The world’s largest cruise ship can’t rest on its laurels because of its size alone. With over 20 restaurants, Wonder of the Seas serves a variety of culinary crowd pleasers in its specialty and complimentary dining venues.
With just a week aboard Wonder of the Seas, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to try every restaurant. Foremost on my list was the brand new The Mason Jar Southern Restaurant & Bar.
Even the name evokes thoughts of canning, hearty foods, and — most importantly — comfort food. It wasn’t only the expectation of homestyle southern food that piqued my interest in The Mason Jar, but also the promotional images that I had seen of this restaurant.
I skipped breakfast, opting to try brunch, and headed to the restaurant located just around the corner from the world’s largest Windjammer Café. The Mason Jar is nestled in a corner with nice views from its wall of windows.
The interior is separated into two distinct areas, the bar is to the left and the dining area to the right. As expected, Mason Jar looks like a farm-style restaurant where guests should expect good home cooking. The menu confirmed those expectations.
Once seated, we were greeted by our delightful server who asked if we had any allergies. She then proceeded to explain the menu. I quickly scanned the plates on other tables to see if the servings were as huge as they appeared on the menu. They absolutely were quite generous, but I still opted for MeeMaw’s Fried Chicken N’ Waffles. An appetizer served before every meal is buttermilk biscuits and jalapeño cornbread fresh from the oven.
My dining partner, who prefers tried and true familiar dishes, opted for the Southern Breakfast. Two eggs with bacon came with sweet potato hash and Meemaw’s biscuits. As expected, there was plenty of food to satisfy the biggest appetite. We didn’t even have room for the tempting desserts.
While waiting for our meals, we ordered drinks. The creations just for The Mason Jar have a focus on whiskey or bourbon as a main ingredient. But, it’s not just any old spirit. The Far from Manhattan featured brown sugar bourbon and a slice of candied bacon.
The intriguing PB&J Old-Fashioned used peanut butter whiskey and was topped with a crustless tiny pb&j canapé. On their own, the drinks seemed very sweet. Once we added food between sips, we found the combination quite pleasing.
The bar to the left as you enter is furnished with rocking chairs and other comfortable seating, along with typical high-top bar tables. In the evenings, a band plays country music in this popular venue.
The Mason Jar serves a brunch on sea days for $24.99 and dinner on other days for $39.99. Kids from 6 to 12 pay $10.99. In the late evening hours, there are smaller plates available ranging in price from $3-$9.
Scattered about Wonder of the Seas are other popular restaurants, which are also found on most Oasis-class ships. We dined at two of the specialty restaurants for lunch: Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Chops Grille.
In a rustic Italian setting with an open kitchen, Giovanni’s sets the stage for dining from a menu full of Italian specialties. We sat at a large table with other guests and decided to order some dishes for sharing.
One of the best was the antipasto with a selection of Italian meats and cheese. The creamy bleu cheese was to die for, it was definitely the best of any that I had tried on the ship. It raised my expectations for the bleu cheese in other restaurants, which just didn’t compare.
We tried several of the pizzas on the menu just to get a taste. The consensus at the table was that the best pizza was the pepperoni pizza. The others didn’t pass muster. My opinion was that the free pizza at Sorrento’s was just as good.
I had also shared a lasagna and found it disappointing. My standard for judging lasagna — and actually any food — is my own cooking. If what I make at home is better than that at a specialty restaurant, I am left unimpressed.
The other specialty restaurant that we also visited at lunch was Chops Grille. Specializing in steaks, but also with seafood options, Chops, like many of the other specialty restaurants is located in Central Park.
I saw an 8 ounce filet on the menu and asked our server if there was a smaller portion. It was lunch, after all. He said that there was a 6 ounce filet, which would have been exactly the perfect size for me. He mentioned that the smaller filet was only available at dinner.
Some things are not meant to be understood. Perhaps the dinner meat locker is only open at dinner. In the end, I ordered the filet and shared it with my dining partner. The first filet came overcooked, but was replaced with a perfect medium rare piece of beef.
My dining companion opted for the Caesar salad with chicken along with my leftover pieces of filet. The service was good and we enjoyed our food. The cost of Chops Grille is $24.99 at lunch and $54.99 for dinner.
Other specialty restaurants include 150 Central Park, Chef’s Table, Coastal Kitchen (only for suite guests and Pinnacle Club members — this is complimentary for them), Hooked Seafood, Izumi Hibachi, Izumi Sushi, Johnny Rockets (complimentary for breakfast only), and Wonderland.
Some restaurants like Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade offer á la carte menu options. This spot is known for its wings, sandwiches, and burgers. Located on The Boardwalk, this spot has what seems an infinite amount of televisions broadcasting a variety of sporting events.
If you are considering eating at multiple specialty restaurants, you might investigate the dining package. The current cost of those packages is $44 per night for a 3-night package and $37.00 per night for the whole cruise on sailings of 6-9 nights.
We find the meals at the complimentary dining venues perfectly acceptable and obviously a good choice for those on a budget. Although we aren’t buffet people, we did have to try Windjammer Marketplace. They had a good selection of pastries and bread for breakfast. In the evening, we enjoyed some Indian specialties for dinner. We planned to be there when lobster was being served in the main dining rooms so that we could avoid the crowds.
The Solarium Bistro offers Mediterranean-style food along with typical breakfast items. We found the seating there very tight, but also found this a very pleasant space in general. Although the Solarium is an adults-only space, the Bistro welcomes everyone.
El Loco Fresh is an outdoor dining venue featuring Mexican food. Grab your basics and then go to a separate stand where crew will serve you whichever types of toppings you choose to complete your favorite dish. Right around the corner is Cantina Fresca bar, so that you can combine a margarita with your tacos or burritos.
With just one week on Wonder of the Seas, it was impossible to try every single dining option, especially for those of us who don’t usually eat three meals per day. We once found ourselves hungry at a time when many of the restaurants were not serving. A quick look at the app let us easily find an option to our liking.
Take a look at the different dining options before you even board the ship. You may make reservations for specialty restaurants prior to boarding – unless you opt for a dining package. We found that dining at specialty restaurants during lunch was a good option for getting good food and paying less. Some of the menus were very similar for lunch and dinner.
The app is also great for perusing menus of the various venues. Whether you stick with the included dining fare or choose to try the specialty restaurants, there will be plenty of options to satisfy your appetite.
By Theresa Russell