When you’re on vacation, what you eat is just as important as the places you visit and the memories you make. Whether it’s dishes that represent the local flavor of the destinations you’re sailing to, or just the feeling of siting down to enjoy an amazing meal with your loved ones, great food enhances any experience.
On Royal Caribbean, variety is never an issue — you’ve got tons of options to choose from at every turn. But two complimentary favorites that you’ll find on every ship are the Main Dining Room and the Windjammer Café — known as Windjammer Marketplace on select ships. Both serve breakfast, lunch and dinner complimentary with your cruise fare, but each has its own vibe and advantages. Whether you’re after a quick and casual bite to eat in between deck-side thrills or an upscale night out with your partner in adventure, here’s a guide to help you decide which cruise restaurant will best cater to your culinary cravings and how to maximize your experience at each.
Pressed for time or just want to fuel up without any fuss? Head to Windjammer. It’s set up as a complimentary self-serve buffet, which means you can be in and out as quickly as you like if you’re hurrying to get to your next activity onboard. That said, you’re welcome to stay a while if you prefer — every Windjammer in the fleet offers lots of seating near windows that look out over the pool deck and the ocean, making this fast-casual dining option a fan-favorite spot to unwind and soak up the breathtaking sea views. You can hang out as long as you want and try as many dishes as you like, so go ahead and grab seconds — you know you want to.
Windjammer is also the better bet if you’re trying to grab a bite without getting all dressed up. While Royal Caribbean doesn’t require a formal dress code in the Main Dining Room, Windjammer is still the more casual complimentary dining option of the two and a perfect choice for both adults and families with small children. But though you might be dining comfy in a t-shirt, the food is still dressed to impress no matter what time of day you choose to stop by. Come breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’re in for a sprawling buffet of tantalizing and beautifully displayed global flavors.
Maybe you want to treat your special someone to an elevated date night at sea. Or maybe you’re celebrating a special occasion. Sometimes it’s just nice to take your family dinner to the next level — and there’s no better place onboard to do that than the Main Dining Room. The largest dining venue on most our cruises, the Main Dining Room delivers a traditional multi-course dinner experience in a beautiful upscale setting with a dedicated wait staff — all included in your cruise fare. Dinner here is meant to be savored. The menu spotlights international dishes with several rotating options, and you can order as many of each as you like. There’s also a kids’ menu offering finger foods like burgers, pizza and chicken fingers. The recommended style of dress for dinner in the Main Dining Room is resort casual, so think sun-dresses, nice slacks, blouses and collared shirts. And on formal night, you can always dial it up a notch.
If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, don’t worry — both Windjammer and the Main Dining Room will help you find something delicious that works for you. The menu in the Main Dining Room is completely customizable to suit different tastes and needs — you can request modifications on any dish that catches your eye, or even ask the chef to surprise you based on your preferences. On the other hand, Windjammer offers an extensive range of options from morning to night. At breakfast, you’ll find stations serving up everything from custom fluffy omelets to indulgent treats like muffins, pastries and sweet breads — not to mention fresh fruit and just-pressed juices. At lunchtime, expect comfort food like burgers, sandwiches and salads, plus rotating international options like Asian stir-fry, Caribbean-inspired entrees, Indian specialties and more. Dinner serves up just as much delicious diversity, with carving stations, vegetarian spreads and a decadent assortment of deserts.
Like Windjammer, the Main Dining Room will usually set up a self-serve buffet area during breakfast and lunch for guests who are on-the-go. But the key draw of eating here is the option to order off the menu and enjoy personalized service from a world-class wait staff while you taste your way through a wide variety of gourmet goodness — like heavenly French toast and waffles, golden hash browns sizzled to perfection, hearty home-cooked oatmeal, and eggs prepared just the way you like them with all your favorite classic breakfast sides. For an additional charge, you can also opt to take part in the Bottomless Galley Brunch and start your day off with unlimited bubbles. In the Main Dining Room, every meal comes with the VIP treatment.
You don’t need reservations to dine at Windjammer, which is convenient if you like to play your day by ear rather than stick to a schedule. Peak hours are between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. for breakfast and between 7 and 8 p.m. for dinner — but remember there are other dining options open during these times, like the Main Dining Room.
Breakfast and lunch in the Main Dining Room are first-come first-serve, so no reservation needed. If you’re joining for dinner, you have two options: traditional dining, or My Time Dining. If you go with traditional dining, you’ll be assigned either an “early” dinner seating between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. or a “late” seating between 8 and 8:30 p.m. You can choose your preference when you book your cruise.
If you opt for My Time Dining, feel free to arrive whenever you like during the venue’s open hours. You’re welcome to walk-in, or you can make a reservation in advance if you want to avoid waiting for a table during peak dinner hours.
*Hours may vary by ship and are subject to change. Check your Cruise Compass for accurate hours of operation.
Though cruise booking generally opens several months in advance, deals on long weekend cruises may post just weeks or even days before departure. If you're flexible about when you sail, you'll enjoy some pretty sweet deals.
On the other hand, for Labor and Memorial Day weekend cruises, booking (or at least searching) early is often a fact of life. Begin shopping early in the year, and book as soon as you begin to notice availability decreasing.
Be smart when you get onboard to avoid undue stress. For example, eat before or after typical meal times, then enjoy less crowded common areas while most others are eating.