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Date Published: 15 July, 2011
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Dining for Dollars: Royal Caribbean Raises Alternative Restaurant Fee, Goes a la Carte
(1:15 p.m. EDT) -- The dollar-per-bite index just went up in Royal Caribbean's for-fee steakhouse, Chops Grille. Additionally, the line has switched to "surcharge plus a la carte" at a pair of Oasis-class venues.

In case you hadn't noticed, the surcharge to dine at Chops, RCI's signature steak- and- seafood venue, recently climbed 20 percent, from $25 to $30 per person. There are Chops Grilles on the line's four Radiance-class ships, two Oasis-class ships, as well as Mariner of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.

RCI spokeswoman Janet Diaz tells Cruise Critic that the "increases bring the cover charges in line with the premium and exclusive offerings found at our specialty dining venues, which offer a high quality experience at phenomenal value."

The line also changed the format for Rita's Cantina (Mexican) and the Seafood Shack, casual for-fee dining venues on Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, respectively. Rita's and Seafood Shack now have a $3 up-front service fee, and all items are a la carte.

Check out the new pricing here:

Rita's Cantina Menu With New Pricing
Seafood Shack Menu With New Pricing

"A la carte allows guests to better customize their experience and what they would like to pay," explains Diaz. "Rather than charging one cover charge for a person who may just want a salad and another guest who may want shrimp, there are different price points based on what a guest orders, similar to land-based restaurants."

That said, Rita's was previously all-you-can eat for $7.95, while passengers could choose an appetizer or soup, entree and dessert at the Seafood Shack for $8.95. (Note: the Shack's original menu was more limited and did not include items like king crab legs, which cost $11.95 on the current menu.) Given the new structure, those with big appetites will likely be paying more. While on Allure in November, we ordered guacamole, a quesadilla and grilled chicken for $7.95. With today's prices, the meal would cost $11.25.

But there's another reason why the line decided to go a la carte, explains Diaz. The old pricing wasn't generating sufficient gratuities for the staff. "We looked at what gratuity split is taken out of a typical traditional cover charge and applied a similar formula to the a la carte menus, making the necessary adjustments based on concept, service level, etc. With this system it allows to cover for the gratuity, while keeping the menu pricing at the lowest level possible."

Your turn: Weigh in on the new dining costs below.

--by Dan Askin, News Editor

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