Traveling overseas with your smart phone

Rick Steves: Travel Smart With Your Smartphone

June 3, 2014By: Rick Steves

rick stevesRick Steves, Tribune Content Agency, June 3, 2014

I love all the technology that makes travel easier than ever. Even when you want to get away from it all, it makes sense to take your smartphone (or tablet) with you. You can keep in touch if you want to, plus you’ll have instant access to resources that can enrich your trip. I wouldn’t leave home without mine.

Essentially, a smartphone helps you make the most of your travel time. For example, some of Europe’sblockbuster sights, such as the Eiffel Tower in Parisand the Colosseum in Rome, allow you to buy tickets and have them sent to your phone — enabling you to skip the formidable lines when you get there.

You can also check hours and get directions to places you want to visit, and confirm other details that help you plan your itinerary. I generally don’t care about the weather, but while filming recently in the Italian Riviera — where good weather was critical — I repeatedly checked my weather app hoping for a better forecast than the predicted drizzle.

RELATED: Rick Steves: Renting a Car for Your European Trip

Besides managing the nitty-gritty details, you can enhance sightseeing with audio tours and podcasts. (It works best to download these at home before your trip.) I’m even starting to see more innovative ways to use your mobile device when sightseeing, such as the QR codes posted at spots of interest in ColmarFrance. Scan one, and bam! You’ve got the information right there on your screen for free.

Using your phone abroad isn’t hard, and horror stories you may hear about sky-high roaming fees are both dated and exaggerated. With a little preparation, you can text, make calls, and access the Internet — without breaking the bank.

First, confirm that your phone will work internationally. Find out your service provider’s global roaming rates for voice calls, text messaging, and data roaming and tell them which of those services you’d like to activate. (When you get home, remember to cancel these services to avoid extra charges.)

If you’d rather use your phone exclusively on Wi-Fi, ask your provider to deactivate roaming options on your account. You can also put your phone in “airplane mode,” and then turn your Wi-Fi back on.

Luckily, Wi-Fi is easy to find throughout Europe. Most accommodations offer it, usually for free. When you’re out and about, head to a cafe. They’ll usually tell you their Wi-Fi password if you buy something. Some towns have free public Wi-Fi hotspots scattered around highly trafficked areas. Keep in mind using a shared network comes with the potential for cyber-attacks. It’s safest to use a password-protected network rather than being open to the world. If you’re not actively using a hotspot, turn off Wi-Fi so that your device is not visible to others. And save your banking and finance chores for your return home.

Though widely available, Wi-Fi can be spotty: Signals may slow down or speed up suddenly, or just conk out every few minutes. Data roaming — accessing the Internet over a cellular connection — is handy when you can’t find useable Wi-Fi. It’s important to set up data roaming with your service provider before your trip; if you do this, it costs about $25 for around 100 megabytes (enough to view 1,000 emails or 100 websites) — more than you’ll likely need to bridge the gaps between reliable Wi-Fi.

Budgeting data is easy. For example, you can limit how much you use by switching your phone’s email settings from “push” to “fetch.” This way, you can “fetch” (download) your messages when you’re on Wi-Fi rather than having them continuously “pushed” to your device. If you receive an email with a large photo or other attachment, wait until you’re on Wi-Fi to download it.

Also, be aware of apps — such as news, weather, and sports tickers — that automatically update. On some phones, you can select which specific apps can use data roaming; to reduce usage, check your phone’s settings to be sure that none of your apps are set to “use cellular data.”

Because there are various ways that you can accidentally burn through data, I like the safeguard of manually turning off data roaming on my phone whenever I’m not actively using it — try checking under your phone’s “cellular” or “network” menu, or ask your service provider how to do it. Then, when you need to get online but can’t find Wi-Fi, simply turn on data roaming long enough for the task at hand, then turn it off again. By sticking with Wi-Fi wherever possible and thoughtfully budgeting your data use, you can easily and affordably stay connected throughout your entire trip.

Wherever I go — from people-watching bustling boulevards to beach cafes — I appreciate staying connected with my family, friends, work, and most important — the place I’m visiting.

(Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at rick@ricksteves.com and follow his blog on Facebook.)

 

This article was written by RICK STEVES and Tribune Content Agency from Rick Steves Travel – PBS and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

6 Most annoying things about cruising

The 6 most annoying things about cruising

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There’s a lot that I love about a cruise. Pick an itinerary, like the Mediterranean, and it feels like there’s no better way to see the region than on a ship, on which you can sail from Spain to France and Italy without studying a map, unpacking, or dragging your suitcase from hotel to train or rental car. But I’m not going to lie: There are things that drive me nuts about cruising. Here, my pet peeves — and the lines that have resolved these issues:

  • 1. Sailing out of port … just when things are heating up.

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    Is there anything worse than a ship that sails before the sun sets from a port known for nightlife? I have literally stood on a deck fighting back tears as we pulled out of Barcelona at 5 pm, mourning the lost evening.

    Solution: Azamara Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club have made it part of their mission to overnight in just such places, and when Viking Ocean Cruises launches in 2015, it plans to do the same. Bravo!

  • 2. Paying a single supplement, just because you want to travel alone.

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    Solo travel comes with its frustrations. Eating dinner by yourself can be lonely, as can a moment when you see something amazing and realize you don’t have anyone to share it with. A cruise seems like the perfect solution … except most cruise lines charge for the privilege of traveling alone.

    Solution: Norwegian Cruise Line has designed studio cabins so that single travelers don’t get dinged with a supplement fee — complete with a shared lounge that makes it easy to connect with other singles.

  • 3. Giving up the luxury of being able to stay connected.

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    Sure, some people pick cruises for the luxury of unplugging completely. But many of us (myself included) feel more relaxed when we have the option of checking email and browsing the Internet easily and inexpensively. Unfortunately, on some lines, that privilege costs a small fortune and feels only a smidge faster than dial-up.

    Solution: Not all lines are created equal on this one. Costa Cruises charges a mere $13 an hour and has Wi-Fi just about everywhere. Check out our handy chart on what Internet access costs at sea, cruise line by cruise line.

  • 4. Being forced to pack bulky dress shoes and (gasp!) a tux or gown.

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    It wasn’t that long ago that most cruises had at least one formal night, and that formal night was mandatory. Some ships still enforce these dress codes and, while they seem appropriate on some occasions (transatlantic crossings) and easy on some cruises (say, from ports you can drive to), most of the time, this requirement forces you to check luggage.

    Solution: Ten years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line launched its innovative Freestyle Cruising® concept, which made cruising more like a resort vacation than a historic ocean liner voyage. (In addition to old-fashioned dress codes, the line did away with assigned tables at fixed dinner sittings, a change we thank them for every time my husband and I sail.) Fortunately, many lines followed suit — check out who did away with formal nights in our dress code chart.

  • 5. Having to pay for shore excursions if you want help with sightseeing.

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    Historically, cruise lines gave you a port map and sent you on your way if you didn’t book a tour. We understand being protective of that revenue stream, but come on! Is there any aspect of a cruise that’s more important than making sure you have a good time at the destinations the ship visits?

    Solution: Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean offer excellent concierge programs for customers who book top-level suites. I dream that someday, these services will be available to everyone.

  • 6. Cruising through the Caribbean … and not getting enough time on the beach.

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    You could easily book a seven-day Caribbean cruise and — between late arrivals, early departures, and can’t-miss shore excursions (such as tours of ancient Mayan ruins) and experiences (including shopping in St. Barths) — end up with just a few hours of beach time.

    Solution: Well, this one is all on you, the traveler. Determine in advance which ports have the best beaches. Then set aside days to hop in a cab and sit by the surf all day. Or book a day pass to a resort on a pretty beach. If what you really crave is beach time, you won’t be sorry — those ruins aren’t going anywhere.

6 ways to escape children on a cruise ship

No offense, parents, but this is a nightmare scenario for some cruisers: They book a cruise hoping for a little R&R, and instead find a ship full of screaming children trampling on their stuff, interrupting their trashy book reading and drenching them with Olympic-worthy cannonballs. But take a deep breath, people — there are ways to avoid other people’s children, even on a family-friendly ship. Though in some cases it will cost you more.

It’s not your imagination that children are everywhere on cruises: Nearly a third of cruisers bring their children along with them, according to data from Cruise Lines International Association — and that means thousands of kids take a cruise each month. Indeed, by some estimates, 1.6 million children under 18 take a cruise each year, and many lines actively promote their family friendliness with on-site babysitting, special kids activities (think SpongeBob roaming the decks), promotions where kids sail free, and more.

Of course, if kids are on your ship it doesn’t mean they’ll be noisy or bother you. And even family-friendly ships have areas of respite from children.

Still, many cruisers would prefer to avoid a ship in which there might be misbehaving minors (ahem MarketWatch commenters, we’re listening to you). Here’s how to do it.

Pick the right cruise line

Some cruise lines — like Royal Caribbean RCL -0.50%  , Carnival CCL -0.49%   and Norwegian NCLH -1.73%   — are very family oriented, so they’re likely to have a lot of kids, says Rich Tucker, the marketing manager for CruiseDeals.com . Indeed, these cruise lines all recently ran kids-sail-free deals and offer up amenities like photo ops with Disney characters, rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks and more to attract families.

Cruise lines have been catering more and more to families, and the results have been paying off. But if the prospect of being trapped aboard a boat with screaming kids makes you recoil in horror, here are five ways to escape them and enjoy your vacation. (Photo: Getty Images)

On the flip side, the higher-end lines like Seabourn, Regent, Azamara, Oceania, Paul Gauguin, Crystal and Silversea are less likely to be filled with kids, in part because it can be pricey to take a whole family on ships like this and the ships tend not to have too many amenities that specifically attract young children, says Tucker.

The sweet spot for those looking for a deal on a ship with fewer children may be Princess and Celebrity cruises, he says. While these ships will have some families, they don’t tend to have as many kid-friendly amenities as Royal Caribbean and Carnival, which means they are far less popular with families.

And if you really want to avoid children (read: you never want to ever see one on your entire cruise — ever), look to one of these ships, which offer adults-only cruises: P&O’s Arcadia, Adonia and Oriana.

Hang out in the right spots

Even on child-friendly ships, you can find places to hang out where the kids don’t. For one, many of the ships have adult-friendly areas. Carnival offers the Serenity area on some of its ships that is available only to people 21 and up and has a bar and whirlpools; Royal Caribbean offers the Solarium pool area on 20 of its ships that’s available only for guests 16 or older; Norwegian offers a few adult-only areas on its ships including the Spice H20 area, for those 18 and older. However, Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of Cruisecritic.com , warns that consumers should look at a ship’s deck plan (this is usually posted online) as sometimes adults-only areas on ships are quite close to kids areas and thus can be less relaxing (read: you can hear the screaming children from your supposedly child-free lounge chair) than a more isolated adults-only area.

Even if the ship doesn’t have an adults-only area, there are places to hang out where a lot of the kids won’t be. Many ships have spas where you can get a treatment and then enjoy the accompanying pools and relaxation areas, and others have libraries, quiet areas and rooms with private balconies that provide a respite from other people’s children. Tucker adds that some ships also have a class of rooms with their own private relaxation space that tend to be quieter: Norwegian, for example, offers the Haven rooms, which have their own lounge and pool; just get prepared to pay more for this.

Time it right

It sounds obvious, but because it’s so crucial for the kid-avoidant cruiser, it bears repeating: Cruise at a time when kids will likely be in school, says McDaniel. That means you should likely say no to summer, spring break and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, she says.

Take a longer-length or repositioning cruise

Booking a cruise that’s longer than a week is also good way to avoid kids, says Stewart Chiron, founder of CruiseGuy.com . That’s because “short cruises are great for families,” says McDaniel. But “parents are less likely to take kids out of school for a week or longer.”

Repositioning cruises — these take place when a cruise line moves the ship to a new port to take advantage of the upcoming high season at that port — may also be a good bet, says Chiron, as they tend to attract fewer families in part because they are longer lengths and tend to be in shoulder seasons (added bonus: they also tend to be great deals).

Pick the right dining experience

Tucker says that if you opt for the specialty restaurants on your cruise, you’re likely to encounter fewer children. The downside: These tend to cost extra on many cruise lines. If you’re on a budget and still want to avoid kids, pick the later dinner hour (usually it’s around 8 or 8:30), says McDaniel, as families with young children tend to eat at the 6 p.m. seating.

Select a room in the right locale

McDaniel says that cruisers should check out the deck plan of a ship before selecting their room, as some rooms are much closer to areas where a lot of kids will likely be (the baby-sitting area, arcade, major pool, etc.), while others are near adults-only or other quiet areas. Tucker says that some cruise lines also have “spa” rooms that are near the spa and tend to be relatively quiet, and others have clusters of studio rooms (meant for single cruisers) that may be quieter because they aren’t near families.

Cruise industry’s plan to win over the haters

5 things Carnival, Royal Caribbean are doing to attract new cruisers


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About 21.7 million people are expected to take a cruise this year, up from 21.3 million last year, according to data from Cruise Lines International Association. What’s more, nearly nine in 10 cruise lines report that they’ve seen an increase in first-time cruisers. But while cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry, only about one in four Americans has ever taken a cruise. (Three in four Americans, meanwhile, have taken a beach vacation). And there are millions of people for whom the idea of taking a cruise has about as much appeal as organizing their sock drawer. “Some people feel they are too cool to cruise,” says Bob Lepisto, president of cruise line SeaDream Yacht Club.

The cruise industry is concerned about attracting — and changing the minds of — the 75% of Americans who fall in the never-cruised set. “It’s a serious issue…they want to milk a few more passengers,” says Jack Plunkett, the founder of Plunkett Research. These passengers represent millions of dollars that the cruise lines are leaving on the table. “The U.S. market is not the long-term growth vehicle it used to be,” Plunkett adds.

Here’s what cruise executives from Carnival CCL -0.03%  , Royal Caribbean RCL +1.50%   and more told us they’ve done recently to attract a new crowd.

1. Acts with names you’ll recognize.

Twenty five-year-old travel specialist Kelly Yella says that cruises don’t really appeal to her age group because the entertainment tends to be dated (it’s true: millennials don’t exactly dream of Broadway shows and oldies-playing cover bands, which is the perception many have of cruise entertainment); others think there isn’t much to do beyond sunning and swimming. Indeed, both Royal Caribbean International president and CEO Adam Goldstein and Carnival Cruise Line CMO Jim Berra told MarketWatch that one of the main reasons the never-cruised set think they don’t want to cruise is that they are worried there isn’t enough to do onboard.

But, says Goldstein, “that is a quaint notion.” Carnival will feature a record 49 concerts for travelers this year, with shows from Jennifer Hudson and Lady Antebellum, among others; Royal Caribbean brings Tony Award-winning musicals onboard like Chicago and Hairspray; and Norwegian is doing a The Grammy Experience cruise, which launched this year and features Latin Grammy Award winner Nestor Torres as a headliner. “These partnerships [with well-known acts] expose our brand to fans of the partners who may have not previously considered cruising, but will now because their ‘favorite brand or celebrity’ is affiliated with us,” says Marisa Scime, the director of social media and public relations for Norwegian Cruise Line NCLH -0.06%  . Plus, the number of themed cruises has jumped from about 400 to 700 in the past three years, says Howard Miles, the founder of theme cruise listing site ThemeCruiseFinder.com.

2. Celebrity chefs and more food options.

Many potential cruisers worry about lackluster buffets filled with warm, limp iceberg lettuce and sweaty American cheese. Indeed, Carnival’s Berra says that food is one of the main concerns that the never-cruised have about getting onboard for the first time — and that’s one of the reasons that Carnival has partnered with Guy Fieri to launch on-ship burger joints. Carnival isn’t alone: Norwegian now has a partnership with the Cake Boss and restaurants by Geoffrey Zakarian and Royal Caribbean with Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz.

And last week, Royal Caribbean introduced what it calls “dynamic dining” — in which it is ditching the traditional dining experience (two dinner seatings) and offering a series of 18 smaller restaurants to pick from on their new Quantum of the Seas ship. It’s a move, Goldstein says, that is geared toward inexperienced cruisers (traditional cruisers, he says, seem satisfied with traditional dining options). Higher end cruise lines like SeaDream Yacht club focus on fare like raw food or gluten-free offerings, as well as mostly locally sourced menus.

3. $32-a-night cruises and kids-sail-free promotions.

Roscoe Mathieu, a 27-year-old writer living in China, says that “the #1 reason” he doesn’t want to cruise is the expense. “Cruises, to me, are big white ships full of old rich people reassuring each other that although they are visiting some exotic clime or other, they do not have to interact with the countries or peoples they visit in any way,” he says; for the money, he feels he can do better elsewhere.

How cruise ship companies are trying to attract first-time cruisers

If you think cruises have bland food, screaming children, and viruses that spread like wildfire, cruise executives have a plan to change that. Catey Hill reports. Photo: Getty.

Both Goldstein and Berra say that one of the big barriers to getting first-time cruisers is price. “People think it is more expensive than it is,” Berra says. So the cruise lines in the past year have thrown out some compelling deals. Carolyn Brown, the editor-in-chief ofCruiseCritic.com , says that this year’s unprecedented breadth of kids-sail-free deals — offered by Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Carnival — were designed to attract new cruisers. Indeed, Carnival’s Berra confirms that Carnival’s deal was intended to bring the never-cruised on board by making it more affordable for them to cruise.

The deals weren’t just limited to kids-sail-free promotions. After the norovirus outbreak on Royal Caribbean earlier this year — these kinds of incidents tend to put off those who have never cruised more than old timers, surveys show — the cruise line offered up rates of $32 per person per night. And cruise prices overall hit near record lows last year amidst the bad press.

On the higher end of the cruise spectrum, it isn’t about price but about not nickeling and diming consumers. Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises says that they try to get new cruisers by focusing on how they don’t nickel and dime consumers on everything from shore excursions to cocktails. “We’ve strategically taken a more inclusive nature to cruising,” he says. “With Oceania Cruises, we include roundtrip air and complimentary amenities without compromise such as dining at all specialty restaurants, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages and free shuttle services from the ship to city centers in most ports of call.”

4. Satisfaction guarantees.

Many people — especially those who had never cruised before — were put off from cruising by incidents like viral outbreaks, the poop cruise and the crash that happened in the past few years. Glenmore, Penn. resident Susan Murray, 61, says that she will “never take a cruise, due to the prevalence of norovirus.” And 25-year old travel specialist Kelly Yella says that “not only have I never been on a cruise, I’ve never booked a cruise for a client…I think cruises have become a joke for most travelers, especially after the Carnival Cruise mishaps.”

Indeed, in May 2013 following the Carnival Triumph incident, 43% of consumers who had previously taken a cruise said they were “less likely to take a cruise now than a year ago” but that number jumped to 58% of those who had never taken a cruise. Carnival responded by offering a satisfaction guarantee — which it is still offering — that gave unsatisfied consumers a 110% refund — a move made in hopes of attracting new cruisers. “It’s designed to reassure people who say ‘I’ve never tried this before, what if I don’t like it,’” says Berra.

5. Faster, cheaper Wi-Fi.

Connecting to the web on a cruise ship has long been a pricey hassle. “Fifteen or twenty years ago, a staple element [of cruise lines’ messaging] was that cruising was one of the great ways to disconnect,” says Goldstein. “That message is unthinkable today.” But now, many cruise lines are scrambling to offer cruisers access to WiFi — an offering that Goldstein says appeals to new cruisers who don’t want to be disconnected for the duration of a cruise. Royal Caribbean, for example, is testing a new, faster Wi-Fi network on its Oasis of the Seas ships and says it hopes that by the end of summer it will be operable on three of its ships.

Despite these moves, some of those who have never cruised say things like these won’t change their minds about cruising: just because there is a celebrity chef, music act and cheap prices doesn’t mean that the experience is up to their standards. Indeed, the hatred of cruises is so pervasive in some circles that there is even a cottage industry of cruise lines that are pitching themselves as an anti-cruise cruise line with things like smaller ships that house only a limited number of passengers (often 200 or fewer, compared with the thousand-plus on larger lines), more immersive shore excursions (you get off the boat for many hours and go to culturally significant or unique spots) and locally sourced foods or unique dining options. Un-Cruise Adventures (yes, the name is deliberate; the company changed it to that last year) is one of them, trying to appeal to travelers who aren’t interested in the traditional big ship experience, says Tim Jacox, the executive vice president of sales and marketing of Un-Cruise Adventures. The ships house a maximum of 88 guests and take people into remote areas — think inner river passages of Alaska — where larger ships can’t go. Another cruise line, SeaDream Yacht Club (notice the name doesn’t say cruise), says that its mission is to “deliver a cruise that’s like a yachting experience.” The ship is limited to 112 passengers, has a nearly 1 to 1 staff to traveler ratio, lets passengers stay in ports until late in the evening, and just began offering an entire raw food menu last year.

Still, many objections to cruises are misconceptions, says Stewart Chiron, founder ofCruiseGuy.com . For example, there are many inexpensive cruise options, especially for those who can take advantage of last-minute deals, and the incidence of norovirus — while horrendous and certainly worth worrying about — is still rare on ships, as are accidents and mishaps. Plus, cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have made a number of recent moves to make their ships safer.

The “10 Commandments of Travel”

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Due to all the bad advise that I constantly hear I have developed a new set of the “10 Commandments”. Please use this as a travel resource when booking your next vacation. Trust me……you will have a better overall experience and your money will go farther.

The Cruise Butler

830-981-2445

http://www.TheCruiseButler.com

 

 

Traveling to Europe – Money hints and suggestions

HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I TAKE WITH ME WHEN TRAVELING TO EUROPE? WHAT CREDIT CARDS ARE ACCEPTED, WHERE SHOULD I GO TO GET MONEY EXCHANGED, AND MORE. 

  • When traveling to Europe I would bring the equivalent of $100 per day, per couple in local currency. This amount will keep you out of trouble and more than likely you will even have some leftover Euro’s which you can exchange back into USD when you get back into the USA. This money can be used for a cheap cab fare, a tip, a cold beer, a small souvenir, a sandwich and soda somewhere or an admission to a venue, subway fare, etc. Anything over $20 per person I tend to just put in on my credit card.
  • Travelers Checks are almost a thing of the past and are considered “old school” by many.
  • American Express is NOT widely used in Europe. You might find some locations but they are limited.
  • I would suggest taking 2-3 credit cards with you, and different types, such as Discover, MasterCard, or Visa.
  • If you plan on using your credit cards at ATM’s for money withdrawals make sure you have a PIN number to do so.
  • Advise your bank and/or credit card companies that you will be traveling to Europe during this time so they don’t cancel your card due to suspicious activity while you are in the middle of your vacation. That really adds unnecessary frustration to your trip.
  • The best locations that I’ve found for money exchange are the money exchange companies located at the international airport terminals. From my experience they have the best exchange rate around and they will even buy back your unused Euro’s from you when arriving back into the U.S.

I hope that helps with your planning.

Quantum of the Seas and all her brand new dining room options.

Royal Caribbean ditches traditional dining on the Quantum

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    Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas is changing the way cruisers eat by ditching complementary main dining rooms and introducing new restaurants where passengers can pick a cuisine of their choice. (ROYAL CARIBBEAN)

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    Jamie Oliver’s new eatery on board the Quantum of the Seas. (ROYAL CARIBBEAN)

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    American Icon Grill will serve classic American road trip food selected from American cities from “sea to shining sea.” (ROYAL CARIBBEAN)

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    The Grande will feature classic cuisine such as Beef Wellington, Chicken a l’Orange, Roasted Scallops and Sole Almandine.(ROYAL CARIBBEAN)

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    Michael’s Genuine Pub is inspired by the creations of James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. (ROYAL CARIBBEAN)

Royal Caribbean this week announced a new way of dining, ditching the traditional main dining room with assigned seating and replacing it with five restaurants where passengers can pick a cuisine of their choice.

Called Dynamic Dining, it will be offered on the Quantum of the Seas, set to debut in November.

While experienced cruisers appear perfectly happy with traditional dining, Goldstein said inexperienced travelers have the misconception that cruises are too regimented.

So no longer will there be two seatings (at 6 and 8 p.m.) in a main dining room serving crowds nearly the half the size of a ship’s passenger population.  Now, passengers will select a different dining spot every night, choosing one of the themed main dining rooms included in the cruise fare.

The Five Main Dining Rooms

From California-influenced to Pan-Asian fare, the five complimentary, full-service restaurants include a range of cuisines. Here’s a breakdown.

The American Icon Grill is where you’ll find comfort foods selected from American cities from “sea to shining sea,” the cruise line said. Featured dishes will include New Orleans gumbo, New England clam chowder and Southern fried chicken.

Chic will feature contemporary fine cuisine from fresh ingredients, offering “proteins that pack a punch.” Dishes include beef ribeye, lamb chops and Mediterranean sea bass. Entrée options will include dry aged steak, Maine lobster and veal Parmesan.

Silk will feature “Pan Asian flavors such as slow cooked lamb curry, ginger and sesame crusted tuna and sake glazed salmon.”

The Grande features classic cuisine such as Beef Wellington, Chicken a l’Orange, Roasted Scallops and Sole Almandine.

Coastal Kitchen is described as “where California cool meets the warmth of the Mediterranean.” The menu ranges from California favorites like sea bass ceviche, sliced avocado and blueberry pie to Mediterranean delicacies such as Serrano ham, goat cheese and roasted grapes.

The New Royal Caribbean Dining App

To help cruisers make reservations for these restaurants as well as many other ship amenities, Royal Caribbean is offering a new app that will work on cellphones and iPads during the cruise, or on the Internet before the cruise.

The app will show real-time availability for the on-board eateries and let users make reservations. If the dining room has ample space available, the app will show that, too. Cruisers can also use the apps to reserve shore tours and spa appointments.

The app’s main goal is to attract first-time cruisers, including skeptical Millennials. “In the old days,” Goldstein said, “we sold escape from the outside world. But today’s younger travelers want full-time access to the Internet.” Along those lines, Quantum will feature a new broadband technology for cruise ships, currently being tested aboard the line’s largest ships, Oasis and Allure of the Seas.

Of course, the app is not the only way to make reservations. More traditional cruisers can still use the telephone, access menus on their stateroom television or consult one of the “wayfinders” – navigational interactive touch-screens located throughout the ship.

Additional Specialty Dining Options

In addition to the five main dining restaurants, there are seven specialty dining spots that feature fare from celebrity chefs. These aren’t complimentary, and service charges vary.

Wonderland, open for dinner only, is described as a “culinary kaleidoscope.” In a demonstration given in New York on Wednesday, the line treated guests to a soup with Vanishing Noodles and a Chocolate Olive Fizz in a cellophane wrapper that disappears in your mouth. Other items included Sriracha eggs that appear in a plume of smoke and flash frozen ice cream atop tender pork belly.

Michael’s Genuine Pub is the brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. Along with craft beers and the ship’s own classic American ale, the gastropub will offer pub-style snacks. It’s open for lunch and dinner.

Jamie’s Italian, open for lunch and dinner, features British chef Jamie Oliver in his first cruise ship eatery. The menu will feature mostly rustic Italian fare along with a few surprises, such as Pumpkin Panzerotti and Zingy Prawn Linguine.

Devinly Decadence, despite its misleading name, will offer fresh spa cuisine for breakfast and lunch plus an upscale dinner experience similar to the Solarium Bistro on the Oasis-class ships. The fare is inspired by Devin Alexander, the best-selling cookbook author and chef on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.  It is complimentary during breakfast and lunch; there is an extra charge for dinner.

Chops Grille is already a well-known Royal Caribbean dining spot featuring the best in steak and other cuts of meat. Options include filet mignon, braised short rib, roasted organic chicken and dry aged steak burger. This is open for dinner only.

Izumi Japanese cuisine begins with vegetable tempura or shrimp gyoza dumplings, and entrées include mixed seafood, beef tenderloin and chicken or beef skewers. This is for lunch and dinner only.

The Chef’s Table is a limited special dinner with the best gourmet food and wine or aperitif pairings with every course. This is the most expensive meal offered on the ship, and reservations are required, as well as formal dress. There are generally six to eight courses, including appetizers like foie gras, truffles risotto or lobster bisque and main courses including lamb cutlets or filet mignon.

The last three dining spots include the Windjammer Marketplace, a new name for the Lido Café found on most cruise ships. On the newer cruise ships, cafeteria-style lines have been replaced by dozens of serving stations offering individual portions of various styles of food.

One of the most talked-about new public rooms coming to Quantum is the large combination lounge in a showroom named Two70° (pronounced “two-seventy degrees”). This room will feature a gourmet marketplace menu featuring salads, soups and hot pressed sandwiches, similar to what you find in upscale urban grocery stores.

Finally, Royal Caribbean says Quantum of the Seas will be the first cruise ship with a hot dog stand, known as the Seaplex Dog House. There is no charge for the hotdogs, or the onions, mustard, relish and sauerkraut you’ll want to pile on top of them.

The End of Traditional Dining

Quantum of the Seas will be the first modern cruise ship without a main dining room. Other cruise lines like Norwegian have been offering anytime, multi-venue dining options on their ships for decades, but they have always offered complimentary traditional dining rooms, as well.

Will this be enough to bring cruise virgins to cruise ships? Goldstein believes it will, and he promises even more surprises to come on the Quantum of the Seas.