Even though it has only been sailing Australian waters each summer since 2012/13, Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas has established a strong following among local cruisers, who return every year, sometimes even more than once a season, to enjoy the array of dining and entertainment options the 3,138-passenger ship provides. In fact, whenever the ship is in town, the Sapphire Main Dining Room becomes the largest restaurant in Australia.
Whether you’re a casual observer of the food scene, a die-hard foodie or just happy with quality cuisine on your plate whenever you’re hungry, come onboard Voyager of the Seas for a tour of the ship’s numerous and varied dining options.
Sapphire Main Dining Room
It’s three storeys in height and just sprawls from every viewpoint, but the Sapphire Main Dining Room is very much a demonstrated exercise in military-style efficiency, with seemingly just as many wait staff moving around as diners.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, the venue is included in the fare for all cruisers throughout their voyage (except for drinks) either on a traditional basis (set dining times each day at the same table) or Dynamic Dining basis where travellers can reserve a table or sit anywhere with sufficient space during open meal times.
A handy tip for Sapphire is to keep an eye on your daily Cruise Compass (the Royal Caribbean daily guide) as it will publish details of special wine promotions held from time to time in the main dining room. These can offer discounts up to 30% on a whole bottle bought from a special selection which is usually paired with the menu on that particular evening.
You’ve never seen a cafe quite as big as this before. The Windjammer Cafe features on all Royal Caribbean ships, is open most of the day and very popular for casual breakfast and lunch options or even dinner if you so choose.
Basically, Windjammer is a symmetrical experience. After you enter, seating is located around the entire venue with the buffet running almost the entire length. Dishes are largely replicated on both sides of the room so guests don’t need to walk around the whole place to find a particular item. Different stations are serving a variety of cuisines from pizzas by the slice, pastas, curries, a carvery with roast beef and a chef slicing portions as requested, a build-your-own-burger, vegetables and salads, desserts and even a separate area for kids to get their chicken nuggets, fish fingers or other child-friendly offerings.
Of course, self-service buffets carry with them a general buffet etiquette in order to keep the peace especially at the busiest times of the day. Windjammer Cafe is included in cruise fares.
One of Voyager of the Seas‘ signature restaurants, Chops Grille is a traditional hand-cut steakhouse and associated offerings such as chicken and seafood. Limited capacity in this venue means guests are highly recommended to reserve a table in order to ensure they can get in for dinner, with a cover charge of $25 per person levied to enjoy this restaurant.
Chops Grille is well lit with large windows by day but at night when most popular, the venue takes on a brooding and warm, yet somewhat haunting atmosphere with a dark red colour scheme which suits the contemporary cuisine, delivering a multi-sensory dining experience.
On the menu, guests will be offered the chance to start with a selection of soups and salads including The King Caesar or Three Cheese Roasted Onion Soup, before a Signature Appetiser is served, among which guests can choose from a Colossal Shrimp Cocktail or Grilled Black Pepper Bacon. One’s main course comes in the form of an hand-cut steak, chicken, veal or seafood dish, with the selection including Filet Mignon, Slow-Braised Rib of Beef, Roasted Organic Chicken or Snapper Veracruz, the latter of which delivers a medium level of spice.
But perhaps where Chops Grille stands out, particularly if celebrating a special occasion, is its appropriately titled ‘Something Special’ sub-menu of four-week dry-aged steaks, a process undertaken by very few steakhouses worldwide. Alternatively, from this menu you can also get Roasted Maine Lobster with butter and lemon. Items from this part of the menu carry an additional charge on top of the nominal cover, but they can be well worth it.
Then there’s dessert, however we’ll let you discover this one for yourself.
As these cruise ships get more and more modern, Johnny Rockets allows guests to hop into a time warp back to a 1950’s classic American diner. Very popular for lunch, this venue is an experience in itself, but carries a small surcharge of $6.95 per person to eat as much as you like. Wait staff serve classic French Fries and Onion Rings to start with, followed by a range of burgers and hot dogs. Milkshakes can also be ordered but come as an additional cost.
Then, the show begins. True to its American roots, table service stops for a few minutes every now and then, the music turns up and the wait staff break into an interactive dance routine set to iconic songs such as ‘YMCA’ which is interesting because that song was from the 1970’s. But it makes for an entertaining distraction.
Due to its popularity, it’s best to visit this venue for either an early or a late lunch, with diners seated on a first-come-first-served basis. It can get busy quickly and the staff are running around all over the place trying to get to everybody. Also, if you can, go as a group and try to sit at a booth rather than at the bar for a better view of the diner or the ocean, rather than staring into the kitchen.
Another experiential venue on Voyager of the Seas which is helped by the lighting, which in this case is by lamp-light. Giovanni’s Table is an Italian trattoria designed for the whole family to enjoy and serving up traditional home-style Italian cooking such as cured meats and antipasti plates, vine ripened tomatoes and imported cheeses for starters. Mains include traditional parmigiana baked dishes such as eggplant, cured beef with arugula, pastas such as gnocchi, risotto and traditional lasagne.
Diners can also select more conventional dishes served with an Italian twist such as chicken breast filled with ricotta and mushroom with prosciutto, or milk-fed veal meatballs among many other classic favourites.
As a specialty venue, there is a $15 per person cost to dine here and reservations for dinner are required in order to avoid a potentially lengthy wait.
Often located on one of the higher decks, on Voyager of the Seas this venue can be found on Deck 14 which heightens the experience by giving guests a great view over the top deck of the ship and the small waves crashing against the side of the ship below. Dimly-lit venues are a pattern for specialty dining on this ship, however Izumi comes with red candles on the table to provide an element of intimacy which adds to the quality Japanese cuisine coming.
From a personal experience as somebody who doesn’t indulge in Japanese food often, the universal appeal of what is on the menu at Izumi was a pleasant surprise and the taste didn’t disappoint either, with generous servings of spicy salmon portions, soy marinated crispy chicken and sashimi platters all disappearing quickly.
Izumi is open for lunch and dinner, operating on an a la carte basis with each menu item priced separately.
Sometimes your sweet tooth will take control and lead you in search of a pastry or a cake, and if you’re onboard Voyager of the Seas, there’s a good chance Cafe Promenade is where you’ll end up. Located at one end of the Royal Promenade, this is where one of the best cups of coffee or tea can be obtained.
As much as it is a great venue for people-watching, you’ll find just as many people here of a morning of a sea day examining their Cruise Compass and determining their movements over an Apple Danish and Cappuccino or something of the sort.
The Cafe Promenade coffee shop is open 24 hours a day and regularly serving up fresh new goodies. If you’re only after a small lunch, you can also stop by here for a selection of roast beef, tuna or salami sandwiches or pizzas. After dinner or as a late-night sugary snack before bed, you’ll find yourself able to get a slice of cake or a cookie or two to enjoy.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Often located in the same part of the ship as Cafe Promenade, the popular Ben & Jerry’s brand of ice-cream – once localised to its native USA – has well and truly swept Australia and created a new nation of lovers of flavours such as Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Fudge Brownie, Triple Caramel Chunk and more.
Royal Caribbean carries a wide range of flavours at the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream parlour onboard, with a small charge levied depending on the size of the cup you order.
So whether you choose to pay a bit extra for specialty dining or stick to the included fare, you’ll definitely never go hungry on Voyager of the Seas.