Dining

5 awesome local restaurants to try on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean

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04Aug2016

The destinations Royal Caribbean brings you to are fantastic ports of call that are fun to explore each and every time you stop there.  For us, the local cuisine is a major attraction and it reminds us of the old saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" and that means sampling the culture of the area you are visiting by enjoying their food.

Each Caribbean port offers something different with influences from around the world. Dining at the restaurants locals frequent is a great way to get an authentic look at what the port offers, as well as pick up some new favorite dishes.  

We selected five restaurants across our Caribbean travels on Royal Caribbean ships to share with you as our top picks to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

5. Cuzzin's Restaurant - St. Thomas

When we look for the best local food in a town we are new to, we always look at crowd sourcing reviews for a good idea of where to go, and the top ranked restaurant in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas was a little place called Cuzzin's Restaurant.

A short walk from the ample shopping of Charlotte Amalie, Cuzzin's offers some of the best Caribbean food available.

Curried chicken, conch, BBQ ribs, fried shrimp and more are just some of the authentic dishes that draw on the restaurant's local specialties.

In addition, there is a full bar that serves up something called, the lambada boomer drink.  Drink and enjoy the rest of the day!

4. Fish Fry's - Nassau, Bahamas

Many Royal Caribbean cruise ships make stops in Nassau, and if you are in the mood for something local, head over to Fish Fry's for reasonably priced local cuisine.

Fish Fry's is actually the name of a row of restaurants to choose from.  Most of the restaurants here have similar menus, with dishes like lobster, chicken, conch salad, shrimp, burgers and other of course, fresh fish.

You will find a wide selection of food made by locals and pretty good prices too.  The heart of these restaurants is offering fresh and authentic Bahamian food.

3. El Jibarito - San Juan

Old San Juan is full of wonderful restaurants, but if you want the best Puerto Rican food in the old city, you need to stop by El Jibarito.

What El Jibarito lacks in stately decor, it makes up for in its freshly made dishes. Mofongo, shrimp, yellow rice, tamales and more are all available here and it is the place to sample Puerto Rican food.

The word is out on El Jibarito, as there are often lines around meal times but it is worth a stop for the great food.

2. La Sucrière - St. Martin

The island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is half Dutch, and half French and that means there are lot of great spots to enjoy food from both cultures.  If you happen to be craving a traditional French breakfast, look no further than La Sucrière in the French capital.

Set right on the Marigot waterfront, La Sucrière bakes fresh breads, quiches, sandwiches, croissants and other French specialties each day for its customers.  There is nothing fresher without crossing the Atlantic.

Starting your day with breakfast or brunch at La Sucrière is the right way to experience St. Martin!

 

1. Comida Caseras Tonita - Cozumel

The holy grail of great authentic food is something made with pride and love, and at Comida Caseras Tonita, you will find a family run restaurant that will frankly ruin all other Mexican food for you.

Just a few short blocks from the Cozumel waterfront is this hidden gem that has a menu full of fresh and authentic Mexican food. If you are looking for the kind of food the locals eat, Tonita is the place for you.

The staff really do not speak any English, but you can easily point to what you want on the menu and shortly thereafter enjoy some incredible dishes. We have visited Tonita on multiple occasions and it never disappoints.  Come hungry!

Your recommendations

Have you found a great local restaurant that you swear by? Share the details in the comments!

4 Royal Caribbean dining hacks

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Category: 
11Jul2016

Dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise is a favorite activity, because Royal Caribbean put so much into its dining options.  There is plenty of great cuisine to enjoy on every Royal Caribbean cruise, and we have four great tips for getting a little bit more out of your dining experience onboard.

These tips are designed to give you the knowledge ahead of time to be properly prepared for your cruise, rather than perhaps running across one or more of these tips in the course of your vacation.

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.

Starbucks is (sometimes) included with the drink package

Royal Caribbean's Ultimate and Royal Replenish drink packages include premium coffee and tea, and on select Royal Caribbean hips that includes Starbucks beverages.

On non-Oasis class cruise ships, Starbucks beverages are brewed at Cafe Promenade or Cafe Latte-tudes locations, which gives guests with these beverage packages the ability to order drinks from the Starbucks menu.

Keep in mind, Royal Caribbean ships that have a free-standing Starbucks location (Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) do not allow for use of beverage packages to order Starbucks.

First night discount

Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants are incredibly popular, but an under-advertised special offer is some specialty restaurants will offer a discount for guests who dine there on the first night of the cruise.

There is something about the first night of the cruise, where it seems to be the least desirable evening to eat at a specialty restaurant. Perhaps guests prefer to explore or dine in the main dining room on day one, but for whatever the reason many specialty restaurants offer a first night discount.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to reserve a time at a specialty restaurant in advance of your cruise for this discount.  Most of the time, you just go to the restaurant on embarkation day and inquire about the availability of the discount.

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!

Your tips

Do you have any Royal Caribbean food hacks to share? Post in the comments below the tips and tricks you have learned over the years!

What to do if your Royal Caribbean dining preference is not available

In:
12Oct2015

We get a lot of questions on the blog, and a common question is about what to do if the dining choice for dinner that a guest wants is not available.

Sometimes a guest will book a Royal Caribbean cruise, but discover that a particular traditional dinner seating is not available.  Or perhaps My Time Dining is booked up.  Is there any chance to change it?

The answer is, there are two strategies to use when trying to get into the dining option you really wanted.

Add yourself to a waitlist

When a particular dining option gets filled up, Royal Caribbean will allow guests to be added to a waitlist.

These waitlists are virtual queues, where if another guest leaves that dining option for some reason (usually due to cancelling or transferring their cruise reservation), the next guest "in line" can take their spot.

To be added to a waitlist, you need to contact either Royal Caribbean directly or have your travel agent do it on your behalf.

Once you are added to the waitlist, you should see a notation on your reservation in the My Cruises section of Royal Caribbean's web site.

In many cases, the waitlist will eventually come through and you will be automatically added to the dining option of your choice  You will likely not be notified of the change, so you will have to log in periodically to your cruise reservation to see if something has changed.

The fallback: speak to the head waiter

Sometimes, the waitlist option does not work and your next best option is to go speak to the head waiter on embarkation day.

Once you board your Royal Caribbean cruise, go to the main dining room in the afternoon to speak to the head waiter.

There should be a head waiter on duty in the main dining room for a few hours in the afternoon.  

Politely explain your request to the head waiter and ask if there is a way to be moved to the dining option you prefer.

In our experience, this fallback usually gets the job done.  Royal Caribbean wants their guests happy and the head waiters have a good sense of the guest dinner distribution.

More dining room tips

Check out these other helpful posts about dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Hopefully one of these two choices will get you the dining preference you really want!

Top 10 insider tips for Royal Caribbean's main dining room

In:
Category: 
13Jun2015

Royal Caribbean's main dining room is likely to be somewhere you visit almost every night of your cruise.  It's hard to deny the fun experience of dining there as well as the really tasty food you can enjoy.  

The main dining room offers meals included in your cruise fare with an ever-so-faint hint of formality.  Each evening, there are many courses of dishes to try from entrees to appetizers to desserts and everything inbetween.

If you want to make sure your main dining room experience is the best possible, check out these top tips!

1. Order more than one of anything

When you dine in the main dining room, pretty much everything on the menu is included and that means you should feel free to order more than just one entree or appetizer.  Or even order multiples of your favorite dishes.

Royal Caribbean allows its guests to order as much as they want while dining in the main dining room.  This policy allows you to not just order the dishes that you love but also branch out and try something different.  It is all the same price, so there's nothing to lose!

2. Make dietary requests before you board

If you have a dietary restriction, such as you are vegetarian, need gluten free foods or any of the other dietary needs, then you will want to let Royal Caribbean know about them up front. 

Royal Caribbean can accomodate dietary needs such as food allergies, gluten-free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

In additional, vegetarian meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the main dining room.  Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and Kosher meals are available 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).

You may also send an e-mail request to special_needs@rccl.com; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.  It's best to make requests like this at least 90 days in advance of your sailing.

3. You can change your table

If you get onboard your ship and realize the table layout is not what you prefer or perhaps the other guests you are seated with are not a good mix for you, there is usually opportunities to change your table.

Speak to the head waiter at any point in your cruise to arrange for a table change.

It may be a good idea to scope out your table situation on embarkation day and speak to the head waiter early that day to ensure you have ample opportunity to make a change.

If you prefer to dine alone, you can also email Royal Caribbean your table request.  Send an email 3 to 4 weeks prior to your cruise to rcldining@rccl.com.

4. You can bring your own wine

Since 2012, Royal Caribbean has allowed its passengers to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom onboard your cruise.

Bring the bottles to the main dining room and your waiter will be happy to open and serve it to you, with a small corkage fee.  This can be a great way to not only save money on wine, but also ensure you are drinking exactly the bottle of wine you love most.

5. Order food the way you want

Do not be afraid to ask your waiter for special requests that are not of the dietary need variety, but just something you really love.  Perhaps you like having a plate of vegetables to start your dinner off with or anything else that is not on the menu.  

Speak with your head waiter to make the request.  If the ship has the ingredients onboard to make it, odds are they will be happy to make it for you.

In general, we have found a 24 hour notice will ensure the chef's crew can take care of the request for you.  

In addition, if tonight's menu features an ingredient you do not enjoy, feel free to ask your waiter if they can make the dish without it.  The dining staff are looking to make your main dining room experience as good as possible.

6. Bring back extras to your room

If there is something on the menu that you just cannot finish or perhaps you want an extra for later, your main dining room wait staff are happy to wrap up food to go.

Sometimes making dinner on time just is not in the cards, but your waiter can arrange to have some or all of your food prepared to go up to your stateroom to enjoy when time permits.

Like so many of our tips, be sure to simply ask and they will be happy to arrange it for you.

7. Enjoy the main dining room for lunch and breakfast too

Naturally everyone thinks of the main dining room for dinner, but did you know it is often open for breakfast and lunch too?

Most days, the main dining room is open for breakfast in a first come, first served style.  In addition, on sea days the main dining room will be open for lunch as well.

The breakfast menu will remain largely the same each day but the lunch menus do change, just like the dinner menus.  There is also a wonderful salad bar for lunch that is sure to please almost anyone.

8. Make My Time Dining reservations before you board

If you opt for Royal Caribbean's main dining room experience that is available when it is convenient for you, My Time Dining, then be sure to make your reservations early and well before your cruise sets sail.

While you can make My Time Dining reservations during your cruise, for optimal availability, you will want to make reservations as soon as you can.

The peak dining times of 6:30pm to 8:00pm are always busy, so you will want to make reservations before your get onboard to avoid waiting for a table.  In fact, the larger your group, the more important making My Time Dining reservations are.

9. Pack for formal night

Depending on the length of your Royal Caribbean cruise, there can be one or more formal nights in the main dining room, so you will want to pack the right clothes for the occassion.

Despite the name, formal night is not nearly as dressed up as you might think.  Royal Caribbean describes formal night as ladies wearing something like a cocktail dress or pantsuit, while men should wear a suit (tie optional).

In practice, the dress code is a bit more relaxed, even for formal night.  Men can simply wear khakis or dress pants and a collared shirt.  For women, a nice dress or blouse with appropriate bottom will suffice.

The key is to be aware formal nights exist and to pack something for them. 

10. Enjoy the main dining room experience

Dining with strangers, twirling your napkins, jumping into a conga-line...these are just some of the nuances of a main dining room meal on Royal Caribbean, and while they may not be something you would do most nights at home, it is best to drop your inhibitions and embrace it.

The antics of the main dining room will vary from ship to ship but instead of raising an eyebrow about these sort of experiences, let loose a little bit and "go for it".  Remember, you're on vacation and very likely, you will never see these people again.  Plus, it is much more fun when you are part of the experience than not.

OK — your turn!! What are YOUR top tips for dining on Royal Caribbean? Let us know in the comments section below!

Five ways to save money on food and drink on your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
16Jan2015

I don't know about you, but when I go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, enjoying the food and drinks are a big part of the cruise vacation experience for me.  I love trying out new foods, savoring my favorite drinks and taking a gastronomic tour of what's available to me on the ship.  However, I'm not independently wealthy and if I can save some money here or there, I try to find any way I can to do so.  Here are my top five tips for saving money on food and drinks on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

5. BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine)

If you enjoy having wine on your cruise, this is by far the best tip I can offer.  Royal Caribbean allows passengers to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on embarkation day.

If you are flying to your cruise port, I suggest buying wine somewhere in the area before boarding rather than risking your wine breaking in transit.

4. Use multi-specialty restaurant discounts

Often, Royal Caribbean will offer a discount if you reserve a spot at multiple specialty restaurants before your cruise begins. 

Using Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's website, you can get up to 30% onboard credit when you make three or more reservations at any specialty restaurants.  You will get the onboard credit on day one of your cruise and that's more money to spend onboard!

If you were already planning on dining at a specialty restaurant or two, adding an extra restaurant will net you some money back that can end up paying off perhaps one of those meals or allowing you to save money elsewhere on the ship.

3. Make reservations in advance

This tip will not save you any money off the total price of dining, but it can make paying it off a heck of a lot easier.

Instead of reserving your specialty restaurants onboard or just showing up to eat and adding more costs to your SeaPass account, book as many reservations as you can online before your cruise.  Royal Caribbean will charge you at the time of your reservation, thus breaking up the total cruise bill.  

When you get home from your cruise vacation, there will be less of a monster bill waiting for you.

2.  Buy drink packages after you do the math

Royal Caribbean offers a number of beverage packages to choose from these days and whether or not you take a package can save you money.

The drink packages, for alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks, can be money savers if you drink enough every day of your cruise. By the same token, opting not to purchase a package may end up saving you money if you would not have consumed enough to make the packages worth it.

My advice is figure out how many drinks on average you would need to consume to "break even" on the drink packages and consider port days, when you will not be on the ship much.  If you think the drink package will save you money, then go for it but otherwise hold back and pay for your drinks a la carte.

1. Use your Crown and Anchor coupons

Crown and Anchor coupons on #jeweloftheseas are now attached to SeaPass card. List of offers on welcome letter

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

For members of Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program, Crown and Anchor Society, there are exclusive discounts given to you at the start of your cruise, including coupons to save you money on drinks and food.

You can find discounts on bottles of wine, complimentary cover charge to Johnny Rockets and buy one, get one free drink coupons in the array of coupons you get.  The exact coupon you receieve will depend on your ship and Crown and Anchor Society status, but remember to take advantage of those discounts to save you some money!

Your tips

Whether you are on a tight-budget or are letting the money flow like a faucet, using these tips can help you keep a little extra cash in your pocket.  How do you save money on dining and drinks on your Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your advice with us in the comments below!

First time cruisers: Dinner on Royal Caribbean

In:
24Oct2014

If you're new to cruising or just Royal Caribbean, dinner onboard may seem different than you're used to, so here's a guide to how dinner is handled in the main dining room on your cruise ship.

There are two types of dinner experiences you can expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Which type you have the opportunity to get to experience depends on the ship you pick.

Traditional dining

As the name implies, traditional dining is the classic means of experiencing dinner on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

There are two seatings, first and second seating.  First seating is usually around 6:00pm and second seating is usually around 8:00pm. Exact times will vary.

When you book your cruise, you can choose which seating you like. Typically families choose first seating because it's harder to keep kids up later for the second seating.  You will still see kids in second seating, but there tends to be more families in the first seating.

You will be assigned a table in the main dining room that can be as small as two people or as large as 16 or even larger.  Royal Caribbean can also place you at a table with other guests onboard your ship.  Who you sit with (if anyone else) depends on a few factors but it's usually the norm to be seated with others.  

You can change your seating if you prefer not to sit with others or are unhappy with whom you are seated with.  Speak to the head waiter to arrange a change, although changes are subject to availability.

Once seated, you will be taken care of by your main waiter, assistant waiter, and to a lesser degree, head waiter.  

The main waiter takes your orders and brings you your food.  Your main waiter is your primary point of contact and will do most of the serving.  The assistant waiter is the head waiter's help and brings you beverages, bread and otherwise assists the main waiter.

The head waiter largely manages the wait staff he or she is responsible for and can handle special requests.  You may not see the head waiter that much but it's usual to have the head waiter visit your table once every night or two.

Eating at the main dining room is a lot like eating at any restaurant at home in that you get a menu of appetizers, entrees and dessert and you can choose anything on the menu.  In fact, you can order as much food as you want so feel free to get a few entrees and appetizers.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DINNER DRESS CODES

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a lot like traditional dining with one big exception: you do not have a set time that is the same every night of your cruise.

You will still dine in the main dining room, but you can choose between making reservations or showing up and waiting for a table.  

My Time Dining advertises its benefit as being you do not have a set time to eat each night.  So if one night you feel like dinner at 6pm but another night you want to stay at the pool later, you can come eat at 8:30pm.

Like the main dining room, you may be seated with other people at your table.  Where you sit is subject to availability.  Unlike the main dining room, you may not have the same wait staff each night.  You can request certain waiters but you may have to wait to be seated at a table they serve.

The my time dining experience once seated is nearly identical to traditional dining.  You order off of the same menu as traditional dining and can order as much food as you like from that menu.

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