The second word? Surcharges.
Moving even beyond Norwegian Cruise Line's "Freestyle" ships, which offer a plethora of for-fee eateries -- Asian, steakhouse, French -- Oasis of the Seas is introducing a head-spinning number of cafes, bistros, tapas bars and fast-food venues.
And an equally impressive number will require passengers to shell out a little extra cash. Of more than 20 potential dining options onboard, including room service, 12 incur at least some sort of up-charge (for example, the Solarium Bistro is complimentary for breakfast and lunch but costs $20 per person at dinner).
Frankly, we're not at all surprised by all these added costs. New ships like Celebrity's innovative Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Equinox are providing passengers with an unprecedented number of dining options, and with all the choice come added fees. With a vessel of Oasis' size -- it'll be the largest cruise ship in the world -- passenger flow is also a consideration. Spreading the passengers evenly bow to stern is a balancing act, one that's partly achieved by controlling where they eat. Again, this comes down in part to surcharges.
Beyond pricing for specialty restaurants, other highlights of the Web cast included sneak peeks at menus and one surprise announcement -- as of July 9, Oasis of the Seas guests can begin making reservations for these eateries online, using their booking number.
So what's for dinner (and breakfast and lunch)? We've rounded up sample menus for five of the new-to-RCI restaurants debuting on Oasis -- click here to view them all. Also, full details of each venue are available below, organized by neighborhood.
Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
Pool and Sports Zone
The Royal Promenade
Oasis' Central Park, a lush outdoor area featuring live foliage, will host a number of restaurants and cafes, all of which will feature indoor and outdoor seating (plenty of indoor seating, we're told, if the Caribbean weather gets dicey).
Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean's staple steakhouse venue, is back, this time featuring indoor and outdoor seating. The surcharge to eat here will be $25.
Giovanni's Table is a casual Italian dining venue offering food served family-style, replacing Royal Caribbean favorite Portofino. Eating here will cost passengers $10 for lunch and $15 for dinner.
150 Central Park is new to Oasis and will serve as its most exclusive dining venue. Open only for dinner, the venue will offer tasting menus, special multi-course meals paired with wines and an extensive wine list. There's an additional fee of $35 per person to eat here.
Oasis of the Seas will feature Vintages, the wine bar on Freedom- and Voyager-class ships -- but with a twist. Beyond the wine, the venue on Oasis will include a tapas menu, which will be available as part of a Vintages dining package and a la carte.
The Park Cafe is a quick service option located in Central Park. You can grab coffee and a small sandwich here, but the venue will also offer full meals, comprised of soups and made-to-order salads, sandwiches and wraps. Again, seating is available both indoors and outdoors. The Park Cafe is Central Park's no-fee dining option.
The Boardwalk, Oasis of the Seas' outdoor venue inspired by Coney Island, will feature several dining options (alongside the fake tattoo parlor, wooden carousel, a fortune teller and carnie games).
Johnny Rockets, Royal Caribbean's staple old-timey burger joint, is back, albeit in an expanded form with more outdoor seating. Representatives from the line say the menu will be the same (St. Louis Burger remains). Cover charge here is $4.95 per person for lunch or dinner. A breakfast will also be offered here for $3.95.
Across from Johnny Rockets is the Seafood Shack, a casual Boardwalk venue serving up coconut shrimp, soup served in sourdough rolls, fish sandwiches, fried seafood baskets, baby back ribs and the like. Wait staff here will dress the part, donning long board shorts and Quicksilver shirts; surf music will enhance the setting. Expect to pay $7.95 for lunch and $9.95 for dinner for one soup/appetizer, one entree and one dessert. Passengers can order any additional item (another appetizer, soup, entree or dessert) for $3.50 each.
The main no-fee option in this neighborhood is the Boardwalk Bar, which will serve salads and sandwiches. There's lots of outdoor seating here; a large umbrella-shaped cover will protect diners from the sun or inclement weather.
There will also be a Boardwalk Donut Shop (free donuts and coffee, for-fee coffee drinks), featuring a rotating selection 15 donut varieties; an ice cream parlor (a la carte); and a candy shop (for fee).
Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
The Vitality Cafe is located by the entrance of the fitness center. It'll be a spot for post-workout or -treatment snacks or meals. The venue -- open for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- will serve salads, wraps, fruits, juices and smoothies, specialty tea and energy drinks. Pricing is a la carte.
Pool and Sports Zone
Within the adults-only solarium is the Solarium Bistro, which will offer a low-calorie buffet for breakfast and lunch, before transforming into a suppertime bistro also serving healthy items. The goal is to keep each entree at 500 calories or less. Passengers will also have the option to ask for nutritional info (a bit ho-hum considering lines like Celebrity already have that info posted on menus). Royal Caribbean is positioning this as a healthy daytime alternative to Windjammer. The Solarium Bistro is fee-free for breakfast and lunch, but $20 per person for dinner.
The Wipeout Cafe, located between the two FlowRiders, serves regular grill offerings -- burgers, dogs and fries -- at no extra charge.
The Royal Promenade
Oasis of the Seas' Promenade, a massive shopping boulevard with stores, cafes and bars, will offer a variety of casual options for snacking and dining.
Sorrento's, the well-established pizza joint available on Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, has evolved slightly on Oasis, and will now offer made-to-order pizza (pick your toppings) as well as pizza-by-the-slice. There's no extra charge to eat here.
Cafe Promenade, another RCI stalwart, will serve Seattle's Best coffee as well as pastries and snacks. Everything's included in your cruise fare except for specialty coffee drinks, which are available at an additional cost.
Mondo Coffee Bar is a second place to grab your java drinks. The venue will serve up coffee drinks like iced coffee and espresso. There is a per-item charge.
The Opus Dining Room is Oasis of the Seas' massive, three-level dining room done in 1920's French Art Deco style, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Passengers can choose a traditional set-seating (main and late) dining experience or Royal Caribbean's new My Time dining program. With My Time, passengers can make reservations in advance of their meal or simply walk in any time.
The Windjammer Marketplace is the ship's main buffet venue, open for all three squares. Folks familiar with Royal Caribbean's buffet options will find no surprises here. Passengers can choose from a rotating menu of over 120 different choices.
Izumi, a new concept for Royal Caribbean, will feature Asian specialties, including sushi, hot pot and something called hot rock cooking (food is cooked using 575 degree volcanic rocks). The menu is a la carte -- you'll pay by sushi roll or dish. For example, rolls start from $1 during lunch. Prices are higher during dinner.
Room service is, of course, still available. Most items, like sandwiches and salads, are complimentary, but there are a few specialty items, such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream bars and cheesecake, that carry an extra cost. Also, there is a $3.95 surcharge for food items ordered -- not delivered -- between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor