The new Royal Railway – Utopia Station restaurant will take guests on a train ride ... kinda.
It's not a typical phrase you'd hear on a cruise ship, but on Royal Caribbean's upcoming Utopia of the Seas, a conductor will be calling it out every evening. And that's because the cruise line is debuting a new train-inspired restaurant — or rather, a full-fledged dining experience — on board the ship.
Royal Railway – Utopia Station is a dining concept where guests arrive at an onboard rail station and board a train for a meal in one of two dining cars. Inspired by turn-of-the-century rail journeys, the two 24-seat cars are adorned with pieces from real railway cars — but the experience goes far beyond a well-decorated interior. While the cars won't physically move, LED screens in the windows will take you on a virtual trip, while performers will bring a train-inspired story to life throughout the meal.
The concept was born out of Royal Caribbean's research into what guests are looking for on board. "We kept seeing that this notion of more immersive entertainment that we've been putting or planning on other ships continued to rise to the top," Jay Schneider, senior vice president of Royal Caribbean International, told Travel + Leisure.
So why a train for the immersive dining experience aboard Utopia of the Seas? Schneider noted that two primary motivators for cruising are destinations and food. "When you have those two together, and you look at this notion of immersion, we came up with this idea of putting a train on a cruise ship, because a train could give us a platform to take you to infinitely more destinations," he said. And then it's fairly easy to come up with a menu to match the destinations.
The storylines for the Royal Railway – Utopia Station dining experience are still under development. But Schneider shares that two "itineraries" the team is exploring are an actor-heavy Wild West concept designed with families in mind and a more visual Silk Road journey that lends itself to a romantic date night.
Beyond coming up with the storylines and concepts, Schneider's team has been experimenting with technology for the train windows, from video game software to static images with "fancy trickery" to live footage. "With the three of those together, we think it'll make you feel like you were on the train in the Old West or on the train traveling the Silk Road through Asia," he said.
And these two journeys are just the start. Schneider already has ideas for all sorts of itineraries, from hot chocolate at the North Pole to wine tastings in Napa Valley, or any wine region in the world. "The best part about this as a platform is it allows us to tweak it. We can adjust the food, we can adjust the scenery, we can adjust the performance and interaction, and we can listen to guests and determine what's right and wrong," he said.
Utopia of the Seas is scheduled to launch in July 2024; book your cruise now at royalcaribbean.com.
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