As any parent knows all too well, traveling with a baby can be quite the daunting task. Add on any thoughts about what, how, and when your baby will eat outside of the home and the reality of leaving the house can become downright overwhelming. However, when traveling on a Disney cruise, I’ve learned that you can put all of your thoughts, plans, and fears to rest. In this portion of my review of a recent cruise with Disney, I explore all that the Disney Cruise has to offer regarding food and dining and how vacationing on the Disney Cruise Line with a baby is definitely worth the cost.
To start, can you guess what the average tourist gains in weight during a weeklong cruise? While touring the Disney Fantasy’s gym facilities on our first day, I learned that the answer is 7-14 pounds. I will say this again, 7 to 14 pounds! At first I was shocked to learn this information. After spending a week aboard the Fantasy, I can see why.
In short, the food on the Disney Cruise Line ranges in quality and variety just like at any of the Disney parks, where one can get everything from quick-service items to gourmet, chef-inspired cuisine at a fancy, sit-down restaurant. There is also room service available (we never tried it, however, as we enjoyed “eating out”).
For all of the counter-service dining options on the Fantasy, deck 11 is the place to be. This was actually quite convenient as we spent most of our time while at sea on decks 11 and 12. We enjoyed getting food quickly from Flo’s Café or Cabanas followed by dessert from EyeScream, which offers soft-serve ice cream all day! Deck 11 also features the self-service beverage stations where you can get soda, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate any time, free of charge.
We found that Cabanas, a buffet-style restaurant, always provided a wide variety of items to choose from and despite our cruise being almost to capacity, the lines were never long. Cabanas is a great place for families with picky eaters to dine, as there was something available to accommodate everybody’s taste buds. The family atmosphere at Cabanas also provides a more relaxed dining experience as you, the parent, can feel at ease knowing that your kids can feel free to be “kids.” For our needs, Cabanas was the most convenient place to get breakfast, as it was the first restaurant to open.
One thing about Cabanas that was not heavily advertised was the special buffet on Pirate Night. Following the party, it opened up to serve a taco/nacho bar, turkey legs, fresh fruits, and desserts! The best thing about the quick-service options aboard a Disney cruise is that they conveniently offer something for everyone throughout the day.
The other main component of dining on a Disney cruise is the concept of “rotational dining” which offers cruisers the opportunity to dine at a different restaurant every evening, all while having the same servers. On the Disney Fantasy, there are three uniquely themed restaurants: Enchanted Garden, Royal Court, and Animator’s Palate.
Enchanted Garden takes diners to the gardens of Versailles complete with accented décor and lighting that transitions to reflect a passing day. Royal Court resembles a royal setting with majestic decorations and murals on the walls depicting famous scenes from Disney movies. Animator’s Palate is themed as the inside of an animation studio with its paintbrushes, bright colors, and artwork, along with TV screens depicting Disney cartoons. This was, by far, our favorite dining experience, as it was just pure fun and was the most appealing for our daughter. The major highlight of Animator’s Palate is the innovative show that uses characters drawn by diners. In order to leave the show’s magic on the ship, I will simply encourage future cruisers to ensure they eat there on the night that the show is run (on our cruise it was during the second rotation through the restaurant). There are few things in life that bring a smile to, literally, everyone’s faces at once and this is one of those times. Be sure to bring a camera!
My wife and I really enjoyed the rotational dining concept as each night presented a new menu with new scenery, so to speak. We enjoyed all of the food and were very happy with the variety of menu choices, as each restaurant had their own specialty items, as well as some healthier options. The best part was that if we didn’t like something, we could just order something else! (Or, more likely, if we did like something, we could just order more!) Additionally, the change of venue each night ensured that our daughter never got bored of the scenery. In fact, Animator’s Palate and Enchanted Garden were great because the themes kept her occupied looking at everything while my wife and I ate. Also, because we had the same servers each night, they truly learned our family’s needs. For example, our server quickly caught on that our daughter got antsy and hungry and each evening had food at her seat shortly after we arrived. This was much appreciated as it allowed my wife and I to enjoy our dinner a little more. Another example is that our server was more than happy to cut food for our little “princess”!
The Disney Cruise Line also offers adults-only dining. Aboard the Disney Fantasy there are two premier, adults-only dining establishments, Remy and Palo. Though each requires an additional charge, I would highly recommend taking advantage of these options. During our cruise, my wife and I ate at Palo for both the champagne brunch and dinner while our daughter was in the nursery.
Both experiences exceeded expectations as we enjoyed the views, excellent food and wine, and each other’s company. For brunch, we were welcomed with our choice of a glass of champagne or a mimosa and a tour of the food tables. From fresh bakery items and fruits to seafood, from rum raisin pancakes to Australian beef tenderloin, and from freshly prepared pizza to incredible desserts, there was plenty in which to indulge!
Dinner at Palo was also exceptional. After having the sommelier pair wine for us, my wife and I were able to enjoy a truly romantic dinner with superior service. The wait staff at Palo was remarkable as they waited on our every need and recommended decadent foods! When visiting, be sure to try the Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta with the Roasted Shallot Sauce. This is an example of something our waiter recommended that I wouldn’t have normally tried but I’m so glad we did! Also, if you get the beef tenderloin, ask for both the Barolo red wine sauce and the gorgonzola sauce – you’ll thank me later. Finally, even if there doesn’t seem to be enough room, be sure to order the chocolate soufflé. Palo does require reservations so it’s recommended to book them early online. And, although it seems many diners arrive later in the evening, I’d recommend booking a little on the earlier side as you get more privacy and, if timed correctly, you can watch the setting sun.
Dining With the Little Guppies
This all sounds wonderful, you might say. However, how does adding a baby fit into the mix? As long as your baby has made the big leap to solid foods then the answer is simply, “quite easily!” Now, a few thoughts on if your baby isn’t quite to solid foods yet. To state the obvious, if your baby is still nursing or if your baby is still enjoying tasty pureed foods, then thinking about whether your baby will be happy with the dining options available to them onboard a Disney Cruise is a bit unnecessary. However, if your baby is on the verge of transitioning to solid foods and you have an upcoming cruise, you may want to weigh the costs-benefits of helping that transition along, since you might otherwise have to use valuable packing space to bring pureed foods or formula with you. All this being said, I can’t imagine cruising with a non-solid-food-eating baby to be too difficult as your stateroom is never too far away for nursing, and there are plenty of opportunities to be able to give your little one some pureed cauliflower-sweet potato-peas-and-carrot-blueberry-banana goodness.
For those little ones who have already graduated to solid food, then dining on the Disney Cruise is quite magical – for both child and parent! Any parent will quickly note that Disney has worked very hard at catering to families of all ages and sizes. My wife and I were quite pleased to note that the servers and wait staff were ALL well suited to wait on the vacationing little ones. As an example, all of our daughter’s food was cut as it was presented to her—this happened both in the sit-down restaurants and after we brought food to our table at Cabanas! Also, as briefly mentioned earlier, the Disney servers were quite skilled at picking up on the intricacies of my daughter’s dining preferences and budding taste buds. Speaking of taste buds, each sit-down restaurant had a variety of options available each evening on the children’s menu. From the staples of children’s food, such as macaroni and cheese and hamburgers, to the more elaborate options, such as a turkey dinner, there were plenty of options for the picky eater to choose from. Cabanas was, by far, our favorite place to eat with our daughter as there was a large assortment of options available for her to choose from. So, depending on her mood, she was always fed something that she wanted (assorted fruit, pancakes, and chicken fingers were her favorite items of the week). Cabanas was also beneficial as it was a great place to take our daughter when she awoke… bright and early!
Finally, you might be asking, what do I do for my baby while I am off enjoying a gourmet meal at Palo or Remy? My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to learn that our daughter was fed lunch and/or dinner when she was at the nursery during those respective timeframes. When dropping her off, the Castmembers in the nursery simply asked a few questions regarding the foods our daughter would be able to eat or any allergies she might have in order to best accommodate her needs while we were off enjoying our meal. Again, this was yet another example of how Disney tried to think of everything in order to make cruising with them enjoyable.
All in all, my wife and I found the dining and food options aboard our Disney Cruise to be quite good. With the rotational dining and the variety of quick-service options, we never got bored with the choices available to us. More importantly, our daughter never seemed to tire of what was available for her and we never felt challenged with trying to get her something to eat (if anything, I think she wished she could have had more cookies!). Further, the Disney Castmembers were exceptional in how they served and treated all of us.
So, how to avoid the 7-14 pounds? With so many food options… good luck! You can always get out on deck 4 and run a few laps – if you’re lucky, you might even see Goofy running… the wrong way.
Now that you know what to expect as far as food while on a Disney Cruise, the next question is, “What can I do?” Stay tuned for the final installment in this series as the topics of entertainment and ports of call are explored.