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Are the dining packages worth it?


Sarahkc
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Hi,

I'm new to cruising and new to this forum.  We're doing our first cruise on Radiance in December.  There will be 6 of us, including a 9 and a 6 yr old.

My question is about the dining packages, e.g. the 3 or 4 night dining package.  I see in the fine print that  "for restaurants with a la carte pricing, package includes a $35 credit towards the food portion of your bill". But we're already paying for standard dining in the cruise fare, plus extra for specialty restaurants in a package (if we go for it) but that only covers a $35 and it might cost quite a bit more.  How much more is it likely to cost?   Is it worth it?  Any tips?

-Sarah

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Only a la carte place I can think of is Izumi. With a $35 credit a person that can cover a lot.

Get a better idea of what everything costs check out: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/menus/izumi-menu-brilliance-of-the-seas

Should also add Matt did a great review of Izumi on Brilliance as well: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2018/02/06/review-izumi-brilliance-of-the-seas

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Now dining package as a whole... Hard to judge and really depends on the dining experience you might be after. Overall the speciality restaurants offer more of an intimate dining experience with less of a hustle that the main dining room would offer. Dishes themself can be better due to them being more made to order. Ultimately it all comes down to personal taste and can be hard to judge if it is worth it or not.

If your group loves steak, eating at Chops multiple nights could be worth it. Wanting to taste everything the ship has to offer and not worry about an onboard cost, go for it.

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3 minutes ago, CGTLH said:

Only a la carte place I can think of is Izumi. With a $35 credit a person that can cover a lot.

Get a better idea of what everything costs check out: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/menus/izumi-menu-brilliance-of-the-seas

Ok thanks - so if I understand correctly - every other restaurant except Izumi is set menu, and the dining package covers the whole meal?  2 or 3 courses?

Sorry - new to this, there's a lot to think about! I  I've been agonising over the drinks packages for months.

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Just now, Sarahkc said:

Ok thanks - so if I understand correctly - every other restaurant except Izumi is set menu, and the dining package covers the whole meal?  2 or 3 courses?

Sorry - new to this, there's a lot to think about! I  I've been agonising over the drinks packages for months.

Yup, every other restaurant has everything on the menu covered. Only exclusion would be the seafood tower and lobster at Chops.

Using menu from Brilliance again... Only general rule at Chops is only one entree can be ordered. Multiple appetizers, sides, and desserts are fine.

Chops: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/menus/chops-grille-menu-brilliance-of-the-seas

Giovanni's: If it on the menu, order it. Don't think the have a single entree policy. 

Geovanni's menu on Adventure: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/menus/giovannis-table-dinner-menu-adventure-of-the-seas

 

Just keep in mind the menus might not be exactly the same ship to ship. For the most part they will be very similar.

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1 hour ago, Sarahkc said:

Hi,

I'm new to cruising and new to this forum.  We're doing our first cruise on Radiance in December.  There will be 6 of us, including a 9 and a 6 yr old.

My question is about the dining packages, e.g. the 3 or 4 night dining package.  I see in the fine print that  "for restaurants with a la carte pricing, package includes a $35 credit towards the food portion of your bill". But we're already paying for standard dining in the cruise fare, plus extra for specialty restaurants in a package (if we go for it) but that only covers a $35 and it might cost quite a bit more.  How much more is it likely to cost?   Is it worth it?  Any tips?

-Sarah

Since it's your first cruise, there is no harm in just going to the main dining room and skipping the dining packages. The food is still fine there. That gives you a chance to get the hang of things and see if you like it. If not, then give specialty dining a try next time. In all of our cruising history, we have only dined at a specialty restaurant a whole 3 times. And another tip, if you do decide to do specialty, your kids are only $10pp. DO NOT book them ahead of time. Just have them add the kids on once you get to the restaurant.

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The dining packages offer a good value and I did the 5 night one last cruise mainly because I had sailed extensively with Royal and was looking for something different from the main dining room. Since this is your first cruise, I'd say go with the included options as you can always buy the package once onboard if the food isn't to your liking. 

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if I eat at a specialty its giovanis food has never been anything but fabulous chops was a big let down to me the steaks in the main dining room were just as good and included I would rather pay the little extra in the MDR and get the surf and turf this is just me and my families opinion but you must try giovanis even lunch was terrific they offer special deals on the ship that for me were a better deal then the cruise planner

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Giovanni's is the best.  

Note that Izumi is ala carte for the sushi and appetizers, but if you want the Hibachi experience you prepay $45 and the typical Hibachi meal is included.  That's more expensive than Chops.  I'm doing it for the first time next cruise and will see how it fares.  If anyone has done it I'd appreciate a review.

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You could always give lunch a try during a sea day. The menu will be truncated, but it will be a cheaper way to experience the specialty restaurants and to see if you enjoy them without giving up any dinners in the main dining room.

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I think the dining packages are worth it, provided you are okay with these three provisions...

  1. You don't mind waiting to book reservations until you get onboard (specifically, you are okay if you don't get the exact day and time want but something close to it).
  2. You have a desire to dine at more than 2 specialty restaurants (especially if you are new to specialty dining and want to knock them out).
  3. You did not want to dine at one of the prohibited restaurants that the package does not cover (Hibachi or Chef's Table)

Dining packages will save a ton of money compared to paying for the same restaurants individually, but the trade off of having to wait to make reservations onboard.

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I would say that if you know for sure that you want to eat at multiple specialty restaurants then the dining package is a no brainer. With some of the restaurants costing up to $50 the package will save you a ton of money.

If the question is are the specialty dining packages worth the price for the meal I think it gets a little more complicated. There is no denying the food is great and significantly better than the complimentary options. The part I struggle with is the $30+ per meal even with the package isn't much less, if at all, than it would cost for a similar meal on land. The question for me is not are the specialty dining packages worth the price, but rather is the difference between the complimentary and specialty dining food worth the price. I still book the packages as of now, but with the recent increases in price I'm not sure I will book them in the future.

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I am considering getting a dining package, but the only specialty dining restaurants on Brilliance are Chops, Giovanni's and Izumi, and we don't like sushi so we wouldn't want to go to Izumi.  Is there only one menu at Chops and Giovanni's?  I would think that would get awfully repetitive if we ate at either more than once.    

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31 minutes ago, Laurin said:

I am considering getting a dining package, but the only specialty dining restaurants on Brilliance are Chops, Giovanni's and Izumi, and we don't like sushi so we wouldn't want to go to Izumi.  Is there only one menu at Chops and Giovanni's?  I would think that would get awfully repetitive if we ate at either more than once.    

There are a lot of choices besides sushi. They have ramen bowls, hot rocks where you grill your own beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables, among a variety of other offerings. The Mochi ice cream is also a nice treat for dessert.

The menus at the specialty restaurants do not change, but there is an alternate menu for lunch and I have seen a "special" offered in Giovani's occasionally.

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1 hour ago, cruiselife said:

The question for me is not are the specialty dining packages worth the price, but rather is the difference between the complimentary and specialty dining food worth the price.

That's the real question that needs to be answered, especially for first-time cruisers and for those who are considering the experience with children.

If you intend to eat with the kids, MDR or Windjammer may be a better option. If you plan to take the kids to Windjammer for their dinner and drop them off at Adventure Ocean for the evening while the adults eat then the "worth the price" question becomes relevant.

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1 minute ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

@DocLC What are those last 3 pics?? Names of dishes please.  Those look so good!

The very last one is one of the appetizers, Chicken Kara-Age. The ball-like ones are the Assorted Mochi Ice Cream, and the middle of the last three are the Izumi Sampler.

The menu for Izumi can be found here (http://media.royalcaribbean.com/content/shared_assets/pdf/menus/izumi.pdf) although the pricing may have changed slightly.

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Just now, DocLC said:

The very last one is one of the appetizers, Chicken Kara-Age. The ball-like ones are the Assorted Mochi Ice Cream, and the middle of the last three are the Izumi Sampler.

The menu for Izumi can be found here (http://media.royalcaribbean.com/content/shared_assets/pdf/menus/izumi.pdf) although the pricing may have changed slightly.

Putting that on my Genie list right now before I forget! lol

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1 hour ago, DocLC said:

There are a lot of choices besides sushi. They have ramen bowls, hot rocks where you grill your own beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables, among a variety of other offerings. The Mochi ice cream is also a nice treat for dessert.

The menus at the specialty restaurants do not change, but there is an alternate menu for lunch and I have seen a "special" offered in Giovani's occasionally.

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Thanks!  I'm glad to hear that there are other options besides sushi, although I still think my family would much rather dine at Chops or Giovanni's.  My husband is a "meat & potatoes" kind of guy and the kids (16 and 20) are steak and pasta fans.  I am more open to other dining experiences--except for sushi. ?

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@Laurin On the three night package, you can eat twice at Chops and once at Giovanni's; you're not required to go to all three. When we did the five night package on Allure, we dined twice at Giovanni's and twice at another restaurant that's not on your ship.

I just didn't want you to think that you had to go to Izumi just because you're on the package.

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4 hours ago, Laurin said:

I am considering getting a dining package, but the only specialty dining restaurants on Brilliance are Chops, Giovanni's and Izumi, and we don't like sushi so we wouldn't want to go to Izumi.  Is there only one menu at Chops and Giovanni's?  I would think that would get awfully repetitive if we ate at either more than once.    

We had such a great meal at chops that we well...my back the next night.   We tried a couple new things and got a few of the same things.   The menu is varied enough that you could repeat for sure,  especially at giovannis  where you could do pasta one night and steak or fish the other.   Jane

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If you're new to cruising, I'd do a set-time ("Traditional," not "My Time") in the main dining room.  You get the same wait staff every night and I think it really adds to the experience.  My advice is to save the specialty restaurants for another cruise with a smaller group.

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To me personally specialty dining is not worth it. If they value a meal in the mdr at $35 and that is essentially paid for in the cruise fare. Then you add the price of specialty restaurant which is another 30-50 dollars depending on what package you go with. I feel like the food in the mdr is very good so that is good enough for me. 

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The "is it worth it" question is relative, in my mind.  If I were dining in my home city,  the specialty restaurants would be quite a bit more expensive than what I would pay at home (after you include the estimated cost of the free MDR meal).  But, you are on a cruise and you are paying more than what you would pay at home anyway.  With that thought, the specialty restaurants are significantly better than the MDR, in service, atmosphere and quality.   Also, if you live in a small city and don't have the opportunity for hibachi or premier steak houses or high-end Italian, then that is another factor.   We usually eat a couple of times in the specialties and know we are paying more but always enjoy it.  (Hope that made sense).

My only gripe is that the MDR quality seems to be going downhill, I guess in an attempt to get people to eat in the specialties.  Honestly, that factor alone is causing me to spurn RCCL in the future.

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3 hours ago, Ogalthorpe Haywood said:

To me personally specialty dining is not worth it. If they value a meal in the mdr at $35 and that is essentially paid for in the cruise fare. Then you add the price of specialty restaurant which is another 30-50 dollars depending on what package you go with. I feel like the food in the mdr is very good so that is good enough for me. 

I think the value of the MDR meal is inflated. I really doubt cruise ships spend more than $25 per person per day for included food based on reports I've read in the past. In fact, Market Realist estimates that food only accounted for 6.6% of Royal Caribbean's costs in FY '13, with fuel doubling that cost according to the company's filings.

Generally, I consider, dinner to be "worth" $15 when calculating the value of specialty dining. Generally speaking, I find value if doing a dining package. I don't personally find value when going a la carte. In addition, I think Izumi's prices are too high as they often charge more for the same items I can get at home for less money. I don't mind spending onboard, but I'm not going to spend more for something onboard when a food cost is already built into the fare.

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20 hours ago, DocLC said:

I think the value of the MDR meal is inflated. I really doubt cruise ships spend more than $25 per person per day for included food based on reports I've read in the past. In fact, Market Realist estimates that food only accounted for 6.6% of Royal Caribbean's costs in FY '13, with fuel doubling that cost according to the company's filings.

Generally, I consider, dinner to be "worth" $15 when calculating the value of specialty dining. Generally speaking, I find value if doing a dining package. I don't personally find value when going a la carte. In addition, I think Izumi's prices are too high as they often charge more for the same items I can get at home for less money. I don't mind spending onboard, but I'm not going to spend more for something onboard when a food cost is already built into the fare.

I would love to know where you can get an 3-5 course meal (depending how many apps you order) for $15. I would be a regular at that place. I find the entrees to be valued between $20-25 not counting apps and desserts. So I think $35 is about fair, maybe a little generous. 

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12 minutes ago, Ogalthorpe Haywood said:

I would love to know where you can get an 3-5 course meal (depending how many apps you order) for $15. I would be a regular at that place. I find the entrees to be valued between $20-25 not counting apps and desserts. So I think $35 is about fair, maybe a little generous. 

I think the number @DocLC gave is more the "raw materials" cost per person, rather than the price a restaurant would charge. They buy in such massive bulk every week compared to a land restaurant that I have to imagine the per-person cost of the raw ingredients for each meal is a fraction of what land restaurants pay.

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1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

I think the number @DocLC gave is more the "raw materials" cost per person, rather than the price a restaurant would charge. They buy in such massive bulk every week compared to a land restaurant that I have to imagine the per-person cost of the raw ingredients for each meal is a fraction of what land restaurants pay.

Well I would I agree that buying in bulk is how a cruise operates, however my argument is simply based on value and $35 dollars is about what I value a meal in the mdr to be worth. Which is why I do not find value in spending extra at specialty dining and paying $30-50 (depending on the package) and essentially forfeiting that meal that is included in my cruise fare. 

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I was giving the "raw" costs. If the specialty dining isn't at least $15 less than what I spend at home for a similar meal, then it's not worth the cost to me. 

I find the dining room food to be fine, but I'm not sure if spend $35 if it were on land. 

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I've booked a 4 night package on the 12 night Symphony TA.  In my mind I've gone back and forth on canceling it. 

I used OBC to buy it .  I've prepaid gratuity and bought Voom yet still have $130 in OBC waiting for me.  For now I'm keeping the dining package because I'm not sure what else I could spend $230 in OBC on if I cancel it. 

If this were not OBC 'monopoly' money I would have already cancelled.  I still might and just visit one restaurant at full price on board and sink the rest into Kraken Lavaflows and a Symphony shirt. 

In my mind I have paid for a dinner.  The value of that is $15 to $20 for arguments sake.  If I have to pay an additional $45 for specialty, that is really a $60-$65 meal on land.  Would I pay that on land?   (per person)  I think not. 

Two drinks per day is around $200 (beer and glass of wine).  Augment that with Diamond drinks.  A shirt?  $30.  Walk of the ship with zero balance.  

That's probably how this will play out.  I'll let someone else review Hooked.   

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  • 1 month later...

Our Main Dining Room experience on RC ships has always been wonderful; great food and great service.  But sometimes you want a change - and that's where the specialty dining comes into play.  I have been to Chops Grille on two different RC ships - the first visit was GREAT, and the second visit was such a let down (maybe I caught them on a bad night).  Same for Giovanni's - first visit was AMAZING, second visit was almost inedible (especially when I've been to Italy 20+ times and know what REAL Italian food should taste).  The specialty dining offers better quality food because it's cook-to-order, and - this is why we go - the restaurant is smaller and therefore a bit more intimate.  No matter what you choose on RC, there's a 95% chance your meal is going to be fantastic!

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On 6/9/2018 at 11:26 PM, Sarahkc said:

 

Sorry - new to this, there's a lot to think about! I  I've been agonising over the drinks packages for months.

     I concur that the dining package is a subjective question. Value wise, the price is great given the amount and quality of the dinner IF you truly want something other than the MDR. As a first time cruiser, I go along with the suggestion of doing the main dining room since that IS part of the cruising experience. ... Now, onto you agonizing over the drink package. I am an HUGE fan of the ultimate beverage package. People so often say you have to drink too much alcohol to make it worthwhile. Maybe, if that is all you drink. While I do not normally ever drink coffee, I tried a different specialty one almost each day on my last cruise, plus an espresso after dinner. Each day after the thermal suite, I stopped at the Solarium Bar for a banana smoothie (slightly embarrassed to say that was THE best drink of the cruise), had specialty teas, tried diffferbt Diet Cokes, had plenty of bottled water for day, Port, night, freshly squeezed juices and, of course, the alcoholic drinks. I would have two glasses of wine with dinner and usually something later, plus maybe a quiet glass in Vintages. Here is the plus, as it was all paid for, I did not feel like I had to drink all of it. I had some, finished what I liked, experimented with different things. Three drinks in one day alone can pay for itself at $13/drink. 

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