Traditions in all forms of travel -- by air, by sea, by train -- is breaking down around us, and that includes cruising, of course. It's not necessarily a bad thing.
Not long ago you had a choice of only two dinner seatings: early and late. Period. Norwegian broke that mould with "freestyle dining" -- pick when you eat, and with whom (or not).
Flexibility is important to me when I cruise, and it appears Royal Caribbean's new dining plans will come with Quantum of the Seas when it is launched this fall in New York, and on Anthem of the Seas when it sets sail next year in Southampton.
The main dining room is gone. It's being replaced with what Royal calls "dynamic dining." The cavernous main dining room is being replaced by five restaurants, each with a unique menu, that offer you a choice of where to dine, who to dine with (or not) and when to dine. You can even go formal in The Grande every night.
Here are the new culinary experiences:
-- Chic -- Royal Caribbean claims this contemporary food style will serve the freshest ingredients with degrees of heat for taste, and that everything, such as sauces, will be made from scratch. It's a theme that is playing well for land-based restaurants.
-- American Icon Grill -- Comfort food capable of crossing many borders is what should be expected.
-- Silk -- Referred to as Pan Asian, with a menu featuring dishes inspired by China, India, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
-- The Grande -- Formal dining every night you're at sea. The dishes are what you would have found in an era when cruising meant a leisurely pace across the Atlantic.
-- Coastal Kitchen -- A Mediterranean-style restaurant for suite guests only.
All but The Grande are casual.
Royal Caribbean nabs Naked Chef
Royal Caribbean loves associations. Think DreamWorks and Starbucks as examples. Now they're connecting with Jamie Oliver, who first became known to us as the Naked Chef -- nothing to do with a lack of clothes and everything to do with cooking style.
A British institution, Jamie has become a crossover hit and is considered a friendly eccentric when appearing on talk shows on this side of the Atlantic. Jamie's Italian will serve Italian favourites using seasonal ingredients for dishes that include seafood bucatini, crab spaghettini and porchetta.
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz and Biggest Loser chef Devin Alexander will also have branded restaurants on board, for a fee, which also goes for Jamie's Italian.
Michael's Genuine Pub will offer simply prepared gastro-pub food like slow-roasted pulled pork sliders and devilled eggs ... perfect with a beer. Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro aims to keep you slim; the chicken satay in peanut sauce gives a hint that each dish will be under 500 calories.
Other dining experiences include Wonderland, where Royal Caribbean chefs "twist their culinary kaleidoscopes" to create elaborate feasts, and past favourites such as Chops Grille, Izumi Japanese Cuzine and Chef's Table.
In total there are 18 restaurants giving Royal's mealtime a major shakeup. There's a video all about it at Youtube.com/watch?vPP7S38BS7TE, and I added more links to the Quantum ships at Portsandbows.com.
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