It is not too much to say that Quantum of the Seas radically changed cruise ship dining. She ushered in new dining concepts, presented new dining venues and made enhancements to existing dining venues. As Food and Beverage Director, Catalin Buta was given the responsibility for bringing the dining operation on Quantum of the Seas to life. We sat down with Mr. Buta and asked him to outline what Quantum has to offer in the way of dining.
The Dynamic Dining concept
With Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean walked away from the way it and every other cruise line had handled dining in the past. The ship has no main dining rooms, no traditional cruise ship dining system and no flexible dining system. Instead, under Dynamic Dining, guests can decide to dine in any of a series of complimentary restaurants at whatever time they choose.
“At Royal Caribbean, we have always been bold. We have always tried new things. That is why we always get our guests back because they are willing to try new things with us. We are not a company that does the same thing on every single ship just because it is comfortable. We want to be innovative, we want to be forward-thinking.”
“Dynamic Dining is the next level of dining. We are a guest driven organization and part of Dynamic Dining, is giving the guests a choice. Instead of us telling them what to do, we want them to [dine] whenever they want, at what time they want, based upon their shows, their ports - - anything that they want to do. Let them choose what they want.”
This new concept reflects the fact that an evening aboard a cruise ship is not the same as it was a decade ago. “We used to have one show, now you have up to four or five different shows. It is no longer the main seating guests go to the eight o'clock show and the second seating guests go to the six o'clock show. [The] guests are everywhere.” Consequently, dining needed to become a more fluid system that reflects the fact that different guests are doing different things at different times.
Vital to making this new concept work is reservations. “We need to have a reservation system in place. We want the guests to tell us what time they want [to dine] so we can plan accordingly.”
However, if guests have not made a reservation or if they decide that they want to dine somewhere else than where they have their reservation, they can be accommodated. “We are flexible on that. It doesn't mean that if you do not have a reservation, we will not take you in. We will never say no to the guests. We want to get the big picture from the reservations. Ten percent here or there is really not going to imapct us. The way it is advertised is that we encourage guests to make reservations. We want the guests to plan a little bit more from their side because there are so many venues.”
As with almost anything new, Dynamic Dining has been controversial. “We still have our traditional style guests who like traditional style dining. Slowly, slowly, they are starting to accept it. We still have to keep in mind that we still have [those] customers but they have started to accept it as well. They understand it more now.”
In addition, Dynamic Dining is operating more smoothly now than when the ship first entered service. “I think right now we are on the right track. We are getting a lot of positive feedback. We have listened to our guests and taken a lot of their suggestions. I believe in [Dynamic Dining] and it is going very well.”
The Dynamic Dining restaurants
Quantum does not have a large main dining room capable of seating thousands of guests. Rather, as mentioned earlier, it has a series of restaurants, all of which have a seating capacity of approximately 430 guests. “ We want the guests to experience different boutique restaurants, which give you a more intimate experience on a large ship.”
“We have four restaurants plus one which is exclusive to our suites guests. We wanted to give the restaurants distinctive ambiances. We wanted the food to match the ambiance. We wanted the restaurants to be real restaurants that are going to attract by their own names and food. ”
“We did different Chinaware, different plate tops in every restaurant. All the other ships have the same China in every restaurant. Here, we did it different, to match the ambiance, to match the food.”
Similarly, the background music for each restaurant is different with over 1,000 songs on each venue's playlist. “We hand picked them, every single song.”
“One of the advantages of these restaurants is that we can cook everything 100 percent fresh. Because the guests have reservations, we know exactly how they will come. We try to stay away from the batch cooking.”
Because each restaurant is distinct in character, “guests know what to expect when they go to these restaurants.”
“We have American Icon, your American road trip with America's favorites - - shrimp gumbo, fried chicken, braised short ribs. We even trained the waiters to be more casual. - - 'Hello, how are you?' 'How are you doing today?' We even had them pull up their sleeves. They have to be like the American culture - - casual and friendly.”
Chic, we want it to be nouvelle cuisine, smart casual, French-inspired, The name of the restaurant drives it. From the chairs to the glassware to the plates, the tables, everything is nouvelle, new, trendy. We wanted a restaurant with light dishes yet a few dishes that are new cuisine-inspired.”
Silk derives its name from the Silk Road, the ancient trading route that ran through Asia. “We serve roasted duck and noodles and all kinds of dishes that really bring you back to the Silk Road countries. We took dishes from India, China, Japan. For Silk, we even have the waiters use Asian inspired words. They even need to do the bow so we train them to do the classic bow.”
“Grande is the jewel. We wanted to bring the guests [a] traditional, formal restaurant - - from the music, to the plateware, to the glasses, to the flatware, to the chairs, to the mirrors on the walls to serving the complimentary glass of champagne when the guest walks in. For the beginning of the service, we want the waiters to wear purple gloves. Serving lobster evey night, Grande is your 100 percent formal restaurant.
“We made it mandatory formal - - without a jacket, you cannot go in. [Thus,] if a guest wants to have a formal experience every night, they can do that. What we noticed on the other ships was that when you have a formal night, some of the guests do not want a formal night. So here, if you want a formal night, you can have a formal night anytime you want. You want a casual night, you can have a casual night anytime you want. You want a smart causal night, you can go to Chic anytime you want. Every night if you want to have it, that is fine, if you don't want to have it that is still fine.”
“For Coastal Kitchen, we wanted to elevate and distinguish more [so than previously] the suite guests who pay premium prices. We wanted to give them an exclusive suite venue. Coastal Kitchen on Deck 14, exclusive only to them with a team only for them, with an exclusive menu only for them. It is Mediterranean-inspired. Very, very well received.” (See our review).
“All of the Dyamic restaurants are very well-received. Guests are starting to accept this product.”
Cruise ship dining review - - Quantum of the Seas - - Royal Caribbean - - Dining Guide