Cruisetalk Comments on Plans for A La Carte Restuarant on Queen Elizabeth

Would you pay $6 to $7 for classic French dishes like escargot on your next Cunard cruise? Just a few days ago Cunard announced that company officials were considering the idea of “a la carte” pricing in the Queen Elizabeth’s top restaurant, the classical french, Verandah. No menu details have been announced, but one would think that classic dishes like Escargot de Bourgogne would be included in the offerings. As a fan of traditional cruising where excellent meals, including the occasional Escargot de Bourgogne, are included in the basic cruise price, I felt compelled to comment on this idea.

The restaurant will be included in the new Cunard ship, the Queen Elizabeth, currently under construction in Italy. She will debut in October of 2010. The menu of the ship’s specialty restaurant, The Verandah, would feature high-end French cuisine at prices ranging from $6 to $7 for appetizers, $16 to $18 for main courses, $6 to $7 desserts would be an additional. So rather than a standard $20 to $30 cover charge, diners would pay up to $32 for a three course meal. Perhaps other courses like soup, salad and cheese would also be offered at an additional charge, further upping the pricing. No word on whether or not these prices include guests’ tips. Dining in the ships main dining rooms, the Britannia Restaurant, Queens Grill and Princess Grill, will still be included in the basic cruise price with the actual dining room determined by the category of room booked.

My thought is that it really won’t be any different than the current selection of specialty restaurants offered by most cruise lines, with one caveat. That one difference would be a diner’s concern about how much money the meal will cost. Many cruisers, even those who always pay extra for beverages, tipping, and specialty dining, choose cruising because they can budget for the expenses ahead of time. The idea that cruising is mostly inclusive and that they can set a budget of for items above the base price is very appealing. When a cruise line sets specialty dining at a rate of $20 per person, for example, then a couple can budget $80 for two specialty dining experiences together before they take their cruise. Now the worry of how much to pay occurs when sitting at the table and deciding what to order. If a cruiser is on a tight budget, then “a la carte” dining is not always the best way to go.

Perhaps, I have missed the point completely in the above comments. The Veranadah is probably not really designed for those cruisers on a budget. More than likely it is designed to be a splurge that offers the best of the best to the most high end customers on the ships.

As a perspective and frequent cruisers, I have no objection to offering specialty dining on a cruise ship as long as a quality meal can still be had in the main dining room (MDR). The specialty offerings should be a step above the MDR, but on many of my cruises, even with the hustle and bustle and mass production, the food has been very good. We have also found the service in the MDR to be first class, highly attentive and personalized. Cruise lines that maintain that quality level of service, specialty dining offered or not, will always win my business.