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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:

The weirdest foods you can eat on a Royal Caribbean cruise

11 Dec 2021

Royal Caribbean serves its guests thousands of meals and snacks across every ship on a daily basis, including a few items that may make you raise an eyebrow when you see it.

Liquid mushroom truffle risotto

Because Royal Caribbean serves an international clientele, there are going to be things on the menu that are not what you are used to. Expanding your palate is one thing that makes going on a cruise fun, but every so often there is a dish that is so different you can't help but think, "that is weird."

I try to be as open minded as possible when I go to any restaurant, but I've run across a few foods on Royal Caribbean that are just too much out of my comfort zone to give a try. I'm certain there are plenty of people who love these foods, but it seems like those foods are at best an acquired taste.

Whether you want to be an adventurous eater, or just want to gawk at what else there is, here is my list of five weird foods served on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Truffle & Eggs pizza

I love the new menu at Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, but the Truffle & Eggs pizza is something I thought about a lot and could never get myself to try.

This pizza has a fried egg on it, which evidently is a very common thing in Europe.

Linken D'Souza, Royal Caribbean's Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, told me when Giovanni's launched about the decision to include a fried egg on pizza, "We've gone back to recipes traditionally seen in Europe. So, for example, it's very rare for you to see a fried egg on a pizza."

"That's actually very common in Europe. There's actually restaurants and every pizza they serve will do a fried egg on it."

I know they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," but I think I'll stick to one of the other eight other amazing pizza options on the new Giovanni's menu.

Tomato water

This article could have been almost entirely made up of foods from Wonderland specialty restaurant, but I decided to pick just one that stood out as the weirdest, which is the tomato water appetizer.

Let me start off by saying I love tomatoes, but the tomato water serving is just strange in its taste, serving, and texture.

Essentially, each guest is given a test tube of the tomato water to drink as a shot. Tip your head back, close your eyes and look out stomach, because here it comes.

Besides the presentation being odd, not even an ardent tomato lover like myself really wants nothing but straight tomato essence. 


Royal Caribbean Classic: Escargot | Royal Caribbean Blog

While a staple of Royal Caribbean's main dining room menu, the first time anyone sees escargot on the menu is almost certain to evoke an "eww" after hearing what it is.

Escargot is baked snails, and it is indeed a delicacy.

The menu describes the escargots bourguignonne as, "tender snails drenched in melted garlic-herb butter."

This is one weird dish that I've grown to enjoy, mostly because it's more garlic and butter than anything else. But I also try not to think too much about what I'm about to eat when I eat it.

Beetroot & Dill gravlax

Something I only saw for the first time a month ago was variations of gravlax in the Windjammer on Odyssey of the Seas.

Gravlax or graved salmon is a Nordic dish consisting of salmon that is cured using a mix of salt and sugar, and either dill or sprucetwigs placed on top, and may occasionally be cold-smoked afterwards.

While I've seen plenty of smoked salmon in my day, the beetroot and dill gravlax made me stop and stare.

Nick Vitani posted photos in the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group of the gravlax that was served on Navigator of the Seas and it elicited quite a few comments.

British foods (if you're not from Britain)

Adventure OTS, 13 Night Snowbird Migration Quebec to Ft. Lauderdale Oct. 8, 2018 - Page 3 - Live Blogs - Royal Caribbean Blog

We have many readers here from the United Kingdom, and while I appreciate all of your support, there are some weird British food in the Windjammer I have always shaken my head at as I walk by for years.

Royal Caribbean will offer traditional British foods in the Windjammer, such as bangers and mash or Yorkshire pudding. You see these foods on European itineraries, but they also show up on North American sailings as well.

I am the first to admit it's only weird because I'm not British (and even as an American, grits are equally weird), but I have yet to find the motivation to try "English Bacon" or "English Bangers".

Is food included on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

17 Sep 2021

When you go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you have a choice of places to eat throughout the day.  So which food is included and which cost extra?

Royal Caribbean working on new main dining room menu | Royal Caribbean Blog

While not all the food on Royal Caribbean is included, there is enough food and drink for you to enjoy that is included so you will not need to pay extra for food.  However, you may feel inclined to pay for drinks or meals anyway as a way to enhance your cruise.

Depending on the ship you sail on, the exact venues with complimentary (included) food will vary, but here are some basics you can expect on any Royal Caribbean ship:

  • Main dining room
  • Windjammer Cafe (buffet)
  • Grab-and-go coffee shop (Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, or Cafe Patisserie)
  • Pool deck quick food (El Loco Fresh, Boardwalk Dog House, Park Cafe)

The two primary places you will find the widest selection of food included with your cruise is in the main dining room and Windjammer.

Main dining room

The main dining room is open for breakfast and dinner every day of your cruise, and for lunch on sea days.  The main dining room is a sit down restaurant where you have assigned seating.

For dinner, there are two types of main dining room seating: traditional and My Time Dining. 

Traditional dinner is when you pick between early or late seating.  Every day your dining time is the same, and your waiters and table mates are the same.

My Time Dining offers flexible dining times, where you can reserve times in advance or show up and wait for an available table. You will likely have different waiters and table mates every day, unless you request otherwise.

Read moreMy Time Dining versus Traditional Dining

Nearly all the food available in the main dining room is included with your cruise fare, with the exception being alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and some upcharge items at dinner (steak or lobster).


The Windjammer Cafe is the classic cruise ship buffet, and it is open for all meals every day of your cruise (the Windjammer is currently closed for dinner in 2021 while there is limited capacity, but will eventually re-open for dinner).

The Windjammer offers the widest selection of foods to eat, with different buffet stations you can walk up to and pick from.

All the food you see in the Windjammer is included.  Just like the main dining room, alcoholic drinks and soft drinks cost extra.

Read moreGuide to Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe buffet

Room service

There is a service charge for room service, where you pay $7.95 per order.  Whether you order one or ten items, the service cost is the same.

You can order a continental breakfast option that has no service fee in the morning, which consists of coffee, tea, and assorted breakfast choices.


Royal Caribbean includes some beverages with your cruise fare, which cover the basics to keep you refreshed and hydrated.

The drinks included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare are:

  • tap water
  • milk
  • tea
  • coffee (regular and decaf)
  • lemonade
  • iced tea
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast and not fresh squeezed)
  • Hot chocolate (via instant packets)

Read moreWhat drinks are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise?

10 Ways to Save Money on Your 2019 Royal Caribbean Vacation | Royal Caribbean Blog

All other drinks cost extra, including alcohol, soda, and juices.

Royal Caribbean offers guests beverage packages that can be purchased to save money on these extra drinks.  Drink packages are worth it if you drink enough every day of your cruise to "break even" on the package cost.


Besides meals, there is also a good assortment of food you can munch on between meals.

Depending on the Royal Caribbean ship you sail on, the exact venues will vary, but there are some common options for something small to eat that has no additional cost.

  • Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, or Cafe Patisserie
  • Park Cafe
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Boardwalk Dog House
  • Sorrentos

These locations are open most hours of the day and night, and you will find sandwiches, pizza, desserts and much more.

Not only are these grab-and-go restaurants included, they offer some very tasty choices that many cruise fans really enjoy.

Some top favorites include:

  • Roast beef kimmelweck sandwiches from Park Cafe
  • Pizza slices from Sorrentos/Cafe Promenade
  • Cookies from Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, or Cafe Patisserie

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean opens Perfect Day at CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

Perfect Day at CocoCay is Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas, and there is a surprising amount of food included with your visit to the island.

Lunch is served at the island, and there are a few different dining venues you can go to that should be close enough to anywhere you are relaxing.

Not only is there a lot of food included at Perfect Day at CocoCay, it is really good too.

  • Skipper's Grill
  • Chill Grill
  • Snack Shack

Cups of water are available at no additional charge at these venues.


Do's & Don'ts of Labadee | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean also has a private destination on the coast of Haiti, called Labadee.

Just like CocoCay, lunch is served for all guests to enjoy.

  • Columbus Cove Cafe
  • Cafe Labadee
  • Dragon's Cafe

Cups of water are available at no additional charge at these venues.

More information

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Top 5 things I ate on a cruise this year

14 Jul 2021

Listen to the Show

Of the three ships I've been on so far, I ranked the top 5 things I've eaten so far onboard!

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

On this episode:
Running time:

10 unique foods you will find on Royal Caribbean

13 Apr 2021

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise means a lot of things, including eating some incredible foods along the way.

Royal Caribbean has steadily increased the quality and variety of its food choices over the years to bring some interesting and assorted options to try.  Not to worry, the staples of any cruise vacation are still on the menu, but if you are looking for something a little bit different, you will find some tasty alternatives.

Here is my list of the top 10 unique Royal Caribbean foods worth trying out.


Escargot is hardly limited to Royal Caribbean, but these days it is one of the few places I ever see it regularly offered on the menu and it has become a signature dish of the main dining room.

If you are not aware, escargot is an appetizer of cooked edible land snails. I know it sounds gross, but it is really tasty (primarily because it is saturated in garlic and butter).

A French delicacy, you can order it every day in the main dining room and combined with a roll, tastes great.

Seafood tower

Chops Grille is Royal Caribbean's signature specialty restaurant, and from time to time they modify the menu to try to tweak its offerings.  One of their newest creations has been a real hit with clam, mussels and crab claw fans.

An optional add-on, the seafood tower is a multi-story serving of shrimp, clams, lobster, crab and more.

For shellfish lovers, this is a popular option and it is easy to share among the people at your table.

It comes in two sizes: Grande and Imperial and served with traditional garnishes and sauces.

Lobster roll

Royal Caribbean's latest specialty restaurant, Hooked, has a good mix of options, but their lobster roll is definitely the signature dish.

Lobster rolls are one of the great American foods, and Hooked serves up Maine Lobster rolls is everything a lobster roll should be: heavy on the lobster, light on the mayo, and served on a grilled bun with a side of homemade chips

Beef tenderloin for two

If you asked me where you can find the best steak on Royal Caribbean, I would point to the beef tenderloin for two at 150 Central Park.

A holdover from the "old menu", this dish is recommended for two people, but easily enjoyed alone as well.

The tender cut of beef is terrific, and I like that the waiter will prepare and carve it at your table.

Almost anything served at Chef's Table

There is no culinary experience on Royal Caribbean quite like the Chef's Table.

You don't have to be a super foodie to enjoy Chef's Table, as it is more of a guided eating experience than a serving of the most exotic foods one can find. That being said, you wont find pizza or chicken nuggets on the menu either.

The fixed menu serves each dish with an accompanying glass of wine that the host as picked out to be the perfect pair. 

I was leery of the experience at first, but it turned out to be a very interesting and satisfying meal. Keep your calendar open, because a meal at the Chef's Table can easily last 4 hours.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Chef's Table dinner review

Antipasti planks

From the first day Jamie's Italian opened on a Royal Caribbean ship, the antipasti planks were the breakout hit.

A terrific appetizer, you will find cured meats, pickles and tempting cheeses, pumpkin panzerotti, Prawn linguine that everyone at the table can pick from.

Giovanni's Table also has its own Cheese and Cured Meat Plank to consider as well.

Hot rock

Not a sushi fan? You can still enjoy a great meal at Izumi with the hot rock dinner choice.

Hot rock (Ishiyaki) plates are rocks that are heated to 575 degrees °F, where guests take raw meat and vegetables and cook them on the rock, right at your table.

You have the choice of mixed seafood, chicken breast, chicken and beef skewer rock or beef tenderloin.

Izumi Ryu Futomaki roll

If you love sushi, and want to try the ultimate roll on the menu, my suggestion is the Izumi Ryu Futomaki roll.

This is a really big roll that could easily be your meal. Located on the Chef's Signature Rolls part of the menu, it is comprised of assorted sashimi, scallions, scallions, spicy aioli, cream cheese, wakame salad, house ginger teppan dressing and a spicy chili thread.

Not only is this a giant sushi roll, it is also a deeply satisfying roll and the kind of thing to order when you really want a filling meal. 

Ice cream in a football helmet

You can never really go wrong with ice cream, and Royal Caribbean's ice cream sundae in a football helmet is as good as it looks.

Served in a souvenir helmet, the "Touchdown Sundae" has five scoops of ice cream with just about every syrup you'd want on top, complete with whipped cream and other toppings.

Another good sharing dish, it is something unequaled elsewhere onboard.

Sabor guacamole

There is almost an art to guacamole, and Sabor's offering is consistently one of the best out there.

Prepared fresh after you order it, the guacamole is worth the price of dining at Sabor alone.  In fact, Sabor's recipe has become our family's preferred guac recipe at home because it seems to balance the ingredients just right (although we like to go heavy on the lime juice).

Definitely not out of a jar, the guacamole should be a must-order item to share, and do not be afraid to ask for more when your group wipes the bowl clean.

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

Top 5 signature Royal Caribbean foods

20 Dec 2018

When going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a lot of food. Royal Caribbean offers guests a wide variety of culinary options, and every Royal Caribbean fan has their list of top picks for what they enjoy the most.  To that point, over the years we have found there to be some menu items across the fleet which are recognized as the kind of food one only finds (or enjoys) on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

This is not a list of the best food on a Royal Caribbean cruise, just a few options you can have that seem to resonate immediately as something "very Royal Caribbean." Arguably, there are a lot of snacks, entrees and side dishes that we can consider "a Royal Caribbean food," but here are our list of five that always ring true as a quintessential Royal Caribbean food.

Roast beef sandwich

At any Park Cafe location across Royal Caribbean's fleet, you will find a must-try delectable roast beef sandwich better known as the kummelweck.

The Kummelweck sandwich is a must-order and a Royal Caribbean signature menu item.  It is comprised of slices of seasoned slow-roasted beef, with special slow-cooked beef, au jus, and the chef’s own secret sauce.

It is a fantastic must-eat snack.

Ranger cookies

There are a ton of tasty treats, desserts and snacks that are so hard to resist, but the ranger cookies are one of those foods that you have to try.

I think ranger cookies make this list because I have yet to see ranger cookies somewhere other than on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but seeing it onboard at Cafe Promenade or the Windjammer provides a pavlovian response of a euphoric sense that you are indeed on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you have never tried a ranger cookie, it’s an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of recipe—you throw in whatever tasty stuff is lying around, such as rolled oats and pralines. Royal Caribbean’s version kicks it up with shredded coconut for a sweet taste and delectable texture


Escargot, better known as cooked snails, is a delicacy that sounds down right awful but escargot on Royal Caribbean has become a real staple appetizer in the main dining room.  

The menu describes the escargots bourguignonne as, "tender snails drenched in melted garlic-herb butter."  Drenched is the right word because they come in a serving plate soaked in the salty butter sauce.  There's so much butter and it's so salty that it's hard to really taste the actual snail.  And if you eat it with bread, well, you probably won't even feel the texture.

Tutti salad

You might have heard about this thing called, "the tutti salad," but by the name alone, you likely do not know what it is.  It is one of those things you have to experience to fully understand.

On sea days in the main dining room, lunch is served and in addition to the fixed menu, there is a make-your-own salad bar that Royal Caribbean calls the Tutti salad.

The tutti salad bar is essentially a large salad bar in the main dining room that is available to guests on sea days, where guests can pick from a variety of ingredients to create their own custom salad.

You can walk around the rather large salad bar area and pick from what interests you. Vegetables, cheeses, chicken, shrimp, tuna, dressings and more are all available to choose from.

What makes the tutti salad so unique, is that you can have  a freshly made salad exactly the way you like it.

Sorrento's Pizza

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has developed its own brand of pizza, served up day or night at Sorrento's on most ships in the fleet. In fact, Royal Caribbean has been actively working to improve the quality of the pizza.

Sorrento's pizza comes in a few different varieties, depending on what they are cooking, and it is included in your cruise fare.

For most guests, grabbing a slice of pizza is the perfect pit stop as you move from one end of the ship to the other.  And after a night of partying, pizza really hits the spot!

Your thoughts

There are probably many more foods on a Royal Caribbean ship that you associate with being on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Which foods do you think are definite Royal Caribbean traditional foods? Were one of these a favorite yours? Tell us about in the comments.

Guide to Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe buffet

04 Jun 2018

Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe is the cruise line's preeminent buffet option and a popular choice for many guests throughout the day.  The Windjammer serves up food for all meals, and offers a laid back experience with enough variety to satisfy nearly any palate.

Here is what you need to know about The Windjammer Cafe on a Royal Caribbean cruise.


The look and decor of the Windjammer depends on the ship you are sailing on, but in general it features a classic nautical look with lots of deep blues and wood around the entire venue.  After all, the word "windjammer" refers to a merchant sailing ship.

Most Royal Caribbean ships have two entrances to the Windjammer, one on each side of the elevator banks closest to the Windjammer.

As you walk in, in most cases the Windjammer is a mirror split, where buffet stations on either side of the restaurant offer the same food as a means of splitting up crowds.

You will find ample seating in the Windjammer, with tables, booths and even high tops on some ships.  Seating is first-come, first served and there is wait staff that roam the restaurant to help clear tables, serve drinks and and assist in any special requests.

All Windjammer locations have lots of seating with views of the ocean.  On certain classes of ships (Quantum and Radiance class), there is outdoor seating towards the rear of the Windjammer.  Regardless of where you sit, it is usually quite easy to get a good view of the ocean.

How it works

If you have ever been to a buffet style restaurant, the Windjammer Cafe should be no different in approach.  As you enter the Windjammer Cafe, you pick up a plate and utensils that are rolled in the napkin.  You then proceed to any buffet station you like and wait your turn to serve yourself.

There is no limit on how many servings or visits you can make to the Windjammer, and the Windjammer Cafe is a complimentary dining choice on all ships.

The proper protocol for serving yourself in the Windjammer is to always take a new plate when you go up to get more food.  Reusing plates is a health hazard on a cruise ship, so you simply leave any used plates and utensils on your table and one of the Windjammer waiters will collect it.

Royal Caribbean typically breaks up cuisines offered via each Windjammer buffet station.  For lunch or dinner, there is a salad station, an international foods station, a soup area, etc.  You can easily walk around the Windjammer to "scope out" the choices and then enter the line for whichever station appeals to you.

For breakfast, you will find a myriad of traditional breakfast options, including eggs, bacon, cereal, sausage, yogurt, fruit and more.  With the exception of the Oasis class ships, there is a custom egg ordering station that is a really popular and fabulous choice. The breakfast food choices rarely change (if ever) during your sailing.

There is also coffee and tea stations set up near the entrance of the Windjammer for easy access to getting a cup of coffee to start your day. 

At lunch and dinner, you will find a wide selection of food, with dinner offering the greatest variety of choices.  Meals at these times combine typical American cruise fare (burgers, hot dogs, salads and sandwiches) with a lot of international foods. 

The exact menu will change on a daily basis, but there is usually a few consistently offered choices that will form the core options.

In the evening, the Windjammer Cafe usually has a theme to the menu, where a special menu is offered in addition to the usual fare. Some examples are Mongolian grill, Mexican, pasta station, etc. The great thing about these stations is the food is prepared just for you and that means you get exactly what you want in your dish.

The Windjammer is also home to a lot of vegetarian and gluten-free choices.  The signs for each food will indicate if they satisfy a particular need, but you can always speak with the head waiter of the Windjammer about special requests.

In terms of drinks, the Windjammer regularly offers milk (chocolate and regular), lemonade, water, flavored waters, iced tea, coffee, tea and juices (in the morning).

In addition to the regular food, the Windjammer always has a large array of desserts to choose from.  You will find ice cream, cakes, gelatin, fruit, cookies and pretty much everything needed to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Windjammer hours

The exact hours will vary from ship to ship, but the Windjammer is open for most, but not all hours of the day.  Your Cruise Compass will list exact times, but plan on breakfast, lunch, mid-day snacks and dinner.

The Windjammer will offer the widest array of dining times, which is great for those that sleep in or are looking for off-hour meals.  The Windjammer is also open for all meals, regardless of if your Royal Caribbean ship is in a port or at sea.

By far, the most crowded time for the Windjammer is breakfast, with a peak in the 9:00am hour.  There are times when seating may be full, but the Windjammer crew members do a great job of helping clear tables quickly and encouraging guests to vacate their tables once they are done.  If you are having trouble locating an open table, ask a crew member for assistance.

For those wondering, no, Royal Caribbean does not offer a midnight buffet option either at the Windjammer or anywhere else onboard. 

Windjammer Dress Code

The dress code for dining in the Windjammer Cafe is always listed as casual, regardless of the main dining room dress code.

This means you can wear shorts, t-shirts are all okay.  The only real dress restrictions in the Windjammer are no bare feet and bathing attire will not be permitted at any time.  

Windjammer Cafe tips and strategies

  • When you enter the Windjammer, you will be required to wash your hands and/or sanitize your hands.  Yes, you have to do it and yes, it is worthwhile to avoid getting sick.
  • You can take food from the Windjammer to go at any time.  Feel free to bring the food back to your stateroom, pool deck or wherever your family is located.
  • If you have trouble finding a table, ask the waiters roaming the restaurant for assistance.
  • The Windjammer waiters are happy to bring you beverages, straws, booster seats and anything else you may need.
  • If you have a dietary need, ask to speak to the head waiter.  They are quite good at accommodating most needs, but keep in mind they may need advanced notice to prepare something in particular.
  • If you want eggs of any kind at breakfast, skip the eggs in the buffet area because they tend to be powdered eggs.  Instead, go to the custom-made egg station and have them made there.
  • On Oasis Class ships, the Windjammer does not have a custom-made egg station, but you can find that at other locations onboard.
  • Try to go to the Windjammer at least once for dinner when they open up for the evening.  We usually find the crew members welcoming guests with clapping, singing and/or dancing.  It is a fun display!
  • If there is outdoor Windjammer seating, take advantage of it for the great ambiance. The Windjammer often boasts some of the best views onboard.
  • If your Windjammer has a Jade section, this means that area of the Windjammer serves up Asian food regularly.  On some evenings, this may include sushi.

Have you dined at the Windjammer Cafe? Tell us about your experience and share your favorite tips in the comments!

Royal Caribbean Commits to Improved Conditions for Broiler Chickens by 2024

25 May 2018

Royal Caribbean International's parent company announced today it is adopting a series of requirements for its poultry providers to meet when it comes to how they breed, raise and process poultry. 

This announcement furthers the company's progress in its animal welfare sourcing program. Royal Caribbean has already committed itself to using cage-free eggs and gestation-crate free pork.

“Royal Caribbean takes seriously our responsibility to ensure improved animal welfare in our supply chain,” said Mike Jones, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain, Travel, Port Services and Workplace Solutions, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “This is why we we’re working to transition to products like cage-free eggs and gestation stall-free pork. We are proud to now also move the needle when it comes to the poultry we purchase for our business.”

The company is extending these commitments to include comprehensive broiler chicken welfare policies. By 2024, in the United States, Royal Caribbean will responsibly purchase 100 percent of chickens from Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certified sources. RCL will require these chickens to be processed in a manner that avoids live-dumping and live-shackling, instead utilizing a pre-shackle, multi-step controlled atmosphere processing system that is widely known as more humane.

“Royal Caribbean shows yet again that doing good is part of doing well,” said Matthew Prescott, Senior Director of Food and Agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States. “Our partnership with the company dates back almost a decade, and we welcome this latest move to animal welfare.”

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

16 Aug 2017

Listen to the Show

Food, glorious food! This week’s podcast episode is dedicated to discussing the ins and outs of food available on your Royal Caribbean cruise. From what’s included to extra cost options, we break down what first time Royal Caribbean cruisers can expect to find to eat and drink during their cruise vacation.

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