Food is a pretty big deal on a cruise ship. Whether the ship's at sea or you're just not interested in going ashore, onboard restaurants are the only options -- they'd better be good. Of course, never one to be outdone, Disney has gone after dining-at-sea with gusto.
The dining options aboard the new Disney Fantasy are pretty identical to that of its sister ship, the Disney Dream. Cabanas, Animator's Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Court (Royal Palace on the Dream), Palo and Remy round out the main dining spots. And, with as many as 18,500 meals being served on the ship daily, they stay busy.
On a pre-christening tour of the new vessel, Christine Weissman, executive chef and manager of food standards and menu development for Disney Cruise Line, gave the media the lowdown on Fantasy's all-inclusive dining.
All guests take part in Disney's unique system of rotational dining between three restaurants: Animator's Palate, Enchanted Garden and Royal Court. Each night guests dine at a different restaurant, with their waiter or waitress migrating along.
On three- and four-night cruises this works out pretty well, offering a taste of each venue. Longer excursions are perfect for breaking the rotation for a meal at adults-only Remy or Palo, the ship's fine dining restaurants. On mornings at sea, Palo also offers a champagne brunch. Situated between the two, Meridian provides a quiet setting for a glass of wine or cocktail.
Cabanas offers another alternative to the dining rotation. It offers a super casual breakfast, lunch or dinner in a food court-style setting, serving an array of cuisines and dishes prepared in full view of diners.
Kids -- as every Disney escort and cruise vet assured me -- are fine away from their 'rents, as they never want to leave the teen or kids' clubs. They can grab a bite with or without the adults from quick-service Flo's Café with Luigi's Pizza, Tow Mater's Grill and Fillmore's Favorites dishing out the usual kid-friendly favorites: burgers, dogs, chicken fingers etc. These are also available on full-service kids' menus. This is still Disney after all.
Have an allergy? Like Disney parks, DCL is very accommodating. But, because of the obvious restraints of being out at sea, it's appreciated if guests inform agents at the time of booking -- or sometime before the ship sets sail. There are options already built into the menus, Weissman tells me. Vegan dishes are, of course, great for those who don't eat animal products, but they are also consciously planned with allergies in mind. Those with intolerances toward shellfish, dairy and eggs are set. As far as gluten allergies, DCL works with the same standards and purveyors as Disney Parks.
For a peek at the restaurants and food offerings aboard Disney Fantasy, check out the slide show below.
Lobster and shrimp salad from Royal Court is paired with an Asian pear salad from the Captain's Gala theme menu. Each restaurant features a section of "lighter fare" on the menu for the health-conscious, or those who just can't take any more heavy food after a few days at sea.
Sea bass atop fava bean and pea risotto with a chili glaze is a signature dish from the Enchanted Garden. An effort is made to keep guest favorites, like Enchanted Garden's ahi tuna tower or lobster ravioli, on all the menus.
The Enchanted Garden, designed to be both elegant and casual, evokes the palace gardens at Versailles. Some days, the restaurant hosts buffet breakfasts and lunches. Disney Cruise Line calls Enchanted Garden's style market-inspired Continental.
Wild boar on a potato pancake with a juniper berry-spiked red wine reduction from Royal Court.
Although on an Animator's Palate plate, this grilled beef tenderloin and lobster tail with snow peas, marquis potatoes and cognac reduction is from Royal Court.
Royal Court is inspired by everyone's favorite princess movies, and is modeled after the ballroom in "Cinderella." It's one of the three restaurants on the rotational dining plan, for which guests choose to dine at one of two seatings. Cuisine is French and Continental. Royal Court and Enchanted Garden have open seating at breakfast and lunch.
A sampling of crème brulee from Royal Court and crunchy walnut cake from Animator's Palate. Fantasy's restaurants each offer no sugar added desserts (addressing another dietary restriction) as well as a "sweet temptations" dessert sampler for those who find it too hard to choose just one.
Animator's Palate rounds out the rotational dining trio. Colorful and vibrant, the scene comes to life as dinner progresses. The cuisine is described as Pacific Rim and American.
From Animator's Palate.
Glazed portobello with lentils, parsley sauce and sun-dried tomato cream. Again despite the plate, this dish is a feature of Enchanted Garden.
The Royal Court lobster and shrimp salad with white and green asparagus, micro greens, lemon dill dressing and horseradish cream makes a repeat appearance. It's accompanied by an ahi tuna and avocado tower with crispy noodles and wasabi dressing from Enchanted Garden and a smoked salmon tartare with capers, onions, micro greens and caviar from Animator's Palate.
A carriage-shaped bread basket at Royal Court and a paint-brush shaped butter knife at Animator's Palate.
The massive galley that services Animator's Palate and Royal Court.
Don't call it a kitchen!
Each restaurant's china has a unique design, as can also be seen in the previous Royal Court and Animator's Palate pictures. Kids have their own Mickey-head shaped kids plates that are also designed to keep picky eaters' food from touching.
Named after the main character in Disney's "Ratatouille," Remy, like its namesake, specializes in gourmet French cuisine. Remy is in an adults-only area of the ship, and diners must be 18 or older.
The first of an assortment of dishes from Remy: gnocchi with black truffles.
Iberico ham-wrapped gulf shrimp with heirloom tomatoes.
Sea bass with cauliflower puree and coriander.
Minnesota elk with braised red cabbage tart and Brussels sprouts. According to Advising Chef Scott Hunnel, the meat is sourced from a small family-run farm in the state.
Gascogne black pig with roasted turnips, with warm sauce poured atop table side.
Chocolate fondant crisp.
Berry cake with wild strawberry sorbet. The chefs shared that the natural sweetness of the berries is the driving force behind this dessert, rather than a ton of added sugar.
Also in the adults-only area.
Across from Remy, Palo specializes in Northern Italian cuisine. Reservations are required at both Remy and Palo, and can be made in advance or once on board the ship. Palo has a $20 upcharge, and Remy's is $75.
Oregano and parmesan crusted rack of lamb with roasted shallots, baked roma tomatoes and potato pave from Palo.