September 23, 2008
Would you pay $14.95 for a steak ... in your cruise ship's main dining room?
That's what's being debated on a thread on Cruise Critic's Royal Caribbean forum. At length! At last count, there were 43 pages of commentary on the subject.
The line is currently testing out a 10-ounce corn-fed New York strip steak onboard two ships -- Freedom of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas -- for an extra cost of $14.95 per person. "It is an all natural organic cut," says spokesperson Harrison Liu. "We are testing to see if there is any interest among our guests for paying a little more for the option of an organically raised cut of beef." The extra-cost au natural entree is available every night.
So how does this new steak on the block affect the rest of the main dining room menu? Here, my friends, is the crux of the controversy. The issue is not even so much the surcharge (because those who don't want to try it simply won't) but more so the worry that there won't be a "free" steak option.
Liu says that the seven-ounce Black Angus sirloin offered every night of the cruise on the "always available" menu (alternatives to the different daily options) is still always available at no extra charge. The new 10-ounce organic offering simply raises the total of main course selections available nightly in the main dining room from 10 to 11. However, Cruise Critic member lysolqn, just back from a cruise onboard Freedom of the Seas, posts a conflicting story: "Sirloin steak did not appear as an alternative option on any of the dinner menus on last week's FOS sailing. The ONLY steak alternative was the one available for $14.95."
It's possible that the always available sirloin option was not printed on the actual menu lysolqn is referring to, even though it was available to those customers who knew enough to ask for it. Or, the sirloin may have been on the menu all along ... and was simply overlooked. At this point, we haven't been able to get to the bottom of this, though Liu is looking into it (we'll keep you posted).
But that's not all. Here's where things get even more confusing: The menu refers to the newly available test cut as a "Chops" steak -- Chops Grille being the line's signature alternative steakhouse eatery which levies a $25 per person surcharge. However, this particular cut or type of steak is not actually served in any of the fleet's Chops restaurants, according to Liu, nor is it prepared by Chops chefs or in Chops galleys. In fact, the beef in Chops is not even necessarily organic, as this steak is.
So why even mention Chops -- and why not simply test out the organic special in Chops, which specializes in quality meats for a premium price? "We wanted to test this in a venue that will garner us the most feedback," Liu says. "We also wanted to [accommodate] guests who would not necessarily go for the full Chops experience but are interested in an organic strip steak or a very choice piece of meat."
There's no word yet how successful (or unsuccessful) the test has been so far, or if and when the change will be made fleetwide.
Oddly enough, this is not the first time a steak has riled up the Cruise Critic community. "Regulars" may remember the Ranch Steak Incident circa 2003, referring to a nightly offering described by member hermang thusly: "ya needed an ax to cut it." Passenger response to that particular dish was so poor (and the butt of enough crewmembers' jokes) that the ranch steak was removed from the menu and replaced with the sirloin.
Once again, cruise travelers are speaking their minds -- but this time, it's less unanimous. Some readers appreciate having the option and applaud Royal Caribbean for expanding its main dining room choices. hermang again weighs in, saying "if you went to Morton's or Smith and Wollensky I guarantee you will pay in excess of $35 for a New York strip and that does NOT include anything but water. If I can get a $35 steak for $15 -- I would be glad to do it for a meal or two. I always do Chops or Portofino and consider it well worth the add-on."
But still others think it's an unsavory attempt to drum up dollars in light of poor economic conditions. Says Brad1185, "Can't believe their profits are hurting this bad that they have to start this charge."
What's your take? Vote in our poll!
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor