A tour of Royal Caribbean’s new food hall concept, which could radically change casual dining onboard

Royal Caribbean is set to open its first food hall at Icon of the Seas and I had the chance to preview this new venue.

Aquadome Market is a series of five stalls offering a variety of quick service fare and a new addition to Royal Caribbean.

read more: Royal Caribbean to offer swanky supper club and food hall at launch of new Icon of the Seas

Food halls are a relatively new concept in the cruise industry and Icon of the Seas will be the first cruise ship to offer food halls under the Royal Caribbean International brand.

The Aquadome Market, located in the Aquadome district, is also a first for the cruise line. This is an area of ​​the ship surrounded by a huge glass dome at the front of the ship. Almost everything in this area is different, including theater location, fully enclosed location, and this new eatery.

In preparation for launch, Royal Caribbean set up a mockup in the Innovation Lab at the cruise company’s headquarters in Miami, Florida, and invited me to come see the plan in person.

Royal Caribbean’s Vice President of Product Development Tim Crowda and Product Development Product Owner Valentina Madinabecia walk us through the setup.

This prototype will help Royal Caribbean “fill in the gaps” that concept art and virtual reality can’t fully convey. The AquaDome Market space is more challenging, so the team built more space to explore the details

What is Aquadome Market?

Aquadome Market is a new free venue in front of Icon of the Seas with 5 stalls to choose from.

The five choices are:

  • Crème de la crepe (French crepe)
  • Mac (macaroni & cheese)
  • Feta Mediterranean (Greek)
  • GNGR (Asian cuisine)
  • Toast & Garden (sandwiches and salads)

Access to the Aquadome Market from the pool deck is convenient for those looking for a quick bite to eat.

“There has never been a food hall concept like this before,” Clauda explained. “You’re going to see food halls popping up all over the place, so it’s not a new concept, but for us to do it this way and position it to move forward. ”

You can also disperse the crowd by going all the way forward. Windjammer’s buffet is at the rear of the ship and El Loco Fresh is also at the stern. Royal Caribbean wanted to have an area at the front of the ship that could be easily accessed from the pool deck and take guests to the Aquadome area.

food hall design

Clauda explained that creating space for the new food hall, especially within the Aquadome, presents many challenges.

“The reason this is hard is because it’s against the glass. And with all this great food and options, it’s what the guests want, and how many people can really pack in there and eat.” Do you want to wait in line to get food? And how does it work and how does it queue? ”

For this reason, they built all five stalls of the market so that guests and crew could better understand the layout and flow.

“We’re still working out some of the details, but without this, we’ll sort things out after the ship is built.”

The team wanted to know how tight the space was, if guests could easily see the menu, and if the lines worked well.

One of the early lessons they discovered was line of sight, as Madina Beitia explained that seeing each station was a problem. “When I look at this hallway, I realize that I can’t recognize it unless I feel like I’m actually in front of each station.” ”

“So we’re debating whether the signage will come aside. Creating this kind of mockup allows us to figure out all these things before we actually start working.”

Another thing this prototype gives the team is the opportunity to experiment with the space.

“Another chance is that teams have the opportunity to do rotation specials every day,” explained Madinabeisia. “You can introduce a lot of flexibility and options into this space.”

Royal Caribbean intends to offer the Aquadome Market free at the launch of Icon of the Seas, but may experiment with additional fee options.

How it works is that guests walk to the stall they want to order food from, place their order, and wait for their food to be prepared. There is no pager to let you know when your food is ready. Because they want you to experience it pretty quickly.

“The balance is how customized you are and how fast you can get something and have it delivered quickly,” Clauda said.

“If they have to stop and get ready and it takes two minutes, this will never succeed. So looking at these options is part of what we’ve been doing. .”

Additionally, certain holes will be more customizable than others. Madinabeitia compared GNGR to a Chipotle ordering experience where you choose a base, protein, and toppings, while Mac is closer to a set menu.

Aqua Dome Market Tasting

In addition to testing the physical space, Royal Caribbean also tests the food served to guests at the Aquadome Market.

Royal Caribbean’s headquarters has a test kitchen where a team of chefs go through different food options to find the right choices and ingredients to include.

Royal Caribbean’s Vice President of Food and Beverage, Rinken D’Souza, takes us on a tour of this super-secret space and gives us a glimpse of the thought behind the menu.

The design of the food hall is an evolution of the cruise company’s offering, and “we always want to offer something interesting and exciting,” said ICON’s new dining venue.

“And with a ship as great and big as an icon, it means you can eat food in more places than ever before.”

We saw examples of each new street food and also got the chance to try some for ourselves. D’Souza warned that the menu is still under development, so you may not see these items when Icon launches.

Crème de la crepe: strawberry, nutella, caramelized banana and salted caramel

GNGR: sweet and sour chicken

Toast and Garden: Monte Cristo Sandwich

Mac’s: Pizza Macaroni and Cheese

Mac’s: Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

Feta Mediterranean: traditional Greek pita

One of the goals of these dishes was to offer guests something different than they would see at other venues.

D’Souza believes the Aquadome Market will offer passengers more bespoke options, saying, “It’s important to give our guests a more curated experience. An experience that’s more built for you. ‘ said.

“Of course, there are big venues like Windjammer, where they make a few things to order, but they have enough volume for the guests to carry around at a moment’s notice. It’s about whether we can make it a little more special.” ”

For D’Souza, the variety of options really stands out: “My favorite thing is that you can walk in and have Monte Cristo at breakfast, and you can come in at lunch and have pita. Or come at dinner time and have some Chinese food.”

For the family, he thinks this will be a big win: “Especially if you have a family of five or six, you can go to the store and not everyone wants to eat the same thing. There are options. But it’s not to my taste.” I’m at the buffet. ”

An interesting anecdote from the food development test kitchen was macaroni and cheese.

After all, more than 500 hours have been developed so far to achieve a consistent and, of course, delicious macaroni and cheese sauce.

Why does it take so long to get the sauce right? Consistency is key.

Senior Director of Culinary Operations Paul Fortin explained the importance of this: “Consistency. The sauce must coat the pasta. What sauce will coat the pasta properly? All pasta is made specifically for the sauce, not just for its shape.” ’ That’s right. “

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