Specialty Restaurants

Portside BBQ restaurant review on Oasis of the Seas

In:
03Dec2019

Among the many changes Royal Caribbean made to Oasis of the Seas during her 2019 amplification was the addition of the first barbecue restaurant to the fleet.

Portside BBQ is a new specialty restaurant that offers slow cooked, smoked meats that are popular across the United States. This is a type of cuisine not well-represented on Royal Caribbean in the past, and aims to fill in that gap for guests.

Portside BBQ is a specialty restaurant that offers items on an a la carte basis, which means there is no cover charge to dine here; instead, you pay for what you order. Unlike most other specialty restaurants, this is a counter service restaurant, where you order your food at the counter and take your order back to your table.

Royal Caribbean placed Portside BBQ on deck 15 of Oasis of the Seas in the former location of the teen club. The restaurant has a bit of a rustic feel to it, with wood floors inside, dark wood tables and brick walls all around. 

There is outdoor seating, both along the port side of the ship as well as behind the restaurant.  There is a surprisingly large amount of seating available at Portside BBQ, so even at its busiest, you should have no issues finding a spot.

Portside BBQ has three menus to match its serving times: lunch, dinner and late-night.  The lunch and late-night menu is a smaller menu that primarily offers combos, whereas the dinner menu greatly expands the options provided.  

In terms of the food offered, there is a variety of turkey, pork, beef and chicken options to consider. Brisket, smoked turkey, pulled pork, chicken wings, spare ribs and more are available to enjoy. Royal Caribbean aimed to cover the major barbecue categories.

Photo by AshleyDillo

Speaking of the meats, barbecue aficionados know how critical smoking the meat is to a great meal. 

At Portside BBQ, the cruise line introduced a bold hickory flavor that uses smoke from real wood. The Combi Oven Smokers slow cook chicken and burnt ends along with the meats and the oven technology locks in the flavor by improving cooking capacities with reduced moisture loss. Each oven is specifically programmed to perfectly cook all the BBQ items. Hickory wood chips are used in small portions to give just the right smoky flavor, and small batches are cooked throughout the day to provide fresh food for guests, while infusing the air with just enough smoke aromas to spark their appetite.

In addition, you will find traditional bbq sides to enjoy, like coleslaw, mac & cheese, cornbread and more.

Photo by AshleyDillo

There is also a variety of sauces you can add on your own once the food is delivered.

I freely admit that I did not grow up in an area of the United States where barbecue is a way of life, so I am by no means the mayor of any flavor village. That being said, I enjoy a well-cooked and juicy piece of meat as much as the next Yankee.

On my first visit to Portside BBQ, I opted for the beef brisket at lunch, while my table mate went for the pulled pork sandwich.

The first thing I noticed about the brisket was how incredibly tender the meat tasted, as well as how flavorful it was.  By default, the sammies are served with coleslaw and pickles, sans any sauce.  Without getting into the "does good BBQ need sauce" debate, I opted to eat the food as it was prepared, and I loved it.

The pulled pork sandwich was described as equally tasty, and hit all the right checkboxes when it comes to great pulled pork.

I also sampled the smoked turkey sammie, and was incredibly impressed by the taste of it. In fact, I ended up ordering the smoked turkey over the brisket on later visits to the restaurant because it really hit the spot for me.

Out of sheer curiosity, my daughter decided to try the smoked jumbo turkey leg, and I was leery she wasted $8 on something she would never eat. As it turned out, the turkey leg became her new favorite cruise food and requested we eat at Portside BBQ for lunch every day for the turkey leg. I think it is safe to assume she liked it.

Photo by AshleyDillo

The sides provided were just as compelling.  In fact, I found myself munching on the sides more than I expected to because they were just that good.  Gooey, yellow, and thick mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and I ended up doubling down on mac and cheese on subsequent visits.  The beans where combined with burnt ends, and had a fantastic, tangy flavor.

While you probably come to Portside BBQ for the meats, stay for the dessert. The chocolate brookie is a combination of cookie and brownie, and I cannot come up with the proper superlative to describe the taste, but it is a must-order.  If you love bananas in your dessert, the Banana Dream is also very good.

Looking at the prices of Portside BBQ, it represents a pretty good value all around.  Considering you can get an entree for lunch, along with two sides and a dessert for $8, you get a lot for the money.  At dinner, they include an additional meat or two for a few dollars more.  Stretchy pants optional.  If you are dining with a specialty restaurant package, you can dine at Portside BBQ and be provided a $20 per person stipend per visit, which is ample for enjoying what the menu offers.

Prior to dining at Portside BBQ, I would never have told you I was much of a barbecue food fan, but now I am ready to drive to Texas, Kansas City or Alabama to sample more of this food.  That, or I could just re-book a cruise on Oasis of the Seas.

Disclosure: I dined at Portside BBQ on multiple occasions, although my first meal was provided to me at no cost by Royal Caribbean for purposes of review.  I paid on my own for subsequent visits.

What are your thoughts on Portside BBQ? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

Royal Caribbean to offer prix-fixe specialty restaurant lunch experience

In:
29Oct2019

Royal Caribbean is going to offer its guests a prix-fixe lunch experience of signature courses from the cruise line's top specialty restaurants. 

Taste of Royal will combine the some of the best dishes from different specialty restaurants into one meal.  

The meal will begin with a selection of sushi and sashimi presented by Izumi. Next up is from Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen featuring mascarpone risotto with crabmeat. Then Chops Grill will serve up a classic surf and turf of filet mignon and jumbo shrimp. Followed by fried cheesecake with Nutella, whipped cream and caramelized popcorn from 150 Central Park. All topped off with a classic Aperol Spritz from Hooked Seafood. 

Within the next couple of weeks, guests will be able to start making reservations within the Cruise Planner. Guests can also book it onboard at any Specialty Dining Desk or, alternatively, at any restaurant on the ship.

Taste of Royal starts at $54.99 USD per person. There is also an optional wine pairing that is available for $19.99. Prices are subject to change and 18% gratuity will be added. It will not be included with a dining package. Children 0-5 are complimentary and children 6-12 are $10. Children must order from the Royal Caribbean kid’s menu.

The wine pairing includes three 3 oz sample pours of wine selected to pair with the appropriate courses, along with a sample of port to pair with dessert. If you purchased a beverage package,  guests will receive 25% off the cost of the wine pairing.

Taste of Royal will occur once per sailing during lunch on a sea day, Cruises longer than 7 nights may offer more than one opportunity.

Guests that pre-purchase Taste of Royal will receive a letter in their stateroom with more details on location, timing, and more.

If you have dietary restrictions, Royal Caribbean says to let the cruise line know in advance if there are specific allergies or conditions and they will accommodate.

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade restaurant review on Symphony of the Seas

In:
28Nov2018

From time to time, Royal Caribbean tries out a new specialty restaurant concept, with Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade the latest addition to the fleet.

The idea is simple, capitalize on the popular sports bar and pub food trend and offer Royal Caribbean guests some simple, yet tasty food with plenty of opportunity to watch or play.

Royal Caribbean felt so strongly about Playmakers, that the restaurant is at the heart of the re-deisgn of the Boardwalk neighborhood on Symphony of the Seas.  With as much buildup as this restaurant as had, I had to try it out for myself.

Atmosphere

When you hear of a sports bar that offers great food, tons of televisions and games abound, undoubtedly land-based restaurants of similar ilk must come to mind.  It is only natural for any new restaurant one may try to be compared to other similar venues.

Located in the Boardwalk, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade takes up one entire side of the neighborhood and features an open-air venue that is designed to tempt guests to walk in and check things out.

The restaurant features plenty of seating, inside and outside.  The outdoor seating is your typical table and chairs, while indoors there is a variety of seating.  Bar seating, booths, benches, high tops and more.  This is a casual dining venue, first and foremost.

At each table, you may find a game like Connect 4 or a peg game board.  Speaking of games, Playmakers is also home to a mini-arcade.  Skeeball, video games and more are part of the restaurant experience.  

Given the name, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of televisions around the restaurant to watch sporting events. Royal Caribbean says there are 30 televisions around Playmakers.

Eats

Playmakers wants you entertained while you are there, ordering plenty of food and drinks.  Royal Caribbean created a whole new menu to enjoy while you spend time inside.

When you talk about a sports bar, beers and cocktails are going to be a big part of the experience.  Playmakers offers a lot of domestic and international beers, including a good amount of craft beers.  

If beer is not your style, there is a full bar at Playmakers as well.  Any guest can drop in by the bar and grab a drink without having to dine there.  A large bar allows guests to stop in to get a drink and go, or stay and enjoy a game or two.  You can also order food from the bar, which provides flexibility if “just one drink” turns into “I can’t believe this game went to double overtime!”.

While the drinks are a big component to what Playmakers offers, the food served up is what will likely bring many to try Playmakers.

Being a sports bar, Royal Caribbean came up with a menu that reflects the kind of casual comfort food you might find at popular restaurants of a similar theme.  Burgers, wings, fried chicken and the like are at the heart of the menu.  No surprises on this menu, but that should not be a surprise in itself.

The Playmakers menu is priced a la carte, which means you only pay for what you order.  Like Izumi, that means you can drop in for a snack, or opt for a full meal.  That kind of flexibility is a major strength of Playmakers, since not everyone who wants to enjoy specialty dining wants a drawn-out meal.  

We stopped by Playmakers on a few occasions to sample some of the menu.  Depending on if you are going for just a small bite or a big meal, there is plenty to choose from.

The best item on the menu has to be the Playmakers Burger.  A double beef patty on a brioche bun makes arguably the best burger served on Royal Caribbean’s fleet.  Yes, better than even Johnny Rockets across the Boardwalk.

If wings are your thing, you can choose between 12, 24 or 50 wings across four different buffalo sauces.  If you are feeling dangerous, try the Playmakers Challenge: 100 of their hottest wings to be eaten in 45 minutes or less.  If you can do it all by yourself, you can get a special t-shirt to commemorate the accomplishment.

A perfect option for eating at the bar for part of a game might be their sliders. Choose between a portobello mushroom, pulled pork or meat patty, or go for a combination of them all.

In addition to all of that, there is still nachos, loaded potato skins, chicken sandwich and more.

In addition, there is a mini-arcade that comprises part of the restaurant.  The appeal may be a combination of giving the kids something to do while their parents watch a game, or perhaps an opportunity for adults to engage in some competitive shenanigans after a few drinks.  Eitherway, there are plenty of games 

Overall

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade is not a revolutionary idea, but it is a great representation of what a modern sports bar is all about.  Royal Caribbean seemed to have read the tea leaves of what is popular these days, and came up with a fun casual experience that fits nicely into the Boardwalk.

What we love best about Playmakers is the extensive menu, ample television viewing opportunities, and inclusion of games.  It is a dead simple concept, and it works.

Price-wise, there is decent value with the offerings on the Playmakers menu.  Other than the sliders, everything on the menu offers a large serving and I think in many cases, you can easily share the food with others.  

Without a doubt, the experience is as critical to the draw of Playmakers as the food.  Royal Caribbean bills Playmakers as the spot to watch your favorite team play.  

While there are a lot of televisions and ample spots to watch a game, the realities of television contracts, blackout rules and international viewerships limit how much you might want to actually watch.  Without getting into a lengthy discussion of how Royal Caribbean can legally show a game, it is important to note that the television programming tends to show primarily international competitions that most Americans may find less than enticing.  Cricket, soccer, and international basketball are quite commonly shown.

Thanks to Ron Hiller for this photo.

That being said, on football Sundays, college football Saturdays and other evenings, you will find more familiar games shown.  It is impossible to know which games will be shown on your sailing, but Royal Caribbean does make an effort to showcase the more popular sporting events, especially during the playoffs.

In a nutshell, Playmakers is a good choice for a casual meal, preferably while watching a sporting event.  The clichéd saying, "come for the game, stay for the food" holds up, and I think the food stands on its own even if there is only cricket or curling on the TVs. 

What are your thoughts on Playmakers? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

Review: Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas

In:
19Apr2018

Izumi, how do I love thee? Shall we count the ways?

Over the years, I have managed to eat at seven different Izumi locations across Royal Caribbean and review them, here on the blog.  You might think the experiences tend to run into each other, but on Rhapsody of the Seas I found fairly unique Izumi experience. 

Of course, the sushi at Izumi remains very consistent (and excellent) across the fleet, thanks to the hard work of the specialty restaurant's ongoing efforts. The sushi alone is worth my many visits to Izumi, and why I continue to make reservations for Izumi.  It is pretty much one of those spots I visit whenever I have an excuse to do so.

Speaking of excuses, on our Rhapsody of the Seas cruise, there was an advertisement in the Cruise Compass towards the end of the cruise where you could pay $25 and get a $50 credit to use at Izumi. You may not run across such a promotion, but always keep an eye out for specials!

Atmosphere

Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas is not easily stumbled upon, as it is located at the very top of the ship on Deck 12.  In fact, it's kind of on a half hidden deck, behind the Viking Crown Lounge.

Suffice to say, there is not a lot of foot traffic in this part of the ship.

For those that do venture to deck 12 to see Izumi, it is arguably the most beautiful Izumi location I have ever been to across Royal Caribbean's fleet. 

The restaurant sits in a kind of half circle, with an "upper deck" that overlooks the Viking Crown Lounge below.

Out the back of Izumi, you have a perfect view of the aft of the ship, with the Solarium roof providing the perfect viewing angle to the ocean and sky behind it. During our lunch, we spent most of the time just gazing out to the back of the restaurant (when we were not gorging on the terrific food).

Eats

If you are new to Izumi specialty restaurant, it is a specialty restaurant that is priced a la carte.  That means, there is no cover charge and you simply pay for the food you order.

All meals at Izumi begin with a complimentary bowl of edamame, which is a boiled soy beans sprinkled with salt.  A perfect starter to nosh on while you look over the menu.

I always start my meal with a bowl of miso soup.  To me, it is a quintessential Japanese meal starter.

Izumi has a fairly large menu, and their appetizer selection includes some really tasty options.  The gyoza dumplings and chicken kara-age are great shareables (although one person can easily finish them off).  

Having tried the Mixed Poke Taco on Brilliance of the Seas last year, I gravitated right back towards them again on this go around.  Tuna, avocado, albacore and octopus in a crispy wonton shell is a really good combination.

Also somewhat new and already a favorite choice is the Boxed Yellowtail.  When it comes to sushi, yellowtail is never a bad choice.

I also opted for another sushi staple, the Crispy Spicy Tuna.

Overall

I never shy away from an opportunity to dine at Izumi, and when I found that $25 for $50 deal in the Cruise Compass, I found my perfect excuse.

In a nutshell, the food at Izumi is excellent all around.  Their sushi is of outstanding quality, and their non-sushi items are also quite good (if not underrated).  Even if you are not much of a "sushi person" I think you will find something to enjoy on the menu.

By far, if you happen to be sailing on Rhapsody of the Seas (or another Vision Class ship with Izumi on Deck 12), do yourself a favor and go up there for lunch.  The views on worth the price of the food you get.

When it comes to dining at Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas, come for the sushi, but stay for the views.

Review: Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas

In:
08Mar2018

On a recent Brilliance of the Seas cruise, we decided to revisit a popular Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant, Chops Grille, to see what's new in this classic restaurant.

Royal Caribbean's signature specialty restaurant, Chops Grille, remains a favorite for many who cruise Royal Caribbean often.  It's inviting atmosphere, great cuts of meat, and service have earned Chops Grille quite a reputation among repeat cruisers. While Royal Caribbean continues to add new specialty dining options periodically, Chops Grille remains a popular choice.

Many blog readers have shared with us their positive experiences at Chops Grille, so I wanted to re-visit Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas to ensure it continues to be somewhere I can recommend to others.  And so, in the name of research, my wife and I have returned to Chops Grille once again.

Atmosphere

Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas is located conveniently on deck 6 near the Schooner Bar.  Its location adjacent to Giovanni's Table and across from the Schooner Bar makes it an easy-to-find restaurant, since there is a lot of foot traffic in the area and odds are you will walk past it multiple times on your cruise.

Walking into Chops Grille, you will find a large, open room that has tables filling the interior, with some booths along one side.  A few tables are near the windows to provide a view outside.

Chops Grille on Radiance Class ships has a large open kitchen, which provides a nice view for guests into the work being done to prepare food.

Food

The Chops Grille menu on Brilliance of the Seas has changed recently, to bring with it the "new" Chops Grille menu.  Other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet have this updated menu, and Brilliance now joins them with it.  You can always tell the new menu from the old menu based on the fact the new menu offers seafood towers, as well as does not have the French onion soup.

While I lament the loss of the French onion soup, I decided to try the Wild Mushroom soup.  After all, it has truffle oil, so how bad could it be?

I really enjoyed this mushroom soup because the consistency of the broth was just right.  It was not too thick or watery.  Of course, the white truffle oil helped distinguish this from a mushroom soup you might heat up at home.

From the Signature Appetizers, I went with the tuna tartare.  Admittedly, I can never resist tuna, and this version was outstanding.

As a self-described ahi tuna habitué, I found this to be worthy of a Brazilian steakhouse style operation, where my waiter would bring me as many as I want until I turned over a card to indicate I was satisfied replete.

For our entrees, I was not sure what to order.  My wife always picks the filet mignon (no one ever regrets filet mignon), but I was not sure what to do.  I opted to ask our waiter for his recommendation on what he really enjoys.  He pointed me to the New Zealand rack of lamb.

I know what you are thinking, "There are entrees on the menu that do not have beef?" but it does indeed exist.  My hesitation about lamb is that it can be tough, and I spend more time trying to extract the meat from the bone than actually enjoying the food.

Nonetheless, how could I object to a recommendation made by a crew member I had met just 15 minutes earlier?  I rolled the dice on the lamb.

To my pleasant surprise, the lamb was extremely soft, and essentially fell of the bone.  Instead of wrestling with the knife or wondering aloud to my wife what time the Windjammer is open to, I spent a few glorious minutes enjoying a terrific serving of lamb. 

No visit to Chops Grille is complete without a few sides.  The sides can feel like a meal, but they offer a great accompaniment to your entrees.  I prefer to load up my fork with as many mushrooms as I can fit, alongside a cut of the meat and a dip in the mashed potatoes.  Perfection!

The new Chops Grille menu has resulted in the removal of the Red Velvet cake.  Alas, no restaurant is perfect.

Overall

I enjoyed our meal at Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas.  It is easy to see why Chops remains such a popular choice with so many cruisers, based on the wonderful menu.

It is important to note that for this visit, we took advantage of a Royal Caribbean dining package, which brough the cost down considerably.  The price for Chops Grille continues to push up, so consider a dining package as a way to really save money.

For a night out of great dining, Chops Grille is a solid choice for celebrations, date nights, or "the main dining room menu isn't my favorite".

What are your thoughts on Chops Grille? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

Review: Izumi on Brilliance of the Seas

In:
06Feb2018

It does not take much to convince me to eat at Royal Caribbean's popular Japanese specialty restaurant, Izumi, so when I learned that there was a menu update on Brilliance of the Seas, I just had to try it out for myself.

Izumi has spread to much of Royal Caribbean's fleet in just the last few years, and its success has a lot to do with the restaurant's creator and master chef, Chef Travis Kamiyama.  Chef Travis spends a great deal of his time visiting Izumi restaurants across the fleet, and trying out new ideas and offerings.

Last year, a few new menu options found its way to Izumi, and in the name of research, I took it upon myself to sample these changes.  You know, for science!

Atmosphere

I have dined at many Izumi restaurants across Royal Caribbean's fleet, but the Izumi locations on Radiance class ships are particularly lovely for their location and decor.

Izumi on Brilliance of the Seas is located on deck 12 aft, above the Windjammer and near the kids waterslide. 

Walking into the restaurant, you will find a mostly circular room, with tables lining the outside, a sushi bar, and tables in the interior.  In short, there is plenty of seating throughout the restaurant.

The seating by the window offers a view out to the ocean, while the booth seating on the back wall features the most comfortable seating.  Never hesitate to ask to sit at the sushi bar, where you can watch the sushi chefs at work.

The decor of Izumi on Brilliance of the Seas features a lot of dark woods and oranges mixed with bright colors, notably a light blue.

Eats

The Izumi menu on Brilliance of the Seas is very similar to Izumi restaurants across Royal Caribbean, but as we mentioned earlier, there are a few new menu items to consider.

It is also important to note that Izumi on Brilliance of the Seas features a hot rock option, which is incredibly popular among non-sushi eaters.

Dining at Izumi is unlike most other Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants, in that there is no cover charge.  Rather, you pay for what you order. What is nice about a la carte pricing, is you can drop in for a small bite to eat without fear of overpaying.

All meals at Izumi begin with a refreshing hot towel and a complimentary bowl of edamame, lightly sprinkled with salt.

For this meal, I focused on what was new on the menu. I was a man on a mission, so to speak.  You might even say I was hungry for the truth...and for tuna.

First up was the Crispy Rice Spicy Tuna, which features creamy tuna on hot crispy rice, topped with a slice of jalapeno.

As an appetizer, this is a great starter and easily shareable (not that I offered to share any of this, but theoretically it would be possible).  The consistency of the tuna was different than most of the other tuna offered on the Izumi menu, and I am a fan of jalapeno with any of my sushi offerings.

I then moved onto the Mixed Poke Taco.  The taco combines tuna, albacore and octopus to form an interesting mix of fish in a crispy wonton shell.

I really liked the taco, because you get the tenderness and flavor of the fish, mixed with a rigidness of the taco shell.  Combining the two made for another fun and shareable appetizer (note, I did not share this either).

Moving onto the entrees, Izumi now offers a Poke Bowl option, which is essentially the exact same ingredients as the Mixed Poke Taco.  The Poke Bowl is significantly larger than the tacos, while offering much more of those great ingredients.

If you enjoyed the taco and want more, the Poke Bowl is for you.  Likewise, if you fear your tablemates may want to try one of your tacos, get the Poke Bowl so you can selfishly devour all the sushi-grade goodness yourself.

I also gave the Boxed Yellowtail roll a try, as I did not recall seeing it before.  Like the Crispy Rice Spicy Tuna appetizer, this roll also features a spicy creamy tuna terrine, topped with yellowtail sashimi, scallion, and a ponzu sauce.  

While I was guarding my sushi like a lion protecting its fresh kill on the African Savanna, my wife ordered a hot rock entree.

The hot rocks (known as Ishiyake in Japanese), are essentially a really, really hot rock (heated up to 575 degrees Fahrenheit) and served with your choice of protein to be cooked on the rock.

With the recent menu change, Royal Caribbean dropped the chicken option, but added some other choices.

My wife went with the beef tenderloin, which is thinly sliced beef tenderloin that comes with assorted vegetables.

If you are concerned with cooking the meat correctly, your waiter is happy to jump in and assist.  It takes just a few minutes to cook the meat to your liking. Plus, it is fun!

Conclusion

As someone that loves anything tuna, the new Izumi menu choices were right up my alley.  Izumi has always had a strong and varied menu, but these new appetizer choices are a great addition to the menu and theoretically shareable with your tablemates (not that I even considered doing that).

Whether you go for the sushi, hot rocks, soups or anything else inbetween, there is a lot to like while at Izumi.  It is a strong menu, and I think fans of Japanese food will enjoy eating here on Royal Caribbean.

Izumi is open from 12:15 - 1:30pm on sea days for lunch, and 6:00 - 9:30pm for dinner.

First look at menu and prices for Hooked Seafood restaurant on Symphony of the Seas

In:
19Jan2018

Royal Caribbean has started to open up specialty dining reservations on some Symphony of the Seas sailings, with Hooked Seafood now providing more detail on what guests can expect.

Hooked Seafood was one of the brand new specialty restaurants announced by Royal Caribbean that is coming to Symphony of the Seas.

Hooked is described as, "This is the ultimate catch if you’re angling for the freshest seafood. It’s a real taste of New England in a casual atmosphere — and it’s a brand-new addition on our newest ship, Symphony of the Seas. Introducing Hooked Seafood — taste bud-tempting fare to satisfy every seafood craving, including raw bar favorites, a variety of crab claws and a selection of just-shucked East Coast oysters. Plus enjoy classic apps, clam chowder, lobster and fresh caught local fish. It’s reel fresh, real good."

On the Cruise Planner, we are seeing prices of $40 per person and here is what the sample Hooked Seafood menu looks like:

The restaurant description on the Cruise Planner mentions your waiter can provide gluten-free, lactose-free, and vegetarian options.

Hooked Seafood will be located in the Solarium of Symphony of the Seas.

How to book Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant reservations

In:
15Nov2017

Royal Caribbean cruise ships offer a variety of specialty restaurant choices, and guests have the option of making a reservation in advance.  Regardless of when your cruise is, it is always a good idea to book ahead to secure a day and time for your meal.

Here is an overview of how to book a specialty restaurant meal for your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise.

How to make a reservation online

Guests can make specialty restaurant reservations prior to their cruise up until 4 days before your sailing date.  

Keep in mind that Royal Caribbean does not allow specialty dining reservations to be made until you reach amount of days that are left until your cruise. If you do not see the option to reserve specialty restaurants, check back later.

In order to make specialty restaurant reservations online, you will need to pay any cover charges that may exist at the time of booking.

Booking specialty restaurants in advance offers you the opportunity to lock in exact day and times for meals as well as being able to space out the total cost of the cruise.

1. The first step in booking a Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant is to go to RoyalCaribbean.com and click LOG-IN from the top right navigation.  Then click LOG-IN TO MY CRUISES.

2. Log into My Cruises with your Royal Caribbean username and password.

You will need to have an account with Royal Caribbean (free) and have linked your upcoming cruise with your account.  We won't cover how to do this in this article, but I will assume you have done this earlier.

3. Once logged in, click on the Reservation Number for the cruise you want book a specialty restaurant.  It will be located in the middle of the page under PURCHASED & HELD CRUISES.

4. From the top navigation, click on Cruise Planner.

5. Click on the GET STARTED button to bring you to the Cruise Planner.

6. Click DINING link in the top menu.

7. Select the restaurant of your choice.  You will be able to read more about the restaurant, see a sample menu, and get pricing details. 

We keep an archive of Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant menus for your reference.

8. Read the description of the restaurant, menu and more and when you are ready, click ADD TO CART button.

9. At this step, you will select which guests in your booking will be joining you.  Just click on each guest's name to add them to the reservation.  

Optionally, you can add other guests from another reservation via the ADD GUESTS FROM ANOTHER RESERVATION link at the bottom.  For this feature, you just need their last name and their reservation number.

When you're ready, click NEXT button at the bottom right.

10. For the next step, you will select the day and time for your reservation.  Select the DAY dropdown field first and then choose from the available times from the TIME dropdown.

When you are satisfied with the date you picked, click ADD TO CART.

11.You have added your reservation to your shopping cart succesfully and now can either CONTINUE SHOPPING and add other items to your shopping cart, or click CONTINUE CHECKOUT and enter your payment information to finish your purchase.

How to make a reservation onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise

If you are on your cruise or have less than 4 days until you go on your Royal Caribbean cruise, then you will need to make a reservation for the specialty restaurants onboard your cruise.

You can book any specialty restaurant from the following locations

  • Any specialty restaurant
  • Guest Services
  • From your stateroom television (on select Royal Caribbean ships)
  • Via a Royal Caribbean smart phone app (Royal iQ or Royal Caribbean app).  The app is currently limited to select ships.

Helpful Tips

  • Any dining reservations you make online via the Cruise Planner are fully refundable.  If you change your mind or want to change restaurants or even dates, it is easy enough to cancel and rebook.
  • Do not make specialty reservations for children.  Children between the ages of 0-5 are complimentary and ages 6-12 are half the adult price.
    • Royal Caribbean recommends making a reservation for all guests who wish to dine. Adult price will be applied for all guests regardless of age; the difference between the adult price and child price will be refunded in the form of a refundable onboard credit (unless booked with non-refundable credit, in which case OBC will be non-refundable).
  • If your cruise is too far out, you may not see dining reservations available.  Keep checking back closer to your sail date.  There is no set amount of days prior to a cruise when specialty restaurants appear, so check periodically.

For more Royal Caribbean dining information, such as what food is included with your cruise, drink package options, dining packages, and more, visit our Royal Caribbean food overview page.

Review: Izumi Hibachi on Harmony of the Seas

In:
26Sep2017

I have reviewed a lot of Izumi restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships, but I had never tried the relatively new hibachi option that Royal Caribbean added not too long ago.

Izumi's teppan style dining is offered only on the Oasis Class ships, but I had never dined at any of them.  Sure, I have eaten at many hibachi restaurants on land, but I never had the opportunity to try Izumi's take until our recent Harmony of the Seas cruise. 

We headed down to deck 4 to try it out for ourselves.

Atmosphere

Izumi hibachi is a teppanyaki-style restaurant, which is sometimes referred to as a “Japanese steakhouse."  Made famous by Benihana restaurants, the experience combines cooking and service into one fun performance.

On Oasis Class ships, Izumi is split into two restaurants: the sushi side and the hibachi side.  Reservations and availability are exclusive to each other, with often the hibachi side booking up quite quickly because of the limited space and high demand.

Located on deck 4, Izumi is to the right of the Silk main dining room and around the corner from the entrance to the casino.

Photo by Michael Poole

The decor of Izumi is comprised of dark reds, browns and blacks.

The hibachi area is made up of three cooking tables, surrounded by chairs for guests to sit on during their meal. Each cooktop is a communal table that can accommodate up to eight guests, with the chef at the center of the table doing the cooking.

Remember, since seating is communal, you will be seated with strangers unless you have 8 people in your party.

Soon after we were seated, our server greeted us. Since our food would be prepared before us by a Chef, the server's primary role would be to take our drink and food orders and take care of us throughout the meal.

Eats

The Izumi hibachi menu is comprised of two basic choices.  There are the Teppan Classics, which offer a choice of Chicken Breast, Beef Tenderloin, Tiger Shrimp or Tofu for $45 per person.  Alternatively, you can opt for the Teppan Premier Combo at $49, which offers the option to do combos (half of one meat and half of another), as well as the choice of lobster, sea scallops, and NY Steak.

All hibachi meals include Edamame, a salad, and choice of vegetable fried rice or brown rice.

Photo by Ken Licwinko

In addition to the teppenyaki options, there are also a some appetizer and sushi options rounding out the menu.

Our chef soon took the stage and introduced himself. After he confirmed our orders, he set to work preparing dipping sauces for the meal. These go out to everyone in individual servings, and include three dipping sauces: Sweet Chili, Teriyaki, and Ginger Onion.

As is common with nearly all teppanyaki meals, the grill preparation and cooking is incorporated into a show, where the chef includes a number of tricks, jokes, and flamboyant demonstrations to keep everyone at the table entertained.

Our chef did many of the tricks that have made Japanese steakhouses so popular.  If you have been to a teppanyaki restaurant before, some of the tricks may be familiar to you, while others were a surprise to me.  

Speaking of tricks, there is no fire incorporated in any aspect of the cooking, so no onion volcano tricks here.

Soon, the cooktop was full of meats, vegetables, and rice.  This part of the meal is what brings people back time and time again, because it just so darn fun to watch.

Photo by Michael Poole

I made two visits to Izumi, and the first time ordered just the chicken.  The chicken was great, but on my second visit, I opted for the chicken and steak combo.  I can say with certainty paying $4 more for the combo made the meal that much better.

Photo by Ken Licwinko

Dessert is also included with your meal, and by far the Mochi ice cream is a favorite.  Mochi is best described as, "ice cream dumplings" and is worth a try.

Photo by Ken Licwinko

Conclusion

Having dined at Izumi Hibachi, I can see why the reservations are as hard to come by as they have been. The servers who take care of you here are warm and friendly, and the chefs are the best of the best at what they do. Food is always cooked well, and entree portions are generous. As a bonus, I really like that I can see my food before and during the cooking process. What other type of restaurant ensures that you know first hand how fresh your food is? Plus, you get a show!

Moreover, the variety of food choices makes Izumi hibachi a great choice for groups because it can satisfy a wide range of tastes and preferences.  

I also brought my six year old daughter with us, and this meal is by far the most succesful specialty restaurant experience we have had with her.  Usually she gets bored quickly, due to the length of the meal, and she also tends to be too picky to make many specialty restaurant experiences "worth it."  At hibachi, she loved every second of it and insisted we bring her back on the second evening we dined there.

Overall, I can recommend Izumi hibachi to Royal Caribbean cruisers who seek a fun dining experience that also has some really good food.

Cost: The cost for Izumi hibachi on Harmony of the Seas is $45 per guest for dinner, or $49 per guest if upgraded menu selected.

Do you love Izumi hibachi? Leave us a comment below and share your favorite experiences!

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