Overall, the dining onboard Liberty of the Seas was one of the least exciting aspects of the cruise, but the great service made up where the cuisine might have lacked. The dishes were consistently average and just didn't measure up to previous Royal Caribbean cruises we've been on in terms of flavor or imagination, both in the main dining room, the buffet or in the specialty restaurants, with occasional exceptions.
Passengers have their choice of dining in the main dining room or Jade and the Windjammer buffet for breakfast and lunch. Vegetarian, gluten- and lactose-free items are always available on the menu. Fee-based dining is available in five specialty restaurants for lunch or dinner, and there is a variety of snack-type options throughout the ship.
Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Botticelli (Decks 3, 4 and 5): These three dining rooms are stacked atop one another, with filigree iron railings overlooking an open atrium filled with the warm glow of chandeliers. Passengers seated near the oversized windows are treated to premium waterfront views. A grand staircase toward the aft of the dining rooms is the backdrop for various songs and dances performed by wait staff on select evenings.
Breakfast and lunch are served on Deck 3, when the Rembrandt dining room is called Royal Brasserie; breakfast is from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Choose from cooked to order eggs, breakfast meats, yogurt, fruit and cereals, French toast, pancakes and pastries. Lunch is only available on sea days from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The daily menu includes soups, sandwiches, pastas and specialty entrees such as hamburgers, enchiladas and a fish of the day. A salad bar during lunch in the main dining room involves a chef assembling your ingredients for you and whisking them together with your chosen dressing.
For dinner, you can choose traditional set seating dining (5:30 or 8 p.m., with the 5:30 slot being the most popular, especially among families) or My Time Dining, which gives passengers flexibility on when they'd like to eat. The menus are the same, but you won't necessarily have the same wait staff or tablemates, as you will with traditional dining. Families with kids old enough to attend the Adventure Ocean kids' club can enroll their kids in My Family Time Dining, which means counselors will pick them up outside the dining room and escort them to the kids' club near the end of dinner, saving parents a trip to Deck 12 (and maybe giving them some time for a quiet dessert course).
Each night, you'll be presented with a menu with a variety of entree choices, as well as a specialty dish that highlights an ingredient the chef has chosen to spotlight. For example, on different menus you might see Mojo (mojo-marinated pork chop), Saffron (pan-fried fish with saffron cauliflower) and Shiitake (Japanese shrimp dumplings), paired with appetizers such as escargots, shrimp cocktail, caprese salad and chilled mango and pineapple soup. There are also "Classics," dishes that are on the menu every night, including beef sliders, pasta, fish, strip steak and chicken. You can always add a lobster tail or a premium steak for an upcharge, as well.
Menu symbols indicate which dishes are vegetarian, gluten-free or lactose-free, and a "Vitality" symbol indicates that it is health conscious. A bread selection is always offered (the freshly baked rolls were a family favorite) and if you have room for dessert, there are a handful of options, including housemade ice cream.
The service in the main dining room was generally impeccable -- we found that the wait staff remembered our likes and dislikes (including bringing a dish of fruit and a glass of iced tea for our kids at the start of every meal), and were quick to refill drinks and remove dirty dishes.
Jade & Windjammer Cafe (Deck 11): One part nautical theme, one part breathtaking (with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the aft of the ship) and two parts madhouse depending on the time of day, the Windjammer is the quintessential casual cafe for grabbing breakfast, lunch, dinner and the occasional snack. It might take you five minutes to find seating during peak times, but you can usually reliably find a table in the lesser populated areas near the front of the restaurant.
The Windjammer opens for breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from noon to 3:30 p.m. and dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. You'll be greeted by a row of hand-sanitizing stations and an attendant who reminds you to smile and wash your hands before diving into the buffet ("no washy-washy, no yummy-yummy," one crew member on our cruise was fond of saying).
For breakfast, passengers can enjoy a variety of fresh fruits, eggs, breakfast meats, Asian-style dishes such as congee, plus pastries, cereals and an omelet station. The lunch menu features a rotating menu of Asian dishes in Jade, like curries and fried rice, plus pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and various hot entrees (ribs, honey fried chicken) and soups. A variety of salads are always available, as well. Dinner usually features a variety of sushi options in Jade, plus entrees you might find in the main dining room, like fish, steak and chicken, plus side dishes and desserts.
A departure from other Royal Caribbean cruises we've been on, we found the Windjammer's cuisine to be occasionally a bit better than what was served in the main dining room. In particular, the Asian cuisine in the Jade Restaurant portion of the buffet was authentically prepared and delicious. Another surprise: Although there is a much-heralded lobster night in the main dining room, we were shocked to find lobster tails also being served in the Windjammer late one random evening during a snack run. Seafood fans: keep your eyes peeled.
Cafe Promenade (Deck 5): If you're interested in some light bites, like cafe-style tuna sandwiches on a croissant or cranberry-coconut macaroons, pound cake and other baked goods, head to this cozy bookshop-styled Promenade coffee shop, open 24 hours. This is somewhat of a hidden gem on Liberty, as many people don't realize that you can get a free snack or light lunch here. All the food in the display case is available for free, along with serve-your-own iced tea, lemonade and coffee. If you want a Starbucks coffee drink, you'll pay an extra $3 to $5.
Sorrento's Pizza (Deck 5): Styled like a fast-casual Italian restaurant with red vinyl booths and porthole windows, Sorrento's is open in the Promenade from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Here you can order up a slice of pizza, made with various toppings, along with a variety of salads and sides -- such as an olive tapenade and a caprese salad, along with a selection of desserts. During lunch hours, there can be a short line here. We found the pizza looked better than it tasted, and we opted not to return for another meal after our first experience, though as the line attests to, others seemed to enjoy it. It does make a great stop-off for a stack of cookies if you're in need of a snack.
Sprinkles Ice Cream (Deck 11): If you don't feel like splurging for Ben & Jerry's, you can twist your own soft serve ice cream into a plain cone, generally open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. next to the main pool. Don't let the name "Sprinkles" fool you -- it's garden variety soft serve in rotating chocolate, strawberry or vanilla flavors, no extras.
Room Service: Passengers can order room service 24 hours a day, with a continental or American breakfast served from 6 to 11 a.m., and items such as chicken noodle soup, chicken tenders, salads and Philly cheesesteak served the rest of the day. There is a charge of $7.95 for all room service orders except continental breakfast (which includes coffee, tea, juice, cereals and pastries).
Sabor (Deck 4); $20 for lunch/$30 for dinner: We were immediately drawn to the vibrant pink, red and orange floral hues of this Latin American-styled restaurant, which serves lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on select days, and dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. each night. We checked out the tequila tasting and guacamole demonstration, followed by lunch. (The entire experience cost $30.) The guacamole and handcrafted margaritas (made with reposado tequila) are definitely tasty, as was the queso fundido and pollo picante tacos.
Wine Pairing Dinner in Vintages (Deck 5); $40: Offered on select evenings in Vintages on the Promenade, this features dinner selections from the main dining room paired with wines that complement each course.
DreamWorks Dining Experience in Botticelli Dining Room (Deck 5); $15: You can make advanced reservations for a breakfast with the DreamWorks characters on select mornings of your cruise in the main dining room. The menu features kid-friendly breakfast favorites like Donkey's Favorite Chocolate Waffles, Three Blind Mice Scrambled Eggs and Chocolate Love Potions (hot chocolate or a chocolate milkshake). Two characters visit each table, and you can take your own photos. (Royal Caribbean will end its partnership with DreamWorks, starting with all sailings that depart on or after April 1, 2019.)
Cupcake Cupboard (Deck 5); a la carte: Located on the Promenade, the Cupcake Cupboard is the place to take kids' and adults' cupcake decorating classes (for a fee), or just stop in to treat yourself to a decorated cupcake with prices ranging from $3 to $5. Open 11 a.m. to midnight.
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (Deck 5); a la carte: Because you need ice cream to go with your cupcake, stop over at Ben & Jerry's for a scoop or two of the flavors you know and love with prices ranging from $3 to $5. And here's a Liberty insider secret: If you happen to score cabin 6305, located directly above Ben & Jerry's with a view of two cows' rear ends, your room will be decked out in moo-velous decor, and you'll receive daily coupons for complimentary ice cream, as well. Open 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
Giovanni's Table (Deck 11); $15 for lunch/$30 for dinner: Tiled walls, Italian countryside murals and gold accents lend an elegance to Giovanni's Table, located near the entrance to the Windjammer. You can choose from appetizers and salads such as antipasti, Caesar salad and focaccia, freshly prepared pastas such as gnocchi and risotto, and entrees including grilled strip loin steak with truffle fries and veal tenderloin. A waiter wheels a cart with dessert selections like cannoli and tiramisu. Open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. each night, and for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on select days.
Chops Grille (Deck 11); $19 for lunch/$39 for dinner: Dark wood-toned walls and golden club chairs add a touch of sophistication to this restaurant, located opposite Giovanni's Table. Start with a salad or forest mushroom soup, select from a seafood appetizer of shrimp cocktail, scallops or Dungeness crab and shrimp cake, and then it's onto the main course: filet mignon, slow-braised short rib, chicken or seafood. Shareable sides include Gruyere croquettes, spinach and garlic mashed potatoes and end your meal at Chops Grille with a slice of chocolate mud pie or red velvet cake. Open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every night and for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on certain days.
Chef's Table (Deck 11); $85: For an exclusive dining experience, make reservations for this multicourse dinner and wine pairing meal hosted by a chef and sommelier, offered on select nights during the cruise and limited to about a dozen people. Passengers who have experienced these meals say they are among the best available on the ship, and advise that people budget three hours for the meal (and a little extra room in the waistline).
Mystery Dinner Theatre (Deck 11); $79: You can book reservations for a murder mystery dinner hosted in Giovanni's Table, which includes a four-course meal paired with wine. Passengers who have attended past dinners say the performance skews slightly on the cheesy side, but for others, working to solve the crime is a fun way to spend a meal.
Johnny Rockets (Deck 12); $7: Much like the stateside chain restaurants, you'll find the same selection of tasty burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes here, plus a regular song-and-dance routine that just might get you out of your booth and dancing with the crew. A fountain soda is included with your cover charge; you'll pay extra for shakes.