Navigator of the Seas Dining
The three-story main dining room -- with each of its three levels named after famous ballets: Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker -- is exquisite, with a warm and welcoming color scheme in burgundy and gold, a grand staircase and a bronze sculpture of a dancer. There aren't too many tables for two in the dining room, but those who wish to dine a deux have a variety of options in the alternative dining venues.
For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.) The restaurant is open seating for everyone at breakfast and lunch every day.
Cuisine is generally well-prepared, if not innovative. (Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line.) Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin).
Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two. The ship's best-kept secret may be that lunch in the dining room is one of the better meals onboard. The salad bar is staffed by chefs, who create salads according to your instructions; the ingredients (fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses) are fresher and more varied than in the Windjammer, and the heaping plate of veggies can easily stand alone as a full meal, especially for vegetarians. Plus, the Brasserie30 option, which allows you to choose two menu items and finish your meal within 30 minutes, is a terrific choice for those who want to get back to the pool or other onboard activities.
Two restaurants with fees are Chops Grille ($30 per person) on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serving traditional steakhouse fare including steaks and chops, salmon, family-style mashed potatoes, and sinful desserts. Portofino ($20 per person), also in the Plaza area, is the other specialty restaurant. It is a romantic, oceanview venue, serving Northern Italian cuisine -- from an antipasto appetizer pasta first course, meat second course and dessert (we never tire of the tiramisu).
Johnny Rockets, a Voyager-class staple at this point, is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes (my mouth is watering just remembering a late afternoon snack there). There's a $4.95 per person charge to eat at Johnny Rockets -- whether you eat in the restaurant or order for take-out. Beverages (such as the fabulous milkshakes) are available for an extra charge -- and you can even get a draught beer.
The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serves buffet-style breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, thirst quenchers and frozen yogurts make it easy to get your choices for a meal expeditiously. As part of RCI's Golden Anchor Standard of service, waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to be getting up or juggling drinks with your food.
Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines (sometimes an eclectic mix of all three). Such dishes as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons made for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. As well, passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Plaza area.
The Cafe Promenade is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. This no-fee sidewalk cafe is great for people-watching (it's located on the Royal Promenade) -- and serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies as well as espressos made with Seattle's Best Coffee (which is priced a la carte). Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, with 16 of the company's famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $2.50; medium cup, $3.25; large cup, $4. Add $1 for a waffle cone. If you are watching your expenses, next door to Ben & Jerry's is Sprinkles, a free frozen yogurt station.
Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.