Meet Linken D’Souza, vice president of Food and Beverage for Royal Caribbean International. He’s been with us since 2017 and has certainly kept busy!
Linken helps oversee every aspect of our food and beverages across the fleet, where no detail is too small. An exciting part of his job is introducing new dining options that push the envelope but also listening intently to feedback to make sure we’re delivering just what our guests want.
We caught up with Linken about the new dining concepts the team has introduced, their favorite dishes, the menu items you won’t want to miss, and his tips for dining on a cruise!
Q: You’ve been with Royal Caribbean since August 2017. Tell us about your first year with the company.
Linken: It’s been a whirlwind—we’ve developed and unveiled five new dining concepts and helped launch the largest ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas. We’ve also amplified Mariner of the Seas and are planning Navigator of the Seas’ transformation coming February 2019. In the midst of all this, we have also added even more talent to our incredible food and beverage team to help bring all of this to fruition.
Q: What are some of your favorite restaurants on board, and why?
Linken: Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, which we introduced on board Symphony of the Seas, is our “eat-ertainment” venue with really great energy. Our guests can enjoy excellent food and a lineup of ice-cold, craft beers as well as amazing desserts like the campfire cookie, which is freshly baked and covered with roasted marshmallows and ice cream. And of course, there’s our signature sundae served in a helmet that you can keep.
Multigenerational families love this venue for the games, too, like giant Jenga, foosball, shuffleboard and arcade games. It’s definitely a spot that brings everyone together day and night.
A new crowd-pleaser is Hooked Seafood, our casual, New England-inspired seafood restaurant. My favorite meal there is the Messy Fish Sandwich. It’s a five-ounce piece of cod—fried to golden perfection—on a brioche bun, dressed with lots of tasty coleslaw and pickles. You need a couple of napkins, but it’s well worth the mess!
Q: If you could design your perfect day of meals on board—combining any restaurants—what would that be?
Linken: If I was on Symphony for the day, I’d start with oysters baked with champagne and cheese at Hooked. Then I’d have a bone-in ribeye at Chops Grille, accompanied by the signature fries from Playmakers. For dessert, I’d have “The World” at Wonderland, which is a ball of chocolate with ice cream inside that’s only revealed when hot caramel is drizzled over the top.
Q: Can you tell us about Royal Caribbean’s new pizza?
Linken: Everybody loves pizza, so it’s important to us that we ensure our guests love it—especially since we serve about 50,000 slices a day! We recently took our pizza-making up a notch, with stone-fired crust, plus a special sauce we are sourcing from a supplier that works with lots of mom-and-pop pizza shops. We also tossed a richer mozzarella into the mix, along with handmade Italian sausage and fresh diced veggies.
Q: What are some of the best dining options for kids?
Linken: Johnny Rockets classic hamburgers, hot dogs and milkshakes are go-to favorites with the kids. Playmakers does a great job, too, with popcorn shrimp and those delicious desserts. But kids have so many choices on board; they can truly eat anywhere their parents do since, all of our dining venues offer extensive kid menus. Even Wonderland, the go-to for whimsical cuisine, has a kids menu so they can try something new.
Q: What’s your favorite cocktail on board?
Linken: We are excited about our new tiki-chic lounge, The Bamboo Room, a true craft cocktail bar for aficionados which we’d heard people were interested in based on research. And we delivered. Currently, my favorite drink there is the Bennie’s Mai Tai, made with Bobby’s Gin (like The Saturn), orgeat and lime juice.
At Hooked, I love the St. Peter’s Spritz, made with St. Germain liqueur, Aperol and sparkling wine. It’s one of the most refreshing cocktails I’ve had, and folks are going to love it.
Q: Do you have any insider tips for making the most of your dining experience on a cruise?
Linken: It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Folks want to experience it all on Day One, but there is plenty of time to make sure you get to taste everything because we have a wide variety for every palate. One thing I would recommend for the first day though: Pick out a specialty restaurant before you get on board, and make reservations to go there for lunch. You’ll get to experience most of the menu for a special price.
Pro tip: Check out other insider tips for dining on a cruise.
Q: Do you hear any myths about dining on cruises that you’d like to dispel?
Linken: People tend to assume that the culinary experiences on cruise ships are not what you would find on land, but Royal Caribbean has a dedicated galley of experts on board each of our ships that really take the time to create authentic flavors. Every one of our restaurants have their own galley with their own head chef cooking your meals to perfection. We also make all of the bread and desserts on board daily.
I would also say that we cater to travelers’ needs and preferences and do our best to ensure that dietary requirements are accommodated. Everyone should be able to enjoy great food while on vacation.
Q: Can you tell us what you see for the future of dining on Royal Caribbean?
Linken: The interesting thing about working in food and beverage for Royal Caribbean is our focus on continually innovating—we are always on our toes and looking at ways to elevate offerings across the board.
If you’re ready to try all of the culinary creations that await on a Royal Caribbean ship, chart your next adventure here!