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Food at your fingertips on Royal Caribbean

January 24, 2011

I’m back on Canadian soil after soaking up the Caribbean sun last week.   A much-needed break from this bitterly cold winter.   Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret if you promise to keep the jokes to a minimum.   The vacation detail I’m hesitant to share is that we spent our 7 day vacation in the Caribbean…on a cruise.    It’s that “c” word that gets me into trouble.  After my first cruise a few years ago I heard it time and time again — “You went on a cruise?  Didn’t know you were eighty years old!”  I’ve suffered through a few years of mockery and have finally accepted it.  I’m a cruiser and am not the least bit ashamed about it.

Our friends had reservations as we did, but with a couple of drinks, Keith and I successfully convinced our travelling buddies, Miki and Brad, to come cruising.   The four of us had an eventful and stressful vacation the year prior in Costa Rica (if you recall, our passports and credit cards were stolen).   A cruise was on the other end of the vacation spectrum – stress-free and relaxing (assuming the ship doesn’t pull a Titanic).

As I mentioned, this would be our second cruise.  Keith and I joined my parents a few years ago with Royal Caribbean (on the Independence of the Seas) for my 30th birthday and to our surprise, we quite enjoyed it.   Being a food lover, you can guess what appealed to me.  F-O-O-D.   And lots of it.  Imagine having an expansive menu at your fingertips all day long, in endless quantities and for free.  If you possess willpower, it’s a wonderful thing.  If you do not, it’s disasterous as we all learned on day 8 when we stepped off the plane and onto the scale.  

During our first cruise, I would have ranked the food an 8 out of 10.   This time around we sailed on the Adventure of the Seas (one class below the Independence) and the food was good, but not as memorable as the first time.   Overall, we gave it a 7.5 out of 10.

Although, dining isn’t just about what’s on your plate.  The folks who bring you that plate also have an influence on the overall rating.  Well, Royal Caribbean is masterful when it comes to making their guests feel like royalty.  Especially while dining.  The waiters are incredibly friendly despite their grueling work hours and limited days off.   They make the experience a memorable one.  By the end of the week you’ll find it hard to say “good-bye”.   Here we are on our last night with our new friends (the servers) Desmond and Mark.  Brad and Keith surprised us with Hawaiian shirts for the occasion.  Can you tell I’m embarrased? (I’m the one in white). 

Royal Caribbean - Dining Room

Here’s a glimpse of all the hot spots for food on the ship and where we gained the extra weight.  Beware that there is NOTHING “healthy”to be read in the following paragraphs.  I put wellness and my gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle aside for this vacation.

Breakfast:

We ended up in the Windjammer Cafe for 6 out of 7 days.  There was a wide variety of options including fruit (but no berries which is disappointing), scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, french toast, pancakes, waffles, pastries, potatoes with sautéed veggies, and the list goes on.  That variety got stale quickly given that the same items were offered day after day.  Day after day my plate was topped up with hardboiled eggs, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs (you can never have enough eggs!), tomatoes and a fruit medley (pineapple and melons).   Later in the week I discovered their cottage cheese and muesli (separate items) which I happily added to my meal. 

You also have the option of eating at the Dining Room (see photo above) before 9:30am or so.  It’s a much nicer atmosphere than the buffet.  You are seated and served by wait staff and order off a menu.  While waiting for your dish to arrive you can wander over to the buffet for fresh fruit (strawberries included), yogurt, and granola to satisfy your hunger (although you’re rarely hungry on a cruise – there’s no chance to build up an appetitie because you’re always eating).  Plus, the waiters are floating around with platters of baked goods.  We tried the chocolate banana bread (mmm…mmmm).  Yes, chocolate for breakfast.  Anything goes on a cruise.

Lunch:

Around noon, the Windjammer transitions over to lunch.  Sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, pasta, potatoes (can you say ‘carb overload’!), steamed veggies, a salad bar, variety of meat/fish dishes, paella and of course the dessert bar.   There must have been 15 or more items.  Reminded me of a midnight buffet at an Italian wedding.  Cookies, cakes, bars, mouse, ice cream, jello, fruit, sugar, sugar and more sugar.  Luckily there were only a few desserts that caught my eye so I didn’t get out of hand (I make up for it later).  Unlike breakfast, the lunch menu was modified to some degree.   For instance, one day the rice dish would have meat and the next would be a seafood medley.   On a couple of occasions we grabbed lunch while we were off the ship exploring the islands. 

The other option for lunch, dinner, a snack or the fourth meal of the day was good ol’ Johnny Rockets.   Sound familiar?  If you’ve been to Yonge-Dundas Square there’s one on the north-east side.  I would never consider walking through those doors while I’m at home, but on a cruise…they didn’t have to ask me twice.  We had lunch there once where they start you off with some deep-fried, artery clogging appetizers – a side of fries and onion rings.  Nothing special.  Then came the burgers.  Miki and I tried to be relatively healthy ordering a grilled chicken burger topped with grilled mushrooms which was surprisingly good (except for the white bun).  The boys enjoyed a chocolate milkshake with their hamburgers.  We were feeling perfectly satisfied when the waiter strolled by and asked “Dessert for anyone?”.  When in Rome…you get an Oreo sundae.  

Johnny Rockets oreo sundae

Snacks:

The milkshakes at Johnny Rockets are a-maz-ing.  They don’t stop at chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  Peanut butter (my choice) and Oreo are also available.  I’m sure I slurped back a full day’s worth of calories. 

Johnny Rockets peanut butter milkshake

Along the Royal Promenade – a walkway down the centre of the ship with shops, bars and more – there’s Cafe Promenade which serves different pizzas daily.  We were there so often we must have tried every flavour.   A few of the ones I sampled: sun-dried tomato, tuna (yes, tuna pizza) and grilled veggie.  I was impressed with how tasty they were;  just the right amount of toppings and sauce with a perfectly baked crust (not too thin or too thick).   The cafe also serves up sandwiches and desserts.  Their brownies and coconut oatmeal cookies were snack staples.  We always seemed to conveniently pass the Cafe while making our way around the ship.  When we did, the sight and smell of their snacks lured us in everytime.   

Ok, I think we should pause here for tonight.   This post is a little lengthier than I had planned and I’m sure you’re exhausted from reading it (assuming you even made it this far).   I’ll save the dinner review with lots of photos for another day.

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