Disney Cruise Line: Serving Up Magical Dining
For grown-ups looking for a romantic dinner for two, Palo and Remy are worth the added price. The food is incredible, as are the presentation and service. If you are at Palo for dessert, make sure to save room for the decadent Chocolate Souffle, which is so light and fluffy it looks like it could float off your plate. At Remy, the sweet treat award belongs to the Fondant Chocolat Croustillant with edible gold.
Because this is Disney, don't expect to come onboard and just see signs for pizza and burgers. Even the casual dining spots have a character all their own. On the Dream and Fantasy there's Monster's Inc.'s Eye Scream and Flo's Cafe (which includes Cars-inspired Fillmore's Favorites, Tow Mater's Grill and Luigi's Pizza). On the Magic and Wonder you can nosh at Goofy's Galley, Pinocchio's Pizzeria and Pluto's Dog House.
The best part about the food offerings on board is that there is something for every palate — food allergies and picky eaters are no problem — and if you want something you don't see, just ask.
On a recent Panama Canal cruise, several allergies at one table could have caused a major headache: one guest couldn't have fish or chocolate, one had an allergy to mushrooms and garlic, a third was lactose intolerant. Luckily, the wait staff and chefs are trained for these situations.
"It isn't always chicken, steak or fish," Edward said. "If the guest tells us in advance, we can order it in advance… even specific brands of food. We can make a sauce gluten free if we know about it."
The weeks' menus are always ready in advance, so those with allergies who need dishes prepared in a certain way can order the night before. That way the kitchen knows ahead of time and the table's entire order can come out in a timely manner.
For picky eaters: If there are three appetizers you want, but you'd like to skip the main course — that's OK. The managers even realized that guests were ordering multiple desserts they couldn't finish, so every night there is a mini-dessert trio for those with a wandering sweet tooth.
The children's menus (each sporting a different character and related games) change every night, as well – but are consistent in all three dining rooms. There are some special entrees each night, but the menu always offers "kid staples" like pasta, pizza and chicken nuggets (and mom and dad can order off the children's menu if they'd like, too).
"We make the vegetables look attractive," Edward said, acknowledging it isn't always easy to get kids to eat healthy, especially on the buffets. "Then you place it near the Jell-O. We put vegetables near the front, so if they are hungry, it might be the first thing they grab. We have trans-fat free fries, but the kids don't notice the difference."
As a special perk for families on all four ships, those who are in second-seating dinner can participate in Dine & Play. Parents can tell their waiters that they are doing Dine & Play and the kids will be served their entree while the parents are on appetizers. Then, the counselors come to all three dining rooms at 9:15 p.m., to pick up the kids and take them to evening programs, allowing mom and dad to enjoy a meal together. On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy your kids don't even need to leave the play areas for lunch or dinner, as meals are served semi-buffet style right there.
Edward says the recently added eating option doesn't have a huge impact on operations in the kitchen.
"Dine & Play is more for the parents than the kids," he said. "We are ready for it in the galley, since it is just a 15-20 minute time difference for us."
On Castaway Cay, three eateries cater to the needs of beach-going guests: Cookies BBQ and Cookies, Too for families and Castaway Air Bar just for adults. The buffet-style meal is just as yummy as the food on the ship, but with an added touch of eating in paradise. On the Panama Canal cruise, which had many more adults than children, the call at Castaway Cay was canceled due to choppy waves. Had the ship docked, Edward said they would have served about 750 meals in the adult area, when typically they would serve somewhere between 200 and 250.
Eating onboard isn't just a simple meal, it is part of the entertainment experience. The good news is that for those guests who want to eat like a Lion King but not disembark the size of Pumbaa, there's a fitness center onboard and plenty of stairs to climb in between meals. Pixie dust might work for a lot of things, but weight loss isn't one of them.
For more information on Disney Cruise Line, check out our guide to Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.