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Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

01 Mar 2022

There is no question that dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise has become a major aspect of the cruise experience.  The food available onboard ranges from simple and classic to extravagant and contemporary.  In short, there are a lot of great dining choices available on Royal Caribbean.

With so many choices, often guests preparing for their cruise have many questions about what is included, which options are available and how it all works.  What follows is our guide to understanding better the basics of dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Complimentary food

Simply put, there is plenty of great food included in the cost of your Royal Caribbean cruise. One can easily go an entire cruise and enjoy nothing but food that has no additional cost from morning to night. After all, that is what the concept of a cruise has been for a long time.

Royal Caribbean ships have different names and venues for its dining options, but you will find some basic characteristics among them all to prepare you for what to expect.

Main Dining Room

The main dining room is the stalwart institution upon which cruise ship dining was established.  It has changed over the years, but the principles remain the same and the Main Dining Room available on all Royal Caribbean ships.

Guests may dine in the main dining room for dinner every night and breakfast every morning. Lunch is served in the main dining room on sea days only. The Main Dining Room is a large, sit-down restaurant with waiter service that is included in your cruise fare.

For dinner, Royal Caribbean offers a traditional set time with assigned seating, or an alternative first-come, first-served option (My Time Dining).  Both offer the same menu, which changes every night and in both cases, there is the possibility that you will be seated with other guests. Guests can contact their travel agent or Royal Caribbean prior to the cruise to ask to be assigned to a smaller table if they do not wish to sit with other guests.

Dinner is the most popular and common time to dine in the main dining room, when the main dining room offers appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from. You may order as much (or as little) as you like and it's nearly all complimentary, with the exception of a few premium dishes that have an additional surcharge. Premium beverages, such as soda, alcohol and specialty coffee, are also not complimentary in the Main Dining Room but can be purchased individually or as part of a beverage package.

Breakfast and lunch is less formal than dinner, with guests seated as they arrive, with posted hours of when the dining room is open. In both cases, the meals are served to you at your table.  The breakfast menu does not change, but the lunch menu changes each day.

The main dining room has a dress code.  Dinner has a dress code that changes each day, while breakfast and lunch have a more casual dress code requirement. When guests hear the word, "dress code," that often causes a lot of concern about what to wear.  The reality is on most nights, guests can easily wear what would be defined as "resort casual," which can mean a sundress or skirt for women and a collared shirt and slacks for men.  "Nice" jeans are appropriate for both men and women too.  On formal nights, the suggested attire gets a bit fancier, with cocktail dresses or gowns for women and suits for men.

Windjammer Cafe

First time cruisers often imagine a large buffet when they think of eating on a cruise, and the Windjammer is the closest thing to that concept.  

The Windjammer Cafe is a buffet restaurant that is included in your cruise fare, which serves meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Windjammer locations are not open all the time, but have long enough hours to cover nearly all the times guests would like something to eat.

The Windjammer has lots of seating and even more food variety than anywhere else on the ship. You will find burgers, soups, sandwiches, ethnic dishes, salads, pastas, desserts, and much more every day. Guests will find the greatest variety of food at the Windjammer compared to any other dining location on the ship, complimentary or paid.

The buffet is self-serve, so guests walk up to the buffet station and use serving spoons or tongs to place food on their plate.

Guests can sit at a table to eat in the Windjammer, but are also free to take their food elsewhere on the ship, like the pool deck.  There are wait staff who will clear plates, clean tables and bring you drinks.  

Unlike the Main Dining Room, the dress code for the Windjammer is casual.

The Windjammer is a great alternative to any sit down restaurant, including the Main Dining Room. In fact, some guests opt to eat exclusively at the Windjammer for dinner instead of the Main Dining Room. After a long day in port or onboard, some guests do not want to get ready for a long sit down meal and prefer a quick, casual dining experience.

Quick service restaurants

The bulk of complimentary food on a Royal Caribbean cruise is available from quick service restaurants, which offer quick, grab-and-go food to guests.  Quick service restaurants offer sandwiches, burritos, snacks, pizza and everything between.  Each Royal Caribbean ship will offer a number of these locations around your ship, so you are never too far away.

There is usually limited seating available at these locations, but most guests get the food and then bring it somewhere else on the ship to eat, such as their stateroom or by the pool.  It is designed for guests that want something quick to eat on their way to somewhere else.

Complimentary quick service restaurants on Royal Caribbean include:

  • El Loco Fresh, a grab-and-go Mexican restaurant with burritos, quesadillas, nachos, beans, and rice
  • Mini Bites, offering burgers, fries, hot dogs, quesadillas, omelets, salads, and more
  • Doghouse, a hot dog and sausage stand with a variety of meats and toppings
  • Park Cafe, offering salads, soups, sandwiches, and breakfast on Oasis Class ships
  • Cafe at Two70, offering salads, soups, sandwiches, and breakfast on Quantum Class ships
  • Sorrento’s Pizza, a pizza slice restaurant with several types of pizzas and antipasti
  • Cafe Promenade, offering coffee as well as small pastries, sandwiches, and fruit

Some quick service restaurants come with an extra cost:

  • Fish & Ships, offering fish and chips as well as other quick bites like chicken tenders and a lobster roll
  • Johnny Rockets Express, offering hamburgers, sandwiches, fries, onion rings, and milkshakes

Room Service

Room service is available 24 hours per day on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Royal Caribbean charges a $7.95 per order fee for room service. Whether you order one item or ten items, a $7.95 fee per room service order will be levied.  There is a complimentary breakfast option, with menu items like muffins, bagels, oatmeal, and toast, that will not incur the $7.95 fee.

Just like room service at a hotel, you can call room service and place an order to have a crew member deliver the food to your room.  Royal Caribbean has also added a room service ordering option via the stateroom television, which simplifies the ordering process.

The room service menu does not change and is limited in scope.

Specialty dining

In addition to all the food included in your cruise fare are specialty dining options. Specialty dining restaurants carry an extra cost to dine there. The exact amount extra will vary from restaurant to restaurant, and ship to ship.  

In most cases, the specialty dining options offer a greater variety of food choices than what is available at complimentary dining locations. Royal Caribbean has designed its specialty restaurants around themes or cuisines (Italian, steakhouse, sushi, etc).

Royal Caribbean recommends making a reservation in advance for its specialty restaurants to ensure there is seating available, but there is usually walk-up availability (although there is a greater risk of waiting to be seated).  Unlike the Main Dining Room, you will not be seated with other guests with the exception of the Izumi Hibachi experience.

Specialty restaurants are priced in one of two manners: cover charge or à la carte pricing.  With a cover charge, there is one price for all the food on the menu (except for beverages).  There can also be a surcharge for ordering more than one entree, although this rule varies based on the specialty restaurant you happen to be dining at.  À la carte dining charges you just for what you order, and is similar to how food is billed at a conventional land-based restaurant.

Specialty dining can be booked prior to a cruise via Royal Caribbean's website or once onboard the cruise.  Reservations made online for a specialty restaurant with a cover charge will charge that amount at the time of booking.  Reservations made for specialty dining onboard your ship will not be charged to your SeaPass account until you dine at the restaurant.

Specialty restaurant venues on Royal Caribbean include the following:

  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, a Japanese restaurant with traditional teppanyaki and an extensive sushi menu
  • Chops Grill, Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, the newest Italian restaurant in Royal Caribbean’s fleet with a pizza and pasta menu along with dishes like chicken parmigiana
  • Giovanni’s Table, a traditional Italian restaurant offering items such as pasta carbonara and eggplant parmigiana
  • Jamie’s Italian, a modern take at Italian cuisine that features the famous meat and cheese plank along with homemade pasta
  • Wonderland, a molecular dining experience with an Alice and Wonderland theme
  • 150 Central Park, an elegant restaurant focusing on locally sourced ingredients

  • Samba Grill, a traditional, all-you-can-eat-meat Brazilian rodizio
  • Sabor, a Mexican restaurant with tacos, quesadillas, and small plates
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, which features classic bar food including nachos, sliders, fries, and chicken tenders
  • Johnny Rockets, offering classic American fare
  • Hooked Seafood, a seafood restaurant highlighting dishes and flavors from the Northeast, including clam chowder and oysters
  • The Mason Jar, a southern-inspired restaurant with fried chicken, lobster and crawfish gumbo, and brunch options
  • Portside BBQ, a barbecue restaurant with a variety of barbecued meats and comfort food side dishes
  • Chef’s Table, a six course meal where each course paired with a different type of wine

Specialty restaurant costs

The cost of specialty dining varies considerably and the same restaurant can have a different price depending on the ship. The price of a restaurant can also fluctuate from sailing to sailing.

Most specialty dining has a flat-fee surcharge, ranging from $10 (Johnny Rockets) or $38 (Jamie’s Italian) to $80 (Chef's Table).  Most specialty dining restaurant cover charges fall into the $20 to $45 range. Dining at a specialty restaurant for lunch can often be half the price of dinner while still providing the same menu.

The à la carte priced restaurants will have item prices ranging from just a few dollars up to around $20.

Some guests may wish to purchase a dining package before their cruise. By reserving an Ultimate Dining Package or 3-night Dining Package, guests can enjoy a variety of restaurants at a lower cost than purchasing meals at each restaurant individually.

Specialty restaurant hours

All Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants are open for dinner, with some open during breakfast and/or lunch.

Lunch meals at specialty restaurants usually are priced a bit lower and only on sea days.  Breakfast is quite rare to be offered at Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants aside from an included breakfast for Pinnacle members. Some specialty venues, like Johnny Rockets on Oasis Class ships, transform to offer breakfast for no additional fee.

For breakfast or lunch, advanced reservations are not usually available nor required.

Kids at specialty restaurants

Royal Caribbean welcomes children that are 12 years old or younger to its specialty restaurants (when accompanied by an adult) and even offers them special pricing.

Kids ages 6-12 can dine at specialty restaurants for a $10 cover charge. Kids 5 years old and under eat free.

In fact, some specialty restaurants have a special kids menu that offers kid-friendly favorites from the regular menu.  Children under the age of 5 will have a menu similar to the kids menu from the Main Dining Room.

Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, 150 Central Park, and Chef's Table do allow kids, but are best enjoyed by children 13 years or older.

Dietary restrictions and special requests

Royal Caribbean is very accommodating when it comes to guests with special dietary needs. The cruise line can handle a number of requests, such as food allergies, gluten free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

Vegetarian meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe every day. Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals.

Lactose-free milk, ensure, and kosher meals are available at no extra charge. All you have to do is notify Royal Caribbean at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries).

A selection of non-dairy milks is available at coffee shops and at the Windjammer or Main Dining Room upon request.

For any and all dietary requests, contact your travel agent or Certified Vacation Planner and request that the remark be noted in your reservation details. If you made your reservation online at, you may add your request to the "update personal information." section. You may also send an email request to [email protected].

Please include in the email the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date. E-mails will receive an automated response. 

More Royal Caribbean food info

This blog post is just the beginning of the many options, choices and tips about dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Here are a few more resources that will help you better understand what to expect once onboard:

How to request your favorite foods be prepared in the main dining room on your Royal Caribbean cruise

30 Aug 2021

While on a Mariner of the Seas cruise last week, many readers were surprised there was an option to request alternate foods for dinner in the main dining room.

Royal Caribbean strives to offer guests the best possible experience, and will always strive to see if there is anyway to deliver on that promise through the dining experience.

In addition to the daily menu offered, guests can request other food options to meet dietary, religious, or personal needs. Of course, not every request is possible, but the food and beverage team aboard will do their best to come up with something satisfactory.

The key is knowing when and how to politely ask for these sort of items leading up to your cruise.

What foods can you request?

I have seen a wide gamut of different choices, from tweaks to the existing menu options to full out separate meals for specific tables.

Special requests are dependent on the ship's product availability., but the staff tries their best to accommodate whatever they can.

The most common types of requests are adjustments to existing menu items, or special types of cuisines from international guests.

Indian curry (vegetarian and with meat) is available daily.  It was originally offered as a backup option for vegetarians that was not listed on the menu, but has since become a popular option for all guests.

I have seen the main dining room serve traditional Chinese, Egyptian, and Turkish foods to select families on various sailings.

Royal Caribbean can accommodate some dietary needs onboard their ships without much notice, such as food allergies, gluten-free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

Vegetarian meals (including Indian curry vegetarian) are available on all menus in the main dining room by simply asking the head waiter and these do not require a pre-cruise special request.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and Kosher meals are available no extra charge by requesting it from Royal Caribbean prior to sailing at least 45 days before sailing for North American sailings (90 days before for European/South American sailings & 100 days prior to Australia/Asia sailings).

Make requests early

The best advice for special requests is to get them in early, keeping in mind not all requests are possible.

Ideally, you will request any special dietary needs before the cruise so that the staff is aware of your request even before you board.  Most requests take a bit of time for the kitchen staff to arrange since dinner prep and cooking is an all day process.

You can send in your requests via email to [email protected]; Be sure to include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.  It is best to make requests like this at least 45 days (90 days for European/Asian itineraries) in advance of your sailing.

If you are onboard already, you can still make requests by speaking to the head waiter. Try to go to the main dining room on the afternoon of embarkation day to get in your requests early.

Once you speak with him or her, you can convey any special requests you may have and get it in place for the rest of your cruise. The key is to be polite in your requests, and be understanding if the answer is "no".

Am I asking for too much?

In reading all of this, you might be concerned of being a bother or simply asking for too much of the dining staff.

Depending on your request, it may or may not be possible to make happen.

Certainly sending your request in early via email is the best option to ensure the staff has time to process and respond to it. 

Royal Caribbean wants to do everything it can to ensure you have an amazing experience, but there are limits. Delivering certain foods, such as Indian curry or a hot dog that is already cooked elsewhere on the ship is not much of a stretch for the crew.

But trying to re-create certain cuisines or cooking styles, or requesting specific ingredients may be not possible. The staff is usually good about conveying what they can deliver, so be understanding and appreciative of whatever they can offer.

In short, ask early and politely, but understand the answer may be no.

What changes has Royal Caribbean made to eating on a cruise since restarting?

16 Aug 2021

After 15 months of no cruise ships sailing, Royal Caribbean has slowly restarted operations with dining onboard being one of the most visible changes to the experience.

Not only has there been tweaks to how food is served, such as crew members serving passengers at the Windjammer buffet, but Royal Caribbean has rolled out other changes to its ships that are in many cases the result of months of work behind the scenes.

While cruise ships may have been shutdown for most of 2020, Royal Caribbean's food and beverage team was not idle. Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, took the time while ships were out of service to work on a number of initiatives that guests are now seeing onboard.

At the onset of the shutdown, Royal Caribbean was primarily focused on getting crew members home and to ensure all the equipment and venues were locked down. But then, the food and beverage team started thinking about the projects they always wanted to do, but were simply too busy to tackle in addition to the day-to-day operations onboard.

"I said, this is an opportune moment. Let's go back and really think about the business and what needs to get better," Mr. D'Souza explained as he laid out his team's plans during the shutdown.

A lot of energy initially went into re-evaluating their supply chains, looking at ways to improve the Windjammer or dining rooms.

"We spent a lot of time looking at all the menus and all of the recipes and a lot of simplification. The most challenging part of our business is managing 26 ships spread across the world and figuring out how to build consistency."

One of the early changes to come out of this refocus was the Windjammer, where Mr. D'Souza says new dishware and a focus on quality of presentation was added.

"I think historically it was about mass volumes of food everywhere. This is really about making sure everything that's out there is well prepared, tastes exceptionally good, and makes folks want to come back."

Over in the main dining room, Royal Caribbean refocused their efforts on plating, entrees, and fine-tuned a lot of those experiences.

Another change was to re-vamp the fleetwide drink menu, which now includes cocktails, mocktails, and low/no alcohol drinks.

"The beverage team focused in on rebuilding the beverage menu, and we focused on the 'Taste of the Caribbean', which is really going to some of our favorite places that our ships sailed to and identifying drinks that are really signature drinks to those islands and bringing them on board the ship."

The hope for Mr. D'Souza was to infuse a piece of these quintessential Caribbean ports in the drink menu, "It's like bringing a port of call to your experience onboard the ship. And maybe you have the cocktail on board and you get off from the island and you say, hey, I got to get one of those here to see how close they are."

Some of the major changes Royal Caribbean has made to the dining experience to ensure a healthy experience for all includes:

  • No self-service buffet option, including drink stations, ice cream stations and other locations
  • Restaurant menus shown in the Royal Caribbean app
  • Reservations recommended for meals at specialty restaurants, Main Dining Room, or Windjammer
  • Scanning guest SeaPass cards upon entry and exit to Windjammer to ensure venue is not too crowded
  • Designated areas for everyone in main dining room, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only. 
  • Most bars and lounges are open to everyone, while some are designated for vaccinated guests.

Healthy return to service

Cruise ships restarting was much more than simply pulling into port and allowing passengers onboard. Royal Caribbean spent a great deal of time and energy on new protocols, and that includes dining.

Mr. D'Souza said a big part of his team's planning was focused on the return to service, "There was a lot of protocols, a lot of time spent focused on how do we come back to healthy, safe return service."

"We looked at the table designs in the dining room, how many guests could fit in every dining ship by ship."

"And so making sure that we had all the systems and protocols in place and a lot of my team stepped into roles that were not traditionally their roles. And I think that happened across our company."

D'Souza characterized this time as "very challenging" for everyone involved, but he felt there was a focused effort on doing what was needed for the business to return.

Cruise FAQ: Dining

20 Mar 2021

Let's face it: Dining is as essential to the cruise experience as the ocean itself. Despite the ubiquitous nature of food on cruise ships, passengers have plenty of questions about the logistics of it all.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is a compilation of the most frequently asked questions about dining on cruises.

How does dining work on a cruise?

All major cruise lines' ships include three types of dining in their cruise fares.

First, travelers looking for something quick and casual can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and between-meal snacks at the self-serve onboard buffet. It's free and generally includes several stations with a selection of cuisines. This option affords a ton of choice, making it great for picky eaters or cruisers with dietary restrictions.

Second, each ship will also have at least one main dining room (MDR), which offers less-casual waiter-served meals from a set menu each day.

The MDR is always open for dinner, and depending on the cruise line, passengers will have their choice of set seating or anytime dining (an assigned dining time at the same table with the same waiter each night, versus dining any time between set hours at the first available table). If you choose the former, you might also end up sharing a table with other cruisers.

Third, room service is available nearly around the clock on most ships. While most charge for deliveries between certain hours, breakfast is usually included in the price of your cruise.

You can order it by filling out the order form in your cabin and hanging it outside your cabin door before you go to sleep. (It's a nice service on port days when you might be crunched for time before early-morning excursions.) Keep a few small bills handy for delivery tips.

Just about every ship also has a number of alternative eateries onboard. The larger the ship, the more options you'll have. Although some are gratis, most come with additional costs. 

The culinary staffs on most mainstream cruise lines' ships are adept at catering to special dietary requirements. If you're a vegan or vegetarian, you've got food allergies, you keep kosher or you're on a special diabetic or low-sodium diet, simply let your cruise line know when you book your sailing, and the onboard chefs will work with you to come up with some tasty options.

Read moreTop Ten Royal Caribbean Dining Tips

Is dining free on a cruise?

As mentioned above, dining is free at the buffet and in the main dining room. Room service breakfast is also complimentary on most vessels.

Nearly all ships feature a selection of alternative restaurants, as well. While some are included in the price, others levy either a set per-person fee or a la carte charges. Check with your cruise line for more details and pricing.

Read moreWhat's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

Do I have to dress up for dinner on a cruise?

Each cruise line's dress code is different. Sailings used to be luxurious vacations where passengers yearned to dress to the nines, but that's often no longer the case. As such, many brands' formal nights have been made optional or downgraded to, simply, "elegant."

Usually voyages of a week or less in length will host one dress-up night, when passengers can feel free to wear anything from a sun dress or nice slacks with button-down shirts to ball gowns and full tuxedos. Longer sailings may have additional opportunities to get dolled up.

A standard rule of thumb is to avoid jeans on these nights, or you might be asked to dine in the buffet instead.

Otherwise, resort casual attire (including nice jeans) is acceptable. Most lines just ask that passengers refrain from wearing shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, swimwear and baseball caps to dinner at any time.

Read moreTen Royal Caribbean dining mistakes

Can I wear jeans to dinner on a cruise?

Yes, you can wear nice jeans (no holes) as long as it's not formal or elegant night. On those nights, jeans are not allowed in the main dining rooms on most ships.

Can you eat whenever you want on a cruise?

For the most part, food is available around the clock on most ships. Even in the middle of the night, you can order room service (for a fee) or pick up free late-night nibbles at the buffet or from the 24-hour pizza shops found on many vessels.

With the number of alternative restaurants available onboard and readily available cafe baked goods and soft-serve ice cream machines, there's almost always something to help you feel less peckish between meals.

For dinner, you'll be assigned to a specific time if you select set seating and choose to eat in the main dining room. Otherwise, you can make reservations at alternative restaurants for times that best suit you or roll up to the buffet or poolside barbecue whenever you'd like (during their hours of operation, of course).

Read moreHow to eat healthy while on a Royal Caribbean cruise

What happens to leftover food on cruise ships?

The people responsible for provisioning cruise ships have the logistics down to a science, so there's little waste.

Ships are equipped with extensive below-deck areas for dry storage, as well as freezers and refrigerators that keep everything at the appropriate temperatures so nothing spoils. Food ingredients left over from one sailing are simply used on the next one.

Leftover prepared food is disposed of in several ways, which include incineration, offloading in port as compost or fertilizer, and grinding it until it's liquefied enough to be released into the ocean (far away from land) as fish food.

Are drinks free on a cruise?

Basic beverages -- tap water, iced and hot tea, drip coffee, lemonade and some juices (with breakfast) -- are included in the price of your cruise.

Soda, bottled water, specialty coffees, smoothies, milkshakes, most juices, energy drinks and alcohol cost extra. If you plan to drink a lot of these, cruise lines sell beverage packages for a set per-person daily charge that can offer a cost savings if you drink enough.

You'll have to do the math to determine whether purchasing a package would be worth the money.

Read moreWhat drinks are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise?

Do cruises have room service?

Yes, all mainstream oceangoing cruise lines feature some sort of room service. Most offer basic breakfast items for free, but you might have to pay extra for fare from the expanded breakfast and all-day menus. Most late-night orders also incur nominal fees.

Although not required, it's polite (and appreciated) to tip a dollar or two to the person who delivers your order.

Read more25 must-read Royal Caribbean dining secrets

4 futuristic ideas Royal Caribbean has for cruise ships

18 Jan 2021

Technology innovates constantly, and Royal Caribbean has never been one to shy away from leveraging new advances to improve the guest experience.

Most recently, the cruise line rolled out a virtual muster drill that not only solves a social distancing problem, but also addresses a negative guest experience that has been an issue for decades.

Royal Caribbean has plans for other next generation transformations to the cruise ship experience, and some have already been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Whether or not these products ever see the light of day is another question, but here are some of the more intriguing and futuristic ideas that might be coming to a cruise ship near you sometime soon.

Virtual reality dining

Despite the cruise industry being stuck in a year-long shutdown, Royal Caribbean is still hard at work innovating the cruise ship experience.

The cruise line files plenty of trademarks and patents, including a patent for virtual reality dining that caught my attention.

The patent was filed in 2018, but has been updated as recently as November 2020 and was summarized as follows:

A method, system and computer program product for virtual reality dining includes establishing an index of different human consumables positioned on a sensory surface of a serving tray and, generating in a display of a virtual reality headset, a rendering both of a thematic visual background and also a display of different graphical representations of corresponding ones of the different human consumables at different positions consistent with the index. Thereafter, the removal from the serving tray of one of the different human consumables is detected. In response, a theme of the thematic visual background changes and the thematic visual background re-renders in the headset with the changed theme. Finally, the method includes animating the movement of a display of a corresponding one of the different graphical representations of the removed one of the different human consumables in the headset.

I was able to actually try out this idea in a very early test back in 2017 at a press event that introduced a number of new technologies and concepts.

Essentially, the user puts on a virtual reality headset and is seated at a virtual restaurant.  You see virtual food, which is replaced with real food by servers around you.

The idea is that your surroundings and overall experience are more than just being in another restaurant.  There is the opportunity for eating to be a visual experience too.

Not only did Royal Caribbean patent the idea, they even filed a second patent for the interactive serving tray that has an integrated digital display.

The tray has a computer program that can identify the food or beverage item ordered by the customer, and identity information of a customer associated with the order, such as a digital image of the customer, and displaying the identity information in the display.

Hologram tours

Until the holodeck from Star Trek becomes a reality, the next best thing might be augmented reality.

Royal Caribbean filed a patent for what sounds like a cruise ship tour that you can see around you using holographic animation.

The "Augmented reality tour guide" is described as:

In augmented reality self-guided tour, different augmented reality views are received in a mobile computing device. One of the views presents a holographic animation of a tourable three-dimensional structure with multiple activatable points of interest disposed thereon. A geographic location of the device relative to the structure is determined and a camera of the device retrieves an image of a surrounding portion of the environment so as to compute a position in the image at which to render the animation. The animation is then projected in the display at the computed position. Upon selecting an activatable point of interest, it is determined if the geographic location matches that of the selected point of interest. If so, a different animation associated with the selected point of interest is projected in the display at the computed position.

This is a self-guided tour of a three-dimensional cruise ship, with a holographic person speaking behind the ship. 

The patent sounds like you would be able to navigate parts of the ship to get an idea of where things are located and become acclimated with the cruise ship more easily.

Crowd detection cameras

As cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger, managing crowds to avoid a negative guest experience has been a major focus for Royal Caribbean.

To help detect where crowds are congregating (and perhaps offer swifter crew responses to help move things along), Royal Caribbean patented a multi-camera that can detect population density.

Cruise ships have always relied on security cameras to record what is happening, but what if cameras could be a front line tool for knowing where crowds will form before they get there? 

The invention relies on using automated surveillance, while leveraging deep learning to better determine how crowds form in compact areas.

The patent was filed in May 2019, and then updated again in November 2020, and summarized as follows:

A method for determining population density of a defined space from multi-camera sourced imagery includes loading a set of images acquired from multiple different cameras positioned about the defined space, locating different individuals within each of the images and computing a population distribution of the located different individuals in respect to different locations of the defined space. The method additionally includes submitting each of the images to a convolutional neural network as training data, each in association with a correspondingly computed population distribution. Subsequent to the submission, contemporaneous imagery from the different cameras is acquired in real time and submitted to the neural network, in response to which, a predicted population distribution for the defined space is received from the neural network. Finally, a message is displayed that includes information correlating at least a portion of the population distribution with a specific location of the defined space.

Different cameras positioned  around a space are programmed to figure out all the different individuals in a given space, count how many people are there, and then using a neural network, predict population distribution in that area.

The images gathered by the computer system would be processed so that the neural network could be "trained" to predict a number of individuals at different locations in imagery so as to produce a population distribution by location of a supplied real-time image 

In the short term, the system could determine how empty or full an area is, and report back to the ship crew so they could be alerted of crowding issues.

Long term, the neural network could help Royal Caribbean better manage spaces to mitigate congestion in the first place.

The system can then give crew members a message of what to expect before it happens.

Augmented reality cruise ship cabin

Royal Caribbean played around with the notion of the cruise ship stateroom of the future when it patented the augmented reality stateroom.

Another concept that was showcased at a media event in 2017, the basic concept was to take a traditional cruise ship cabin and use technology to enhance the look and feel of the space.

A method, system and computer program product for generating augmented reality in a state room includes establishing a communicative link with different computing devices disposed within separate state rooms, with each of the state rooms including a display positioned at a ceiling, a display positioned on a wall and a display embedded in a floor. The method further includes, for each of the state rooms, assigning a theme of an exterior environment, directing the retrieval from fixed storage of exterior environmental imagery, and directing display of an atmospheric portion of the exterior environmental imagery on the display positioned at the ceiling, directing display of a horizon portion of the exterior environmental imagery on the display positioned on the wall, and directing display of a surface portion of the exterior environmental imagery on the display embedded in the floor.

Digital displays embedded in the walls and floors would allow the room's look to be changed at any time, and could match a theme of what is happening outside. They even thought of taking live outside imagery and making that what you see on your walls or ceiling.

Imagine sailing through Alaska and seeing the amazing scenery without leaving your room. Or seeing the horizon and sea going past your ship on your wall.

Where can I eat on the first day of my Royal Caribbean cruise?

18 Aug 2020

When you get onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, you might be ready for a bite to eat and Royal Caribbean provides a few options to dine at for no additional cost, and some that do cost extra.


Getting on your ship means a lot of choices on how to begin your vacation, but many guests elect to start things off with lunch.  Embarkation usually begins in the late morning to early afternoon, so lunch is the first opportunity to sit down for a bite to eat.

Here is what you should know about where you can eat on the first day of your cruise.

Food included at no extra cost

Depending on your ship, Royal Caribbean offers a few venues to dine at that cost nothing extra to enjoy.

The most popular option is the Windjammer Marketplace, which is a traditional cruise buffet that serves up a variety of food and beverages. It is also the first restaurant to open on embarkation day, and will remain open until just before it is time to set sail.

You will find soups, sandwiches, burgers, nachos, casseroles, fish, salads and plenty more to choose from and it is unlimited.  Just grab a plate, take what you like, and find a seat.

There will be other venues available to dine at on your ship that are complimentary. These include:

  • Park Cafe
  • Cafe Promenade
  • Cafe Latte-tudes
  • Sorrento's Pizza
  • Wipeout Cafe
  • El Loco Fresh

The main dining room is not typically open for lunch on embarkation day, except for guests who purchased The Key, where they will enjoy a complimentary specialty restaurant meal there.

Restaurants that cost extra

Anyone who wants to indulge may prefer to eat lunch at a specialty restaurant on the first day of the cruise.

While not all specialty restaurants may be open on the first day, some do open their doors for those first few hours onboard.

There is no need (nor option) to make lunch reservations on embarkation day, so it is just first-come, first served.

If you purchased a specialty dining package, you can choose to use your package benefits on the first day lunch. Just let your server know that you have the package.

Just like the included restaurants, which restaurants are open on the first day depend on the ship. The typical extra-cost restaurants open for lunch on embarkation day are:

  • Chops Grille
  • Johnny Rockets
  • Giovanni's Table
  • Jaimie’s Italian
  • Sabor
  • Playmakers Bar

How do to find which restaurants are on your ship

After reading this, your next logical question may be which restaurants are on your ship, both specialty and included.

The easiest way to find that out is to read a past Cruise Compass from a sailing on your ship.

The Cruise Compass is a daily newspaper of events, times, and schedules, including what is open on the first day of your cruise.  If you read one or two of these Compasses, you will quickly discover the restaurants open on embarkation day for a given ship are pretty much the same each sailing.

Restaurants open for dinner

Once you get to dinner time on the first day of your cruise, all the restaurants onboard will be open for service.

Unlike lunch on the first day, dinner time is the beginning of a more normalized schedule for operations onboard and you do not have to be concerned about a specific restaurant being open or not.

The most notable restaurant open to everyone for dinner, but not lunch, on embarkation day is the main dining room.

Depending if you booked traditional or My Time Dining for your dinners, the dining room is always available as an option, in addition to the complimentary and specialty restaurants onboard.

How to not eat with strangers on a Royal Caribbean cruise

31 Jul 2020

If there is one aspect of cruising that concerns some new cruisers, it is the idea they might have to sit with other guests for a meal during their cruise.


One of the carryover traditions of cruising is being seated in the main dining room with other cruise guests.  Seating is limited in this venue, and there are a number of large tables that can accommodate multiple families.

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise booked and would prefer not to sit with others at a meal, here is what you need to know.

Main Dining Room

The most common setting where you might have to dine with strangers is the main dining room, and depending on the meal, there are different ways around it.

Regardless of if you prefer to dine alone, or just do not wish to sit with people you do not know, here is what to know.

Breakfast and Lunch

When the main dining room is open for breakfast or lunch, seating is on a first-come, first seated basis.

If you say nothing, there is an equal chance you may be seated by yourself or with others, although the smaller your party, the more likely you will be seated with others.

If you prefer to dine alone, when you enter the dining room and a waiter asks how many in your party, let them know you wish to sit by yourselves. It may take a few extra minutes to be seated, but the staff can arrange it.


Being able to be seated alone for dinner depends on which option you have chosen for your dinner: Tradtional or My Time Dining.

If you have selected My Time Dining, sitting by yourselves is very similar to breakfast or lunch in the main dining room. If you have not made reservations in advance, you just need to go to My Time Dining reservations table in the dining room and ask to be seated alone.

Just like other meals, there may be an additional wait for a table to open up (especially during peak dining times).

If you are booked in traditional dining, you should contact Royal Caribbean prior to your cruise to make the request. Send an email to [email protected] about 2-3 weeks prior to your sailing with your request.  This strategy usually works for most people. 

When you get onboard the ship, be sure to confirm with the head waiter at the main dining room that you are indeed seated by yourselves.  The main dining room is open to walk in on embarkation day, and your SeaPass card will list your dining room table assignment.  In addition, there will be a head waiter on duty in the afternoon of the first cruise day to take requests and make adjustments.

You can change your mind

If you think you might want to try sitting with others at dinner, but are concerned after a day or two that you want to change your mind, it is quite possible to be re-accommodated.

If the other guests you are seated with are not a good match for you, there are usually opportunities to change your table.

Ask to speak to the head waiter in order to arrange a table change.


The popular buffet option on all Royal Caribbean ships has seating that is available to whomever grabs them first.

There are tables that come in all sizes, including some long tables and roundtables that can easily accommodate more than one family.

Royal Caribbean will not seat you in the Windjammer, so it is up to you to find a table for your family, but it is not uncommon for another group to ask to sit at one of the larger tables.

The easy way to avoid sitting with others is to pick a table that just accommodates you and your group.

Specialty restaurants

Most specialty restaurants will seat guests alone without having to be seated with other guests.

There are a couple of restaurants where this is not possible, and sitting with strangers is the norm.  These include Izumi Hibachi and Chef's Table.  

In both restaurants, seating is extremely limited so there is no way around it (unless you buy out the table). 

At Izumi Hibachi, you could request to be seated on the end of the table so that only one person needs to be next to another guest.

Royal Caribbean working on new main dining room menu

30 Jul 2020

Expect to find new choices the next time you dine in the main dining room on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley announced in an email to repeat cruisers that the cruise line is working on an update to its main dining room menus.

While the cruise line is shut down due to the global health crisis, shore side teams are working on ensuring when the time is right to return to service, the guest experience can be improved.

Specifically, Mr. Bailey mentioned that Royal Caribbean's Food & Beverage team is working on a new main dining room menu.

"Our F&B team has been revamping the Main Dining Room menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as adding some unique experiences to our specialty dining venues."

There was no schedule or rollout date included in the announcement.

Linken D'Souza is Royal Caribbean's Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, and he has been responsible for some of the big dining changes Royal Caribbean has rolled out over the last few years.

Since joining the company, Mr. D'Souza was responsible for the updated Sorrento's pizza recipe, revamped the culinary offerings at CocoCay, and introduced Portside BBQ specialty restaurant on Oasis of the Seas and Giovanni's Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar on Freedom of the Seas.

It looks like his next target is the venerable main dining room.

Based on older blog posts on this site, it appears the main dining room dinner menu was last updated in 2016. Royal Caribbean has a standardized main dining room menu across its fleet.

Specialty restaurant menus are also generally the same across the fleet, although sometimes new menus get rolled out with ship refurbishments, as is the case with Giovanni's Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar concept on Freedom of the Seas (and Allure of the Seas before the upgrade was put on hold).

Royal Caribbean's test kitchen is located at the cruise line’s Miami offices, and it is where they can come up with new ideas among the corporate team, test and just those ideas, and then roll them out to the fleet.

What do you want to see on Royal Caribbean's main dining room menu? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Top Royal Caribbean dining hacks

18 Jul 2020

Eating on a Royal Caribbean cruise is just as enjoyable as any shore excursion, performance or activity. Royal Caribbean puts a great deal of effort into its onboard dining options, and I have a few ways you can maximize these choices with some dining hacks!

These tips are all about giving you a little bit more out of your dining experience onboard, and giving you a leg up on other guests.

Order off-menu food in dining room

Each evening in the main dining room, there is a printed menu that guests can order from, but there are many more options you can consider beyond what is written on the menu.

The main dining room dinner menu is designed to appeal to a great majority of guests, but perhaps you have a dietary restriction, or you just really want something else.

Guests can ask to speak to the head waiter at any point and order something special, provided the chef in the galley has the ingredients to make it.  

The example I often share is Royal Caribbean used to offer Indian dishes on its old main dining room dinner menus, but the current version does not offer it.  As a result, I always speak to the head waiter and ask to have an Indian dish prepared for me each evening.  Sure enough, my waiter brings me that special dish every night.

Ice cream in a cup

This tip is something I learned from someone on Periscope, and it is sheer genius for someone that loves ice cream.

On all Royal Caribbean ships, there is complimentary soft-serve ice cream on the ship.  Usually, it is near the pools and there are ice cream cones available to pour the ice cream onto.  Ice cream cones are great and all, but you really cannot load them up too much without an incredibly elevated risk of it falling over and you becoming that guy.

For those that want to load up on ice cream without multiple trips to the machine, grab a drink cup from somewhere onboard.  Usually, the water cups in the Windjammer are perfect for this.  Take the cup and fill up the cup with as much ice cream as you can handle.  The result is that ice cream fix you have always dreamed of!

If you want to take it to the next level, grab a soda with your drink package and make an ice cream float!

The secret menu at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If your cruise visits Perfect Day at CocoCay, be sure to stop by the Snack Shack not only for the awesome food on the menu, but a few added items not listed there too!

Known colloquially as "the secret menu", you can ask for a chicken parmigiana sandwich, which is essentially a cross between the crispy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce that are on the menu.

Not only is this an added menu option most guests do not know about, but it is really tasty!

Make your own pizzas

While Sorrento's Pizza offers slices of pizza all day, you might not have known you can customize your pie at a special station.

You can place an order (no additional cost) for a pizza with just the toppings you like, and have a a custom pie hot and ready to eat fairly quickly.  Moreover, you can also request a gluten-free crust option.

After you place the order, head across the Promenade to the pub and enjoy a drink while you wait.

Stock up on cereal for excursion snacks

If you have kids, be sure to grab a few extra boxes of cereal from the Windjammer to bring back to your room.

Boxed cereal is a tasty and portable snack that works really well for shore excursions. Whether the kids want something to munch on during the bus rides, or at the beach, cereal will not go bad in the heat, and travels well.

What is your favorite dining hack?

Do you have a dining trick on Royal Caribbean not on this list? Share your food ninja tips in the comments!

There will be a buffet on Royal Caribbean ships when cruises resume

01 Jul 2020

Many cruise fans have been wondering what Royal Caribbean's plan will be for keeping guests healthy while onboard their ships, including what the fate of the Windjammer buffet will be.

It seems we have a definitive answer from the head of Royal Caribbean's food and beverage: there will be a buffet.

Royal Caribbean Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, spoke on the fate of the buffet in a webinar question and answer with travel agents on Wednesday and confirmed the buffet will remain.

Mr. D'Souza was asked about if there will be a buffet on Royal Caribbean's ships, and while Royal Caribbean has not divulged its plans for which policies and changes will be made onboard its cruise ships, he was able to dispel rumors and concerns surrounding what will happen to the buffet.

"Windjammer is one of my favorite spots, and we will continue to have a buffet at Royal Caribbean. We have worked through a variety of different scenarios, from employee service to individual portions to individual tongs for self-service, to finger koozies that you can pick up hot dishes with that can be washed and sanitized. So we continue to work through a lot of the details."

"But rest assured, the buffet will exist. There may be some small modifications that allow us to ensure that we have a really great, healthy return to service. But your favorites and what you're used to at the Windjammer will still be there."

"So I'll I'll put that to rest. We will absolutely have a Windjammer with all of your favorites in a very similar fashion to what you've had previously and maybe some different service steps to ensure healthy service."

Buffet indecision

The origins of the idea that the Windjammer might go away started in May, when Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley mentioned the cruise line was working on their plan to keep guests healthy and the buffet experience came up.

"I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet in the beginning, that's how I see it. It depends again upon the timing. We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability it won't be a classical buffet. It will be something more akin to a restaurant."

While Mr. Bayley did not say the Windjammer buffet was gone, it opened up the idea that significant change could occur. A week later, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain had a different take on the buffet's fate.

"It doesn't mean that you don't have a buffet. I think it's very likely that you're not going to see that on land or sea."

The changing nature of recommendations by health professionals, as well as the organic discussions Royal Caribbean has had internally likely caused the answer to change depending on the week.

With Mr. D'Souza's affirmation today, it appears guests will have a buffet experience to look forward to once cruising resumes.

Not just Royal Caribbean with buffets

If the idea of a buffet remaining on a cruise ship when cruises resume sounds odd, other cruise lines are keeping theirs as well.

When Norwegian Cruise Line announced their new policies for guests, they indicated buffets and beverage stations will be full service with staff available to serve guests.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line announced while self-service buffet stations have been suspended, all food and beverage will be served by crew members wearing face masks, hats, aprons, and gloves.

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