I know what you’re thinking. Since when has the Disney name ever been synonomous with “good food.” For many of you, your experience with Disney food has probably been what you’ve gotten at the theme parks which is often over-priced, mediocre tasting fare. So yes, I realize it’s not always a good record to go by. But on the Disney Cruise ships it’s an entirely different experience.
One of the reasons I love Disney Cruises is that food is covered-no shelling out $30 for two orders of chicken fingers and fries. Unless you opt for dining at the adults-only restaurants or want a special treat like popcorn or candy from the concession stands outside of the theaters, food is gratis-breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, room service, even soda (this is not the case on most other cruise ships)-the whole nine yards.
While I’ve talked about the different types of eating options that are available on the Dream and Magic cruise ships, I’ve never really talked about the quality of the food and what I thought of it. So without further ado, here’s “what the food on a Disney cruise is really like.”
Quick service eats:
These refer to the eating establishments found on the pool decks of the ships (Deck 11 of the Dream and Fantasy, and Deck 9 of the Magic and Wonder). These are the places to go when you want a wrap, some fresh fruit, a burger, or a slice of pizza. When you’re craving college dorm style food or need something to tide you over until dinner, as they’re open for a good portion of the day from lunch on (on some itineraries, the quick service eats are closed during the main dining times but then re-open again later in the evening).
In my opinion pizza is the only thing that can taste hit or miss-some slices taste and look just like the kind you get in a frozen food aisle at a grocery store, while others taste more like pizza parlor. This can also be the one quick service spot where you can be in line for a while at-they allow individuals to take as many as six or seven slices at a time (presumably for a group, let’s hope). Since that’s just about the entire pizza you then have to wait for a new pie to be ready.
It’s the type of food that you know what to expect from it; you’re not going here for anything gourmet or luxury. It’s food you can have unlimited amounts of so yes, it’s going to be on the plainer side. I’m sure it’s nothing like what you would get in the Middle East, but the food at the shawarma stand found on the Disney Magic is delicious and not something one typically expects on a cruise ship (the vast array of toppings is also great).
Cabanas (the Disney Wonder ship has Beach Blanket Buffet) is a spot you can go for buffet-style fare either at breakfast or lunch (for dinner Cabanas does become a sit-down spot if you don’t want to eat at one of the main dining restaurants). While they do have your standard fixings at both breakfast and lunch, I’ve always appreciated the unique things they also offer (surely to appeal to their non-American customer demographic), breakfast items like baked beans and stewed tomatoes (love) and a cheese table (no, I’m not talking about string cheese and American cheese singles).
In short, the quick service food options are a lifesaver when you’re hungry at any time of the day, but especially when you have the later dining seating and are ravenous.
Main dining restaurants:
Until this past June when I finally went on my first seven night Disney cruise and had incredible ports of call to look forward to (on three night cruises, you’re going more for the cruise experience and not necessarily the ports of call as much), the restaurants on board the ships are one of the things I look forward to the most. I love that there are three different main restaurants (on many cruise ships, there is just one “main” dining room and then smaller other food spots).
In the main dining restaurants, your meal consists of a starter, a main course, and a dessert (all of which you order at the same time) in addition to a bread which is always something different. Considering there are two seatings each night and the large number of people they serve at each one, there is still a sizable array of options in each category (i.e. there is no “well you can have the chicken or the pasta;” there’s often about eight options to choose from). And lest some of you think that is way too much food, the portions are not standard American size. Yes, you’re having three courses but the appetizer and main courses especially are prepared with this in mind. Just don’t do what I did and order a chai latte to go with dessert; I felt horrendously bloated the rest of the night. (I stuck with hot tea for the rest of the cruise.) D also ordered a specialty coffee drink that same night and concurred it was too much with dinner.
With the exception of Carioca’s which can be found on the Magic ship (I’ll explain more on that just below), I’ve always found the food in the main dining restaurants to be superb. I’ve had everything from amazing butternut squash soup to seared tofu with vegetables (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) to even venison on board. Each of the main dining restaurants is geographically themed and the three nights you dine there (if you’re on a cruise longer than three nights, the menus do change), feature dishes influenced from those parts of the world. Now mind you, it’s not going to be like anything you WOULD actually get in those countries, but hey, it’s something.
I’ve had selections from Carioca’s main menu twice now (on my Norwegian cruise and back in 2014) and each time I’ve been somewhat let down. As its name suggests, Carioca’s features a Latin-influenced menu but as someone who has spent significant time living and traveling in Latin America, I feel its dishes fall quite short of authentic. Now I know what I said above, but at the same time, with Latin America being so near and dear to my heart, I’ve always wanted more from this spot. My meals haven’t ever been bad per se, they’ve just been the ones I’ve liked the least.
All of the main dining restaurants do feature lighter selections for dinner-these aren’t fancy but are along the lines of a grilled chicken breast, simple salad etc). I’ve never ordered anything from this section of the menu but it is always an option.
Something I have partaken of are the sugar free desserts, and before you say “gag,” I swear you truly cannot taste the difference. There are often two or three selections on the menu each night.
I’ve now eaten at both of the adults-only restaurants on board the ships (Palo and Remy) and I love them both for different reasons. Palo serves Northern Italian fare while Remy (named after the lovable culinary saveur from the Pixar film Ratatouille) serves, you guessed it, French food. Both of these cost extra ($30 per person for Palo, $85 per person for Remy) but let me tell you that it’s oh so worth it. Between the menu offerings and the ingredients used, you know that your money is being well spent. And while you may flinch at the much higher cost of Remy compared to Palo, it’s even more so worth it. You are treated to an exquisite tasting menu complete with additional touches like a complimentary chilled Champagne cocktail and a cheese cart (served the French way, after dessert). I’ve had a lot of lobster between these two restaurants and it’s been terrific.
The one thing I am dying to do is have brunch at these two spots so unfortunately it’s not something I can comment on, but I’ve heard nothing but raves from people about Palo’s brunch.
On our first Disney cruise together on the Dream, one of the days we did order room service for a snack but didn’t on our two most recent cruises. The offerings are limited (as one would expect when you’re on a cruise ship and there’s how much food available elsewhere) but great when you just want to stay put but would like a sandwich, burger, fresh fruit, etc.
P.S. The pastries available inside the Cove Cafe (the coffee house located in the adults only section of the ship) are divine and complimentary when you buy a special hot drink 🙂
If you’ve taken a Disney cruise before, I’m sure most of you would agree with me that the food is one of the best things about it. And if you’ve never sailed with Disney before, do so. And prepare yourself for some wonderful meals.