(3:15 p.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean has decided to stick with its Dynamic Dining program on Anthem of the Seas, as well as other Quantum-class ships -- at least when the passengers are primarily English-speaking.
"We have always been about innovation," said Mark Tamis, Senior Vice President of Operations for Royal Caribbean International. "Sometimes innovation comes with some growing pains. Dynamic Dining was certainly very different than how dining has been delivered on a cruise vacation for a long time. It's been a journey for us, as well as our guests. We're excited to be in the place where we are now."
When it debuted in late 2014, Dynamic Dining -- where passengers make reservations to eat in various venues, rather than a main dining room, with no set times and no set tables -- created controversy among Royal Caribbean regulars. Although many cruise lines, such as Norwegian, had already moved toward giving passengers more choice in dining, the break from tradition took some by surprise.
But Royal Caribbean kept tweaking the concept along the way. It added Dynamic Dining Classic as a compromise on Anthem of the Seas, allowing passengers to choose a fixed time and tablemates, while still rotating restaurants. In the Classic version, waiters stay with the diners as they move through American Icon Grill, Chic, The Grande and Silk -- and the improvement in service is one factor that has made Dynamic Dining work in its current iteration, Tanus said.
Now, customer comment cards and other feedback show that passengers actually like the flexibility in meal times and venues, Tanus said. "It feels like a vacation to them," he said. "It's about having different experiences and variety of experiences."
Still, the line notes that it took time and tweaking to get the concept to where it is now. "We put a lot of work into making it better," Tanus said. "It's about the basics. It's about the time that the waiter spends and engages with the guests. That's always been one of the most important parts of a cruise vacation."
Besides focusing on service, Royal Caribbean has re-engineered the entire Dynamic Dining process, from provisioning to how the food is plated to the menus, Tanus said. New dishes that have been added include roasted beets and citrus salad with pistachio, ricotta and mint; Moroccan spiced ahi tuna with cous-cous, sauteed spinach, pequillo peppers and yogurt vinaigrette; creamy wild mushroom risotto with mascarpone, parmesan-reggiano and white truffle emulsion; and Valrhona chocolate bar with cocoa nibs, nougatine and pistachio meringue.
Currently, Dynamic Dining in both forms, Choice and Classic, is available on Anthem of the Seas, as well as Ovation of the Seas when it sails from Southampton and Australia. Because Quantum of the Seas -- the first Quantum-class ship -- is homeported full-time in Shanghai, it does not have Dynamic Dining, Tanus said.
Instead, the Royal Caribbean vessels sailing in China have a similar concept to Dynamic Dining Classic called Cosmopolitan Dining. "It's more of a group model because of the way the Chinese travel," Tanus said.
Originally, Royal Caribbean had intended Oasis-class ships to receive Dynamic Dining, as well. Those plans were scrapped, and the line has no intention of resurrecting it for Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas or upcoming Harmony of the Seas, Tanus said. "We did go back and look at the population of the guests and how they circulate through the ship," he said. "We looked at Oasis and made a decision that we'll continue with dining as is."
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor