Dining on the Disney Cruise Line (It's Good!)Whit Honea
We are pretty lucky in that our kids aren’t picky eaters. Granted, they are both self-imposed vegetarians, which limits the menu somewhat, but generally speaking they are open to most options. If there is one thing that the Disney Cruise Line has, it is food options.
Our cruise aboard the Disney Magic was for six nights, which worked out well since there are three main restaurants: Parrot Cay, Lumiere’s, and Animator’s Palate, respectfully, that guests rotate through on a scheduled basis (math alert: we ate dinner at each restaurant twice).
In addition there are a number of other eateries including Goofy’s Galley, Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, Pluto’s Dog House, Topsider Buffet, Palo, Preludes (snacks only), and 24 hour room service (except the last night of the cruise when room service stops at 1:30 a.m). There are also a handful of bars and clubs for those that feel coffee and wine are food groups (because they are).
The way that our dining experience worked was that we were assigned one of two dinner times (early or late) for the entire cruise, which splits the guests on the ship into groups that are either dining or seeing whatever fabulous show is playing in the Walt Disney Theatre (shows also available on TV). Then they switch. The benefit to the early dinner is that you are eating about 6 p.m., which worked well for our family. The benefit of the late dining time is that midway through dinner the counselors from Disney’s child care club(s) will take the kids straight from the table to lots of fun, meaning parents can linger at the table for another drink or eat more dessert than they ever would in front of their children.
The ambiance in each restaurant was very comfortable and often there was a theme of sorts (pirate night was a big hit) featuring shows, characters, or hats made from napkins (below). There were also formal and semi-formal nights, where formal means a tux for some (really), a suit for me, and shorts for that guy that refused to check a bag on his flight to Texas (the cruise originated in Gavelston, about an hour outside of Houston).
We were given an itinerary that listed which restaurant we were to dine in each night (you can eat breakfast, lunch, and all meals between at any of the other establishments listed previously), and introduced to the waitstaff that would assist us throughout the entirety of the cruise. What that means is that each night guests will have the same servers, regardless of the restaurant you, the guest, are scheduled to dine in. They will know your food allergies, favorite drinks, and whether or not your kids liked their ketchup shaped like Mickey Mouse (they do).
Our boys LOVED our servers, to the point that spotting one of them during the day in another restaurant was on par with unexpectedly stumbling upon Stitch the Pirate in the hallway. They made our dining experience fantastic.
But what about the food? The food was far beyond my expectations. I have never been on a cruise and while I assumed the fare would be good I must admit that I thought it was going to be good in a my grandparents eat there at 4 p.m. sort of way—fairly bland and mass-produced. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The food, at every meal in every restaurant, was incredible.
Something else that impressed us were the size of the portions, meaning they were just right and not some gigantic I’m eating free food pile of calories—half of which gets thrown to the fishes (not really). Besides, if the portion wasn’t enough you could always order more!
Perhaps the best meal we enjoyed on the Disney Magic was our brunch at Palo, which doesn’t allow kids or jeans. I found out that last part the hard way. Yes, there were signs everywhere saying that they had a dress code, but it was brunch and I thought it was meant for dinner guests, also, the other men were wearing pleated slacks, golf shirts without a jacket, and running shoes, none of which qualify as dressy where I come from. Needless to say, I was sent back to my stateroom to put on big boy pants and I was hardly embarrassed at all.
The food in Palo was worth it. Our server was from France (we were told that cast members on the Disney Magic hailed from 52 different countries, which is pretty amazing), and he brought just the right balance of fancy dining, Disney charm, and OMG LOOK AT THIS VIEW! to the experience. Also, a Gorgonzola and red grape pizza that was too unique to ignore and has now become a family favorite.
While most of the food available on the ship (with the exception of adult beverages, snacks from Preludes, and fancy smoothies) is included in the price of the cruise there is a $20 charge per person to dine at Palo for either brunch or dinner, and it fills up fast (make reservations before you sail). A meal at Palo, in my humble opinion, is a must.
For more information on the restaurants listed above please see the Disney Magic dining website. Also, gratuity is paid at the end of the cruise, and while Disney offers suggested amounts don’t be afraid to go generous!
My family and I were the very grateful guests of Disney Cruise Lines on the voyage outlined above. All opinions are my own unless otherwise noted.
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).