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Chops Grille is the best Royal Caribbean extra-cost restaurant, according to a passenger survey

09 Mar 2024

Specialty restaurants are not included in your fare, so what’s worth splurging on?

Among over 1,000 past Royal Caribbean cruisers, Chops Grille came out as the most popular specialty restaurant across the fleet.

People from the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook page were asked to vote on their absolute top restaurant.

Across 14 possible choices, Chops was ranked the top pay restaurant in Royal Caribbean's fleet, garnering 28% of the vote.

On a Royal Caribbean ship, you’ll have access to complimentary restaurants, such as the Windjammer and the Main Dining Room.

Specialty restaurants usually have a unique theme and more specific menu than others. 


Cruisers prefer them for the quality service, upscale atmosphere, and overall more luxurious experience.

Chops Grille was voted the best specialty restaurant 

In total, we received 1115 votes on the poll. Chops Grille won as the top favorite, with 28% of the votes.

150 Central Park came in second place, at 22%.

In distant third place, 9% voted Izumi Hibachi as their favorite specialty restaurant.

8% of respondents also voted for Wonderland as their favorite restaurant, with the rest only getting a few of the votes.


This result isn’t a surprise, considering that most respondents have had a chance to try dining at Chops Grille.

Chops is one of the most popular and well-known specialty restaurants. This quality steakhouse is featured on all Royal Caribbean ships, meaning you’ll get to try it no matter which sailing you choose.

Dru Mason explained her thinking: “It was between Chops and Izumi, but I voted for Chops. Chops has been consistent across most of the ships, so I gave them the vote.”

Because Chops Grille is so popular and offered on every ship, it makes sense that Royal Caribbean has had the chance to test and perfect the restaurant’s menu and service. 

Mike Fresa echoed this sentiment, commenting that, “Chops is the best… then Izumi.”

Izumi offers both Hibachi and sushi options, serving up quality Japanese food. 

Izumi is available on Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Icon of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Utopia of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, Vision of the Seas, and Voyager of the Seas.

On the other hand, some commenters didn’t have a great experience with Chops Grille. Zach Zilen wrote: “We have been disappointed in Chops several times. The only one we keep going back to is Giovanni’s.”

7% of the votes on the Facebook survey went to Giovanni’s Table or Giovanni’s Kitchen, a venue that serves popular Italian cuisine.

On Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Vision of the Seas, and Voyager of the Seas, the restaurant is called Giovanni’s Table.

On Freedom of the Seas, Icon of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, and Odyssey of the Seas, the venue was revamped and named Giovanni’s Kitchen, an upgraded contemporary that added perks such as fresh-tossed pizza.


Other comments on the survey expressed that they would choose other restaurants for reasons other than the food.

For example, some venues have different experiences to offer: “I say Wonderland because it’s the one that I’d never be able to duplicate on land,” said Charla Miller. “A truly unique experience.”

The Wonderland venue is an imaginative experience based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. With its experimental design and mind-bending food, it makes sense that this venue provides an irreplaceable experience. 

Wonderland is available on Anthem of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas.

But not everyone likes to spend extra money on food. Since specialty restaurants come at an additional cost, some cruisers would rather eat the complimentary food and save their money. Mary Chi expressed this perspective, commenting, “4 cruises and never felt the need to buy extra dinners.”

Still, if you’re interested in trying a luxurious meal, Chops Grille is voted your best option.

What can you expect at Chops Grille?

Chops specializes in juicy steaks, with the tender filet being the most popular menu item.

However, the steakhouse also serves other meats like lamb, pork, fish, Maine lobster, and chicken.

The price for a dinner at Chops Grille varies depending on the ship but usually ranges from $50-$60 per person. The price for lunch is usually lower than for dinner.

A meal at Chops can also be included in your specialty dining package, whether that’s the unlimited package or the 3-night dining package. 

An 18% gratuity may also be added automatically, and you can always tip again at the end of your meal.


The restaurant's classy ambiance makes it a popular spot for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other special occasions. The location is decorated with low, golden lighting, dark brown wood, and crisp white linens, except on Icon of the Seas which has a more modern motif. 

It is an upscale four-course meal. The dress code is smart or smart-casual, and you will be served by a dedicated waitstaff. 

Chops Grille offers both lunch and dinner. If you’re planning an evening meal at Chop, it’s best to reserve a dinner, as spots fill up quickly.


The dinner meal begins with a complimentary serving of bread buns and butter.

After you receive your menu, you can start by ordering unique appetizers such as bacon, shrimp cocktails, crab cakes, tuna tartare, and beer carpaccio.

Next, you can select a soup: wild mushroom, lobster bisque, or other specials; or a salad: caesar, wedge lettuce, or crispy goat cheese.


Your waiter will also bring a beverage menu, with many quality wines. Like in other venues on the ship, the alcohol costs extra, but may be included in your beverage package.

For the entree, options include meats like the tender filet—either 9 or 6 ounces—prime ribeye, prime NY strip, a rack of lamb, or roasted chicken.

There is also a selection of seafood entrees: grilled branzino, spicy jumbo shrimp, Atlantic salmon, or Maine lobster.


You can choose an unlimited number of sides, with options such as tater tots, spinach, grilled asparagus, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, French fries, and baked potatoes. 

And yes, you might notice that there are many potato-based items available.

For dessert, the menu includes delicacies like red velvet cake, raspberry cheesecake, and key lime pie.


The desserts come in huge slices, a much larger serving than you might receive at the Main Dining Room. If dessert’s your thing, that’s one reason to consider splurging on an extra-cost restaurant!

The lunch menu is a slimmed-down version of the dinner, with fewer appetizers, entrees, and sides, and only two dessert selections.

If you get full at any point, you can ask your server to package up the food to bring back to your cabin. Don’t let those extra pennies go to waste!


As always, you can ask for accommodations for your food allergies, from lactose-free to gluten-free to vegetarian options. However, given that Chops Grille is a steakhouse, it may not be the best spot for vegetarians or vegans. People who avoid meat and animal products may not find a lot to enjoy.

But if juicy steaks and quality meats are your thing, this restaurant might also become your new favorite. 

Guide to Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade

08 Mar 2024

Sports bars aren’t just a land activity.

Burger at Playmakers

If you love a casual meal while watching a sporting event, or sharing a snack while playing games with friends, you won’t have to give that up on your cruise.

Royal Caribbean has a sports bar on some of its ships, called Playmakers. 

The cruise line designed this bar as a fun, casual specialty venue for you to watch your favorite team play.

It fits in the simple but popular concept of a sports bar with quality beers and cocktails, a yummy selection of food, televisions in every corner, and games with even a mini-arcade center attached.

Playmakers SOTS

What can you expect from Playmakers?

If wings, sporting events, and craft beers are your thing, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to the Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade.

What is Playmakers?

Playmakers on Independence

Playmakers can be found on Freedom of the Seas, Icon of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Star of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, Utopia of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas.

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

On Oasis-Class ships, Playmakers is featured at the heart of the Boardwalk.

The venue is open-air and inviting, with warm lighting and a variety of seating to choose from. 

Over 30 televisions are placed around the bar so that everyone can get a view of a screen.

Kids playing in arcade

At peak times, you’ll find other cruisers drinking, partying, watching a sports game, or competing in games of their own.

The bar features games like pool, foosball, Jenga, shuffleboard, and Connect 4. 

The attached arcade also has skee ball, video games, and more. 


While the board and table games are free, the arcade games may cost money to play, depending on which ship you’re sailing on.

It is noisy fun with a welcoming atmosphere, just like your favorite small sports bar at home.

What kind of food is served and how much does it cost?


It’s free to sit inside Playmakers and watch a game. However, the food and drinks all come at an extra cost.

An 18% gratuity will also be added to your check, depending on the port and itineraries. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean raises prices at some of its specialty restaurants

Prices may vary, but you can usually find a sample menu on Royal Caribbean’s website.

Playmakers August 2023 menu

The “warmups” or appetizers range from $5.99 to $12.99. They include classic finger foods like nachos, chicken tenders, fries, pigskin sliders, onion rings, and jalapeño poppers.

Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere, though. The food at Playmakers is delicious!

Even if sports and games aren’t your thing, this venue is worth visiting to try some of the servings.

You can order 12 wings for $13.99, 24 wings for $19.99, or 50 wings for $29.99.


The wings come with your choice of sauce—buffalo, barbeque, or Jamaican jerk—and are served with blue cheese, celery, and carrots.

The adjustable amounts mean that you can order for just yourself, or for huge groups of people traveling together.

If you’re up for it, take on the Playmakers Challenge: eat 100 of the hottest “major-league” buffalo wings and you’ll win a commemorative T-shirt!

There are also several burgers, all for $11.99 each and served with fries. These include the classic burger, the impossible burger, the truffle burger, and the chicken sandwich.

Something great about Playmakers is that it's priced a la carte, so you only pay for what you order. This can be a small dish if you’re apprehensive about spending extra on food.

If you have the unlimited specialty dining package, you’ll receive a $20 food credit at Playmakers per person, per day. That means you can dine at Playmakers once per day, but can still go another a la carte restaurant and eat there too once per day.

When it comes to desserts, there are currently two options on the menu. You can try a campfire cookie, with marshmallows, Nutella, and milk shooters on the side, or the touchdown sundae, which is five scoops of ice cream topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

The sundae is served in a mini football helmet that you can take home with you.

The cookie costs $8.99, and the sundae is $11.99.

What’s on the drink menu?


Playmakers offers domestic and international beers, as well as seven types of craft beers.

They even serve 60-ounce pitchers of your favorite beer for $18!

There’s also a selection of sports-themed cocktails for $13 each: Black and Gold, the Pitch, Knockout Punch, a Goal Post Margarita, and the Playmakers Bloody Mary.

There are also hard ciders, wines, and non-alcoholic drinks.

If you have a Royal Caribbean deluxe drink package, all the beers, wines, and cocktails will be included.

However, you’re not just limited to the Playmakers drink menu. There is a full bar, where you can order anything you might typically enjoy at a Royal Caribbean bar. Just ask the bartender, and they’ll let you know if they can make it for you.

You’re also welcome to stop at the bar without ordering a full plate of food. Just like a sports bar on land, Playmakers is that casual hangout spot for you to enjoy.

When is Playmakers open?

Playmakers on Icon of the Seas

Playmakers is rarely "closed". You can usually hop in for a seat or to play a game at any hour of the day. 

However, the bar serves drinks between 10:00 A.M and 1:00 A.M.

There are two different time slots to order food: 11:30 A.M to 3:30 P.M., and again from 5:30 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.

If you struggle with nighttime snack cravings, Playmakers is a great option! It stays open and serves food most times of the day.

What games will be playing?

Playmakers on Oasis of the Seas

The games shown differ on a cruise ship on land thanks to complicated international satellite game rights. Most games, especially high profile games, are available to watch in Playmakers.

Cruise ships get an international satellite feed, so even though the ship may be sailing from the United States, it gets a different set of games.

College football fans can probably watch their favorite teams playing on Saturdays. During football season, NFL games will also be shown on Sundays.

You can expect games from major networks to stream.  Options will vary depending on the ship and season.

Basketball, football, soccer, and golf are all sports commonly streamed at Playmakers. In addition, there's a lot cricket and soccer shown.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a dress code?

Royal Caribbean lists the dress code as “casual.” Playmakers is a chill sports bar, so there is no other specific dress code.

However, you’ll want to wear a cover-up over any swimsuits, and make sure you’re wearing shoes!

Is there an age limit to enter?

Alcohol can only be served to patrons 21 and up on North American sailings. 

Based on Royal Caribbean’s marketing of Playmakers, kids are welcome to enter with parents and play games. We have never heard of anyone being turned away from Playmakers.

Playmakers on Freedom of the Seas

Do I have to pay extra?

While it doesn’t cost money to enter Playmakers, you will have to pay extra for the food and drinks.

Most of the hands-on games are also free, except for the full arcade machines.

Can I use my dining/drink package at Playmaker’s?

Yes. If you have the unlimited specialty dining package, you’ll receive a $20 food credit at Playmakers per day.

If you have a Royal Caribbean deluxe drink package, all the beers, wines, and cocktails will be included. Other drink packages work here too.

English beers

Do I need to make a reservation?

No, you do not need to make a reservation at Playmaker’s. 

Reservations are not accepted. However, the venue can get busy, especially during peak times or when a big game is streaming. 

Be prepared to wait a little before getting your food and drinks.

Royal Caribbean raises prices at some of its specialty restaurants

23 Aug 2023

The price to eat at a few of Royal Caribbean's extra cost restaurants appears to have gone up recently.

Portside BBQ

Specialty restaurants are an optional add-on passengers can indulge in that is not included with a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Depending on the restaurant, there could be a cover charge to dine there that includes all the food, or a la carte pricing.

Read moreFood on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Playmakers on Oasis of the Seas

It seems some of the restaurants have had price increases this summer that point to a trend in the change.

Across at least 4 restaurants, we've spotted new prices to dine there. 

It's not clear exactly when the prices went up because Royal Caribbean does not announce these sort of changes.  At the very least, it seems prices were raised at some point over the summer.

Of course, the cost of food in general has been going up around the world, and is not just a cruise ship issue. Last year, U.S. consumers saw the largest annual increase in food prices since the 1980s. 

Brunch at Mason Jar

Due to global disruptions to the food supply chain and inflation, food prices have gone up overall, so it's likely these fiscal pressures had an effect on what Royal Caribbean had to charge.

The U.S. Labor Department reported earlier this year restaurant prices outpaced grocery prices on a 12-month basis.

Walt Disney World increased prices across-the-board on countless food & beverage items in late 2022.

Izumi sushi

During Royal Caribbean Group's first quarter earnings call with investors, Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Naftali Holtz said inflation was impacting the cost of food, "We continue to actively manage persistent inflation across categories, including food and beverage, airfare, and shoreside human capital."

He added the company was taking measures to find ways to mitigate inflation, and that work was mentioned by Chief Executive Officer Jason Liberty in the second quarter earnings call, "the actions that we took to position ourselves to really kind of outperform and to grow our margins. A lot of all that work really helped absorb the vast majority of -- a pretty significant inflation that we saw across a lot of the items that impact our product."

Here's a look at the recent price increases we've noticed when comparing menus on Wonder and Oasis of the Seas to older copies of the menu we could find elsewhere.

Read moreWhat's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade


In comparing prices of food at Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade on Wonder of the Seas, it's clear prices have gone up.

Food is served a la carte, and its known for offering bar food that you can enjoy while watching one of the many television screens to catch a game.

All the entrees went up from $9.00 to $11.99.

Burger at Playmakers

The wings went up too:

  • 12 wings: $10 to $13.99
  • 24 wings: $14 to $19.99
  • 50 wings: $25 to $29.99

Appetizer prices were increased:

  • Pile on nachos: $6 to $8.99
  • Poke nachos: $8 to $12.99
  • Chicken tenders: $4 to $6.99
  • Fries: $3 to $5.99
  • Pigskin sliders: $7 to $10.99
  • Onion ring tower: $6 to $7.99
  • Buffalo chicken crunch roll: $5 to $7.99
  • Jalapeno poppers: $5 to $7.99

Old menu

Playmakers October 2022

New menu

Playmakers August 2023 menu

It is important to note that Playmaker's menu prices hadn't changed since at least 2019.

Portside BBQ

There's only one Portside BBQ, and it is on Oasis of the Seas, and it also had a price jump.

bayportkat on the Cruise Critic message boards posted a photo of the new dinner menu, which indicates the prices changed in the past sailing.

Here's a look at changes for the Portside BBQ dinner menu.

The Signature combo went from 2 cuts for $12.49 and 3 cuts for $15.39 to $16.99 and $21.99, respectively. 

The Pitmaster Special price was changed from $9.99 to $14.99.

  • Single cuts: $3.89 to $5.99
  • Sides: $2.99 to $3.99
  • Pitmaster Faves: $6.49 to $9.49
  • Desserts: $2.79 to 3.99

Old menu

Original Portside BBQ menu

New menu

August 2023 menu for Portside BBQ

Just like Playmakers, the menu prices at Portside BBQ had not changed since the restaurant opened in 2019.

Mason Jar Brunch

Mason Jar with kids

Whereas the other restaurants are priced a la carte, it looks as though the cost for brunch at the Mason Jar on Wonder of the Seas has also gone up.

Last month, Royal Caribbean Blog message board user OCSC Mike reported the normal price had gone up from $24.99 to $34.99. 

Mason Jar brunch price

This is the onboard price for brunch, and Royal Caribbean usually provides a discount if pre-purchased before the cruise on the Cruise Planner website.

Izumi sushi

Izumi sushi over the top view

In comparing prices on Wonder of the Seas, our team also noticed a price change for sushi at Izumi for its sushi offerings.

All the appetizers have gone up one dollar in cost when comparing today's menu to a menu from earlier this year.

  • Vegetable fried rice: $9 to $10
  • Shrimp and pork wonton soup: $7 to $8
  • Seaweed wakame salad: $7 to $8
  • Pork gyoza dumpling: $8 to $9
  • Tofu-ginger salad: $7 to $8
  • Crispy Rice Spicy Tuna: $13 to $14
  • Crispy Chicken Kara-Age: $8 to $9
  • Shrimp firecracker spring roll: $9 to $10
  • Shrimp & vegetable tempura: $11 to $12

All the signature rolls are now $15, whereas some had been $13 or $14 previously.

Chef's Signature Rolls are now $18. Previously they had been priced between $15 and $17.

Chef's Sushi Selection went from $16 to $17 and the assorted sashimi went from $21 to $22.

Bowls & More

  • Beef or Chicken Teriyaki: $17 to $19
  • Yaki Udon: $19 to $20
  • Tonkotsu Ramen: $13 to $14
  • Spicy Miso Ramen: $13 to 14
  • Poke Bowl: $17 to $18
  • Hibachi Vegetables: $13 to $14

Desert prices at Izumi have not changed.

Old menu

Izumi menu

New menu

Izumi menu in 2023

Jamie Oliver announces new menu for his restaurant on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

04 Aug 2023

If you are sailing on a Voyager, Oasis, or Quantum Class ship in the future, you will find that Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver has a brand-new menu. 


As of August 4, the new menu is available onboard Symphony, Harmony, Mariner, Navigator, and Anthem of the Seas. It will be available on Quantum and Ovation soon; however, no date was provided. 

"I can't wait for you to all start tucking into this menu. I know that you're gonna love it," says Jamie Oliver. 

Related5 things you will love about Jamie's Italian on Royal Caribbean

Note that the title of the dishes on the menus below may be different in the United States, as they were taken on a European sailing to Norway onboard Anthem of the Seas.  

What's different on the lunch menu


All veteran cruisers know that eating lunch in a specialty restaurant is cheaper than dinner, and usually, you will have similar offerings. On a future sailing onboard Quantum of the Seas, the current onboard pricing for dinner is advertise to be $54.99, while lunch is only $24.99.

Of course, you can often get better rates if you book in advance on the Cruise Planner.  

Starting with the lunch menu, you will no longer find the Garlicky Prawns. Similarly, the Penne Pomodoro is no longer available. Instead, there's the Penne Vodka Arrabbiata, which Oliver says is one of his family's favorites. 


(Pictured above is the Penne Vodka Arrabbiata on Anthem of the Seas)

The biggest differences are evident in the main courses, with the removal of the JI Burger, Calabrian Chicken, and Jamie's Caesar Salad.


(Pictured above is the Avocado Caesar Salad on Anthem of the Seas)

These three menu items have been replaced by the brand-new Crispy Chicken Burger and Avocado Caesar Salad, meaning that instead of six options, you will only have five. 


(Pictured above is the Crispy Chicken Burger on Anthem of the Seas)

Similarly, there are only four sides on the menu instead of five: Rocket Salad, Charred Broccoli, Skin-on Fries, and Polenta Chips.

In terms of what is returning, Oliver said that the recipe for the bruschetta has been changed.

What's different on the dinner menu


On the dinner menu, you will have seven appetizers to select from.


(Pictured above is the Truffle Burrata on Anthem of the Seas)

Like the lunch menu, the Garlicky Prawns are no longer offered. It was replaced by the Crab & Avocado dish, which is described as "freshly picked crab, whipped avocado, heritage tomatoes, and Sardinian crackers." 


(Pictured above is the Tomato Bruschetta on Anthem of the Seas)

You will also have six pasta dishes to choose from, rather than five like on the lunch menu. The singular addition is the Risotto Rosso, which was not on the old menu. If you like creamy burrata, you'll love this dish that's also served with sun-dried tomato rice, slow-cooked cherry tomatoes, veggie Parmesan, and fresh basil. 


(Pictured above is the Eggplant [Aubergine] Parmigiana on Anthem of the Seas)

Like the lunch menu, the JI Burger is no longer on the dinner menu. Instead of a Crispy Chicken Burger, though, you will find Chicken Parmigiana. The Avocado Caesar Salad is available for dinner, too. 

The sides are the same as what you can order during lunch, with the addition of a Green Salad. 

Other menu changes onboard Royal Caribbean ships


This is not the first time Royal Caribbean has changed some menus this year. In early 2023, Royal Caribbean introduced brand-new Main Dining Room menus. 

The company began testing new menus in late 2022, and after receiving positive feedback from guests, they announced that they were going to change the menus fleet wide by February 2023.

Now, there is a more cohesive theme each night that highlights different cuisines and cooking styles. You may, for instance, have a Caribbean night, Mexican night, Italian night, USA night, and more. 

With this change, the “classics” section, which offered a subset of menu options that never changed and were available each night, was removed from the menu. 

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

What is the best Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant?

16 Jun 2020

Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants have become a highlight on any ship for the added variety of cuisines and cooking styles, but which one stands out as a fan favorite?

Across the fleet of ships, there are a variety of specialty restaurants to choose from, and Royal Caribbean has been introducing new restaurants regularly with the debut of new vessels or the refurbishment of existing ones.

So which specialty restaurant do Royal Caribbean cruise fans love the most? Which dining establishment garners the most love, admiration, and mouthwatering savoriness? 

To get an answer of where everyone's allegiances lie, I posted a poll on Facebook to ask cruise fans to pick their top favorite Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant.

In just about 24 hours, 875 people cast a vote among 13 choices. The top five results from our unscientific polling were:

1. Chops Grille (45%)

Chops Grille is the specialty restaurant available on most Royal Caribbean ships, and the voting indicates there is a good reason why.

Royal Caribbean's signature steakhouse took the top spot with a commanding lead over the competition. Chops has been a staple of Royal Caribbean's dining choices for years, and it is a restaurant guests come back to time and time again because they really enjoy everything about the experience.

Whether you prefer filet mignon, rib eye, or a New York strip, it seems cruise fans gravitated towards Chops for this time-honored and beloved restaurant.

Must-order item: Filet mignon

2. Izumi (12.5%)

Whether you come for the sushi or hibachi, Izumi has quickly become a must-eat spot on any Royal Caribbean ship.  

These days, specialty restaurant concepts come and go, but Izumi is one restaurant that is continuously added to new and refurbished ships alike. 

At its heart, Izumi offers a wide variety of excellent sushi options that provides a great sampling of Japanese cuisine.  On top of that, you have the fan favorite Teppan style dining that has taken the cruise line by storm.

In the comments, many cruisers had a tough choice between Izumi and Chops, because they each offered a compelling dining experience.  

For what it is worth, I voted for Izumi.

Must-order item: Izumi Ryu Futomaki roll

3. Jamie's Italian (11%)

Italian food is always a crowd-pleasing choice, so the question was would the crowd vote for Jamie's Italian or Giovanni's Table.  Perhaps the voting will change once Royal Caribbean updates Giovanni's with their new concept, but for now Jamie's Italian is the favorite.

Serving up new takes on rustic dishes, Jamie's is as well-known for the satisfying dishes as it is for the celebrity chef behind the brand.

The specialty restaurant's menu is based on tasty, simple Italian food, made from fresh ingredients with a casual dining experience, designed to be welcoming to everyone. 

Must-order item: Plank appetizer

4. 150 Central Park (7.4%)

Only available on Oasis Class ships, 150 Central Park was originally the creation of James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz.  While the collaboration between Schwartz and Royal Caribbean has come to an end, the restaurant lives on with an updated menu that builds on the original concept.

150 Central Park has a commitment to sustainable and seasonal food sourcing that offers the freshest, most distinct ingredients.

Royal Caribbean designed 150 Central Park to offer guests an intimate dining experience that is unlike anything else offered onboard. That means not only dressing up for the occasion, but a wait staff trained to make your meal as personal as possible.

Must-order item: Cucumber martini

5. Giovanni's Table (7.2%)

At one time, it looked like Giovanni's Table was destined to be replaced by Jamie's Italian, but Royal Caribbean has kept a few locations around, and even plans on completely revamping the cruise line's traditional Italian restaurant in the future.

Barely losing out to 150 Central Park, Giovanni's Table offers a selection of Italian fare ranging from pastas, to seafood, to amazing desserts.

Must-order item: Filet steak at dinner

And the rest...

If you are curious how the rest of Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants stacked up in the voting, here's the results:

  • Wonderland - 4.8%
  • Sabor - 3.2%
  • Johnny Rockets - 2%
  • Hooked Seafood - 1.9%
  • Chef's Table - 1.4%
  • Playmakers - 0.08%
  • Samba Grill - 0.68%
  • Portside BBQ - 0.45%

What is your favorite Royal Caribbean restaurant?

Which specialty restaurant would you vote for as the best Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant? Is there one that you thought should have done better in the voting? Share your thoughts and comments below!

Portside BBQ restaurant review on Oasis of the Seas

03 Dec 2019

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

29 Oct 2019

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

28 Nov 2018

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.


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.


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 


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

19 Apr 2018

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!


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).


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.


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.

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