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chesswiththedevil

Has specialty dining improved since 2015?

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I sailed on the Norwegian Epic in 2015 and honestly found the specialty dining to be very lacking. I was really excited about the specialty choices because of the available options but the food at La Cucina's was awful and Cagney's was forgettable. Moderno was good I must admit but I am not sure if it was better than the standard fare in the main dining room. I am sailing on the Jade here in early 2019 and am wondering if I should brave the specialty dining again. Maybe I should try the Teppanyaki this time?  

I guess my questions are:

1) Have the specialty dining options improved (or changed in some other way) since 2015?

2) Which options do you all recommend?

I concede that I may have gotten some bad luck with the Epic's restaurants and the Jade may be much better. Any advice would be appreciated. 107 days until we sail!

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Not 100% sure how to answer your question because I've found most specialty restaurants to be quite good, so our standards may differ. With the exception of La Cucina... it is awful! 

We sailed on the Pearl in 2015 and again last month. 

Le Bistro- 2015, much of menu not really to our tastes but we tried it. Loved the French Onion soup. DH's steak was prepared incorrectly twice. I don't remember what I had. 2018, didn't go. 

Cagneys--2015 good steakhouse style food, not a Morton's or Ruth Chris, but very good food and service. 2018- ate there 5 out of 7 nights, very happy. 

Moderno- 2015, good food, service spotty. 2018- food quality seemed better, service much improved. 

Teppanyaki- 2015 food good, showman style service and separate parties at the same table means you eat, wait for others to be served, eat, wait some more, wait some more, eat. All to the accompanying clanging of 12 steel spatulas on the table cook tops. Food was good but we gave it a pass in 2018.

La Cucina- 2015, not that great but super good Calamari appetizer. 2018, unspeakably bad. Even the calamari. Olive Garden would be better. (Possible prejudice disclosure DH is from Italian family with current roots in NY). 

Edited by Shellbelle28

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32 minutes ago, chesswiththedevil said:

I sailed on the Norwegian Epic in 2015 and honestly found the specialty dining to be very lacking. I was really excited about the specialty choices because of the available options but the food at La Cucina's was awful and Cagney's was forgettable. Moderno was good I must admit but I am not sure if it was better than the standard fare in the main dining room. I am sailing on the Jade here in early 2019 and am wondering if I should brave the specialty dining again. Maybe I should try the Teppanyaki this time?  

I guess my questions are:

1) Have the specialty dining options improved (or changed in some other way) since 2015?

2) Which options do you all recommend?

I concede that I may have gotten some bad luck with the Epic's restaurants and the Jade may be much better. Any advice would be appreciated. 107 days until we sail!

the answer is no for me.

Le Bistro had 32oz ribeyes. no longer. 😞

Cagneys had 32oz tomahawk porterhouse (but most of that weight was probably in the long bone). no longer.

it used to be 'unlimited dining package' aka udp where you can go to ALL the speciality restaurants in a single day. ie: appetizers at moderno, entree at cagneys, dessert at le bistro

No more 'fruits of the sea' appetizer at le bistro 

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So much depends on the ship and the galley!  I can only speak as to our own experiences, and of course food is totally subjective anyway.

We've generally eaten at Teppanyaki once per cruise and have always found it good and fun.  (Shrimp and steak, yum!  Skip the green tea ice cream, which is yucky.) Back in 2010 on the Jade, we thought La Cucina was awful and so we avoided it like the plague in the future, then tried it in 2017 on a 16-night cruise on the Jewel because we just needed a change, and it was excellent.

We've tried Moderno four times on two different ships, and have always found the meats to be tough and dry, no matter what we order.  We have concluded that NCL simply cannot pull off a churrascaria at sea. 

Cagney's has been hit or miss.  I had an excellent bone-in ribeye on the Jewel in 2017, but have had subpar meals on earlier cruises.

I do think Le Bistro has really gone downhill over the years, so much so that although we could have had our two free "Platinum" meals there in 2017 on the Jewel, we passed on the second one and ate in La Cucina instead (with the very welcome reaction I mentioned above).

Again, food is very personal and subjective.   

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At 107 days, Teppanyaki will already be sold out. The Jade will have the same specialty restaurants as the Epic, but smaller. Food is all about taste. We travel 150 nights a year and eat at all kinds of different restaurants on land and at sea. We are pleased with the quality of the food at both the Main Dining Room and Specialty Restaurants on NCL (more than some other cruise lines). 

We are realistic about our expectations. The galleys on a big ship have to turn over 20,000 covers a day. That is a lot different than our local favorite restaurants who turn 100 covers on a good day. And that you can't cook 20,000 meals a day to order. So, if you are expecting truly fine dining on a cruise ship, you'll have to go to another cruise line and pay a lot more.

We have sailed on Cunard a lot where you can get a private table for yourself for the duration of the cruise. Always waiting for you, morning, noon, and night. Where the Maitre D will come and cook your dinner table side for you, if you request.  Where cherries jubilee for dessert is cooked and flamed for you table side and does not come "out of a can". Where you are presented with the dinner menu at breakfast and if you don't like what is on the menu, you can request the chef to cook anything of your choosing for dinner. Not going to get that on NCL. 

NCL constantly updates their menus to adapt to the tastes of the contemporary cruiser. There were dozens and dozens of CC threads hating on NCL when fish sticks and chicken fingers were removed from the lunch menus in favor of poached salmon and scallops. Chicken noodle soup has been replaced with Vietnamese Pho and chilled fruit soups. Chicken Pot Pie has been replaced with Sheppard's Pie. All a matter of taste. 

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Cool, well perhaps we will give a couple of them a try again? The Teppanyaki is NOT sold out yet thankfully as I have a soft spot in my heart for that kind of food.  I've been a few cruises and pretty much know what to expect, but I just found that my last cruise with NCL did not have the greatest food compared to other lines. I'm glad to hear that I probably just had bad luck. Thanks for the insight. Who knows, maybe I'll remember to circle back and let you all know how it went? 

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I just got off the Jade in September and the mdr food was not as good as our previous cruises on the Spirit in March and September of 2017. We had 2 meals in the specialty restaurants and the quality versus the mdr has never been greater in my opinion. We spoke with the f&b officer and he said the Jade menu is to be rolled out fleet wide in the upcoming months. As a platinum member, I will take our 2 free specialty dinners and also buy a specialty dining package. 

I don’t know if the Jade ‘s f&b officer was just feeding me a line but I would not get on the Jade again without a dining package.

Edited by lamchops

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I can't speak for your experience of 3 years ago, but we are just off the Breakaway Trans-Atlantic and our experience was that Cagney's and LeBistro were both excellent!

LaCucina had just (the very day we dined there) instituted a new "less Olive Garden-ish" menu that we thought was an improvement, but heard others complaining because there was no lasagna or chicken am on the menu.  :classic_huh:

Incidentally, our meal at LaCucina was our least favorite of the 4, but also the most expensive if actually paid for "a la cart" with cash...which would not have been worth it! 

Also....Don't worry about not having all of your reservations finalized before the cruise, as we found there to be openings in most restaurants every night by checking the touch screen boards all over the ship.  By scanning your room key, its easy to see what's available and reserve a table at any of them!

HAVE FUN!!!

 

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2015, I seem to remember lobster in every Specialty Restaurant.    

I think if your basis for measurement is 2015, you will be terribly disappointed.    

The food today is good.   But I've been cruising NCL a long time and even during the decade where NCL's food was truly awful.......You know that's when we coined the term..."Subjective".    Back then it wasn't subjective, it was awful!     But then around 2013/2014 (can't remember) NCL decided they needed to be more competitive and the food improved dramatically.    Around 2015 it was really good!    Great cuts of steaks, lobster.....there really was no reason in 2015 to complain and like I said, I never fell in line with the bull...."Food is subjective" folks!!

The food now is still good.   There isn't lobster to be seen on the whole ship, not even if you are willing to pay a huge premium, you can't even get it.   The steaks are good but not like they were a couple years ago.    I don't hear people complain about the food, I saw no reason for complaint.     But it isn't to the quality standards of 2015.

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13 hours ago, BirdTravels said:

At 107 days, Teppanyaki will already be sold out. The Jade will have the same specialty restaurants as the Epic, but smaller. Food is all about taste. We travel 150 nights a year and eat at all kinds of different restaurants on land and at sea. We are pleased with the quality of the food at both the Main Dining Room and Specialty Restaurants on NCL (more than some other cruise lines). 

We are realistic about our expectations. The galleys on a big ship have to turn over 20,000 covers a day. That is a lot different than our local favorite restaurants who turn 100 covers on a good day. And that you can't cook 20,000 meals a day to order. So, if you are expecting truly fine dining on a cruise ship, you'll have to go to another cruise line and pay a lot more.

We have sailed on Cunard a lot where you can get a private table for yourself for the duration of the cruise. Always waiting for you, morning, noon, and night. Where the Maitre D will come and cook your dinner table side for you, if you request.  Where cherries jubilee for dessert is cooked and flamed for you table side and does not come "out of a can". Where you are presented with the dinner menu at breakfast and if you don't like what is on the menu, you can request the chef to cook anything of your choosing for dinner. Not going to get that on NCL. 

NCL constantly updates their menus to adapt to the tastes of the contemporary cruiser. There were dozens and dozens of CC threads hating on NCL when fish sticks and chicken fingers were removed from the lunch menus in favor of poached salmon and scallops. Chicken noodle soup has been replaced with Vietnamese Pho and chilled fruit soups. Chicken Pot Pie has been replaced with Sheppard's Pie. All a matter of taste. 

Not sure most of this answers the question. Looks more like a travel channel documentary.

But the 150 nights a year thing made me laugh so thumbs up on that

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3 minutes ago, detroitlions said:

Not sure most of this answers the question. Looks more like a travel channel documentary.

Wasn't even close to answering the question, but, that's never stopped CC before 🙂

I loved the stock excuse of cooking thousands of meals as the reason the food on mass market cruise ships isn't very good.

To the OP, having been on NCL in 2015 and 2018, in my opinion there has been no noticeable change in the food quality at the Specialty restaurants.  

Edited by PATRLR

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I've only been on one NCL cruise, but it's not good.  That said, the industry as a whole is down.

Still, NCL is definitely on the lower end of the scale.  I did enjoy Q and Teppenyaki.  Le Bistro was quite bad.  The problem is, other mass market lines like Disney have better food quality/portions in their complimentary main dining rooms than NCL has in specialty for the most part.  Le Bistro's french onion soup was good, but not fabulous.  Just on par with what you can order in the main dining room at Disney.  My Teppenyaki was fabulous, but I think it was my chef.  The guy behind him was about 1/4 as talkative (seriously) and his food was a different color.  As his people were directly across from me, I was watching their faces as I ate.  They definitely didn't seem to be having as enjoyable time as my side and the food didn't look as good.  So, while my Teppenyaki was fabulous and one of my best cruise meals ever, I'm treating it as a one off.

I'd say the specialty dining is noticeably better than the main dining room stuff on NCL.  But, for the most part, it's just on par with, say, Princess or Disney's main dining room stuff.  So, to me, even though I got it free as a package, it kind of "hurt" to use up what's supposed to be $20-30 worth of "dining" on food that I know I could just get for free on another cruise line.  I could never really recommend paying for a dining package with your own money.

And I say this as someone who thinks Princess and Disney (for example) have also gone down quite noticeably just in the past few years in terms of food.

Edited by gambit57

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54 minutes ago, gambit57 said:

I've only been on one NCL cruise, but it's not good.  That said, the industry as a whole is down.

Still, NCL is definitely on the lower end of the scale.  I did enjoy Q and Teppenyaki.  Le Bistro was quite bad.  The problem is, other mass market lines like Disney have better food quality/portions in their complimentary main dining rooms than NCL has in specialty for the most part.  Le Bistro's french onion soup was good, but not fabulous.  Just on par with what you can order in the main dining room at Disney.  My Teppenyaki was fabulous, but I think it was my chef.  The guy behind him was about 1/4 as talkative (seriously) and his food was a different color.  As his people were directly across from me, I was watching their faces as I ate.  They definitely didn't seem to be having as enjoyable time as my side and the food didn't look as good.  So, while my Teppenyaki was fabulous and one of my best cruise meals ever, I'm treating it as a one off.

I'd say the specialty dining is noticeably better than the main dining room stuff on NCL.  But, for the most part, it's just on par with, say, Princess or Disney's main dining room stuff.  So, to me, even though I got it free as a package, it kind of "hurt" to use up what's supposed to be $20-30 worth of "dining" on food that I know I could just get for free on another cruise line.  I could never really recommend paying for a dining package with your own money.

And I say this as someone who thinks Princess and Disney (for example) have also gone down quite noticeably just in the past few years in terms of food.

and how much more is princess/disney cruises compared to ncl? (generally speaking, i find ncl costs less on avg than princess/disney cruises.)

heck, most of my ncl cruises are $50/day or less (+port fees/taxes/cabin tips).

ie: my 15day cruise next week is $520 (+port fees/taxes/cabin tips).... $35/day! 😄

whereas a cruise on the Queen Mary, you're getting 5 star everything but you're also paying sky high prices to match. (unless you were lucky enough to get that 11day for $300 price mistake last month.)

basically, pare your expectations with what you're paying.

Edited by fstuff1

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Well, I may have been convinced just to try to the specialty dining out 1-3 nights. My girlfriend really wanted at least one formal night(ish) where we could dress up so maybe I'll buy us a package to try again. 

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We were just on the Jade in April and loved all of our specialty dinners. We purchased enough extra to make sure that we never ate in the MDR. On our cruise before that (on the Spirit), we only ate once in the MDR and told ourselves 'never again.' However, the Spirit was 2 years earlier, in 2016, so that's our last comparison. This year, we loved Le Bistro -- great duck and lamb. Cagney's steak never disappointed. Moderno was new for us but we had no problems with it at all. Even La Cucina was fine -- I believe I had the Osso Buco there. For us, we were happy because we avoided the MDR. We also prefer the atmosphere and individual service in the specialty restaurants. If you have a formal night planned, I would recommend that you choose one of the specialty restaurants. Let them know it's a special occasion and that you want a extra special table, you're getting dressed up, etc. I hope you enjoy it as much as we always do!

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We've always found the specialty dining to be quite good except for La Cucina.  Our first two times, La Cucina was great.  The third time was not good at all as the menu had changed and it was more fancy smancy I call it.  The first times it was more good Italian to me.  We quit using it as one of our choices after that third time.

Last Thanksgiving we were on Escape and looked over the La Cucina menu which seems to be different and improved.  We decided to give it a go again and were quite surprised that it was much improved.  Not sure if they were just on a new menu that they rotate through or what...  But it was much better than that third time (still not as good as the first two though).

We really enjoy Cagney's, Los Lobos and Teppanyaki (I know you can get hibachi just about anywhere but it's more the entertainment aspect and all that goes along with it on board too - we just like it).

 

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On 10/18/2018 at 10:44 AM, fstuff1 said:

and how much more is princess/disney cruises compared to ncl? (generally speaking, i find ncl costs less on avg than princess/disney cruises.)

heck, most of my ncl cruises are $50/day or less (+port fees/taxes/cabin tips).

ie: my 15day cruise next week is $520 (+port fees/taxes/cabin tips).... $35/day! 😄

whereas a cruise on the Queen Mary, you're getting 5 star everything but you're also paying sky high prices to match. (unless you were lucky enough to get that 11day for $300 price mistake last month.)

basically, pare your expectations with what you're paying.

 

Princess is the same.  They have "Drop and Sail" cruises for super cheap like the one you found.  My parents are Elite there and like those cruises.  It's cheaper than staying home.  Other lines like Carnival have super cheap deals too.

 

I did the Bliss to Alaska.  It cost the same as my Disney Cruise to the W. Caribbean, but I was in a Balcony with Disney and just an Oceanview with NCL.  Granted, the Disney one was in December and the Bliss was September, but the cost was nearly exact.  And I didn't have to buy a soda package on Disney.

 

There's no price advantage with NCL.  Used to be.  Not anymore.

Edited by gambit57

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I think speciality dining is about the same now than 2015. However there is a big decrease in the main dining room food and in particular atmosphere/service which is a shame. The noise is defening at the main dining rooms, wait staff hurried, drink orders...if you think about ordering seconds midway your meal you’ll get your drinks after you have finished...if even then. First round drinks come half way of appetizers. Food is subjective of course but in my opinion very bland. It really is a shame because I love those (aft) main dining room decors (I sail on the smaller Jewel class ships excusively on NCL). I just love the old time look and feel of the rooms and the decor, the plush seats, beautiful walls with their decorations and paintings, windows at the aft with seaview, even the ceilings with their lamps. You cannot find that type of grandeur in the other restaurants IMO. They are too small for that. So I’d really like to eat in the main dining rooms, sadly I don’t anymore 😞 

 

For my next 11 day cruise (Gem) I have platinum vouchers for 2 nights. In addition I will buy a 6 night dining package which gets me into a speciality dining restaurant for 8 nights out of 11. For the rest of the 3 nights we will go to the buffet, choosing nights when we have been busy on excursions and just want a quick and easy bite. 

 

It is sad, I really would want to go to the main dining room but the noise, service and food simply put me off. 

 

And just if someone might be interested our choice of restaurants will be: 

 

- Cagney’s x 2 (food quality the same as in 2015) 

- Le Bistro x 1(slight reduction in food quality or let’s say food choices IMO since 2015) 

- La Cucina x 2 (definitely better than 2015)

- Moderno x 2 (same or slightly better than 2015)

- Teppanyaki x 1(same as 2015)

 

 

Edited by European_CruiseGirl

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I only eat at three of the specialty restaurants.  I think Cagney's and the Teppanyaki restaurant are about the same quality and service; always good.  I think La Cucina has upped themselves in the quality department from my 2016 to 2017 cruises.

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Another thing to remember about the MDR -- if you see something on the menu that you want, you can just have that course in the MDR -- you don't have to have your entire meal there. When we've been on the Jade, which does not have a Haven restaurant, we've had just appetizers in the MDR and then had the rest of our meal in a specialty restaurant. Or skip desert in Cagney's and go to the MDR a few hours later if we're in the mood for something sweet. You're not fully committed to any one venue, though you probably want to get your money's worth at a specialty restaurant if you paid extra to dine there.

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I've never found specialty dining to be bad.  10 years ago, 5 years ago, 3 years ago, or last month.  It seems like La Cucina tends to have service problems, but I think the menu has improved somewhat in the last couple of years.  Cagney's never disappoints despite removal of the dinosaur-sized steaks that aren't the menu any longer.  Le Bistro has been consistently good too and is my favorite.  And, although the food isn't earth-shattering, Teppenyaki is always a good, loud, fun time.  I'm not expecting the meal of my life at specialty dining venues on NCL but it works for me.

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On 10/17/2018 at 8:05 PM, chesswiththedevil said:

I sailed on the Norwegian Epic in 2015 and honestly found the specialty dining to be very lacking. I was really excited about the specialty choices because of the available options but the food at La Cucina's was awful and Cagney's was forgettable. Moderno was good I must admit but I am not sure if it was better than the standard fare in the main dining room. I am sailing on the Jade here in early 2019 and am wondering if I should brave the specialty dining again. Maybe I should try the Teppanyaki this time?  

I guess my questions are:

1) Have the specialty dining options improved (or changed in some other way) since 2015?

2) Which options do you all recommend?

I concede that I may have gotten some bad luck with the Epic's restaurants and the Jade may be much better. Any advice would be appreciated. 107 days until we sail!

Probably as you see it, no, but let me also add, you are probably in a huge minority when you say the specialty dining was a disappointment to you. As for La Cucina, there are some who are not crazy over it or don't think it fits into the specialty class, but otherwise, most people are very pleased with the special dining. Food is subjective as we all know.   I think my point here is: though the quality may have gone down hill to some, this doesn't mean the specialty dining was just so/so, as you are saying. Le Bistro is always a popular choice and Cagney's, not my favorite is another popular one. 

 

I would simply say, at this time, you may not be impressed if you were not before. We have always enjoyed most of the specialty dining rooms.. Remember, the galley serves a lot of food, to a lot of people every day. We can not expect, even for the extra price, the same experience we get at our favorite, upscale, small dining place on land. 

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On 10/18/2018 at 10:03 AM, Vyhanek said:

2015, I seem to remember lobster in every Specialty Restaurant.    

I think if your basis for measurement is 2015, you will be terribly disappointed.    

The food today is good.   But I've been cruising NCL a long time and even during the decade where NCL's food was truly awful.......You know that's when we coined the term..."Subjective".    Back then it wasn't subjective, it was awful!     But then around 2013/2014 (can't remember) NCL decided they needed to be more competitive and the food improved dramatically.    Around 2015 it was really good!    Great cuts of steaks, lobster.....there really was no reason in 2015 to complain and like I said, I never fell in line with the bull...."Food is subjective" folks!!

The food now is still good.   There isn't lobster to be seen on the whole ship, not even if you are willing to pay a huge premium, you can't even get it.   The steaks are good but not like they were a couple years ago.    I don't hear people complain about the food, I saw no reason for complaint.     But it isn't to the quality standards of 2015.

No, not in all specialty restaurants and there was an upcharge if they did offer it. 

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On 10/20/2018 at 12:34 AM, gambit57 said:

 

Princess is the same.  They have "Drop and Sail" cruises for super cheap like the one you found.  My parents are Elite there and like those cruises.  It's cheaper than staying home.  Other lines like Carnival have super cheap deals too.

 

I did the Bliss to Alaska.  It cost the same as my Disney Cruise to the W. Caribbean, but I was in a Balcony with Disney and just an Oceanview with NCL.  Granted, the Disney one was in December and the Bliss was September, but the cost was nearly exact.  And I didn't have to buy a soda package on Disney.

 

There's no price advantage with NCL.  Used to be.  Not anymore.

You must have gotten a very special deal: there is no way, one can actually think they can get a Disney cruise for the same price as an NCL cruise if one considers itinerary, the cost of port charges, the class of ship etc. Now, if you were on one of Disney's oldest ships that is a totally different story The Bliss is brand new,as you know and Alaska is more expensive due to cost of taxes and port charges in Alaska. 

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Though it's always best to make dining reservations as soon as they open up, it is still possible to get dinner reservations this far in advance of your sailing.  There are plenty of reservations available at most places, including Teppanyaki on my upcoming sailing on Breakaway (28 days to go)...but it may also have to do with the size of the ship.  At any rate, if a particular dining venue is showing no availability, check with your concierge when you embark to see if there have been cancellations.  On Epic last Thanksgiving, we boarded with NO reservations whatsoever (rookie mistake) and were able to get a party of 6 scheduled at Teppanyaki, Moderno, and LeBistro.  To answer the question, as of 2017, the food wasn't much different from what was described in the OP.  Food wasn't awful but didn't have a specialty dining feel to it at all.  On subsequent vessels following our Epic voyage, we found the food to be in line with our Epic experience.  Next month on Breakaway we will try Ocean Blue for the first time and revisit LeBistro and possibly Moderno.  

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