Royal Caribbean first introduced their Unlimited Dining Package on cruise ships back in early 2019. Basically, the package covers all specialty dining venues, and gives you the opportunity to dine as many times as you like during your cruise.
I recently purchased the package for a three day sailing on Mariner of the Seas. I would like to share a few tips to maximize your experience. I purchased the package pre-cruise for $76, this equates to just over $25 per day. Keep in mind, the venues are not always the same between Royal Caribbean ships, but each of my tips can still be applied to venues on your particular Royal Caribbean sailing.
If you have cruised before, you know embarkation day can be a little hectic. Especially if you head straight to the buffet (Windjammer in this case) to grab lunch. What better way to start your cruise vacation than to avoid those crowds and get use out of that unlimited dining package you purchased?
If you are looking for a quiet relaxing lunch, I would suggest heading straight to Chops Grille. Order up some shrimp cocktail, a wedge salad, and an 8oz filet, and you will be on the right track to getting the most out of your package.
If you are looking to have some drinks and mingle with friends while you have lunch, you should hit up Playmakers. The sports bar atmosphere is great for meet ups upon boarding. Grab some potato skins, buffalo wings, and a knockout punch and you will be on your way to getting the party started!
Either option here surely beats dealing with the buffet area on embarkation day. If you decided to carry on your luggage onboard, there is an added bonus to hanging out at Playmakers. You can simply put your bags in a corner, and forget about them as you hang out until your cabin is ready.
Specialty Dining Every Evening
This tip might feel a bit like common sense, but it’s still worth noting. If you are wanting to get the most bang for your buck out of the package, be sure to dine somewhere that normally would have a cover charge every single night. Avoid the main dining room and the Windjammer buffet.
If you really want to step up your game, try dining at two specialty venues in one night. I personally wouldn’t do this though, as it would take up way too much time in one evening. I would also need to be rolled back to my cabin. I just couldn’t chance missing out on the night life onboard!
Sea Day Lunch
On my particular sailing we didn’t have any planned sea days. However, our scheduled stop in CocoCay was cancelled due to unfavorable wind and sea conditions. I spent most of the day out on the pool deck. Hitting up Johnny Rockets just made perfect sense when lunch time came around.
It was a quick walk from my lounge chair overlooking the pool on deck 12 midship to Johnny Rockets which is located on the same deck aft. Since I already had the unlimited dining package, it was the perfect option. Both Jamie’s Italian and Chops were open for lunch on our sea day as well, if those sound more your pace.
If you don’t have the deluxe beverage package and are a wine drinker, this could be a big bonus for you to book the unlimited dining package. For bottles of wine under $100, you will receive 40% off, and bottles over $100, you will receive 20% off. For me personally, I don’t really drink wine, and I almost always get the deluxe beverage package, so this benefit is missed on me. With that said, it was worth mentioning as it could be a perfect fit for someone!
If your ship has Izumi Hibachi onboard, you’ll notice that it requires an additional $10 surcharge to dine here using the unlimited dining package. This may push some people off, but it is still a good deal in my book. The going rate for Hibachi a la carte is around $45. This means you are still $10 ahead of the game after the surcharge while using your plan.
It’s a super fun atmosphere for dinner, and even more so if you are with a group. Don’t let the $10 surcharge discourage you and give it a try. I’ll add two pieces of advice. Come hungry, and don’t be tempted to order a sushi roll all to yourself. I made the mistake of ordering one and I was really full before my main course was even served. Don’t get me wrong, it was all very good, but it was just way too much food!
While I have done some other dining packages on Royal Caribbean, this was the first time I had done the unlimited package. I feel like I have become a bit of a specialty dining snob lately, and when I saw the package for just over $25 a day, I felt like it was a no brainer. After experiencing it on Mariner, it’s safe to say I would definitely book it again.
Over the three day cruise, I was able to dine at Playmakers (2 times), Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian, Johnny Rockets, and Izumi Hibachi. There was one person in our group who only joined us at Chops on night one. Their bill was around $50 after gratuity, so looking back, it would have made sense for them to just book the package and have endless options. Also to note, the package does not include Chef’s Table. This is it’s one exclusion.
I hope this overview will help you decide on whether the package makes sense for you, as well as help you create a game plan to get the most out of your package. Have you utilized the unlimited dining package before? If so, what did you think? If not, do you plan to purchase it on an upcoming sailing? As always, if you are looking for more of my cruise content you can find it at CruiseLifeMatt.com and on Instagram @CruiseLifeMatt.