Beyond The Superlatives, Royal Caribbean Delivers The Goods

Vanessa Lee

150 Central Park

In my last column I wrote about a recent short cruise on Royal Caribbean’s newest, biggest, boldest ship, the Harmony of the Seas – check it out here if you missed it. Vanessa’s Views comes out every second Friday in Open Jaw’s Splash newsletter and I hope you enjoy my various musings and pontifications (at times!) on ships, life, travel and cruising. 

I started selling Royal Caribbean at Paramount Holidays in 1981, when the line consisted of 3 small ships. My how times do change and 35 years later the brand is preparing to celebrate 50 years in the business.  

Royal Caribbean has long been an innovator and is a company that must be acknowledged as a ‘pushing-the-boundaries’ type of brand. I seem to be forever applauding Royal Caribbean’s innovations and innate desire -- clearly driven by Chairman Richard Fain -- on breaking barriers and constantly challenging norms. 

They never sit still and nor should they. And I believe, by being a leader in several categories, they have created an environment that encourages other mainstream and contemporary/premium brands to elevate their ships and onboard experience. It is affirmed that “all ships do rise with the tide.”

Your clients don’t necessarily know these things and they may not need to. What they do need to know is that RCI will offer your clients/their guests the best vacation possible. They will do all in their power to provide a rich and diverse onboard experience in every major category, including dining, entertainment, service, accommodations, safety and “fun things to do.”

What you need is complete confidence in what a brand offers your clients and what they will offer you in terms of support. With Vicki Freed and her team at the helm of the agency sales process and Lisa Connell, Mary Ogaki and the Canadian gang here at home – you are in great hands and you know it. 

Royal Caribbean continues to elevate the dining experience with innovations like the brand-new 150 Central Park on the Harmony. I love this restaurant and it is likely my favourite overall on any of Royal Caribbean’s ships (with the possible exception of the quirky and fab Wonderland).

Not only is it beautiful to sit in with gorgeous surroundings and décor, and fantastic attention to detail in every aspect, but it is under the guidance of culinary geniuses such as Michael Schwartz on Harmony, who are James Beard award-winning chefs at the top of their game. I have met Michael and had a few chats with him – he is impressive and exceedingly nice.

150 Central Park is aptly named as it is located in the Central Park neighbourhood on Deck 8. That, along with the aft of Deck 6 are two of my special spots on these Oasis-class ships.

Schwartz, best-known for his Miami flagship restaurant, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, has a simple, yet elegant approach to American-style fine dining.  A new menu has just been unveiled with a signature cocktail to kick it off – the Central Park Martini – yum. 

Michael’s approach is fresh and simple food along with thoughtful service and an obsession with details – something near and dear to my heart too. The menu is described as: “A straightforward multi-course which allows the guest to explore the restaurant on multiple visits and try something new each time.”

Selections include lobster gnocchi with a carrot butter sauce, herb salad and a Bittersweet Chocolate Bourbon Tart with salted caramel, spiced pecans, cranberry chutney and Chantilly cream. More yummy stuff again.  There’s also a world-class cheese cart, tuna tartare and an 18-ounce tenderloin prepared tableside. A dynamic wine program contributes to an upscale and intimate gastronomic experience. 

I have experienced first-hand many of the restaurants on the Oasis-class ships, and as noted, I do love Wonderland as well as 150 Central Park. Chops Grille offers consistent and enjoyable cuisine and this time I also dined in the sushi restaurant, Izumi. That was a first and as I have a severe allergy to shellfish, it’s not the easiest choice.

The staff were superb and very aware and caring of my dietary needs. They even made sure to cook my choices in fresh oil that had not touched a lobster or crab claw! Just in case. The food was delicious and the service warm and charming.  

Much of the hype about Harmony and previous ground-breaking Royal Caribbean ships is about the superlatives. The biggest of this, the first of that.  
But what it boils down to at the end of the proverbial day – with any experience whether on shore or at sea – are answers to these questions: Does the company take care of its guests?; Does it ensure they are happy and offered consistent and kind service?;  And above all, does that company care? In the case of Royal Caribbean, the answer is a resounding yes.   


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