough to make any difference when using the same cloth.. so we bring our own wipes.

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