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48 minutes ago, Merion_Mom said:

@Sunshine7777

The Solarium Bistro is complimentary, and can be your "change of pace" from the MDR if you wish.

 

I would save your money for drinks and excursions.

 

The Solarium Bistro is a great included alternative to the main dinning room or windjammer (buffet). We had breakfast there most days and dinner a couple of times. 

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It does really depend upon your tastes and if you desire to have a genuine dining experience with each evening meal.  Many of the responders have already mentioned their opinions and perspectives.  Getting a 3 dinner sampler package is a good way of trying out the specialty restaurants on a 7 night cruise or longer. 

One option not mentioned was that the best advantage of the ultimate dining package where you get your choice of any of the specialty restaurants each night of your cruise (or even more than one a night - if you can tolerate that many calories) is on a transatlantic or transpacific cruise where there are a lot of sea days and not many port stops.  That way you are not always rushing back from your shore excursions or activities to prepare for your dinner experience.  The added perk is that you can have a specialty restaurant lunch on the sea days.  All inclusive of your UDP price.  Haven't got to try this approach out yet since I have had 3 TA/TPs canceled since last year.

Cheers.

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As others have said, since it is your first cruise, skip the dining package. Once on board, maybe try a specialty restaurant on a night that you see nothing on the “complimentary” menu that stands out.  Then you will know for future cruises what to expect. That is if you become hooked on cruising - it’s not for everyone. 

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Posted (edited)

I think first time out, I would definitely go with the MDR, Solarium bistro and any of the complimentary eateries.

 

If you decide you want to partake in a "higher" end establishments then get one while on board or on embarkation, where you can usually get one at a pretty good discount.  Also, there is most likely a Chef's dinner available.

 

We usually grab that or Wonderland on the first day, at a 40% or 50% discount.

 

 

Edited by csnarpy
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@Sunshine7777

 

check out my review of all 3.  As others have said for a first cruise go with the MDR or watch for a special on the either the 2 or 3 night package.  If it’s a special occasion and you like unique food go to Wonderland.  We did this with our family (group of 10) on Harmony and it was amazing.

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, Merion_Mom said:

 

Ok, so now I see that you are cruising out of the UK, and it will be a longer cruise.  I still don't think that you "need" a package.  But on a 12 nighter, you may enjoy a 3 night dining package.

 

🙂

 


I agree.

 

On a 3 night we tend to do a speciality once.

 

On a 7 night we tend to buy the package for 3 nights 

 

On 14 night cruise we tend to stick with a 3 night package and often go 4 times. 
 

My personal opinion is that the MDR whilst good can be a tad monotonous especially on a cruise longer than 7 nights and especially if you cruises often. 
 


 

I am a foodie therefore appreciate the different dining experiences. 
 

 

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Typically we'll get the 3 night package and the remaining dinner's in the MDR.  Chops is a must try always a good meal. 

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You've gotten a lot of good advice here already but I will add my opinion as well.

 

We aren't foodies and don't care for fancy food. I just expect my food to be served the correct temperature and seasoned well. I don't cruise Royal as frequently as most people who post on this board but in my experience the food in the MDR is very good. In fact, we were more impressed with our meals in the MDR on the Oasis than we were in our experience in the Italian place which we found was disappointing.

 

For the past ten years we typically book the steakhouse for the first night of the cruise regardless of the cruise line and enjoy them all (Royal, NCL, Carnival). 

 

On our cruise aboard the Brilliance the wait staff from the speciality restaurants were coming around the buffet area during lunch and offering discounted specialty experiences. I don't know if this is typical or perhaps their bookings were down for that cruise in particular (British Isles) but certainly there is a chance that you can book on board at a discount. 

 

Like others have suggested, your best bet may be to only book on board after a few nights once you've had a chance to experience the MDR food. You might find you are completely satisfied and have no desire to do a specialty or conversely, your curiosity might be piqued. 

 

Either way - believe me when I tell you that you will not go hungry and will no doubt find plenty of offerings that you will enjoy.

 

Happy cruising! 

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SS7777,

If you’re a foodie & love your food it is money well spent buying the Unlimited Dining Package.

The quality of the food, service & ambiance in the specialty restaurants are definitely a notch or two above the main dining room, & a totally different experience to the chaotic Windjammer.
On our most recent 12 night Med cruise we actually ate in the main dining room on two occasions, one being lobster night, we then went to Izumi for a late night snack.  Also, the fantastic lunches which are included in the specialty restaurants on sea days are a real treat when you have the UDP & much more relaxing than all the other food outlets with a full ship people all wanting lunch around the same time.

We found the UDP fantastic for us.  On more than one occasion we ate dinner in Giovanni’s & the had waiters bring us dessert from the Chops menu.

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We may not be in the norm, but we like the MDR each night.  With traditional time, you get the same table, same waiter, so you get to know them over the cruise.  I can see if you cruise a lot, that the menu can get tiring as it seems to be the same items across the fleet.  Having said that, we have our favorites and are happy when we see it on the menu for that night (once my two favorites were on the same night so ended up ordering 2 entrees....lol).  On the flip side, we haven't tried all specialty restaurants so can't comment as a whole.  But from the ones we've tried (Chops, Jamie's and Giovani's), the food is very good so I do get the appeal.    At most, we've done BOGO, which is no longer offered but it was a great option, or today, that would be the 3 night package or Chops + 1.  Not sure we'd ever purchase the ultimate one as it would be too much for us, but that's just us.  I know many love that option.

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So many wonderful responses - I really appreciate your time, thank you. It’s going to be such an exciting experience for us having never cruised before. I think it may make sense for us to enjoy the complimentary offerings but also have a deal as well so we can try some of the specialities. I think unlimited might be a little too much for us (though I might regret saying that haha). 

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18 minutes ago, Sunshine7777 said:

So many wonderful responses - I really appreciate your time, thank you. It’s going to be such an exciting experience for us having never cruised before. I think it may make sense for us to enjoy the complimentary offerings but also have a deal as well so we can try some of the specialities. I think unlimited might be a little too much for us (though I might regret saying that haha). 

I agree with you...and we buy the UDP EVERY cruise.  It was many years, after we started cruising, before we got "tired" of the MDR menu. It would be my recommendation that you try the MDR first and see what you think !  We always enjoyed the atmosphere of the MDR and even though we chose My Time Dining, we always made a reservation and tried to keep the same table and servers - which is something they will try and do for you, if they can.  Give it a try before you move on to specialty dining.

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17 hours ago, Sunshine7777 said:

First time cruiser here 🙂 

There seems to be a lot of complimentary food options, so is it really worth the extra money? I know we are all different but I’d love to hear your experiences. We aren’t big drinkers so beverage packages would only need to be basic, but we do love our food. Are the complimentary offerings enough? 

IMO yes.  We enjoy the ambiance of the special restaurants.  Part of our experience is dining in the SP restaurants.  I would suggest you dine in at least three.  We also find a great bargain to take the unlimited package-  While to food overall is good- service and food better in sp restaurants rather then MDR or suite restaurant.

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For myself I have to have the refreshment package. I drink a lot of water during the day, specialty coffee in the morning, late afternoon and after dinner.  I will buy the occasional cocktail. For DW the Deluxe package is a must. She will have at least three glasses of wine pre dinner and during dinner. That's $30 a day just for that. Throw in some water, soft drinks cocktails and she hits the mark. We usually get one refreshment package and one deluxe package. If there is a sale I will also get a deluxe package. If you are calling on Labadee or Coco Cay the drink packages will be accepted there. We also enjoy fresh squeezed OJ in the morning which is about $8 a glass. On sea days we order a shot of vodka on the side and make Screwdrivers.

 

As far as specialty restaurants go. We will only book one that is unique like Wonderland but that is a one and done experience and if a discount offer comes along we will consider it.  Last time they were offering 20% off Jamie's Italian. I asked for 25% and they gave it to me. That night at dinner they asked if we wanted to come back on the last night for 50% off.  

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Since you are a first time cruiser I would see what the ship has to offer first. There are a lot of free places to eat on the Anthem. You can also buy the specialty dining packages on board if you change your mind.

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In my case I'm always inclined to purchase it but never do it

 

We always sail on a 7 nights ships and I have to admit the food becomes boring after a while and the main reason we sail on cruise ships is not the balcony, the pool or  the ports of call but the food. In my case and maybe coincidence, the older the ship te more inclined we are to get a package. 99$ pp is not bad for 3 nights but I rather pick a fee stake from the MDR menu one night and that's about it for me. I forgot, some of the tables are so close together at the specialty restaurant that It makes you feel you are eating with somebody else at you table. 

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The latest "sale" ended a couple of days ago.  Since the prices have reverted back to pre-sale, I have noticed a remarkable increase in prices.  My August 21, 2021 Symphony cruise has the DBP + Wifi at $82 PP/PD and the UDP is $248 PP.  That's definitely the highest I have ever seen those packages.  WE are  Star Class on that one so the prices are irrelevant but all of the O class sailings have shown similar increases from the previous "normal" prices.  Even the "sale" prices were higher than they normally have been.  I fear there is no going back now.  Hope I'm wrong.

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Posted (edited)

Of course everyone is different and very cruise is different.  To start with, we think the MDR is fine with food equivalent to a nice but not outstanding local restaurant.

 

Assuming your cruise is seven days or longer and you are at least a bit of a foodie, I would consider one of three options.


Option 1, possibly the most expensive at ~$150 each at list price onboard, and definitely the most foodie experience.  You can book both  in Cruise Planner and for US sailings, gratuities are included if you do that.  You can almost always get a nice discount on both of these onboard if you want to try that.

 

Go to Wonderland, it is a very different experience.  While for some it is a one and done experience, but we go every cruise where it is an option.   There are lots of videos' on YouTube to get an idea of how it works.

 

Next, do a Chef's Table.  You get a multi course meal with wine pairing for each course.  I think it is limited to a 12 or 16 people.  It lasts at least 3 hours and we've always had great conversations.

 

Option 2, Get the 3 dinner package.  It is only available in Cruise Planner and will normally be between $79.99 and $119.99 per person.  Essentially you get to pick three of the specialty restaurants (not including the Chef's Table).  You have to go to your first specialty restaurant  on either the the first or second night.  They will book the first restaurant for you, but you can change it when you get onboard.

 

Option 3. Go to lunch on Sea Days to one or more of the specialty restaurants.  It is normally a bit over half the cost of dinner and the menus are abbreviated versions of the dinner menus.  I've never seen Wonderland do lunch, but Chops, Izumi and Jamie's do.  

 

BTW, Jamie's has tables that are open to the Via.  If you go by during dinner you can see the food and service pretty close up.

 

No matter where you go to eat onboard it will be good.

 

Enjoy.  We are slightly jealous, as we won't be back on the Anthem until 2024 even though it normally home ports about 50 miles from our house.  With a bit of luck that will be on a Trans-Atlantic to Southampton. 

 

Tom

Edited by notmyrealnameoremail
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If it’s a spouse that was reluctant to cruise as to why it’s your first time, spending extra on the dining package might be well worth it just to make sure the experience was the best chance to get them back. Mine was reluctant so it was yes, we can do that. Now it’s when’s our next cruise?

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It really depends on what YOU think "good food" is.....used to be, the dining room was awesome....not so much anymore.  Now, you pay EXTRA for what you USED to get included in your fare. Things have changed quite a bit.

 

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A sincere thank you to @Sunshine7777 for asking real questions that brought out the best of cruise critic.  The majority of responses were clearly intended to be helpful and people built upon each others comments.

 

Perhaps you could ask another round of questions and give us all a chance to both talk about something not COVID related and be civil to each other at the same time.

 

Tom

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On 4/3/2021 at 4:34 PM, Sunshine7777 said:

First time cruiser here 🙂 

There seems to be a lot of complimentary food options, so is it really worth the extra money? I know we are all different but I’d love to hear your experiences. We aren’t big drinkers so beverage packages would only need to be basic, but we do love our food. Are the complimentary offerings enough? 

I love the main dining room.  If you are not crazy about the entree choices, you can order 1, 2 or more of the appetizers, 1, 2 or more of the salads and soups and a dozen desserts.  You will not be hungry.

There are usually one or 2 nights in a 2 week cruise that I do not care for the entrees offered... 2 shrimp cocktails and an escargot with a salad and desert more than suffice...  You can be creative!

 

 

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You might also take into consideration your eating habits.  For example, we don't like to eat large meals, particularly not in the evening.  I'd much rather "snack" my way around the ship.   MDR portions tend to be quite small, which is something we love about cruising because you can enjoy multiple courses without feeling stuffed or being wasteful.  Specialty dining, on the other hand, generally involves more food than we want to eat in one sitting.  We felt a bit uncomfortable a few times because the well-meaning servers kept urging us to eat more and even brought "surprise" extras that we did not order that went to waste. 

 

Another thing that may be a consideration is where you are from.  If you are from a rural area without very good restaurants then specialty dining may be more "worth it" for the chance to dine on fine cuisine.  But if you are from a major metropolitan area then you have plenty of opportunities to eat food of the same quality at home.  My personal attitude has been that on a cruise I already have WAY more food than I can eat or even get around to trying.  So why would I buy more of anything that I already have too much of?

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5 hours ago, elsie3939 said:

I love the main dining room.  If you are not crazy about the entree choices, you can order 1, 2 or more of the appetizers, 1, 2 or more of the salads and soups and a dozen desserts.  You will not be hungry.

There are usually one or 2 nights in a 2 week cruise that I do not care for the entrees offered... 2 shrimp cocktails and an escargot with a salad and desert more than suffice...  You can be creative!

 

 

Very true and don't worry - the staff is used to this kind of ordering.  Many times I've ordered 3 appetizers instead of an entree.  You can mix it up any way you like in the MDR 🙂

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