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Eating gluten free on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

06 Mar 2023

For those with allergies and special diets, eating gluten free away from home can be a challenge. A Royal Caribbean cruise offers a stress-free option for those that need a gluten free diet.

Mariner of the Seas dining room

There are many choices for anyone that is looking for options that fit into their restrictions.

In fact, Royal Caribbean can accommodate a host of dietary needs, such as Kosher, low-fat, low-sodium and gluten free.

If you're someone that needs to eat gluten free on a Royal Caribbean cruise, here's what you should know.

Lots of gluten free choices

Gluten Free corner

In speaking with gluten free cruisers, they often talk about the variety of choices available.

First and foremost, you need to inform the waiter at any restaurant you visit that you are eating gluten free so that they can provide you options. 

The biggest mistake someone can make is not saying anything and relegating themselves to what they can spot on the menu.

gluten free chicken

When you sit down at a restaurant, the waiter will usually ask first if anyone has any dietary needs or allergies.

Whether they ask you or not, always tell any waiter you are gluten free, just to be safe.

Past cruisers report there being lots of options and they will accommodate you to make sure you have a great experience.

Galey tour

Royal Caribbean ships have their own preparation area in the galley (ship's kitchen) away from the main production area to prepare meals for guests with allergies to avoid cross-contamination of meals.

In fact, the Food & Beverage staff attend recurring training programs regarding allergy protocols.

How to tell Royal Caribbean you need gluten free options

GF Bread in Windjammer

You don't have to inform Royal Caribbean in advance, but you can certainly do so prior to the cruise.

You can email [email protected] and/or call the cruise line at (866) 592-7225 to confirm your needs.

In the email, include the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.

Gluten free spaghetti

Whether you inform them ahead of time or not, it's a good idea to ask to speak to the head waiter once onboard about your diet. The dining room staff are great about working with you.

In the Main Dining Room, the staff will bring you the following evening's menu and you let them know in advance what you’d like that works for your diet. They also have gluten free bread that can be prepared.

Breakfast GF

You can also make a request for breakfast the next day, such as pancakes or French Toast. They can also take lunch pre-orders as well.

Buffet dining with gluten free

GF options in Windjammer

The Windjammer buffet has great choices too if you're gluten free. 

There's an entire gluten free section in the Windjammer you can choose from, in addition to any dishes you may find elsewhere around the buffet. There are gluten free buns for burgers too.

Gluten free buffet selections

Don't be afraid to ask to speak to the chef in the Windjammer about what options you have beyond the designated section.

Specialty dining or Main Dining Room?

Meatball at Giovanni's Table

A common question is if someone with a gluten free diet is better off in the Main Dining Room or going to specialty restaurants.

In the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group, there's varying opinions on which is better, but neither are bad choices overall.

Steak from main dining room

Both will be able to cater to your needs, so there isn't one that is a better choice than the other.

If you eat at a specialty restaurant, be sure to inform them of your special need. 

One advantage of the Main Dining Room is you can specify your dietary needs on the first night, and the staff should be able to accommodate you going forward every day thereafter.

The good news is if you elect to try specialty dining, they can absolutely accommodate you.

Gluten free snacking

Gluten free pizza

You should know that you can still enjoy the complimentary pizza at Sorrento's (or Cafe Promenade/Park Cafe depending on your ship) if you're eating gluten free.

There is gluten free pizza available at Sorrento's upon request.

Gluten free food examples

All of this sounds great, but what does it look like and what can you expect exactly?

Here are photos of gluten free dishes other guests have shared from their Royal Caribbean cruises.

GF bread

Gluten free bread 

Gluten free calamari

Gluten free calamari 

Carne Asada

Carne Asada 

GF Bread at Chops Grill

Gluten free bread at Chops Grille


Giovanni's Italian Kitchen with gluten free pasta 

GF Chocolate torte

Chocolate torte

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

Gluten free dining tips on Royal Caribbean

Don't book My Time Dining

Royal Caribbean advises guests with special dietary needs to book Traditional Dining instead of My Time Dining in the Main Dining Room.

They say this is to provide the guests with a dedicated serving staff for the cruise.

MDR Waiters

Introduce yourself to the dining staff

As stated earlier, once you get onboard the ship, you should visit the dining room to introduce yourself to the dining staff.

You can advice them of your different allergies and they can then inform the dining staff for their table.

Be patient

Food service can take a little longer due to food being prepared in a dedicated kitchen.

GF Snacks

Bring your own snacks

While you wont go hungry, it might be advantageous to have gluten free snacks in your cabin to munch on when you're in a pinch.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

List of desserts

It can be difficult to know what desserts can be made gluten free, but here's a list of suggestions from reader Peggy Weatherington.

She dined recently on Wonder of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas and compiled a list of options.

  • Lemon curd (No crust)
  • Tres Leches cake
  • Coconut cake
  • Royal Chocolate cake 
  • Blueberry Cobbler
  • Baked Alaska (you will not get the cake part)
  • White Chocolate Mousse (Main Dining Room lunch menu)
  • Crema Catalina (very similar to Crème Brûlée)
  • Apple Cobbler
  • Warm Chocolate cake

How to book My Time Dining on Royal Caribbean

28 Feb 2023

Once you have decided on the perfect ship and itinerary, you are ready to move forward with the cruise booking process. Prior to checking out, you will have to make a decision on dining style. 

When booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, you have two options for dining: My Time Dining and Traditional Dining

Royal Caribbean main dining room

With Traditional Dining, you will have the same reserved seating each night of your cruise, and there are two seatings to choose from: first (early) and second (late). The early seating is usually around 5:30pm, while the late seating is around 8:00pm. The exact times, however, will vary according to your cruise itinerary. 

Some guests do not plan on eating in the Main Dining Room each day or would rather do so at the time of their choosing. With My Time Dining, you can simply walk up to the host stand to be seated or make reservations in advance for your preferred time. 

If you have selected My Time Dining for your next Royal Caribbean Cruise vacation, here's everything you need to know about how to book My Time Dining and secure your nightly dining reservations. 

What is My Time Dining?

Symphony of the Seas main dining room

My Time Dining is great for guests who wish to experience a flexible dining schedule onboard their cruise. If, for instance, you plan on staying late in port one day but still wish to eat in the Main Dining Room, you could make a reservation for later in the evening, rather than miss out on the experience because you have early dining. 

My Time Dining usually begins around 6:00pm and lasts until 9:30pm, giving you a wide range of times to choose from. The actual times, however, will vary by sailing. You will be able to see the exact times that My Time Dining is offered each evening once you book your cruise. 

Unlike Traditional Dining, you will not be seated at the same table with the same wait staff if your choose My Time.

Rather, you will be seated wherever there is availability. You can, of course, request a specific table and waiter, but they may not be able to honor this. 

Note that this only applies to dinner in the Main Dining Room. If you are purchasing a dining package or plan on eating dinner in one of the other complimentary venues, you may not find yourself putting too much thought into what dining style you'd prefer. 

Breakfast in the Main Dining Room is first come, first serve, regardless on whether or not you selected My Time or Traditional Dining. 

How to book My Time Dining?

When booking your cruise vacation


When you are reserving your cruise, you will be given the option to select "Traditional Dining" or "My Time Dining."

You will not be able to make your choice until the last step in the booking process; all passenger names will have to be entered first! At the same time, you will be able to add prepaid gratuities and vacation protection, if you choose to do so.

Even if you initially booked Traditional Dining, you can call your travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly to change to My Time.

You can even switch from My Time Dining to Traditional if you booked before understanding the differences, but you might end up with late dining depending on when you make the change, as early tends to book up quickly.

If you want, you can even try to switch onboard. Note, however, that this means you may not be able to have as flexible of a dining experience as you might be hoping for, especially if prime reservations have been secured in advance by other guests.

You also will not be able to switch after the second day, so you'll want to visit Guest Services and/or the Main Dining Room when you embark-- Guests can only participate in one dining style per sailing. 

Making reservations via the Cruise Planner


As soon as you place the deposit for your cruise, you will gain access to the Cruise Planner. This is where you'll not only be able to make your My Time Dining reservations, but also where you can reserve shore excursions, drink packages, and more. 

When you log into the Cruise Planner, all you have to do is navigate to the "Dining" tab and scroll down until you see "My Time Dining."

It is usually at the very bottom below the dining packages, specialty restaurants, and other exclusive dining experiences. 

From there, you can go ahead and make a reservation for each night of your cruise. You will have to make each reservation individually and add them to your cart one-by-one.

Upon checkout, you will be charged $0.00, unless you are also purchasing other add-ons. 

Women eating in main dining room

If you need to change or cancel a reservation for any reason, you will have to go into the specific order and cancel each reservation separately before you are able to rebook. 

If you have multiple people in your stateroom or travel party, you can make multiple reservations each evening to accommodate everyone's preferences.

If, for example, two people would like to eat earlier around 6:30pm, you would make them their own reservation. The others could make a separate My Time Dining reservation for 8:15pm. 

Reservations are highly recommended, as the wait time can be long if you choose to eat during the prime dinner hours of 6:30-8:00pm.

If you arrive as soon as the Main Dining Rooms open, you will be able to be seated shortly. The longer you wait to arrive, however, the longer you will have to wait for an available table. 

Having to arrive early, though, defeats the purpose of being able to dine whenever you'd like. The best way to fully take advantage of the My Time Dining program is to make your reservations before you board the ship!

Once you have made your My Time Dining reservations, they will appear in your cruise calendar, both on Cruise Planner tab and Royal Caribbean's app.

Unlike Traditional Dining, My Time Dining is only marked as lasting for fifteen minutes. When planning your other evening activities, make sure that you allot yourself at least 75 minutes for your Main Dining Room experience. 


If your My Time Dining reservation is at 7:15pm, do not make any other reservations until 8:30pm or later. You can, however, always tell your waitstaff that you have other plans, and they will do their best to serve you as quickly as possible. 

When onboard

You can wait to make your My Time Dining reservations until you board your cruise ship. Just head over to the Main Dining Room to speak with a head waiter, and they will assist you! Due to availability, however, you may not have as many times to choose from. 

Another method is to just simply show up at the Main Dining Room each night when you are ready to eat. Depending on when you go, you may have to wait until there is an available table. During peak dinner times, you may have to wait as long as 45 minutes for a table. 

If you have a smaller party, you might find that you do not have to wait as long as larger parties. It truly depends, though. 

This is why we recommend making reservations for My Time Dining, whether that be in advance via the Cruise Planner or onboard by speaking with a head waiter.

Throughout the cruise, you may be able to change your My Time Dining reservations on the app or by calling the dining hotline from your stateroom's telephone, but it is dependent on availability. 

Should you book My Time Dining for your next cruise?

The flexibility of My Time Dining comes with responsibility. If you are choosing My Time Dining because you are not a fan of either set dining times, you will need to ensure that you make nightly reservations as soon as possible via the Cruise Planner. If not, you might be stuck eating even later than the second seating!

It is possible to snag dining times around 7:00pm every night, but this is a highly desirable dinner time. The closer you get to your cruise vacation, the fewer reservations you may find. 

Additionally, if you are traveling with a large party, you might find Traditional Dining to be easier. It is more difficult for the Main Dining Room to accommodate larger groups with My Time Dining, as there are fewer tables set for bigger parties.

Online, you can only book My Time Dining for up to eight guests. If you are traveling with more than eight people, My Time Dining might become a hassle. You may find that you are split up at different tables that are not located near each other. 

Finally, the evening shows are often scheduled around Traditional Dining times with early and late showings. If you are unable to book show times in advance via the Cruise Planner when you are making your My Time Dining reservations, you may end up booking a dinner time that clashes with one of the shows. 

Royal Caribbean changed the sushi roll sizes for its fixed price menu: is it worth it?

20 Feb 2023

We heard from our readers that Royal Caribbean's specialty sushi restaurant, Izumi, changed the portion sizes for sushi rolls ordered from the prix fixe menu. 


For a set price, you can pay once and get a certain amount of food included. The fixe menu costs $34.99 per person before the added 18% gratuity and includes one small plate, two large plates -- which can be a combination of sushi rolls, assorted sashimi, or rice and noodle bowls --, and a single dessert. 

When you purchase food from the menu à la carte, that means you are paying for each item that you order. You can opt to get one appetizer and large plate, one large plate and dessert, or just one large plate! In other words, you have more freedom when you order à la carte.

The size of the sushi rolls used to be the same no matter if you were ordering from the fixed price menu or à la carte; you would always get 8 pieces of sushi. Now, however, Izumi is only serving 4 pieces per roll ordered from the prix fixe menu. You still get the standard 8 if you pay for each roll individually. 

Royal Caribbean never announced a policy change, but readers reported it; that is why we tested it out! After speaking with Izumi wait staff, it is clear the fixed price menu has changed the sushi portion sizes.

Let's talk about the changes to the sushi at Izumi and why you are better off ordering from the à la carte menu.

Half sized portions


(Pictured is the new half portion of the crispy spicy tuna roll from Izumi ordered from the prix fixe menu)

If you order from the fixed price menu, you will receive a half portion of any sushi rolls (i.e., 4). 

If, for instance, you order a crispy spicy tuna roll and rainbow roll, you will get 8 total pieces, not 16. Unless, that is, you opt to pay for each roll à la carte. 


(Pictured is the full sized portion of the crispy spicy tuna roll from Izumi)

The prix fixe menu used to be a no brainer. An appetizer, 16 pieces of sushi, and dessert for less than $35? It does not get much better than that! Even if you opted to mix and match and get an ramen bowl and one sushi roll, you were still getting your money's worth.

What has not changed at Izumi?


(Pictured are the pork gyoza dumplings from Izumi)

As of February 2023, the appetizer, bowl, and dessert portions have not been changed when you order from the prix fixe menu.


(Pictured is the tofu-ginger appetizer salad from Izumi)

In other words, you will get the same size for everything else on the menu, no matter if you order from the fixed price menu or à la carte. The only thing that has changed is the amount of sushi served from the prix fixe menu versus à la carte.

Is the prix fixe menu at Izumi worth the cost?


(Pictured is the new half portion of the snow crab California roll from Izumi ordered from the prix fixe menu)

If you want to enjoy sushi on your cruise vacation, Izumi is always worth it! You are probably better off just ordering à la carte, though.

If you want an appetizer, 8 pieces of sushi, and a dessert (i.e., what you would get if you stuck with the prix fixe menu), 9 times out of 10, a smarter decision will be to order everything separately. 

Let's price out a few mock orders to see how the pricing compares to the prix fixe menu. 

The first order consists of the pork gyoza dumplings ($8), crispy Philly roll ($13), and chocolate lava cake ($5). These three items total $26. In this case, the fixed price menu is not worth it; you would save about $9 by ordering each item individually and still get the same amount of food. 

The second order is for the shrimp firecracker spring roll ($9), champagne lobster roll ($15), and assorted mochi ice cream ($6). Again, it is not worth it, as you would end up saving about $5 if you ordered à la carte versus defaulting to the prix fixe menu. The total for these three menu items is $30. 


(Pictured is the new half portion of the crispy spicy tuna roll from Izumi ordered from the prix fixe menu)

What if you want more than one kind of sushi roll? Well, that gets a bit tricky. You can stick with the new half portions on the fixed menu or pay extra to get two full sized rolls. 

If you would rather have 16 pieces of sushi and skip the appetizer and dessert, you can get two rolls for under $30. In fact, one crispy spicy tuna roll and one Izumi spider roll only costs $26. 

Over indulging in food is common on cruises, so do not feel like you have to get a three course meal at Izumi. If all you are hungry for is some sushi, save the extra money and just order the two rolls!

Of course, if you just get two rolls of sushi that means you will not get an appetizer or dessert. If you do want all three courses, you will spend more than the $34.99 that the prix fixe menu costs; however, you would be getting double the amount of food. 


(Pictured are the old portions of the snow crab California roll and spicy crispy shrimp roll ordered from the prix fixe menu

Choosing to order à la carte means that you will get the full sized portions of sushi, an appetizer, and dessert for about $5 to $10 more, depending on what your selections are. 

The shrimp & vegetable tempura appetizer ($11), rainbow roll ($14), snow crab California roll ($13), and crispy sesame balls ($5) costs $43 altogether. By paying only $8 more than the prix fixe menu, you would get double the amount of sushi. If you are looking to splurge on a specialty dining meal or just really like sushi, this makes more sense than settling for the half portions. 

One instance in which the prix fixe menu will still be worth it is if you are not a fan of sushi and looking to get two items from the "bowls and more" section. Each bowl costs at least $13, meaning that if you were to order the seaweed wakame salad ($7), yaki udon ($19), spicy miso ramen ($13), and green tea ice cream ($5), you would spend about $9 more, or $44 total, if you did not use the fixed price menu.

Similarly, if you want a sushi roll and bowl, rather than two of each, the prix fixe may be worth it if you do not want a full sushi roll in addition to a ramen or udon noodle bowl! Depending on your hunger level, the four pieces might be just enough. 

new California roll size

(Pictured is the new half portion of the snow crab California roll ordered from Izumi's prix fixe menu)

Before you decide whether or not you should order from the fixed price menu, you should discuss your options with your travel party. Would anybody be willing to split a few different rolls? Do some people strongly dislike sushi? Would you be okay with an appetizer and single sushi roll, rather than the three course meal? What's best for one group may not be what is best for another! 

I spent $60 to eat at Royal Caribbean’s most bizarre restaurant. I thought I would hate it, but it was one of the best meals of my cruise.

17 Feb 2023

From the whimsical decor to out-of-this-world, imaginative cuisine, Wonderland is Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurant that is meant for adventurous eaters. 

Wonderland specialty restaurant review

I tried the restaurant for the first time while onboard Symphony of the Seas, and everything about the experience exceeded my expectations. 

Unlike most specialty restaurants onboard Oasis Class ships, Wonderland is not located in Central Park; it is at the aft on deck 12. The exterior of the restaurant makes it hard to miss-- you are transported to a fantasy world before you even step inside. 

The price to dine at Wonderland is currently $59.99 before gratuity. If you book in advance via the Cruise Planner, you could score a reservation for less!


The decor is loosely based on the magical word of Alice and Wonderland. It makes it so that the entire experience is immersive; it is not just about the food.


You will see references to clocks and time, rabbits, including chairs with rabbit ears, as well as red and blue goblets that symbolize the "drink me" and "eat me" potion and cake that cause Alice to shrink and grow. 


As soon as I walked through the doors, I was greeted by the Mad Hatter, who escorted me down the stairs to my table. From there, I was introduced to my culinary guide -- aka a waiter -- for the evening. He was the one who walked me through the menu, as well as provided suggestions for each course. 


He, however, never provided a physical menu. Instead, the menu acts as part of the restaurant's table setting. My culinary guide instructed me to dip the paintbrush into water and stroke it across the "easel." When I did so, the menu magically appeared!

To begin the dining experience, I had to take the first step, and I thought that was a unique touch!


The menu is broken down into and inspired by five different natural elements: sun, ice, fire, earth, and sea. The first three -- sun, ice, and fire -- are the appetizers, while the latter two make up the entree dishes. The only exceptions being the liquid lobster and liquid truffle mushroom risotto, as both of those are one-bite appetizers. 

The sun element focuses on vegetable dishes that have been "playfully reinvented"; ice's are "chilled to exhilarate the palate"; and the final appetizer element, fire, radiates "wonderful warmth." 


My culinary guide said that most guests usually surprised by five different appetizers; however, you could select them if you wanted to. I opted to order the Mad Hatter's purple potted shrimp and reconstructed caprese, as well as the one-bite liquid lobster. For my table, the culinary guide also chose the bird's nest and sashimi of red and white tuna. 

The first appetizer we received was the bird's nest. Presentation wise, it was the most impressive of the evening! To reveal it, a lid was lifted off to release a thick cloud of smoke. When the dish was brought out, I could not even see what was inside due to the smoke. 


The two buffalo chicken eggs were served on top of a bed of dry noodles. The yolks had been mixed with blue cheese and hot sauce; however, they were not as creamy as I had expected (but I am not sure what I was actually expecting)! 


The eggs had a hot, smoky taste that I enjoyed-- it is almost like I was inhaling smoke as I ate! As for the noodles, I did not really care for them. Even though they are edible, I think they function best as presentation. 


The next appetizer was the reconstructed caprese, which is honestly a great dish for pickier eaters!

Three "tomatoes" were served on top of goat and bocconcini cheeses with a blue cheese meringue and basil puree.

The middle "tomato," however, was actually a reconstructed tomato! To successfully accomplish this, a tomato is first hung to dry, drained, then blended with agar and Bloody Mary mix. While that may sound a bit complicated, it did not taste much different than a regular caprese salad.

It was fun, too, as I had to tap the reconstructed tomato to break it open.


Next was the liquid lobster. Despite the name of the dish, there was, in fact, a chunk of lobster that was topped with caviar. Reading liquid lobster on the menu, that was not what I expected, so I was pleasantly surprised. This was also my first time trying caviar and bone marrow! After the bird's nest, this was my second favorite appetizer! 


I was most disappointed with the Mad Hatter's purple potted shrimp, as it was a single shrimp served in a holographic mini-mug that lacked the scotch bonnet flavor that was indicated on the menu. 

The shrimp is marinated in lime before being breaded with a crispy coating, which, in my opinion, was too thick, as it takes away from the flavor and texture of the shrimp. 

At the bottom of the mug was a mayonnaise based sauce that was infused with scotch bonnet; however, as someone who grew up eating scotch bonnet hot sauce, it did not have the level of kick I was expecting. 


I'll admit that I got a little too eager to get the full Wonderland experience when our culinary guide was walking us through the appetizers. When he asked if he could order the sashimi of red and white tuna, I said yes. I've had raw fish a couple of times before, and the texture is not one that I enjoy-- oops! 

Looking back, I should have at least tried the tuna; however, I ate the wafer crisp and citrus topping, both of which was good! As an ice element, everything on the plate was chilled. The sashimi was actually inside of ice balls that had to be broken open! I think if you are a fan of tuna, you might enjoy this dish!


The two entree elements are earth and sea. Earth dishes are "grounded in whimsy," while sea's are "oceanic inspirations from the tide of the imagination." 

For my entree, I ordered the rib "I" luscious short rib that was finished with a white wine reduction sauce and served with mashed potatoes. The generous sized portion of meat was cooked for five hours and served with red and yellow relish, pumpkin sauce, and a beet purée.

Truthfully, it was probably the best short rib I have ever had. The meat was incredibly tender, and I cannot get over the reduction sauce! I even liked to eat it with the beet purée.

This would be another dish that I would recommend for picky eaters! If you do not like sauces, it is easy to avoid them, as they are all served on the side. Plus, the mashed potatoes are pretty simple. 


There's not a dessert menu, so you will have to be prepared to be surprised by your culinary guide. The desserts, though, are where Wonderland shines! I would return to the restaurant just for them. 

Not only are the presentations fun, but they are delicious! I would argue that they taste even better than they look.

The mystical mushroom garden was comprised of three different "mushrooms." The large center one was made of white chocolate pistachio mousse, while the two little ones were infused with cayenne pepper. They had an interesting kick that I am not used to with desserts, so the small side of mango sorbet was a nice touch! Actually, the cayenne mushroom went very well with the sorbet; the flavors really balanced each other out. 


The second dessert was called a chocolate orb called "the world." While it was still good, I much preferred the mystical mushroom garden, as I am not the biggest fan of heavy chocolate desserts, so I really appreciated how my culinary guide brought two different kinds of desserts. I would have been disappointed if both were chocolate based! 


A hot chocolate sauce was poured overtop, which broke down the chocolate exterior to reveal a vanilla ice cream and peanut butter interior. While I thought that presentation was neat, the two pieces of popcorn and stray raspberries seemed to be rushed onto the plate without much intention or purpose. 


Throughout my dinner, I had the chance to try two of their signature cocktails: Down the Rabbit Hole and the Cheshire Cat Cosmo. While I thought the concept of the cosmo was better, I preferred the taste of Down the Rabbit Hole. 

It was crafted with Belvedere pink grapefruit vodka, St. Germaine, fresh lemon juice, simply syrup, and a little bit of sparkling wine. You get to choose if you want a red or blue "pill" at the bottom, referencing the same "Eat Me" and "Drink Me" potions as the goblets. 


With the Cheshire Cat Cosmo you get to watch the cotton candy dissolve when the cocktail portion is poured on top of it! However, I think it might be one of the sweetest cocktails I have ever. 

Should you eat at Wonderland?


Wonderland caters to guests who want to take their taste buds on a culinary journey unlike any other. Most of the dishes are rather unconventional (have you ever seen liquid mushrooms on any other menu?), so to get the most out of your experience, you need to be open minded and willing to trying new things. 

That being said, it is still possible to have a good time at Wonderland even if you are a pickier eater, as your culinary guide will help you choose appetizers and entrees based on your likes and dislikes. Due to the preparation methods, however, you will still need to be prepared for dishes unlike anything you've ever had. 

From decor, to service, and food quality, it is easy to say that this was one of the best meals I had on the cruise! 

If you don't think Wonderland is for you but still want to step inside this fantasy world, there's a bar that is located on the top level! You do not need to make reservations for it, and you can use your drink package there. 

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Hot button topics!

25 Jan 2023

Listen to the Show

We have a roundtable discussion of new dining room menus, Crown and Anchor changes, and cruise prices going up. Oh my!

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

On this episode:
Running time:

I tried the new Royal Caribbean menus, and here's how I'd rank everything I ate

20 Jan 2023

I ate all seven dinners in the main dining room while onboard Symphony of the Seas to try Royal Caribbean's new menus

What I ate in the main dining room

It's been about five years since the last time Royal Caribbean refreshed their dining menus, which is why they first tested the menus in late 2022 on Symphony of the Seas to receive guest feedback.

During the testing phase, they sent a team of six people onboard who were responsible for conducting in-person meetings with 30-40 passengers per day. In addition, surveys were sent out via email. 

Now, Royal Caribbean is in the process of rolling out the new menus fleet wide by February 2023.

To be clear, I'm not a food critic and not classically trained in anything cuisine related. Others may come to their own conclusions, as everyone has different taste buds and preferences.  But since a lot of readers want to know what I thought of the new menu options, I decided to share my opinions.

Here's how I'd rank everything I ate while dining in the main dining room.

Night one: "Welcome Aboard" 

My first night onboard, I was seated at 8:00pm on deck 3. After a long day of traveling, I was ready to eat, and I wasn't the only one! Twenty minutes prior to our seating time, there was a massive line outside of the main dining room's entrance. 

We prefer making reservations for My Time Dining ahead of time, so this was my first time having traditional seating since 2010. 

Appetizer: Spinach and artichoke dip

Ranking: 7.5/10


The dip was creamy, and the chips were just salty enough; however, my one main problem with this dish was the dip to chip ratio. I ran out of the dip with about four chips left, which by themselves, I just thought were okay. 

Main course: Southern fried chicken

Rating: 6/10


While I loved the presentation, this course was probably one of the ones I was most disappointed with. The fried chicken wasn't crispy at all; there was no crunch when I bit into it. I also wish the mashed potatoes were just a little creamier, as they had a stiff texture to them. 

That being said, the chicken did taste good, particularly when dipped into the tabasco honey sauce. I enjoyed the sauce so much that I poured some over my mashed potatoes!

I was also satisfied with the portion. The two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn were plenty for me. 

Dessert: Boston cream pie

Rating: 8/10


The dessert was my favorite course of the evening. The cake was fluffy, and it wasn't overly chocolatey (I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate heavy desserts). I do wish it was just a tad bit sweeter, though.

Night two: French night

The theme for the second night's dinner was French. For the remainder of the week (with the exception of the last night), I was seated at 5:30pm on deck five with a family of five. I was thankful for the earlier seating, as 8:00pm is personally too late for me. 

Appetizer: Escargots

Rating: 9/10


As always, they were garlicky, buttery, and rich. The bread was a nice touch, as I was able to enjoy more of the sauce. 

I've always appreciated the portion sizing, as I don't think I could eat many more than 6 snails with how heavy the sauce is. 

While I made it a plan to try as much as I could throughout the week, the escargots made another appearance on the Royal night and were enjoyed again by many in my dining party. 

Main course: Roasted beef tenderloin

Rating: 9/10


The beef was tender, and I liked the peppercorn sauce. A huge plus was that the mashed potatoes were softer than the previous night. I wish there were a few more asparagus, though. 

Four people at the table had the seafood linguine, and everyone cleared their plates! 

Dessert: Cappuccino chocolate cake

Rating: 8.5/10


The cake was moist, and the foam on top was light. The description of the dessert said that the cake was a "rich chocolate sponge cake"; but I found that it was overpowered by the coffee flavor.

In my opinion, it did not have a very strong chocolate flavor, and I liked that!

Night three: Italian night

On the third day of my sailing, the evening's theme was White Night, while the dinner's theme was Italian. Everyone got a chuckle of people showing up to dinner dressed in all white preparing to eat dishes heavy on red sauce. 

Appetizer: Golden polenta fries with spicy dip

Rating: 8/10


When my appetizer was served, the dish was almost too hot to touch! The polenta fries were, as advertised, golden and crispy; however, the sauce wasn't spicy at all. Honestly, I thought it was a tad bit sweet. 

Someone else at the table ordered the same appetizer and agreed that the sauce didn't have any kick to it. 

Plus, the bed of spinach at the bottom of the dish was a bit random. 

Main course: Chicken parmesan

Rating: 7/10 


I was served a healthy portion, but like my fried chicken on the first night, the chicken's crust could have been fried a little bit longer. 

The dish was overpowered with a little too much basil for my liking, especially since the layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken was pretty thin. 

On the other hand, I thought the pasta was cooked very well, and I enjoyed the marinara sauce.

Dessert: Tiramisu

Rating: 9.5/10


I thought the tiramisu was better than the cappuccino chocolate cake. Honestly, it was one of my favorite desserts served in the main dining room!

It was rich, creamy, and light all at the same time; however, the description said that there was a hint of Kahúla liqueur, but I found that flavor to be completely absent. 

Night four: Caribbean night

Caribbean night was one of the ones I was most looking forward. I wasn't sure how other guests would react, but I could tell by the multitude of empty tables that it wasn't all that popular. 

Appetizer: Crispy coconut jumbo shrimp

Rating: 10/10


This was the chef's recommended appetizer, and I can see why. The shrimp were crunchy and fried perfectly, but they only had a subtle hint of coconut, which didn't really upset me.

The sweet chili dipping sauce is what made this dish so incredible. Someone in my party even got a second order of them! 

When his second plate arrived, I noticed some inconsistency in plating. They came out in an entirely different dish, the shrimp were noticeably larger, and there was much more of the sauce on the bottom.  

Overall, this was one of my top three dishes that I had!

Main course: Garlic-herb buttered tiger shrimp

Rating: 7/10


If you haven't noticed by now, I love sauces that enrich the flavors of what I'm eating. Sometimes, seasoning just isn't enough, and in my option, they have the ability to make or break the dish. 

In the case of my tiger shrimp, I found myself wishing that they included more of the sauce. In general, I thought there could've been a little bit more of everything. 

There were only five shrimp, a relatively small bed of vegetables, and a half scoop of rice. 

Dessert: Sugar-free blueberry cobbler

Rating: 7.5/10


I don't really know what I was expecting, but I could immediately tell that it was sugar-free. That being said, it was served warm, and the amount of oatmeal crumble on top was just enough. It didn't make the dish crust heavy. 

Night five: Mexican night

From what I gathered onboard, Mexican night had mixed reviews. I heard guests say that it wasn't necessary since El Loco Fresh was on deck 15. Others, like myself, were excited for it (I can never get enough Mexican food). 

Even though the "classics" section is no longer present on the menus, I found that there was usually aa option or two each night for the main course for those who might be a little pickier. On Mexican night, they were spaghetti bolognese and grilled chicken breast. 

Appetizer: Roasted poblano pepper soup

Rating: 10/10


This soup landed itself in my top three favorite dishes. Fair warning, though, I thought it had a kick to it, which surprised me because the description never said anything about it being spicy. 

The only thing that could have made it better was including more of the roasted corn, red peppers, and sautéed chorizo. I would've enjoyed having texture and taste in each bite. 

Main course: Carne asada

Rating: 7/10


You could only order the carne asada medium rare or medium well. I don't love too much red in my steak, so I went with medium well; I think I would have liked it more if I had it prepared medium rare. 

My steak ended up being more on the dry side. The salsa verde, however, was delicious, and I ended up asking for more of it to add to my steak. 

Like the polenta fries, I found that the spinach on top of the pinto beans was random. I wish there had been more peppers instead. 

All of that being said, I was satisfied with the portion of steak I was given!

Dessert #1: Warm chocolate chip cookie

Rating: 10/10 (I would go higher, though!)


I asked for two desserts, mainly because our head waiter had 

recommended the warm chocolate chip cookie multiple times. Everyone felt like they had to try it, and it was better than we all imagined!

It was the best thing I ate on the cruise!

The deep dish cookie was served in a piping hot ramekin and topped with vanilla ice cream.

The outside was crisp and golden, while the inside was perfectly ooey and gooey. It never became too soft, even with the melting ice cream on top.

Dessert #1: Caramel flan

Rating: 6/10


I'm really glad that I ordered the warm chocolate chip cookie because I would've been disappointed if this was the only dessert I got.

The caramel taste was minimal, and the syrup topping was pretty runny.

Night six: the Royal night

I wasn't surprised that the main dining room was the most crowded on "dress your best" night when lobster was listed as a complimentary menu option. 

Everyone in my dinner party ordered at least two of one course, whether it was two appetizers, two main courses, or two desserts. 

Appetizer: Chilled shrimp cocktail

Rating: 9/10


The shrimp cocktail is a classic onboard Royal Caribbean ships. I wish, though, that there were more than four shrimp. At least six would have been nice. I found myself itching for my entree while others enjoyed their second appetizer. 

Main course #1: Broiled lobster tail

Rating: 9.5/10


Three other people at the table ordered the lobster as their first entree, too. All of them were around one pound.However, since additional lobster tails are no longer complimentary and cost $16.99 each, nobody ordered a second to see how it compared to the first.  

My lobster was tender, and they provided just the right amount of butter. Plus, the rice was moist and served as a great compliment. 

I was a little disappointed with the sides, as I would have liked a few more carrots and more than one piece of broccoli. If that had been my only entree, I think I would've had to order something else!

Main course #2: Cheese tortellini

Rating: 8/10


The cheese tortellini wasn't served until after I had finished my lobster.

I wasn't the only person who ordered this dish, and we agreed that the sauce was creamy and rich. 

In my opinion, the portion was pretty small, and I wish there was more fresh parmesan, as it was condensed to one area of my pasta. 

Dessert #1: Sugar-free strawberry shortcake

Rating: 7/10


After the blueberry cobbler, I was expecting this to also be noticeably sugar-free, so I was not surprised by that. I was mainly disappointed by the lack of fresh strawberries, and it was definitely missing that strawberry flavor. 

The cake, however, was perfectly light and spongey.  It would be a great choice for someone who didn't want a heavy dessert!

Dessert #2: Warm chocolate cake 

Rating: 7/10


If you're a fan of chocolate, this dessert is for you, trust me! Personally, with the moist chocolate cake and heavy sauce, it was way too rich for me. 

Night seven: Mediterranean night

On the last night, the family that I had been dining with decided to eat at the Windjammer. The all aboard time for CocoCay was 5:30pm, which was also our fixed dining time. Since I was alone, the waitstaff had me in and out of the main dining room in an impressive thirty-eight minutes!

Overall, however, Mediterranean night was my least favorite. 

Appetizer: Mediterranean tapas medley

Rating: 8/10


The tapas was the best part of my meal. I liked the tzatziki but found the hummus to be a little bland. 

Three slices of pita bread wasn't enough for two dips. I had to ask for more, and the additional slices that were brought out were bigger than my original ones. 

I enjoyed the classic Greek salad, particularly the marinated olives! 

Main course: Vegetable Greek moussaka 

Rating: 3/10


Truthfully, I found the entire dish to be lacking flavor and wish I had ordered the grilled Mediterranean steak instead. 

There were far too many breadcrumbs on top, and they were unusually dry. The small side of tomato salsa wasn't enough to give this dish the added moisture. It was difficult to finish the first layer of the moussaka to reveal the vegetables underneath. Plus, the olives on top did not taste fresh. 

Other than texture, I was unable to tell the vegetables apart; they all tasted the same.

Dessert: Warm apple cobbler

Rating: 7/10


When I first tasted the apple cobbler, I thought that it was sugar-free. I had to double check to make sure that it wasn't! It was served warm with a nice sized scoop of vanilla ice cream, though. 

Gluten-free options

While I did not order any gluten-free food, a member of the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group, Sue Riggs, shared some photos of their gluten-free main dining room options! 

Chicken cordon bleu


Jerk Chicken


Tikka masala 


Steak with chimichurri


Chicken parmesan


Gluten-free desserts


Other main dining room options

The kind family that let me sit with them at dinner also let me snap some photos of their food throughout the week, and I've included those pictures below. 

Seared beef carpaccio 


Pan-seared filet of sole 


Lasagna al forno


 Italian chocolate-hazelnut cake


Asian-style pork bao tacos


Jerk seasoned pork chop


Pesto tagliatelle  


Pineapple sunshine cake


Tortilla soup


 Chili-lime crusted salmon


Overall thoughts on the new menus

Menu at an angle

Personally, I enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things. I knew that if I ordered an appetizer, main course, or dessert that I ended up not liking, I could simply ask for something else-- such are the joys of cruising! 

Truthfully, I came into this expecting there to be some trial and error for the kitchen staff. Overall, I was satisfied with the new menus.

Of course, there were some courses that I wasn't a fan of and would not plan on getting again, but I'm looking forward to seeing how the main dining room compares to my upcoming sailings. 

I tried Royal Caribbean's new main dining room menus, and here's what I thought

16 Jan 2023

Last week, I had the opportunity to try Royal Caribbean's new Main Dining Room menus. 


In late 2022, the company began testing new menus, and after receiving positive feedback from guests, they announced that they were going to permanently change the menus on all ships within the fleet by February 2023. 

According to Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International’s President and CEO, guests often complained about the length of their dinner meal, so one of the primary reasons for the change was the swiftness of service. 

One noticeable change is the creation of a more cohesive theme each night that highlights different cuisines and cooking styles. With that, the “classics” section, which offered a subset of menu options that never changed and were available each night, was removed. 

I went onboard the Symphony of the Seas, one of the first ships in the fleet to receive the new menus, to see how the new menus compared to my previous dining experiences onboard Royal Caribbean ships, and here’s what I thought. 

Read more: Here are the new main dining room menus

Timing of the dinner service


One of the reasons for this change is to decrease the time guests spend in the Main Dining Room. A shorter meal service allows passengers to enjoy other activities during their cruise vacation, both before and after dinner. 

Royal Caribbean believes that dinner should last around 75 minutes, or an hour and fifteen minutes. Prior to the new menus, passengers could spend 95-120+ minutes at dinner. 

I timed each of the seven nights I spent in the Main Dining Room, from when I received my menu to when dessert was set in front of me, to see how true this statement was and found that the average was just a little over 75 minutes. 

Day 1: "Welcome Aboard"


(Southern Fried Chicken served on January 7, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

The first night, I dined solo during the 8:00pm dinner seating on deck three and received my menu at 8:01pm. The theme was "Welcome Aboard," and the highlighted cuisine was American.

My appetizer arrived at 8:27pm, followed by the entree at 8:48pm, and finally dessert at 9:14pm. In total, my dinner experience lasted one hour and thirteen minutes, which was fantastic because I was ready for bed by this point! 

Total dinner time: 1 hour and 13 mins.

Day 2: French night


(Roasted Beef Tenderloin served on January 8, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

From the second night on, I was seated at 5:30pm on deck five with a family of five; this minimally impacted the total dining time. 

On my sailing, French night aligned with formal night!

The dinner service took over 75 minutes, as my party secured menus at 5:48pm and received dessert at 7:12pm. The total time spent in the Main Dining Room waiting on food was one hour and twenty-four minutes. 

Total dinner time: 1 hour and 24 mins.

Day 3: Italian night


(Lasagna al Forno served on January 9, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

On Day 3, my dining party shrunk from six to four, as two had reservations at Chops Grille.

The speed of the service felt almost unbelievable; all three courses were served within one hour and eight minutes! We got our menus at 5:26pm, appetizers at 5:44pm, entrees at 5:58pm, and desserts at 6:34pm.   

Everyone got a chuckle about how the dinner theme was Italian, while the evening's theme was White Night. 

Total dinner time: 1 hour and 8 mins.

Day 4: Caribbean night


(Jerk Seasoned Pork Chop served on January 10, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

The table was full with six people again on Caribbean night. This was the first night where I could truly tell they had revamped their menus, as the only entree I recognized was the New York Strip Steak. Compared to the three pervious nights, the Main Dining Room was also relatively empty.

Tonight's dinner took exactly one hour and twenty-five minutes from receiving the menus to being presented with dessert. We were seated with menus at 5:39pm, and our desserts arrived at 7:03pm.

Total dinner time: 1 hour and 25 mins. 

Night 5: Mexican night


(Pulled Pork Enchilada served on January 11, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

By this point, it seemed like 95 minutes was the staff's goal, as this was the third night on the sailing where we finished our dinner around the same time.

My dining party received menus at 5:30pm and dessert at 6:54pm, for a total of one hour and twenty-four minutes waiting on food. 

Total dinner time: 1 hour and 24 mins.

Night 6: The Royal Night


(Broiled lobster tail served on January 12, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

Naturally, the Main Dining Room was the most crowded on "dress your best" night when lobster was listed as a complimentary menu option. 

Four out of six people ordered it as one of their entrees, and they all looked to be roughly 1.00 to 1.25 pounds each. However, since additional lobster tails now cost $16.99 each, nobody ordered a second to see how it compared to the complimentary tail. 

Nearly everyone ordered two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts, so I expected dinner to take longer than other nights; we were served in one hour and thirty-nine minutes. 

Total dinner time: 1 hour and 39 mins.

Day 7: Mediterranean night


(Vegetable moussaka served on January 12, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

On the last night, I dined solo again and was in and out in just thirty-eight minutes. However, out of all seven nights, I have to say that Mediterranean dinner was my least favorite.

Total dinner time: 38 mins.

Average dinner time for the week: a little over 75 mins.

Reformatting the chef's recommendations

Italian night menu

I was able to secure paper copies of the menus for the rest of the week on the second morning of the cruise, but the formatting was soon changed.

At first, the menu items listed at the top as the "chef's recommendation" were not included again under each of the different courses. If your eyes glazed over this portion of the menu, it would be easy to miss an additional appetizer, entree, and dessert option! 

By the third night, the menus presented at dinner were different from those I was given just one day prior, as the recommended items were now repeated.


I appreciated this change, as placing all available options in one place is more convenient for the reader, who is most likely hungry and trying to quickly figure out what they want to eat. 

Price of additional lobster tails

Lobster tail

In the past, guests always looked forward to the night when lobster was listed as a complimentary menu option. 

While it was on the menu every night for a surcharge, there was only one night per sailing where guests could indulge in as many lobster tails as they desired. 

With the new menus, Royal Caribbean is limiting guests to just one broiled lobster tail for no additional cost on the evening it's available. If passengers want another, they will be charged $16.99

Cutbacks have been seen across many industries throughout the past year, but the realities of the current lobster trade also forced Royal Caribbean's hand in part, as they can only buy 90% Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified food, which means that lobster needs to be either farm raised or wild caught.

Due to environmental concerns, there's been a recent shift in Maine lobster purchasing; vendors, such as Whole Foods, have halted purchasing the lobsters.

Therefore, Royal Caribbean has begun buying MSC certified Canadian lobster instead. 

Kids' menu

Kids MDR menu

There are five main entrees on the kids' menu that are offered nightly and do not change throughout the week: a hamburger, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, spaghetti marinara, and mac & cheese. 

Additionally, they may choose between a fruit salad, veggie sticks, and french fries as a side, as well as three different flavors of ice cream and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. 

Special requests


(Sugar-free blueberry cobbler served on January 10, 2023 onboard the Symphony of the Seas)

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean has been great at accommodating specific food allergies and dietary requirements. 

On the new menus, the vegan dishes are indicated via a small leaf icon, and there's at least one vegan dish for each course, including vegan spaghetti bolognese and stuffed grilled eggplant. On my Symphony of the Seas sailing, however, there was not separate menu that was provided upon request. 

For those watching their sugar intake, they also offer at least one sugar-free dessert each evening, such as a crumbly oat and berry bar or a warm blueberry cobbler. 

Per Royal Caribbean's website, you may also send email requests to [email protected] at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American/Asian itineraries). Be sure to include the guests' names, booking number, ship name, and sail date. 

Top three menu items I ate in the Main Dining Room

I ate a lot of delicious food this past week, but a few courses stood out over the others, namely the appetizers and desserts.

#1: Warm chocolate chip cookie


The best thing I had was the warm chocolate chip cookie on Mexican night. It was something our head waiter recommended over and over and over, so everyone felt like they had to try it. It was better than we all imagined!

The deep dish cookie was served in a piping hot ramekin and topped with vanilla ice cream.

The outside was crisp and golden, while the inside was perfectly ooey and gooey. It never became too soft, even with the melting ice cream on top.

#2: Roasted poblano pepper soup


Two of my favorite dishes from the cruise were served on Mexican night; yet, only the soup was on the list of the chef's recommendations. 

What I enjoyed the most about this course was the spicy kick that the soup had. The only thing that could have made it better was including more of the roasted corn, red peppers, and sautéed chorizo. 

#3: Crispy coconut jumbo shrimp


On Caribbean night, the chef's recommended appetizer was the coconut shrimp. The shrimp were indeed crunchy, but they had a subtle hint of coconut; the sweet chili dipping sauce is what made this dish so incredible. Someone in my party even got a second order of them! 

I will note that this is when I noticed some inconsistency in plating. The second order came out in an entirely different dish, and the shrimp were noticeably larger. Plus, there was much more of the sauce on the bottom.  

How does the new Main Dining Room menu compare to my previous dining experiences? 

Growing up, my family had a rule that we would only dine in a specialty restaurant once per cruise, so I ate in the Main Dining Room a lot. 

Speed never really mattered, as you could tell the wait staff if you wanted a quicker dinner service because of a reservation to a show. I remember there being times where they were able to get my family of four in and out in about an hour! 

Menu at an angle

In terms of food quality, it seemed close to what it was in the past. About a quarter of my dishes came out cold, even though Royal Caribbean said that the new menu was going to ensure hotter food. 

My sister was always a picky eater, and she would eat the roasted chicken breast at least three nights on any given sailing; I can see why the removal of the "classics" section is upsetting to some people.

For me, however, I enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things, as that's one of the reasons I love cruising. I knew that if I ordered an adventurous entree that I ended up not liking, I could order something else. 

Symphony of the Seas main dining room

The only night I was truly dissatisfied was Mediterranean night.

If I wasn't in a rush to go pack, I probably would've ordered the grilled Mediterranean steak, as the vegetable moussaka was coated too heavily in unusually dry breadcrumbs for my liking. 

As with anything new, I expected there to be some trial and error for the kitchen staff, but I was overall impressed with the new menus and am looking forward to seeing how the dining experiences on my upcoming cruises compare!

First look at Royal Caribbean's new main dining room menus

07 Jan 2023

Royal Caribbean's new main dining room menus are officially here.

Main Dining Room on Voyager of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas is the one of the first cruise ships in the fleet to launch the official new menu following weeks of testing, along with Wonder of the Seas. 

In late 2022, Royal Caribbean began testing new menus onboard the Symphony of the Seas. After receiving positive feedback from guests, they announced that they were going to permanently change the menus on all ships within the fleet.

Royal Caribbean cited the swiftness of service as the primary reason for implementing new menus. Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International's President and CEO, said that guests often complain about the length of dinner service.

In addition to a new design, each night's menu will have a theme: French, Italian, etc. There are still no sugar added and vegan options available, as well as premium selections.

A Maine lobster tail can be purchased for $16.99, Chops Grille filet mignon for $19.99, and surf & turf for $34.99. 

Here's a first look at the new menus onboard the Symphony of the Seas. 

Welcome Aboard

The theme for the first night is "Welcome Aboard," and the cuisine served is American. The menu features some "classics" from the old menu, including the caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, escargots, New York strip steak, spaghetti bolognese, Royal cheesecake, and ice cream. 

All sailings will feature the Welcome Aboard menu on the first evening.

French Night

The dining theme of night two onboard the current Symphony of the Seas sailing is French Night.

It seems as though the primary feedback they received for the menu was in regard to the desserts, as many of them have been updated compared to the sample menu that was tested last month.

Sailings six nights and longer will offer the French Night menu on the first formal night.

Italian Night

All sailings will feature the Italian Night menu on at least one evening.

Caribbean Night

On Caribbean sailings, the Caribbean Night menu comes out on the first evening at a Caribbean port.

Mexican Night

On Mexico sailings, the Mexican Night menu comes out on the first evening at a Mexico port.

The Royal Night

Gone are the days of ordering multiple lobster tails. If you'd like a second, you'll now be charged $16.99 plus 18% gratuity. 

Sailings six nights and longer will offer The Royal Night menu on the second formal night.

Mediterranean Night

Mediterranean night menu

British Night

Sailings six nights and longer will offer the British Night menu on at least one evening.

British night main dining room theme

Bon Voyage Night

Sailings six nights and longer will feature the Bon Voyage menu on the final evening

Kids' Menu

The kids' menu is offered every night of the sailing and does not change. 

Kids MDR menu

What's different about the menus?

Food in main dining room

One change is more of a cohesive theme to each night, with different cuisines and cooking styles highlighted in each day's menu.

Look for themes such as Italian, American, or Caribbean themes, with the chef's featured choices listed at the top of the menu.

Something else guests may notice is the removal of the "classics" section, which offered a subset of menu options that were available each night and never changed. 

Lobster tail

Royal Caribbean is also limiting guests to one lobster tail for no additional cost on the evening the broiled lobster is available.

Prior to this change, guests could order unlimited lobster tails, but the realities of the lobster trade forced Royal Caribbean's hand in part.

Royal Caribbean can only buy 90% Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified food, which means that lobster needs to be either farm raised or wild caught. A recent shift in Maine lobster purchasing due to environmental concerns has places like Whole Foods halting the purchase of the items.

As a result, Royal Caribbean has changed to buying Canadian lobster that is still MSC certified.

Importance of guest feedback

Women eating in main dining room

It's been a few years since the last time Royal Caribbean refreshed their dining menus, which is why they relied on guest feedback when curating the new menus. 

During the testing phase, they sent a team of six people onboard the Symphony go the Seas who were responsible for conducting in-person meetings with 30-40 passengers per day. In addition, surveys were sent out via email. 

In an exclusive interview, Linken D'Souza, the Global Vice President of Culinary, Dining, & Beverage said, "If there's four or five modifications we can make, we'll iterate and make those changes. If there's a theme that's not working and we're seeing a lot of dissatisfaction on a specific day within the cruise period, we'll review that experience."

A quicker, more consistent dining experience

Family eating in main dining room

As previously mentioned, one of the reasons for this change is to decrease the time guests spend in the Main Dining Room.

The company believes that dinner should last around 75 minutes. Prior to the new menus, passengers could spend 95-120+ minutes at dinner. A shorter dinner service allows guests to get enjoy other activities during their cruise vacation. 

If you do not want a faster dining experience, all you have to do is tell your waiter. 

"I think holistically, when you look at both the service experience we create with the theming of nights and then the food that's layered're going to see hotter, fresher, more consistently plated, beautiful food," said Mr. D'Souza. 

When will the new menus be on all ships?

Royal Caribbean expects the new menus to be available on all ships by early February.

The current plan is to begin the new menu deployment in January, and by early February, it should be available on all ships across the fleet.

How I kept from gaining weight on my cruise

30 Dec 2022

Cruises are a time to splurge on food and drinks that we normally wouldn’t have at home, whether endless soft serve ice cream on the pool deck or three course meals in the Main Dining Room.

While I usually splurge on a Royal Caribbean cruise, I recently had an 8-night back-to-back sailing on Independence of the Seas and I wanted to watch my weight. Plus, one day after we disembarked Independence of the Seas we would board Wonder of the Seas for the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise. I was determined to fit into my dresses for that cruise!

I am prone to putting on weight fast. It's not unusual for me to gain 8-12 pounds on a weeklong cruise. I knew keeping a healthy diet would be a challenge onboard with all the tempting, delicious food and cocktails available, but I had a goal I was committed to reach.

Eating healthy onboard

I decided to eat most of my meals in the Windjammer as I figured there would be more selections there than the Main Dining Room. Having dinner in the Main Dining Room with the bread basket in front of me for two hours would be too hard to resist!

My motto as I entered each meal was to make healthy choices. Breakfasts were very simple, mostly consisting of cereal with banana slices and occasionally a slice of bread. We went to the Main Dining Room one morning for breakfast where I had a veggie omelet with mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and spinach.

I even ordered my cereal from room service a couple mornings; there's no reason why I can't enjoy breakfast on my balcony! I did, however, pass up the vanilla lattes I usually like to have on cruise mornings. Instead, I opted for Earl Grey tea with no milk and Splenda.

I enjoyed pre-dinner snacks of raw vegetables and chicken skewers in the Diamond Lounge. For dinner, I started with a raspberry vinaigrette salad, roasted broccoli, carrots, and usually a meat from the carving station (turkey or beef).

For dessert, I opted for pieces of cantaloupe and watermelon.

I drank a lot of water

Another healthy choice I made on my cruise was to drink a lot of water. I brought a Royal Caribbean tumbler onboard with me (the one that you get with a soda package). I measured how much liquid it would hold before my trip so I could keep track of how much water I consumed. 

The tumbler was easy to keep filled as there is always water available. My go-to places for water refills were Cafe Promenade and Sorrento’s. 

Before my cruise, I also researched lower calorie cocktails if I wanted to indulge, but I ended up just sticking to water. Our concierge even suggested brewing some flavored tea and putting it over ice for more variety!

Exercising onboard

I start every morning at home with a 5K run around my neighborhood, so on the ship, I visited the jogging track every other day for my 3.1 mile run. I always went running on the track pre-dawn to see an amazing sunrise and to hopefully get most of my run finished before the crowds showed up.

I have a love/hate relationship with the jogging track. Even though the run/walk lanes are clearly marked, there’s always a slow-moving group that takes up the entire track—or worse yet—walks the wrong way around it. I try to remember to pack my patience!

Treadmills make me dizzy, so I'm not a huge fan of going to the gym, although I did do a little bit of the step machine one morning. 

Speaking of steps, I took the stairs EVERYWHERE. I'm proud to say that I didn’t see the inside of an elevator for 8 days! One day we got off the ship twice at Perfect Day at CocoCay to meet up with friends that were on the ship next to us and I took the stairs from Deck 1 to 14 twice in an hour!

Not all exercises have to be regimented, and part of exercising onboard is making it fun. I had a blast jumping in the Sky Pad, and one morning I did the sky climber since the rock climbing wall wasn’t open yet. There was also basketball, soccer, and open time on the ice rink available. You’d be surprised how much of a workout you can get doing those activities!

Something else that worked for me was to keep a journal of what I ate, how much water I drank, and which exercises I did each day. Time gets away from me on a cruise and it’s easy for me to forget what I ate and if I need to make adjustments on the next meal or the next day. 

Did it work?

My goal after 8 nights on Independence of the Seas was to see the same number on the scale when I got home as when I left. I was extremely surprised to find out that I actually lost a pound and a half.

It felt great to be able to wear those dresses I had been determined to fit into on the group cruise. While on the Wonder of the Seas group cruise, I splurged on specialty restaurants and cocktails on the brand new ship. It’s all about balance!

Royal Caribbean will introduce new main dining room menu in January

12 Dec 2022

It's official: Royal Caribbean will revamp its main dining room menu with a look and offerings beginning in January 2023.

After a few weeks of testing on Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has confirmed a new menu will replace the existing menu, beginning in January.

This is the first new dining room menu in over five years for the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean cautioned that the exact menu selections may change, so test menus that have been used so far may not be the final product.

New menu arrives in January

Royal Caribbean had been quietly testing a new menu on Symphony of the Seas, which was first spotted in November.

Over the last few weeks, the cruise line sought to capture guest feedback about the changes and make appropriate tweaks.

Speaking at the naming ceremony on Wonder of the Seas this weekend, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley confirmed the new menu changes are going to proceed forward.

"We got all the written feedback. I think the food and beverage team has done an amazing job in making sure we're responsive to that. Our plan is to is to roll out the new menus starting in January," Mr. Bayley said when a travel agent asked for further information on the test.

Women eating in main dining room

Mr. Bayley also talked about hesitation related to a new menu.

"We're very thoughtful and conscious about any changes that we make. But we do think that where we're heading with the new menus is going to be better and more enjoyable."


In an exclusive interview, Linken D'Souza, Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, talked in greater detail about the new menus.  He added that the current plan is to begin the new menu deployment in January, and by early February, it should be available on all ships across the fleet.

"We'll get that data back really probably by the end of December. We'll review that over the holidays. And then as we come back, post the New Year's week, we will start a deployment on the new menu across the fleet."

"It'll probably roll fairly quickly because we want it to be consistent across the fleet as quickly as we can."

Making dinner faster

Why the change? The top reason according to Royal Caribbean is swiftness of service.

In responding to a question about the new menu, Mr. Bayley said that a top complaint from passengers has been how long dinner can take some times.

"It's also fair to say that we get a lot of feedback from customers who do want to have a slightly faster service."

Symphony of the Seas main dining room

He was quick to add dinner is not planned to become as fast as possible either, "I would say there is no intention to rush somebody through that dinner."

"It's your choice and all you have to do is tell your waiter, 'I don't want to rush service. We want to enjoy our time.'" 

Adding to Mr. Bayley's point, Mr. D'Souza explained the issue with how long dinner can sometimes take, "today, our dining experience takes 120 plus minutes, in some cases for larger parties, at least 95 minutes for a party two. That's a really long dining experience."

So how long should dinner take? Royal Caribbean thinks the magic number is around 75 minutes.

"The first thing will help us do is improve the speed of the pace of the meal," Mr. D'Souza explained.

"Not hugely, but let's call it about 15 minutes is what we're seeing, which is a significant reduction, gets us much closer to that 75 minute target for what our guest experiences is really what what we have looked at in the research. And they said that's kind of what the guest ideal dining experience time."

"Hotter, fresher, more consistently plated, beautiful food"

Besides speed of service, Mr. D'Souza thinks this new menu will result in a better experience for guests.

"I think holistically, when you look at both the service experience we create with the theming of the nights and then the food that's layered in and then the consistency. And quality improvements that you're going to see hotter, fresher, more consistently plated, beautiful food."

He admitted up until now, that has not been the case and it bothered him, "my frustration with that is I want to deliver a more consistent and great quality experience for our guests versus a hit and miss experience."

Family in dining room

An updated menu also allows the dining experience to be more consistent, which is a major concern for Mr. D'Souza.

"You make a French onion soup that doesn't taste the same on every ship or look the same, and frankly, that's not acceptable to me."

"I would rather our guests have a very clear understanding and expectation of what they're going to get. And they either love it or hate it. That's okay. But if you love it, I want it to be the same amount of love for that dish. Whether you came today and you came 16 months back and you ate once in the Caribbean and next time in Europe, it should taste exactly the same."

Easing the load on crew members

Waiter serving a family

An ancillary benefit of the menu is the realities of the legacy menu and its impact on the workload for crew members.

"Frankly, the workload for the crew, it's not manageable anymore with the amount of special requests."

"We're putting some structure on the process to really be more diligent in how we how we operate the dining space."

Family eating in main dining room

He also acknowledged that there are a lot of new crew members, and the restart process since 2021 has been a challenge that didn't exist years ago.

"We have more what we call new roles in our business than we've ever had. And these are new employees who have the depth and length of experience. So we've got a lot of new employees who simply are still learning."

Final menu not set yet

While the plan is to have the dinner menus change across the fleet beginning in January, the exact menus are not set yet.

Mr. D'Souza talked about the timeline for finalizing the menu, "The menu that is currently on Symphony will go through some iteration from the themes themselves to the items that guests like."

"The theme nights you've seen are not necessarily theme nights that you're going to see when we launch. So there may be some modifications based on the feedback."

In fact, there will be additional themed nights for longer sailings.

According to Mr. D'Souza, they are also working on menus for 8, 9 and 10 night cruises.

Feedback so far from guests

Mom and daughter in main dining room

Royal Caribbean has received lots of reviews of the menu changes from its passengers, both loyal cruisers and first timers.

According to Mr. Bayley, consumer research teams were sent onboard Symphony of the Seas during the trial to talk focus groups of customers.

"We always do find that when you do these changes, you get, especially with our loyal customers who are very much used to their routine, we do get more feedback and sometimes negative feedback from our loyal customers because they like, they enjoy the way it was," Mr. Bayley explained when talking about the menu change.

Serenade of the Seas dining room

"But we also find that our new customers and new to cruise enjoy the new menu."

"We're working our way through it. We're very responsive to the feedback."

You might be curious what the feedback looks like, and Mr. D'Souza provided additional context.

Royal Caribbean has a team of six people onboard the ship that are doing in-person meetings with guests, along with the email surveys that have been sent out to many more. The team onboard has met with at least 30-40 guests every day of the cruise to get their opinions.

"Overwhelmingly, the feedback for all of the teams, has been exceptionally positive."

Guests not happy with the change? Try it first

Mr. D'Souza appears keenly aware of the initial negative comments he read online when the new menu was first spotted, but he hopes people will judge the menus onboard the ship and not just in the vacuum of the internet. 

"We understand that it's going to be some people who are not really thrilled about all the changes."

"What I would ask for is I would ask for the opportunity for people to really try the experience themselves and not prejudge it before they've been on the ship."

Main Dining Room onboard Symphony of the Seas

He added that when the new menus roll out in January, the offerings are not set in stone. Additional feedback will be reviewed to make further refinements.

"We don't stop taking feedback after we start the new menu."

"If there's four or five modifications we can make, we'll iterate and make those changes. If there's a theme that's not working and we're seeing a lot of dissatisfaction on a specific day within the cruise period, we'll review that experience."

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