Dining Getting Royal Treatment


We spent last weekend in Las Vegas, because that's what people who like Jimmy Buffett do when he's playing his tunes for you and 15,000 of your closest friends. And speaking of friends, a woman of our vintage said "Did you eat lots of food?" after we returned, because that's what Vegas used to be known for, and obviously still is…to people who haven't been there for a while.

Well, Vegas has changed, if you hadn't noticed. No more $1.99 buffets — matter of fact, Jimmy's no cheap Buffett either — unless you're a high roller, in which case you don't frequent $1.99 buffets.

Cruise ships were known for the same thing, cheap food, and if you want to make the connection between slots and table games in both places, go ahead. Then cruise lines invented specialty restaurants, to "sell" copious amounts of upscale food for an extra $5 at first…now up to $30 or $35.

That's per person, of course.

Just like airlines are enjoying the fruits of all those extra charges, it seemed cruise lines were profiting, too.

And now?

Now, Royal Caribbean has changed the game. It's upgrading the free food. The icing is off the cake, so to speak. Now the customers want more than copious amounts…they want quality.

Here's what Royal Caribbean is doing:

1. Changing complimentary dining menus to include "dishes infused with regional flavors reflective of the destinations of the world the line’s ships sail to)…translation: dining room patrons want variety.

2. Improving choices for guests with dietary restrictions. For example, daily gluten-free bread offerings will be available upon request, for those with conditions like celiac disease. A new widely-recognized vegetarian symbol will appear in the appropriate place on menus.

3. Ramping up the quality. It's rare that you find dishes like these in the main dining room with any regularity — rack of lamb, surf & turf, premium beef sliders, escargot bourguignonne and “hot from the oven” blueberry peach crumble. You will now.

Royal Caribbean calls it the "next evolution" of dining concepts, which is fine. We call it trying to deliver what used to make cruise ships famous: cheap, good food.

Is Vegas next?

Carnival Miracle
8 nights
January 17, 2013
New York (return): Port Canaveral, Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $49

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