Alternate Restaurants Onboard Are In Demand
Written by: Kuki
For quite some time the buffets were the most significant change in the industry for food services. They allowed passengers to have breakfast and lunch in much more casual surroundings, with a much larger window to decide at what time they would like to have their breakfast and lunch. Though today the option of breakfast or lunch in the dining room is still available, the majority of passengers choose to partake of the buffet instead.
Where originally the buffets were offered for breakfast and lunch only, Princess Cruise Line took the buffet a step further when they made the move to make their “Horizon Court Buffets” available 24/7. Shortly after that all the cruise lines began opening their buffet areas to offer casual dinner service, directed at those passengers who didn’t want to dress for dinner in the dining rooms. Though I personally don’t understand it, there are people who go on a cruise and never have a meal in the dining room.
My history could easily be wrong, but the first alternate restaurant that I recall hearing about was in the 1990s when Costa announced the choice of an alternate restaurant, requiring guests to pay a surcharge, over and above the fare they paid for their cruise. Several cruise lines did have alternate restaurants at the point, but though they required reservations, there was no additional cost to dine there.
I can remember the outrage on the cruise related internet message boards with regard to having to pay extra for food on a cruise. People were aghast at the thought of paying extra for food, because one of the major selling points in cruise line marketing was the promise of a virtual cornucopia of food available, and included in the price of a cruise.
Despite the protests it didn’t take long for most of the cruise lines to add an alternate restaurant choice, complete with extra cost, at first to all their new builds. And with their success, also began adding them to their existing fleet when the ships went to dry dock for any period of time.
Today is very unusual to find a modern cruise ship, which aside from the traditional dining rooms and buffets, don’t also have at least 2 alternate restaurants available as well. The most common combination seems to be a “Steak House” and an Italian themed restaurant.
When Norwegian Cruise Line introduced it’s innovative “Free Style Cruising”, which included a large variety of alternate restaurants, it changed dining forever, with most of the cruise lines rushing to follow suit. The wheels have been set in motion for a “gold rush”, with all the cruise lines adding or planning to add more alternate and specialty restaurants to their fleets. There are now ships sailing offering 10 and 12 different restaurant choices to their guests.
There are still some passengers who will still enjoy all their meals only at the ship’s buffet, and indeed some who still only have dinner in the ship’s cost included dining rooms.
However, rather than a roar of discontent, these days it seems passengers are clamoring to experience the alternate restaurant choices, and are demanding, and yes, paying for even more choices.
This is proven further by the additions by many of the cruise lines offering “Chef’s Tables” that come with a significant extra cost, and adding “wine pairings menus” to some of their most expensive specialty restaurants, to further upscale the dining experiences for their more “discerning foodie” guests.
To further enhance the reputations, and surely the satisfaction of the menus the cruise lines have beaten the bush to sign well known celebrity ships, to design interiors, galleys, and menus for these venues.
Where in the beginning, most of the specialty/alternate restaurants were still served from the main galley, today many of these more upscale restaurants are built with their own dedicated and specially equipped galleys. I assume, that even with the additional costs involved in creating these venues, the profits derived from these restaurants is making them a success.
And with the demand, and the apparent success, it appears we’ll see this program to continue to grow, and be innovated further, only limited by the designer’s imagination. This is at least one instance where the cruise line’s desire to maximize profits onboard has met with acceptance and even demand from the cruising public. Rather than labelling the restaurants as more “Nickel and Diming”, passengers are referring to them as ammenities.
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Posted: February 8th, 2011 under Kuki.