Feast or Famine: Will Royal Caribbean's New Dining Packages Save You Money?

December 8, 2011

(4:35 p.m. EST) -- Who says sister lines don't share recipes? Taking a page off Celebrity Cruises' menu, Royal Caribbean has introduced seven new specialty dining packages available on four of its ships.

RCI's new packages are currently being offered on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas. (Radiance and Splendour now feature several restaurants that debuted on the Oasis-class duo, thanks to recent massive refits.) At this time, there's no set date for expansion of the dining packages to additional ships.

The packages range from $50 to $120 (inclusive of gratuities) and vary by ship, with each offering some combination of dinners in the following restaurants: Chops Grille, serving steakhouse fare; Giovanni's Table, a casual Italian eatery; 150 Central Park, which offers modern gourmet tasting menus; Izumi, a sushi bar; and Samba Grill, a Brazilian-style steakhouse, in addition to special chef's table options.

All of these packages can be booked either onboard or online prior to departure, via the line's Pre-Cruise Planner. Celebrity Cruises, which began offering its own wine and dine packages fleetwide this summer, requires that packages be purchased once onboard.

But will passengers actually save?

Aboard either of the Oasis-class ships you can book the "Central Park Package," which features dinner at Giovanni's, 150 Central Park and Chops Grille, from just $65 per person. Booked separately, dining at these three venues would cost $90 per person, so the package deal offers a savings of about 27 percent.

By our estimations, the best value comes with the Chef's Dining Package aboard any of the four ships. From $105 per person, you can get a chef's table experience with wine pairings -- retail price is $95 for the Chef's Table -- and dinner in at least two other restaurants. That means you'll save well over 25 percent. For example, on Splendour of the Seas, the Chef's Dining Package offers a discount of approximately 32 percent -- for $105 per person, it includes the chef's table and dinners at Chops and Izumi, which would normally cost about $155 per person. On Radiance of the Seas, the Chef's Dining Package is $120 and includes the chef's table event and dinner at all of the ship's other specialty restaurants -- Chops Grille, Giovanni's Table, Izumi and Samba Grill -- meaning you'll save over 35 percent by booking the group.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean is also introducing new party packages available on the Oasis-class ships. In Oasis of the Seas' Seafood Shack, passengers can book the "Surf's Up" party, which includes a selection of the eatery's most popular dishes and either three non-alcoholic beverages ($15) or three alcoholic beverages ($25). (Allure of the Seas has offered the comparable "Rita's Fiesta," which includes a selection of Tex-Mex dishes from Rita's Cantina for $10 - $20, with or without alcohol, for some time.) There's also a special prohibition-themed cocktail party -- dress up in your favorite 1920's garb -- at Jazz on 4 aboard Allure. The cover is $35, which includes drinks.

Would you be more inclined to indulge in specialty dining given the savings offered with RCI's new packages?

--by Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Editorial Assistant