Serenade of the Seas Dining
Reflections, the ship's main dining room, spans two decks. The focal point of its decor is a cascading waterfall -- a bit of an exotic touch. 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.) Otherwise the restaurant operates under an "open seating" policy for breakfast and lunch. Tables for two were at a premium.
The food was delicious and offered a nice variety each night, including alternate menu items for those on restricted diets (fellow passengers raved about the sugar-free key lime pie!). A midnight buffet is offered once per cruise; be sure to read the Compass or get details from your waiter, as you don't want to miss out on the lavish presentation and sinful desserts (I did and am still kicking myself!).
Another tip: At dinner time in Reflections, lines tended to form in the entryways before each seating began; I'd recommend arriving about five minutes after your seating time to avoid the crowds.
Windjammer, on Deck 12, is the ship's buffet and is the perfect place to grab breakfast or lunch pre-shore excursion, when you don't want to devote hours to Reflections. There are themed stations (hot food, deli fare, pasta, salads, etc.) and, as with its Radiance-class siblings, the innovative design of the buffet area - lots of stations rather than one long line - eliminates overcrowding.
In the Windjammer you'll find a mini-type bar that sells wine, beer and sodas; lemonade, ice tea, coffee and water are offered on a complementary basis.
If, at peak hours, you find it hard to nab a table at Windjammer head for the back of the Cafe, where there's a delightful (and oft-undiscovered) outdoor seating area that's covered.
The Seaview Cafe, way up on deck 12, is another often bypassed "find" -- it's a great spot for bar food (and has lovely views, not to mention some coveted outdoor tables). It was open daily from noon - 6:30 p.m., then again from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
At the Solarium Cafe, other snacks were available -- ranging from healthful hummus, couscous and vegetable wraps) to not-so-healthy (brownies and ... beware of the uber-greasy pizza). Appetizers/snacks were served throughout the ship on various days. Check the Compass each night for the late-night offerings.
Specialty dining options include Chops, an upscale steakhouse, and Portofino, an elegant Italian restaurant. An additional fee applies ($20 per person in Portofino, $30 in Chops), though it's worth the charge and a nice change from Reflections. Passengers cited Chops as having the largest baked potatoes they'd ever seen, along with crab cakes that were to die for. Portofino is subdued and arguably the most romantic place onboard, serving a six-course Italian meal in a scene set by low lighting and amid a muted decor of creams and golds. Regardless of the ship's official dress code, guests who eat at Portofino or Chops Grille are asked to go as "smart casual."
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.