When you go on a cruise, there is an enormous amount of eating. I mean eating all day long, I-would-never-consume-that-many-calories-in-one-day kind of eating. I think because the food is included in your cruise fare, people seem to associate that with free food. Since people don’t think they are “paying for it” and they can eat as much as they like, not a meal is skipped and an excessive amount of food is ordered.
Plus, ice cream machines are around every corner, there is never a shortage of cookies aboard and cafes are everywhere just to grab a snack. Yes, a cruise is synonymous with eating.
We just returned from a 7-day Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas cruise which meant that technically every meal was “eating out”. Three meals a day times seven days means that I dragged my kids (ages 3, 5, and 7) to sit down at a restaurant 21 times this week when honestly I normally can barely get through one restaurant trip a week.
Let me just put it out there – I love to eat out. Who doesn’t love to be waited on and brought food that they didn’t have to cook?!? The problem is that when my kids enter a restaurant, it’s as if someone dumped ants in their pants because they just can’t sit still for too long no matter how many activities I bring. So, while I love cruising and love eating out, I start to get anxious about those 21 times that we are going to “eat out” on a cruise.
To be fair, breakfast and lunch aren’t the hard meals. We usually hit the buffets and can move as quickly as we need to if the kids start to get too antsy. It’s dinner that is the big deal. I love going to the cruise ship dining room each night for the exquisite food, excellent service and fancy feel of it all. My kids on the other hand walk into the dining room as if we are marching them to dinner jail. Yet, they have to eat, right?!?
It’s not that they don’t like it because there are always kid friendly options to eat, it’s the fact that they have learned how long the dinner process takes in the dining room. Two hours. That’s right, bread, appetizers, entree, dessert and after dinner drinks aren’t quick. That’s kind of why I love it.
Normally we start off great and the kids are happy as clams to dig into the bread. But that joy runs out quick and by the time appetizers are finished, they are ready to leave. When my kids have deemed we have been there long enough, they start to act up. Whining, complaining, fidgeting, an excessive amount of bathroom trips and so-on. A nice dinner experience for me this does not make.
I knew there had to be an answer to my problem, and it was as if Royal Caribbean was reading my diary because they have the solution. And not just one solution but TWO.
The first option for parents on board Royal Caribbean with kids ages 3-12 is to drop off their child at the ship’s kid program (Ocean Adventure) before 5:30pm for no extra charge, and the staff will take the kids to dinner for you. They have the process perfected and the kids love it! They eat a variety of kid-friendly options such as chicken tenders and pizza with their new friends and then return to Ocean Adventure for games and activities while the parents are eating peacefully and enjoying their food in the dining room or at one of the specialty restaurants.
The second option is for parents who still want their kids to eat with them but just wish someone would take them away when the complaining and antsy-ness starts. This is where Royal Caribbean is ahead of the rest. They have implemented a new “My Family Time Dining” program which allows your child to join you in the dining room for an expedited meal (45 minutes) and then the Adventure Ocean staff arrive at the dining room to retrieve your kids to take them to have fun in the kid’s center. Since my kids love Adventure Ocean and I’m the kind of parent who doesn’t mind sending them there because I know the strict guidelines Royal Caribbean uses to hire their Adventure Ocean staff, I think it’s brilliant. (Yep, I’m THAT parent and I don’t apologize for it!)
Here’s how Family Dining works:
1) You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
2) The kids order and are served right away. Forty-five minutes is just the perfect amount of time for them to order, eat and even have dessert.
3) After adult appetizers are finished it has been approximately 45 minutes, so before the entree arrives, you meet the Adventure Ocean staff in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.
4) You return to your table and continue your meal in peace and actually enjoy the rest of dinner at a leisurely pace instead of barely chewing your food because you are anticipating a meltdown. Or is that just me!?!
What did I tell you? Brilliant.
The only problem now is that when my family hits the local Cheesecake Factory at home for a dinner out, I’ll be frantically wishing for a kid’s program to swoop in and whisk my kids away when the dinner gets tough.
*Disclosure: I would like to thank Royal Caribbean for hosting my family as part of the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador media trip. As always, all thoughts, comments and opinions are my own.