According to spokeswoman Jaye Hilton, the test program was put into place in hopes of better managing guest flow. "[The restaurants] were getting a lot of long lines and unhappy guests, especially on sea days," Hilton says. Because Johnny Rockets facilities are smaller than, say, the buffet areas or dining rooms, the cruise line is banking on the per-person service fee to keep crowds manageable -- which will help servers better interact with guests, as they would in a Johnny Rockets eatery on land.
"This is a permanent charge. We are aware that some customers are concerned about the charge," Hilton says, "but we haven't seen an overwhelming [negative] response." Hilton asssures us that on the two ships testing the fee, "overall guest satisfaction has increased."
The surcharge applies to eat-in orders (which, don't worry, are still "all you can eat") and carry-out orders; guests will pay $3.95 for a set "takeaway" package, which consists of a burger or sandwich, fries, onion rings and dessert. Sodas and shakes will still incur an additional cost. But, as a sweet "peace offering" of sorts, Johnny Rockets restaurants will feature a new at-sea-only dessert, an Oreo fudge sundae (included in the service charge).
The surcharge is in effect on Explorer of the Seas as of this week's sailing; Adventure of the Seas will begin charging the per-person fee on October 24, and Voyager of the Seas on November 6. Kids younger than 5 eat for free; Crown & Anchor members will receive a coupon for one free visit.
Prior to this change, Johnny Rockets was the only no-fee "specialty" restaurant onboard Royal Caribbean's ships. Johnny Rockets is currently found only on Voyager-class ships, though Hilton says expansion is a possibility.