Carnival dining changes slow to gel

By Tom Stieghorst
ABOARD CARNIVAL FREEDOM — Carnival Cruise Lines’ implementation of a new main dining room program is taking longer than anticipated, said the line’s chief marketing officer, Jim Berra.

After a news conference, Berra said Carnival has been tweaking the features of American Table and American Feast, the dining room concepts it developed with the input of Union Square Hospitality Group.

Four of Carnival’s 24 ships have been piloting the concept. Berra said Carnival wants to make sure it has the bugs worked out before the changes expand to the rest of the fleet. There is currently no ship being targeted for expansion of the program, he said.

Carnival has been doing what Berra termed “A/B testing” of variations on ships with similar itineraries. One discovery is that the idea of sharing common appetizers at a table isn’t playing as well at sea as it does in land restaurants. It works best during “Anytime Dining,” when guests are generally eating with people they know, but less well when dining with strangers, Berra said.

He said the upgraded bread and water service has been well received, as has the “Port of Call” items on the menu, which are matched to the port the ship is visiting on the day of the meal.

American Table is the everyday complimentary dining in Carnival’s main dining room on the Carnival Glory, Liberty, Inspiration and Imagination.

American Feast is a more elegant, celebratory version that is offered twice during each voyage.

Both feature redesigned menus, a new style of service and cuisine with an emphasis on American origins.

Carnival Cruise Lines testing new dining room experience

Updated: Carnival Cruise Lines testing new dining room experience

By Tom Stieghorst

Carnival Cruise Lines said it will test two new dining concepts on the Carnival Glory starting Dec. 8, in what could be a fleet-wide revamp of its main dining room.
The new dining products, called American Table and American Feast, were developed with input from Union Square Hospitality Group of New York.

American Table will be offered on “cruise casual” nights. It includes a new style of service, new menu and table decor, and is designed to evoke a modern restaurant experience with an emphasis on exceptional American cuisine, Carnival said.

There will be a cocktail menu, an entree with ties to the port being visited during the meal, a “from the grill” entrée and a special dessert menu.

On Carnival’s more formal “cruise elegant” nights, it will offer American Feast, which has been designed to create the feel of an elegant, elaborate special occasion “celebrated by all guests in the restaurant with courses served table-side in elaborate style,” Carnival said.

The pilot program will be extended to Carnival Liberty beginning in January, and Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration starting in February, with the intention to roll it out fleet-wide in the second half of 2014.

Union Square Hospitality Group is an outgrowth of Union Square Cafe, founded in 1985 by Danny Meyer, who is now CEO. In addition to the original restaurant, it now runs Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard and Shake Shake, as well as a catering and consulting practice.

Carnival senior vice president for operations Mark Tamis said Union Square’s role was primarily one of inspiring the Carnival team to create the new concepts.