Royal Caribbean International has quietly expanded its new Dynamic Dining culinary project to the Oasis of the Seas, which will start offering the alternative dining program in March.
The Oasis will be the first ship that will offer Dynamic Dining without having been purpose-built with the concept in mind, signaling that Royal is not averse to retrofitting smaller, more specialized restaurants to older ships.
Royal quietly announced the change amid the fanfare of a shipyard tour of the Quantum of the Seas. It followed up with a tweet, saying the Dynamic Dining retrofit would be done during a drydock this fall.
Dynamic Dining is Royal Caribbean's name for dividing its complimentary dining among several themed restaurants rather than operating a single large main dining room with two fixed seatings.
On the Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, there will be four complimentary dining rooms, each seating about 430 people, plus a 128-seat restaurant that will be reserved for suite guests.
Royal did not disclose details about how the main dining room on the Oasis, currently a three-deck space seating more than 3,000 people, would be reconfigured for Dynamic Dining.
If it is like the prototype on the Quantum, there will be four concepts to choose from: American Icon Grill, serving rustic, Route 66-inspired fare; Silk, a pan-Asian concept; Chic, a contemporary, glitzy, upscale room; and the Grande, serving continental staples in a formal atmosphere.
For suite guests, Coastal Kitchen will emphasize seafood in a California-meets-Mediterranean fusion.
A tour of the unfinished Quantum for media and travel agents in late August showed off some of the innovative design features already onboard, such as the lenticular photo screens in the American Icon Grill.
The ability to accept reservations in advance of sailing is one of the keys to making Dynamic Dining work. Royal has rolled out a more digital and mobile-friendly Cruise Planner, which replaces an 8-year-old version. Guests can use it to nail down restaurants and times pre-cruise.
Onboard, Royal iQ will be available as a downloadable app or at freestanding stations around the ship, enabling guests to manage details of their trip, including restaurant bookings.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Royal's executive vice president for operations, said that 150,000 reservations have been accepted for Dynamic Dining on Quantum so far. She said that a typical guest booking in advance is reserving most nights, and only leaving one or two nights for spontaneous choice.
"What that told us is guests really do want to plan their vacation," Lutoff-Perlo said.
As part of Dynamic Dining, servers will carry hand-held devices to place orders more quickly. The devices will also list preferences or special diet needs, allowing for more customization, Royal said.
Seating availability will also be posted through Royal iQ in the way it is now displayed on digital screens around the ship.
The fee-extra restaurants on Oasis, such as Chops Grille, Giovanni's Table and 150 Park Central, would also be part of the Dynamic Dining reservations system.
The Opus dining room on Oasis is currently the largest at sea, spanning decks 3, 4 and 5 and offering more than 500 tables attended by 550 staff members. The menu includes items such as prime rib, sea bass, pork medallions and Caesar salad.
On a typical Oasis cruise there are two formal nights. In Dynamic Dining aboard the Quantum, formal nights are dispensed with, while dining in the Grande serves as a substitute for guests who want a formal experience.
Some past Royal guests have commented on cruise community sites that they will miss the regular contact with the same servers that comes with fixed seatings at dinner. Others said they have been waiting for Royal to add a more flexible dining regime.