TRAVEL HERE: MORE OPTIONS THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT
Last week I shared what we chose to add on to our cheapie cruise, which in the end almost doubled the cheap price that had convinced us to book the cruise, but even at twice the price, cruising is a travel bargain. We only booked the bare minimum. Here’s a sampling of what you can get.
Dining Aboard a Cruise Ship
Food is one of the big components of a cruise. All cruises have three meals a day and all the grazing you can stand available in some format. The bigger the ship, the more choices you will have.
Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas has the Windjammer Buffet available at most hours. If you wanted to, you could spend your days in there, eat as much as you wanted. The Aquarius Dining Room has formal seating and you order from a menu. It’s not open for as many hours as the buffet, but you can get three meals a day there. There was also a small short order cafe open pretty much all the time, called the Park Cafe off the Solarium. Eating at these venues will not cost you a dime. You can order whatever you want (Well, almost whatever you want. We’ll cover this later!) and as much of it as you want, without engaging your pocketbook.
Quite frankly, the formal dining room experience is one of my favorite parts of any cruise. I’m just not a buffet girl. I like to be waited on and I like my food best when it is served in fine china on linen table cloths. In addition, the dining room is where you make your cruise buddies on most ships. You come in from a busy day and share experiences with a group of people you may never see again in your life, but for a week they are the best friends you’ve got. So far, we’ve always been lucky in our table mates.
Early in my cruising career, the choices listed above were all the choices you had on board. It was just the way it was. Then cruise lines discovered the formal dining room was the very thing which kept some people off a cruise ship. These potential passengers didn’t want to be forced to make a choice between a casual buffet and dressing for dinner. They wanted other options. The cruise lines also found out these potential passengers would be willing to pay extra for said options. Specialty dining was born.
We did not opt for specialty dining on this cruise. We had an eye on the budget and the cruise was only four nights. When a cruise is longer, having some variety in your evenings is a plus. Besides the specialty dining was a sushi place, a steakhouse and an Italian restaurant – nothing very exciting. On Norwegian there had been a charcuterie, French food and a restaurant with a Cirque de Soleil type show. It made sense to do some exploring and we were traveling with our own cruise buddies.
At first, Bill thought he wanted specialty dining on this cruise, but like me, he wasn’t thrilled by any of the options. We figured steak and some sort of pasta would be on the menu every night in the formal dining room and while we eat sushi from time to time, it’s not one of our favorites. Besides, this was supposed to be a cheapie cruise. Why pay for something that is adequately provided for free?
I did do a thorough evaluation of the offerings and the pricing was interesting. You could enjoy one of the specialty restaurants on one evening for $35-$45 per person. The more specialty dining you did, the more the price went down per meal, but of course, the total price tag went up. If you got the premiere specialty dining package you could go to the specialty restaurants for lunch and dinner everyday and the meals came out to almost nothing. The price included deluxe beverage packages with all the soda and alcoholic beverages you wanted, as well as discounted bottles of wine. I was very tempted to push for that package, but then I realized I’d be adding hundreds of dollars to our costs for something that was provided free in the dining room.
The whole issue of beverages took the decision making to a whole new level. Let’s talk about that next week.