Food on Symphony of the Seas
As is customary on cruise ships, the main dining room and the buffet are the major food sources on the Symphony of the Seas, but far from the only ones. There are also many smaller eateries around the ship, some of which cost extra, and others that don’t.
The main dining room had good food and a staff that would go overboard to try and please their guests. We had all our dinners in the dining room. When you have special dietary needs dinners for the dining room are ordered the night before so they can be tailored to suit your diet. Mostly it ends up as meat, vegetables, and a potato. Unlike some ships which just leave off the sauce entirely, Symphony did make gluten and dairy free sauces. The waitstaff often work other venues during other meals, and if they see any of their special needs clients they do everything in their power to accommodate those needs in other venues as well.
On this ship they would take pre-orders for dining room breakfast or lunch as well, but we preferred the freedom of eating those meals when we felt like it rather than at a set time. The dining room is only open a short time for those meals, so we had them elsewhere. Cruise ships often offer set time dining at the same time and table nightly, and a more flexible dining option where you can show up anytime during the open hours and get seated where space is available. The flexible time works great for people who order straight off the menu, but for anyone with special dietary needs, dinners are best accommodated at the set time dining where you have the same waitstaff every day.
My sisters and I all have gluten and dairy issues of various degrees and they did a great job with tasty adaptations of the menu and sometimes custom desserts. Apparently a flourless chocolate cake is their standard gluten free dessert as they brought a plate of that every night whether we ordered it or not. It was quite tasty, but very rich. If they could make whatever we each had ordered we got one piece of the cake in addition. If there was something they couldn’t make gluten and dairy free the person who ordered it got the flourless chocolate cake instead. Generally the desserts they make onboard could be adapted while the ready-made ones could not.
The chef even made a delicious gluten and dairy free version of the grand Marnier soufflé. He made up the recipe for it just for us. It was quite a long wait for dessert that night as it took longer to cook than he anticipated since the regular version has a shorter cooking time, but it was so good it was well worth the wait.
Before sailing we weren’t sure what they buffet would be like with covid, but it was pretty much what I anticipated it would be. The buffet on Symphony of the Seas, called the Windjammer, was open, but nothing was self-serve for guests unless it was already portioned out so you touched nothing but the dish it was on. Anything served in larger containers had to be dished out to individual people’s plates by someone on the crew so that no passengers touched the serving utensil. One station of the buffet contained a variety of gluten free entrees, and at breakfast the station serving pancakes and waffles and things could make gluten free pancakes or toast on request, though getting them did require a wait since they are not pre-made and ready to serve like the regular stuff.
Other food venues around the ship are Wonderland, Park Cafe, Johnny Rockets, Dog House, Jamie’s Italian, Cafe Promenade, Starbucks, Sorrentos, Vitality Cafe, Izumi, Sugar Beach, El Loco Fresh, 150 Central Park, Chops Grille, Hooked Seafood, Solarium Bistro, and the coastal kitchen which is only for people in suites. People can also order room service. Some room service breakfast items are free (though a tip should be given at delivery.) Most of the room service menu costs extra.
Premium eateries – in other words the ones you pay extra for – include Wonderland, which serves imaginative cuisine, Johnny Rockets burgers (which does serve free breakfast), Jamie’s Italian and Starbucks. Izumi Hibachi & Sushi serves Japanese cuisine. The Vitality Cafe, which is at the spa, has some free items, but juices and smoothies cost extra. Sugar Beach is just what it sounds like – a candy store. 150 Central Park has upscale locally sourced dinners while Chops Grill is more of a classic steakhouse. Hooked Seafood serves fresh New England style seafood. So a good portion of the restaurants onboard do cost extra. We did not visit any of those. Some of them require reservations.
Places that are included in the cruise fare besides the dining room and buffet include the Park Cafe which is open at breakfast and lunch with deli style food. We peeked in one morning, but they had nothing gluten-free so we didn’t stay. The Dog House is of course hot dogs, and open at lunch and dinner (if you eat dinner early enough anyway.) Cafe Promenade is the 24-hour eatery, which had sandwiches and desserts. It always had a few gluten free items. Sorrentos has pizza ready to go, but if they don’t have what you want out and ready they can make it on request. They will also make gluten free pizza on request. El Loco Fresh has Mexican food and was our favorite lunch spot. We tried to check out the Solarium Bistro, but never came by when it was open. The website says it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Must either be short open hours or it just wasn’t open that cruise since there were only about a third of the number of passengers the ship holds on board. Though listed as a free eatery, their menu does include some pay-extra items.
Besides all the eateries, there’s also free soft ice cream, which was practically right next to El Loco Fresh so we walked past it sometimes. Because nothing was self-serve with covid, 0ne poor crew member had to stand by the formerly self-serve ice cream station to make cones for anyone who happened by wanting one. Occasionally a line formed giving him something to do, but most times we walked by there he was all alone and probably very bored. He did not have any lactose free or non-dairy options so we never had anything there.
It would be hard to go hungry on a cruise ship with all the different food choices available, and this ship certainly had more places than average. Of course it’s a far bigger ship than average so it has room for a greater variety of places.