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Awesome...to mediocre...to just plain bad

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Just returned from 7 day Liberty from Galveston and wanted to comment on the food. My family of 4 (Wife, 16 year old boy and girl) did the 5 day dining plan and went to Chops 3 nights and Giovanni's 2 nights.  MDR 2 nights

Awesome:

Chops - our waiter Jiri was just outstanding.  We went to Chops the 1st night of the cruise and his service was impeccable.  We requested him on our 2 other visits and he was a shining star!  The food was excellent!  from the salads right to the deserts.  on the last formal night (lobster night) they made sure to let us know ahead of time that they would have lobster tails which made for an awesome surf and turf.  It's been a few years since we cruised and the lobster tails used to be rock lobster.  This time around they were Maine lobster tails.  We are from New England and eat a lot of fresh lobster so we may be a bit picky.  These tails were frozen which I would expect but they were still very good!

Giovanni's - Service was again excellent.  Food was very good.  We visited on the 2nd night of the cruise and the waiter pretty much brought us everything on the menu including appetizers and main pasta dishes.  there was so much food on the table that we couldn't come close to finishing.  We ended up not touching the eggplant parm and had them box it up to go for our cabin fridge.  The only thing they cold improve on is the deserts...taramisu was mediocre and cannoli were soggy.  Not really a biggie because we ate so much there wasn't room for desert!

Mediocre:

MDR - went for breakfast the 1st morning because my wife and I always like to get the eggs benedict...they were both cold, overcooked, and had just a dribble of hollandaise which had no taste.  Kids got pancakes with bacon and sausage which turned out to be the same quality as Wind Jammer buffet (just plain bad).  Bacon is like beef Jerky and almost unedible...sausage is as low quality as you can get....no casing and mushy!

lunch was good and we only went to lunch in MDR on sea days because of the salad buffet.  

Dinner was a bit better but lowest quality of any cruise I have been on (Disney, Princess, and multiple RCR).  

One annoying service issue was the waiters trying to sell us a bottle of wine on both nights even after telling them we had the drink package (glasses of wine included).  Both of our waiters were incredulous that we wouldn't buy a bottle of wine at 40% off instead of ordering single glasses of wine.  Why would I spend additional $$ on a bottle of wine when I can order the same wine by the glass which is included in my drink package.  just strange.

Plain BAD!!!!!!!!:

Wind Jammer:  This was by far the worst buffet dining experience I have ever had on a cruise ship.  Barely edible items up and down the buffet line for breakfast and lunch.  The ONLY thing I can recommend here is the egg/omlette station for breakfast.  get your eggs cooked the way you want...grab some toast and get the heck out!  

"Sliced beef" carving station at lunch looked like pork...never seen sliced beef that was white in color...i passed.  Burgers are hockey pucks.  pasta...how do you screw up pasta!?

 

Johnny Rockets:  they didn't cook the burgers in front of you on the grill.  they were same quality as the buffet hockey pucks and were just pre-cooked low quality burgers.  It took 45 minutes to get our burgers AFTER we had cheese fry appetizer!  We were there for 90 minutes one day just for burgers/fries and almost got up and left.  This was really a disappointment as we have been to Johnny Rockets before and were expecting a decent burger....not Wind Jammer quality pucks.  NOT WORTH THE UPCHARGE!

 

Bottom line is that I am very happy we purchased the 5 night dinner package.  If you want good quality food this is the only way to go.  I had heard that food quality had gone down but was very surprised at how bad Wind Jammer quality was.  I expect typical mediocre quality for mass produced food items in a buffet but this was close to unacceptable.

 

 

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I'm sorry you had such a terrible experience with the food on Liberty, My wife and I were just on her the first week of June, and my dinning experiences were much different, we went to Chops once, Giovanni's table once and Sabor twice, MDR the other nights. I will admit that the specialty dinning is on a different level than the MDR, but, everything we had in the MDR was acceptable and/or very good. I went to Windjammer for every breakfast and Lunch and was not disappointed, I ate a lot of my lunches at the Asian station along with a salad and everything was always fresh and had good flavor, I even commented on this forum about how good the pastries were. I didn't try to eat any hamburgers so I cannot comment on that, also I don't drink, so I cannot comment on that. 

I would say that I will be disappointed if service offerings have changed that much in a little over a month. In all fairness maybe it has to do with expectations... 

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Thanks tiny260.  My expectations of Wind Jammer were not high.  I've been on other RC cruises and they always met my expectations, just not this time.  There wasn't a very big Asian station on this cruise.  I tried the "Asian" noodles which turned out to be spaghetti with some type of sauce.

I did have higher expectations for Johnny Rockets because I have had them many times on land.  I expected freshly cooked burgers.

Neither of these complaints would cause me not to book with RC again because the specialty dining was excellent.

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There have been so many varying opinions about food and it is certainly a subjective topic. We have been on 5 cruises and always used the MDR (and fortunately have never been disappointed). Sooo....are the specialty restaurants really THAT much better than the MDR? We are cruising again in May on Adventure OTS and will be considering the dining plan. Thanks!

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5 hours ago, Skid said:

There have been so many varying opinions about food and it is certainly a subjective topic. We have been on 5 cruises and always used the MDR (and fortunately have never been disappointed). Sooo....are the specialty restaurants really THAT much better than the MDR? We are cruising again in May on Adventure OTS and will be considering the dining plan. Thanks!

 

I agree.  I love eating in the MDR.  IMO (which with a fiver will get you a nouveau cup o' joe), it's a great venue - the food is excellent, and if I get something I don't like, I just get something else.  The waiters do their damndest to please you (I still can't get my wife to put a clean, cloth napkin in my lap and call me "sir").  My wife thinks that I grill the best steak she's ever had by far, so why go to a steak place?

 

That said, we will probably do First Night Done Right, and also hit up Sabor for lunch.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Skid said:

There have been so many varying opinions about food and it is certainly a subjective topic. We have been on 5 cruises and always used the MDR (and fortunately have never been disappointed). Sooo....are the specialty restaurants really THAT much better than the MDR? We are cruising again in May on Adventure OTS and will be considering the dining plan. Thanks!

Our steak in giavannis was one of my best meals ever.   Service was wonderful.   I like the mdr...im not picky...but to have a specialty meal or 2 was really nice.   It was a little "special" thing that made the trip better.   We could have survived without but im really glad we did giavannis and chefs table.  Jane 

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1 hour ago, Floski said:

I agree.  I love eating in the MDR.  IMO (which with a fiver will get you a nouveau cup o' joe), it's a great venue - the food is excellent, and if I get something I don't like, I just get something else.  The waiters do their damndest to please you (I still can't get my wife to put a clean, cloth napkin in my lap and call me "sir").  My wife thinks that I grill the best steak she's ever had by far, so why go to a steak place?

That said, we will probably do First Night Done Right, and also hit up Sabor for lunch.

 

 

So funny. If you ever figure out how to get that done, publish it-you'll be rich! Thanks for your input.

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1 hour ago, mom2mybugs said:

Our steak in giavannis was one of my best meals ever.   Service was wonderful.   I like the mdr...im not picky...but to have a specialty meal or 2 was really nice.   It was a little "special" thing that made the trip better.   We could have survived without but im really glad we did giavannis and chefs table.  Jane 

That is a great thought. Thank you!

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Jane, stole my thunder, I was going to say that the MDR is big and can be noisy, so by going to one of the specialty restaurants you are getting a smaller much more quaint experience. The MDR is dinning for the masses (Still very good in my opinion) and the specialty is just a little step up, say like going from Outback to Ruth's Chris, both very good for their niche market.

As stated above, if you don't like something, send it back and try something different...

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4 hours ago, tiny260 said:

Jane, stole my thunder, I was going to say that the MDR is big and can be noisy, so by going to one of the specialty restaurants you are getting a smaller much more quaint experience. The MDR is dinning for the masses (Still very good in my opinion) and the specialty is just a little step up, say like going from Outback to Ruth's Chris, both very good for their niche market.

As stated above, if you don't like something, send it back and try something different...

Not really an Outback fan and love Ruth Chris, so great analogy. Thanks.

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8 hours ago, Skid said:

Not really an Outback fan and love Ruth Chris, so great analogy. Thanks.

and this is why food is so hard to judge  by other people's opinions.I I love outback lol!!!  Haven't been to Ruth Chris but I hear it is excellent.  However, I will put that giavannis steak up against anyones!   Jane

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31 minutes ago, mom2mybugs said:

and this is why food is so hard to judge  by other people's opinions.I I love outback lol!!!  Haven't been to Ruth Chris but I hear it is excellent.  However, I will put that giavannis steak up against anyones!   Jane

Yup, as the saying goes, that's why they make chocolate ice cream. 

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On 7/17/2017 at 10:42 PM, Floski said:

 

I agree.  I love eating in the MDR.  IMO (which with a fiver will get you a nouveau cup o' joe), it's a great venue - the food is excellent, and if I get something I don't like, I just get something else.  The waiters do their damndest to please you (I still can't get my wife to put a clean, cloth napkin in my lap and call me "sir").  My wife thinks that I grill the best steak she's ever had by far, so why go to a steak place?

 

That said, we will probably do First Night Done Right, and also hit up Sabor for lunch.

 

 

We also prefer eating at MDR with the same wait staff who can start to anticipate your needs, we just think that adds to the overall vibe.    The MDR food is usually very good (imo) though I've had some clunkers here and there.   But if you don't like, get something else.   We tried Chops first time on the Enchantment in April and the service was fantastic too  The food was a step up from the MDR but to be honest, I wasn't blown away by it.  It wasn't at a Ruth's Chris or Morton's level.   But in the interest of science, we'll give it another go on our next trip, as one specialty dining is included for us.   We'll  hit Sabor and/or Giovannis once too, probably for lunch.  My two cents....

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Our first time or two at Chops I would have compared it to a Ruth Chris ... since then it has generally dropped off in every way.

I would say about level with Outback for me at this point (and I both like Outback and used to work there so that's not a negative).

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I didn't want to compare the MDR with some restaurant that was only in my local area (Oklahoma) so I picked two that I thought everyone would know. I love both Ruth's Chris and Outback, but I have also had very favorable experiences at the MDR and Chops. The Chops we just had on Liberty was amazing.

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On 7/17/2017 at 10:42 PM, Floski said:

My wife thinks that I grill the best steak she's ever had by far, so why go to a steak place?

I can cook a steak at least as well as a steak house too; probably better since I get to decide exactly how I want it and it's a fraction of the price.  I've had the choice between booking with a $50 OBC or a $50 Costco gift card I'll pick the gift card every time.  I can put together a NICE steak dinner for two under $50 with sides, wine, and dessert.  You'll blow past $50 for just the steaks at a steak house.

That said, there's a certain appeal to being waited on and having someone else cook for you.  I would certainly never say NO if somebody wanted to take me to a nice steak house!

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Chops, which used to be one of my favorites is dead to me and will remain so until they being a ribeye to the menu.

As for the dining room, I think people forget that the food served there is banquet style, like you might receive at a wedding. You're not going to receive a cooked to order meal there. 

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I just got off Liberty so I'll throw my 2 cents in on this subject, if anyone cares.

We sailed on Navigator 2 years ago and thought MDR was great with lots of variety and innovative choices.  This trip, we were still pretty pleased with the variety but definitely thought the quality (and presentation) had gone down quite a bit, which was disappointing.  2 years ago, there were so many fun things to choose we often shared multiple entrees just to try everything.  This time, we had trouble selecting because many things just did not seem appealing.  One night, I even sent back the crepes because they were overcooked and dried out - they tasted like hard, tasteless cardboard.  Overall, I think the starters and desserts are still pretty fun and different, but the main dishes are lacking.

We do think the Windjammer has a great buffet, although we never eat there at dinner, only breakfast and lunch.  There is so much variety.  Indian, Asian, Mexican, British, and traditional American with many different options in each category.  One day there was chicken tikka masala, paneer, pakora, dosa, raita and a vegetable curry!  My only complaint is that I would like to see more exotic fruits and juices and not just the usual stuff.

For the first time we ate at a specialty restaurant (Giovanni's twice) and were very pleased.  The atmosphere is nicer, relaxed and more upscale.  The setting is much more intimate with just a few diners instead of thousands.  The waitstaff is better.  We had a great panoramic view of the ocean from our table.  The food was very good.   For example, the beef carpaccio was one of the best I've ever had and literally melted in my mouth with a wonderful pesto sauce (while the beef carpaccio in the MDR was tough and stringy, served with simply shredded lettuce).  The carbonara and osso bucco were also outstanding - as good as any high quality restaurant in a large city.  It was a nice change.  However, the menu is limited and I hate to see the MDR go downhill so that RCCL can charge extra for specialty dining.  And I agree the desserts were not stellar.

2 years ago, we ate at the same time every night in the MDR so had the same waitstaff.  They bent over backwards to be accommodating and friendly, because they knew we'd leave an additional tip at the end.  This time, we ate at different times so had different waitstaffs.  Everyone was efficient and nobody was rude, but the difference was huge.  Obviously because they knew that lack of loyalty  meant no big additional tip at the end. 

And finally, this observation on a much-over-discussed topic.  Dress.  I'm all for being casual and not forcing people to dress up if they don't want to.  Nice shorts with a collared shirt are ok.  Nobody needs to be formal.  But unless you are dining in the Windjammer, you need to be clean and neat.  I saw cut-off jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops in Giovanni's.  In the MDR, people came in straight from the pool area with dirty sweaty tank tops, sweaty hair and flip-flops.  Even on formal nights.  Again, I don't need to see tuxes and chiffon (unless you want to wear it) but please have some decorum.  Perhaps that is why the MDR quality is going downhill.

 

 

 

 

 

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I literally had the exact same experience as the person above me. My wife and I went on Navigator in 2015 and were incredibly impressed with the MDR food as well as the Windjammer. When we went on Liberty in April of 2017 we expected the same. While it wasn't terrible, there was definitely a shift in quality from what we remembered. We still had great service and the food was still very much acceptable and at times great.

In my opinion this shift in quality is due to the recent changes to the "dining experience" on cruise ships. Now you have to pay what they will call a "small fee" to enjoy the same experience that used to be provided in the MDR. I will never be convinced that a meal for $30+ a person is a great deal. I would say that's about what it is worth, and probably even relatively expensive for the average person. We ate at Sabor on Liberty because they were running a $15 promotion at the time and it was good food, but it wasn't any better than what I could get for the same price in my home town. (Except for that Avocado Margarita, that is worth twice as much as it costs)

Even with the lower quality we noticed in the MDR we still choose to dine in the MDR mostly every night because we believe the value received from the complimentary meal in the MDR far exceeds the value received for the fee in the specialty restaurants. I definitely have a thing against specialty restaurants and kind of see them as a microcosm of what the future holds for the cruise industry. I wish that cruise ships were taking steps back towards an all-inclusive experience rather than taking steps away from it, but the wheels are already in motion and I don't think it can be stopped. From a business perspective I'm sure it's a great revenue generating move for Royal Caribbean, but from this cruiser's perspective it's starting to feel like I'm being driven towards paying extra if I want the same quality of food that used to be included.  

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2 hours ago, colinmac31 said:

In my opinion this shift in quality is due to the recent changes to the "dining experience" on cruise ships. Now you have to pay what they will call a "small fee" to enjoy the same experience that used to be provided in the MDR. I will never be convinced that a meal for $30+ a person is a great deal. I would say that's about what it is worth, and probably even relatively expensive for the average person. We ate at Sabor on Liberty because they were running a $15 promotion at the time and it was good food, but it wasn't any better than what I could get for the same price in my home town. (Except for that Avocado Margarita, that is worth twice as much as it costs)

This is perhaps my biggest gripe with the extra charge dining. If I've paid for dinner in the MDR, then whatever surcharge restaurant I dine it should be discounted accordingly. While I've enjoyed Sabor and Izumi, I can have the same, if not better, meals at home for a similar (and sometimes lower) price, so I feel as if I'm paying twice (for the upcharge and for the meal in the MDR that I'm not eating). With the dining plan, however, I do feel that there is a value there.

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I found the MDR experience on my Harmony in October, 2016 to be somewhat mediocre.

I found the MDR experience on the Independence in July, 2017 to be very good!

I don't think it's a thing that has fallen down over time.  I think it can be better or worse depending on the ship, time of year, itinerary, availability of ingredients, the chefs.

One note: service on both was top notch.

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14 hours ago, DocLC said:

This is perhaps my biggest gripe with the extra charge dining. If I've paid for dinner in the MDR, then whatever surcharge restaurant I dine it should be discounted accordingly. While I've enjoyed Sabor and Izumi, I can have the same, if not better, meals at home for a similar (and sometimes lower) price, so I feel as if I'm paying twice (for the upcharge and for the meal in the MDR that I'm not eating). With the dining plan, however, I do feel that there is a value there.

DocLC, I'm fairly certain I've read posts (maybe not here) from people that eat dinner at a specialty restaurant early then MDR later (or the other way around).  It's probably way too much food for most, but they also felt like they were wasting a meal they had already paid for.  Does anyone know if specialty restaurants are supposed to remove your MDR dinner reservation?  Or perhaps there is no official policy because not many people would want double meals?

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@Atlantix2000 I suppose that's possible, but given that the dining room it's only open from about 5:30-9:30, you'd need to be able to consume a massive amount of food. Realistically, you wouldn't be done with your specialty meal until 7, so that means you'd be eating again within 2.5 hours. 

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2 hours ago, BrianAlt said:

I found the MDR experience on my Harmony in October, 2016 to be somewhat mediocre.

I found the MDR experience on the Independence in July, 2017 to be very good!

I don't think it's a thing that has fallen down over time.  I think it can be better or worse depending on the ship, time of year, itinerary, availability of ingredients, the chefs.

One note: service on both was top notch.

I wonder if this has to do with the chefs? They best dining we had in the MDR was the Brilliance in Europe. The next year on the Serenade, the MDR was downright bad; however, the WJ was phenomenal. 

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