It's an unconfirmed fact, the number one cruise activity is eating.
It's a very leisurely process, with dinner taking up to three hours. It was exhausting. Honestly, by the end of the cruise, my ideal fantasy for dinner involved me, sitting on a couch with a bag of chips in my PJ's.
Cruise ship dining technically begins as soon as you book your vacation. It starts with the wardrobe. You simply can't eat dinner without proper attire, it's part of the cruise experience. Wardrobe planning is stressful. For dinners, I ended up packing eight dresses, four skirts and seven pairs of shoes. For our two week cruise, we had three "formal" nights, about four "semi-formal" nights and the rest were designated "smart-casual". The dress code was open to a wide range of interpretation, but here is how we broke it down.
1. Formal- The adult men wore tuxes (or as the Brits call them, Dinner Jackets). To ease our packing, Dan was able to rent a tux on the ship. They brought it our stateroom with all of the accessories and shoes. He looked great. They don't do rentals for kids though, so Felix had to do with a button-down shirt and dress slacks. He's five and he looked snazzy. The women wore fancy cocktail dresses or dressy suits. Zoe, who just turned eight, looked beautiful in her dressiest dresses. The kids actually really enjoyed dressing up. They didn't so much enjoy the long meals.
2. Semi-Formal- Dress shirts, sports coats, summer dresses. This is the attire you would wear to a non-formal summer wedding.
3. Smart Casual- Short sleeve button-down shirts, "nice" jeans, less fancy sun dresses.
These dress codes applied to the main dining room and the specialty dining restaurants. A few nights we ate in the Windjammer cafe, which is the ultra casual,buffet option. The only dress-code in the Windjammer is no bathing suits. Although tee-shirts and shorts are fine in the Windjammer, you'll see people still adhering to the evening dress-code and they will give you the stink-eye if you're dressed down.
Dress code explained, let's get to the food. There are several dining options on the ship, some are part of the fare and some require an additional fee. In this post, I'm going to share our experiences at two of the specialty dining restaurants.
On our first day of the cruise, my in-laws purchased a specialty dining package, which included a discounted cover-charge at two of the restaurants (Chops Grille and Giovanni's Table), plus 20% off at Izumi.
On the first formal night, we dined at Chops Grille. Here we are, ready to head to dinner.
As suite guests, Chops Grille was actually our dining room for breakfast and lunch. When we came for dinner, we already knew the servers and we were seated at "our table".
Our appetizers included bacon wrapped scallops, crab cakes and a goat cheese salad.
Zoe showed her adventurous side and decided to try a "colossal shrimp cocktail" for her starter. Unfortunately, it wasn't what she had expected. I ate if for her, it was delicious. To be honest, it wasn't what I had anticipated either!
Luckily, Chops Grille had kid approved pizza and plain pasta with butter.
The adults feasted on steak, lobster and a variety of vegetables. My vegetarian mother-in-law, had a creamy pasta with mushrooms. This was a first-rate steak house meal.
The mud pie with strawberry sauce is not to be missed.
We enjoyed our dinner at Chops Grille so much, that we returned for our final dinner of the cruise.
On a more casual note, we ate lunch twice at Johnny Rockets.
Johnny Rockets is an American chain restaurant and really, it's not one of my favorites. We have one about ten minutes from our house and we rarely eat there. However, this was an awesome treat for the kids. They absolutely loved it and our meals there were a true highlight of our cruise.
The surcharge for Johnny Rockets was about five dollars a person, which included unlimited food from the menu. Beverages, including milkshakes, were an extra charge. How could anyone possibly resist the milkshakes? Look at these happy kids!
Felix's koala even got to join us. Koala enjoyed the ocean view.
The food was the same quality as Johnny Rockets in America. It was nice to have some burgers and hot dogs after all of the fancy cruise meals. Felix surprised us by being a bottomless pit for onion rings. He just kept eating them!
The staff is what made Johnny Rockets such a fun place to eat. Each table had a juke box and with certain songs, all of the servers would do a dance routine, like to the YMCA. The kids LOVED this! A stand-out server was Jess from the Philippines. Jess was the slickest dancer with his cool sunglasses, but he also did magic tricks. He was just super personable and attentive. There were many amazing crew members, but Jess was a particular stand-out, who went the extra mile to make our vacation special.