Introduced in 2017, Royal Caribbean's "Ultimate Dining Package" was first available on Harmony of the Seas (Oasis-class) and Anthem of the Seas (Quantum-class). The new package (renamed in 2019 to "Unlimited Dining Package") allows passengers to pay a fixed price for specialty restaurant dinners (every night throughout the cruise), plus specialty restaurant lunches (on sea days only). This CruiseMapper survey is closely related to our reviews on:
- Royal Caribbean Food Menus
- Royal Caribbean Bar Menu Prices
- Royal Caribbean Wine Package/List/Prices
- Royal Caribbean Alcohol Packages
Royal Caribbean dining packages review
RCI's "Ultimate Dining Package" can be pre-purchased online (prior departure) at royalcaribbean.com/cruiseplanner. The package must be purchased for each (individual) cruise ship passenger. Once booked/purchased, it is associated with the passenger's shipboard account. You need to tell your waiter that you've booked the package and he/she will apply all its benefits to your bill.
- Parents don't have to book a dining package for kids as children (ages 6-12) dine at onboard specialty restaurants at a fixed price, while kids ages 5 and under dine free.
- Passengers with booked "Ultimate Dining Package" also receive a USD 50 food credit eligible at all the ship's a la carte priced restaurants.
- On the ship, dining package passengers have to make reservations for each specialty restaurant soon after boarding (as early as possible). Usually, there is a designated place for such passengers to go to (on the first / embarkation day) to make all the reservations needed (to arrange days and mealtimes). This place is usually the Hospitality Desk / Lobby Reception.
- "Ultimate Dining Package" is individual (non-refundable and non-transferable) and can't be combined with Royal Caribbean loyalty program discounts or any other discounted offers/promotions.
NEWS: In April 2019, RCI added the "Unlimited Dining Package", replacing the "Ultimate Dining Package" and now offering most of the cruise liner's specialty dining choices. The new "Unlimited Dining Package" gives passengers the chance to dine at most onboard dining venues without limitations. Package's prices start at USD 24 per person (per day), with the cost varying by ship class and itinerary/destination. The "Unlimited Dining Package" costs USD 35 pp (per day) when includes a la carte priced restaurants. The new package is inclusive of "Johnny Rockets", but "Chef’s Table" and beverages cost extra.
Royal Caribbean also added a specialty dining option allowing passengers to reserve a Chops Grille dinner plus another specialty restaurant dinner. The new "Chops + 1 Dining Package" is available on select voyages and bookable through CruisePlanner. The first dinner must be redeemed on voyage's first or second night, the second - any other night (Chops Grille may not be redeemed). For a la carte priced dining venues, this package includes a USD 35 food credit. "Chops + 1 Dining Package" costs USD 75 per person and excludes Chef’s Table, Izumi Hibachi, Holiday Dinners, Mystery Dinner Theater, wine pairing dinners.
Specialty dining package
Royal Caribbean's specialty dining package price is fixed and cheaper in comparison to booking each venue individually (at its listed price).
Specialty restaurants are at fee restaurants on RCI ships, operated with cover charges (or a la carte priced). The exact cost varies by ship. The specialty dining package includes the restaurant's cover charge. Alcoholic beverages (and some menu items) may not be package price included. An example is the Dry-Aged Porterhouse Steak (20 ounces / 570 grams) at USD 19.
Individual specialty restaurant reservations can be made only onboard. For passengers with "Ultimate Dining Package," RCI makes an automatic reservation for the first (embarkation day) night, but passengers are allowed to change that restaurant (or mealtime) once on the ship ((subject to availability). RCI's automatic reservation confirmation will be placed in your cabin.
RCI's dining packages cost
Royal Caribbean's specialty dining package cost varies by ship/itinerary. However, the average pricing is USD 24 per person per day (or USD 168 pp for a 7-night cruise). Dining Packages must be purchased booked at least 2 days prior to the departure date. They are also subject to availability.
- Dining package prices are inclusive of service charge and dinner (food portion only / excluding drinks and some menu items) and also of sea day lunches (between 12 noon - 2 PM). Package price includes one restaurant per night.
- Additionally, passengers who book Dining Packages enjoy discounted bottled wine pricing in all ship bars and main dining rooms: 40% off (wines priced under USD 100 per bottle) and 20% off (wines priced over USD 100 per bottle.
- For a la carte priced cruise ship restaurants, each dining package passenger receives a USD 50 food credit.
- RCI's specialty dining packages don't include the restaurants Chef's Table (VIP dining room, limited availability) and Izumi Hibachi (Asian restaurant). However, dining package passengers receive a 20% discount when booking the "Chef's Table" package.
- Kids ages 6-12 can be added to your specialty restaurant reservation at fixed (USD 10 per child) cover charge.
- Kids ages 5 and under eat for free.
Royal Caribbean also offers 3 other specialty dining packages, which prices vary by the number of included restaurants.
- "3-Night Dining Package" includes 3 restaurants and costs USD 75 pp.
- "4-Night Dining Package" includes 4 restaurants and costs USD 90 pp.
- "5-Night Dining Package" includes 5 restaurants and costs USD 105 pp.
Note: Dining time is 2 hours per restaurant (dinner).
(savings) Dining Package price vs separate restaurant bookings
Royal Caribbean dining package's fixed price of USD 24 pp per day is usually much cheaper compared to the cost of the specialty restaurant's cover charge. You can compare the USD 24 fixed price to the following specialty restaurant cover charges on the Harmony of the Seas ship (7-day cruise itinerary):
- Day 1 (Chops Grille dinner) USD 49 pp
- Day 2 (150 Central Park dinner) USD 45 pp
- Day 3 (Sabor Mexican lunch) USD 19 pp
- Day 3 (Izumi Hibachi dinner) USD 50 stipend pp
- Day 4 (Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine dinner) USD 49 pp
- Day 5 Jamie's Italian dinner) USD 35 pp
- Day 6 (Jamie's Italian lunch) USD 20 pp
- Day 6 (Sabor Mexican dinner) USD 19 pp
- Day 7 (Johnny Rockets lunch) USD 6 pp
- Day 7 (Chops Grille dinner) USD 49 pp
- No-package total cost: USD 341
- Specialty dining package total cost: USD 168 (pre-cruise booked at a fixed price)
- Dining package's total savings: USD 173 pp.
Know that specialty dining is generally associated with gourmet food, longer meals and a lot of food. If you normally don't eat much food (as the package provides), the above-listed savings are false, just provoking over-consuming.
It also must be mentioned that on each Royal Caribbean ship there are plenty of great-quality complimentary restaurants and food bars, among which are the ship's dining rooms and lido buffet.
(NEW) combined drinks and dining package
In August 2017, RCI introduced a new package that combines "Deluxe Beverage Package" with "Ultimate Dining Package". The combo offer includes:
- unlimited drinks (coffee, bottled water, sodas, juices, spirits, beer and wine by the glass)
- 40% discount on bottles of wine (priced under USD 100) with specialty restaurants dining
- 20% discount on bottles of wine (priced above USD 100) with specialty restaurants dining
- specialty restaurants dinners (every night)
- specialty restaurants lunches (on sea days)
- USD 50 bonus (added as onboard credit) for a la carte priced restaurants dining
- The "Deluxe Beverage and Ultimate Dining" package cost is USD 71 pp (adult) per day.
- Note: For now, the food+drinks package is offered only on Oasis-class ships.
By the year 2024, RCI's parent company RCCL ("Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd") will implement a series of requirements for its global fleet's poultry providers. The announcement was made in May 2018, in regards to corporation's animal food sourcing fleetwide. The program relates to how chickens are bred, raised and processed. Since May 2018, RCCL also uses fleetwide only cage-free eggs and gestation stall-free pork.
By 2024, for all its USA-based ships, Royal Caribbean will purchase poultry only from GAP-certified producers and dealers. RCCL will require chickens to be slaughtered and processed in a manner that doesn't involve live dumping and shackling, thus eliminating conscious throat-slitting and scalding.
RCI's "My Time Dining" vs "Fixed Dining"
Fleetwide, Royal Caribbean International offers two dining types for dinner in Main Dining Room (MDR) restaurants - "My Time Dining" and "Traditional Dining" (aka fixed/assigned).
Traditional Dining review
Fixed dining times are dinner option for choosing between early (first) and late (second) seating in MDRs. Passengers are assigned to a particular table for the whole duration of the voyage. Dining is also at pre-fixed times, with the same tablemates and same waiters - each evening. Some exceptions are offered for groups.
My Time Dining
My Time Dining (aka "flexible dining") is again for MDR dinners but without fixed times and seating (tables). Passengers are allowed to reserve tables in advance or simply to show up whenever they want and wait for available tables.
My Time Dining reservations can be made either prior departure (online) or on the ship. Passengers also can request to be served by the same waiters each evening, but this option usually results in longer waits for tables.
Fixed vs flexible dining (comparison)
The choice is optional and always based on personal preferences, excepting only group travel.
Flexible dining offers great flexibility, but waits for a free table could last up to 45 min. Making advance reservations is a must.
Fixed dining is the sure way, requiring only the choice between two dining times (early or late). For groups (6+ passengers on 1 booking) it is easier as they have the same table each evening. Pre-assigned dining times are usually scheduled around the ship's schedule for live entertainment events.
- My Time Dining pros include free choice of dinner times (on RCI ships the time frame is between 6 - 9:30 pm), better scheduling around excursion and tours (ashore), different table mates (good for more socially active travelers). Dinner flexibility allows passengers to eat on their own schedule and better plan other onboard activities around dinner time. However, making reservations in advance is recommended to short wait times.
- Traditional dining pros include simple planning, more personalized service, convenience (as theater's evening shows are scheduled around assigned dinner times).
Both dining types are for MDR dinners only, both requiring same dress codes for casual and formal nights.
Shipboard food included in cruise fares
RCI ships offer both complimentary and specialty dining, meaning some venues serve unlimited food for free (included with cruise fares) available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as light snacks (grab-and-go options). Such venues (available fleetwide) are Main Dining Room (MDR), Windjammer (Lido buffet restaurant),
grab and go spots for food, such as Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, Sorrento's Pizza, Park Cafe. On Oasis-class liners, Johnny Rockets serves complimentary Breakfast. MDRs and Lido buffets alternate their food menus each evening. All for-free dining venues change daily their menus too.
Bookings with "Traditional Dining" (early or late seating at dinner) don't have to reserve MDR dinners. These passengers must arrive at the designated (first or second seating) dining time and a seat at the same table each evening.
Passengers with "My Time Dining" bookings (open-seating at dinner) are allowed (even recommended) to make advance reservations for each evening. However, they also have the choice to arrive in MDR at a different time each evening. Making reservations (via Cruise Planner) is recommended to ensure quicker seating, especially at peak time (6:30-8 pm).
Specialty restaurants require reservations to make sure a table will be available. These bookings can also be made via Cruise Planner.