When it comes to creating the perfect macaroni and cheese, the Royal Caribbean culinary team spares no effort. With over 500 hours dedicated to perfecting this beloved dish, they are determined to make it a star attraction on the upcoming Icon of the Seas cruise ship. During a recent tour of Royal’s headquarters, I had the opportunity to witness their dedication firsthand.
Michael Jacobs, the lead for culinary operations, emphasized the importance of consistency in creating the ultimate macaroni and cheese. Each pasta is carefully cut to complement its sauce, ensuring that every bite is a delightful blend of flavors. As I observed the test kitchen filled with chefs, it became evident that this seemingly simple dish was the subject of a surprisingly lengthy conversation. Royal Caribbean’s vice president of food & beverage, Linken D’Souza, proudly expressed his excitement for their new mac and cheese, acknowledging that previous attempts fell short. This time, they were determined to get it right.
But macaroni and cheese is just the beginning. Icon of the Seas will introduce a whole new culinary experience with its AquaDome Market, featuring five food hall options. Mac’s, one of these venues, will offer tantalizing mac and cheese variations like Pepperoni Pizza Mac, Creole Mac, Bacon Mac, Carolina Pulled Pork Mac, and the classic rendition. The attention to detail invested in each dish is indicative of Royal Caribbean’s commitment to providing an exceptional dining experience on their new flagship.
In addition to Mac’s, the food hall will include Crème de la Crêpe, GNGR, Feta, and Toast & Garden, along with a small bar. The goal is to cater to a variety of taste preferences, offering quick and casual yet distinct flavors. Royal Caribbean understands the importance of choice and variety, especially on a family vacation. They aim to satisfy as many types of people as possible, creating a space where families can come together and enjoy individualized dining experiences.
The investment in the culinary offerings aboard Icon of the Seas goes beyond just the macaroni and cheese and the food hall. Tim Klauda, the line’s vice president of product development, led a tour through their working space, which included a full-scale model of the marketplace. This allowed designers to see how everything would come together and address any potential issues before the ship’s construction was complete. The meticulous planning and attention to detail ensured that no aspect was overlooked.
Rye & Bean, a specialty coffee venue with stunning views, is another highlight of the AquaDome neighborhood. With its prime location and carefully crafted atmosphere, it promises to be a popular spot day and night. Alex Palmeri, manager of beverage operations, even added a touch of humor to the experience with tongue-in-cheek menu items, including a fictitious drink named after Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley. The team’s commitment to fun and enjoyment is evident in every aspect of their work.
Icon of the Seas will feature over 40 food and beverage options, with 20 of them being new or signature venues. One standout offering is the Empire Supper Club, an immersive dining experience reminiscent of 1920s New York City. From caviar to wagyu steak, each course is carefully paired with a drink, including cocktails that are sized to ensure guests leave happy but not “fall-over happy.”
The ship’s Central Park neighborhood will house several dining options, including Izumi in the Park, an all-day sushi and Japanese street food walk-up window. Other choices include Chops Grille, Trellis bar, Park Cafe (open in the evening for the first time), and Bubbles, the walk-up champagne bar. Whether you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, small bites, or Mediterranean flavors, there’s something for everyone aboard Icon of the Seas.
While the ship’s maximum passenger capacity of 7,600 presents a challenge, the Royal Caribbean team is determined to exceed expectations. Feeding thousands of guests across numerous venues requires careful planning and execution, but they embrace this opportunity to explore new culinary frontiers. Icon of the Seas is a first-in-class ship, and with it comes the chance to innovate and deliver exceptional dining experiences on an unprecedented scale.
As I concluded my tour, I couldn’t help but admire the passion and dedication that goes into every culinary creation aboard Icon of the Seas. From the perfectly coated macaroni and cheese to the thoughtfully designed food halls and specialty venues, Royal Caribbean is poised to redefine the dining experience at sea. Embarking on this new flagship promises to be a journey of culinary delights that will leave guests with unforgettable memories and taste buds yearning for more.