The humble food truck, borne on a wave of frugality into trendy popularity during the recession, has now washed out to sea. Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) plans to launch the world’s first oceangoing food truck with the November debut of its newest ship, Quantum of the Seas.
The SeaPlex Dog House will serve hot dogs and sausage, part of an entertainment center located near the cruise industry’s first bumper-car arena. Royal Caribbean is also touting a circus school, enclosed basketball court, and roller skating rink among the amenities on the new ship.
The “truck” aboard the Quantum isn’t exactly the traditional rig with an engine. The Dog House is more like a sidewalk lemonade stand, a kitschy storefront slinging brats as one of the ship’s complimentary dining venues.
The food truck experience is a staple of urban life that offers “shared community and social interaction,” says Matt Geller, co-founder and chief executive of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. “People are seeing them everywhere and on TV, but they don’t get to experience them, especially in smaller markets.” That’s why, he says, food trucks are becoming a common concept at indoor retail venues. His reaction to a food truck on the high seas? “Sounds fun.”
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum ship takes the somewhat dramatic step of ditching the traditional main dining room in favor of five primary restaurants and 13 smaller eateries. The dining system will work with digital reservations akin to the online booking platform pioneered by OpenTable (OPEN), letting passengers see which time slots are available. The new ship offered the company “a whole new platform to exercise our imaginations on,” Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain said in an interview last week.
The only issue for Royal Caribbean in trying to instill food truck culture on a cruise ship might come from Quantum’s home port: Bayonne, N.J., which is roughly 12 miles from New York City. That’s one part of the country where the chance to dine from a food truck won’t seem like much of a vacation.
By Justin Bachman, BloombergBusinessweek
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