Have sailed RCCL 7 times over past several years and there is definitely a deterioration in the dining experience. The menu is now quite limited: one salad offering at dinner (not counting the routine Ceasar), salad dressings are boring and routine (are they bottled?). Lamb: leg of lamb has become lamb shanks. Veal: roast is now parmasaned and smothered in cheese and tomatoe sauce. Lobster tail: so small it is paired with shrimp. (The waiter did have extra tails available, however.) RCCL offered a wide wine selection, but our choice was not available. They could not answer any questions about the wine or make a recommendation of any kind. (In the past the wine stewards knew the wines, now they just toss the list in front of you.) Most diners at our table ordered a back-up dessert -- ice cream! Believe me, we never left hungry, but the variety and quality are simply not there anymore. I will say, however, that once again our dinner companions (all strangers at first) were delightful and a joy. Happy sailing!
Your email on the decline in food quality over your 7 cruises is something I have observed and suspected. I understand why - the prices have been suppressed for a while given the cost of cruising long ago. Cruise fares would be much higher if they were pricing the "old" product offering.
I can share the history of declining food and service from a Celebrity perspective - I figure it is the same for RCL and the main mass market lines.
I have 17 cruises with Celebrity, 5 Princess and 2 RCL.
In 1992 on Celebrity lines you had 1 waiter and bus boy for 3 tables. Your entree came on a plate and the bus boy arrived with a sterling silver multi divided platter from which you selected your desire of 4 sides - as much as you liked. The breads and salads were outstanding, the "plating" as per the brochures. The service was gracious and the wine steward knew the product.
In 1998 was the next peak when the true "mass market" influence started to appear - the entre was plated with the cruise lines sides. No choice. The bread and salads were "dumbed down".
In 2001 - enough said - the effect of 9/11 showed up in the real decline of food choice, quality and plating. The wine steward function was paired back.
In 2003/04 was the RCL purchase and Celebrity the former "premium" was ripped apart and the entire experience reduced down to true mass market. I remember 3 really poor quality experiences on Millie, Galaxy and Infinity. Truly awful food and brown wilted iceberg lettuce.
I cruise much less often now and generally on Oceania and Crystal on occasion, Celebrity at only select times. I am on the RCL board searching for info for a work friend.
Generally, the cruise lines are trying to balance alot of pressures and to cater to the increasing "informality" of the mass market. They generally do a good job considering their task is far harder than a hotel (hotels do not turn over their rooms 1x per week).
I just came off a back to back on the Jewel and found the dining room food to be of good quality. Okay not fabulous, but good.
I don't expect a five-star meal in the dining room but I do prefer freshness.
I must say I have been on many RCL ships and many Celebrity ships and with RCL I find an inconsistency from ship to ship, but not on Celebrity, they are very consistent with their food and service.
I find the more I cruise, the more I know what to order in the dining room.
2008 Liberty OTS (Caribbean)
2007 Summit (Alaska)
2006 Century, Infinity (Panama Canal), Summit (Hawaii)
2005 Millenium, Voyager of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas B2B
2004 Explorer of the Seas, Constellation (Canada/New England)
2003 Horizon (Bermuda), Summit
2002 Explorer of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas (Caribbean)
We sailed Jewel 12/11-12/17. All of the above is true and if you have sailed alot (18 cruises for us) you really notice things. We loved the Jewel for its ambience and the service in the dining room was excellent. It was the only cruise we both returned something. Mine was prime rib well well done, ordered medium rare and my dh couldn't eat his lobster tail; it was squishy and full of water. Hardly any dessert choices. But if they expand the menu (quality and choice) we will pay more to cruise.
We have found that the food on Celebrity and Holland appear to be the most consistent thru the years with Celebrity having the upper hand in pastries,bread and desserts.They have also done an excellent job with their sushi bar which is available every evening in the Lido area.Holland does the best with hot appetizers in all bars before dinner.