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Review: Disney Dream restaurants offer exquisitely-detailed decor with hit-or-miss menus

Review: Disney Dream restaurants offer exquisitely-detailed decor with hit-or-miss menus

If there’s anything cruises are most famous for, it’s the nearly unlimited supply of food passengers can enjoy while on board. The new Disney Dream is certainly no exception, featuring three lavish rotational dining restaurants, two up-charge fine dining locations, a casual buffet, and plenty of snacking opportunities. (Chip and Dale even sing about bringin’ on the food during the ship’s sail away party!)

During my 2-night stay aboard the ship on its Christening Cruise, I discovered that these dining options, while beautifully decorated and themed, don’t always offer the best in selection and flavors can vary from wildly exciting to mild and bland. So below I offer my thoughts on each of my dining experiences on the Disney Dream. But please feel free to try the food yourself once on board, as your tastes may differ greatly from mine.

Included below are thoughts on Cabanas, Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace, Remy, Palo, counter service and lounges, and Cookie’s BBQ on Castaway Cay.


Cabanas buffet

Buffet - Cabanas

Most voyages aboard the Disney Dream will begin with lunch at Cabanas, the centrally located wrap-around buffet along Deck 11. The food at this buffet varies depending on time of day, but by the time passengers step aboard the ship, it’s time for lunch.

But before anyone dines at any restaurant on board, all guests are greeted outside restaurant doors by a smiling face holding sanitizing hand wipes:

Hand wipes - Cabanas

Cruise voyages have become notorious for the potential of rapidly spread of disease, due to guests essentially be “trapped” on board for several days, and eating with dirty hands is an easy way to come down with something. These wipes are quite welcome and appreciated.

Once inside Cabanas, here’s what my wife Michelle and I grabbed:

Food - Cabanas

Dessert - Cabanas

Not only were we quite hungry after attending the morning’s christening ceremony, but we also wanted to sample all that was available to eat. Pictured are: mashed potatoes, cold cuts, lamb chops, chicken wrap, a couple of rolls, mushroom pasta, chicken strips, turkey, a mozzarella and tomato sandwich, and steak. Of the bunch, the mashed potatoes were great, mushroom pasta was quite flavorful, turkey was moist, and the lamp chops were edible (though overcooked). Michelle also enjoyed the sandwich and my wrap was crisp and refreshing, though somewhat uninteresting. The rest was not so good. The chicken strips were soggy and limp, steak way overcooked, and rolls somewhat hard. The cold cuts were also stiff, a bit tough, and lacking any discernible flavor. Dessert wasn’t bad, but tasted more of sugar than chocolate.

So you can see why I describe dining on the Dream as a hit-or-miss experience. The same was true for breakfast at Cabanas:

Breakfast - Cabanas

The pancakes, kept warm via heat lamp, were surprisingly good, as were the sausage and potatoes. The western omelet looked fantastic but was not cooked to order and severely dried out after sitting under a heat lamp. Scrambled eggs were lumpy and watery. The “crispy” bacon was anything but, sliced so thin you could almost not taste it. And the strangest addition to the breakfast buffet was the mexican burrito/wrap, which belonged on a dinner menu. It was actually good – but not early in the morning.

Having sailed on a few cruises in my life, I can safely say the food at Cabanas was some of the worst cruise buffet food I’ve ever had. None of it is downright bad, and some of it resembles good food, but mostly it is merely edible. It works as a “passing through” meal for those who don’t want to sit down for table service, but it definitely could (and should) be better.

The good news is that the decor within Cabanas is a lot of fun, themed after the world of Finding Nemo. Flip through this slideshow to see all the tile mosaics and other character fun packed into this eatery.

Cabanas slideshow:


Animator’s Palate

Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

The first rotational dining restaurant I ate at was Animator’s Palate, which offered a complete contrast to Cabanas. This table service restaurant provided me with the best meal I had on my trip aboard the Disney Dream, which was coupled by an entertaining, but entirely distracting, character experience.

The menu at Animator’s Palate features enough choices to satisfy even the pickiest eaters:

Menu - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

Waiting at the table was focaccia with a garlic spread:

Focaccia and spread - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

It was delicious and looked great. Note the paint brush-shaped spreading knife.

My ordered meal began with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Porcini Twist:

Mushroom risotto - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

I also sampled Michelle’s Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes:

Black Truffle Torellini - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

The risotto was some of the best I’ve had. The mushroom flavor, of which I am a fan, became a bit overwhelming by the time I finished the plate, but I enjoyed every bite. Michelle’s pasta was creamy on the inside and cooked to the perfect bite on the outside. I would order either one again.

The next course brought me Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup:

Baked potato soup - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

It was a bit gritty for my tastes, though the bacon was fresh and crispy and the soup had a good potato flavor, without being too starchy.

My main course was the Animator’ Trio of Veal:

Veal three ways - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

Michelle’s entree was Lemon-thyme Marinated Organic Chicken Breast:

Chicken - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

The presentation of both of these meals was beautiful. If the color of the food in these photos seems odd, it’s because the lighting had shifted to a strong green/blue hue (more on that below) and I did my best to color-correct these pictures. Both were delicious.

The veal is presented three ways, as a tenderloin, pulled, and inside pasta. Each had its own unique texture and flavor, with my only complaint being the small portion size. It was all so enjoyable I could have eaten a second plate full. The chicken was tender, juicy, and featured plenty of bold flavor on the outside. The accompanying potatoes and vegetables were delicious as well as unusually prepared. They’re not your ordinary potatoes and veggies.

For dessert, I chose a Cookies & Cream Sundae:

Chocolate cookie sundae - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

Michelle ordered the Sweet Temptations sampler:

Dessert sampler - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

My sundae will delight kids of all ages, with bonus cookie bits to be dug out from the bottom, a fun Mickey-shaped chocolate on top, and plenty of sweet chocolate chips throughout. Michelle’s sampler consisted of Walnut Cake, Pineapple Financier, and Lemon Mousse, all of which she devoured.

Everything we ate at Animator’s Palate was entirely enjoyable. However, the experience of eating it was not always top-notch. On Disney’s other two cruise ships, the Animator’s Palate restaurant morphs from a black and white motif into color, complete with costume changes for the servers. Aboard the Disney Dream, however, all of this show is replaced by yet another version of Turtle Talk with Crush.

Turtle Talk with Crush - Animator's Palate, Disney Dream

Turtle Talk first premiered at Epcot in 2004 and has since made its way to Disney California Adventure, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Tokyo DisneySea. And now… it’s aboard the Disney Dream, interfering with an otherwise comfortable, and quite enjoyable, dining experience. Shortly after ordering, some time during the first course, much of the artwork on the on walls around the restaurant erupts into bubbles, the house lights flood diners in flickering shades of blue and green, and out pops Crush, greeting patrons with a hearty “Helloooooooo dudes!” Suddenly, Animator’s Palate is seemingly underwater by way of screens through which Crush and other Finding Nemo characters swim.

Crush takes command of the room by popping up next to various guests and asking them all kinds of questions about their lives. Children will be mesmerized when the sea turtle refers to them by name and talks to them about their vacation. Adults will smile and play along at first, but after the third or fourth time Crush appears, he becomes a nuisance. Halfway through my delightful veal entree, I was being strongly encouraged by our server to stand up and wave my hands in the air along with Crush. Anywhere else on the ship, I would have happily obliged the request. But in the middle of a meal, I simply wanted to sit and eat. I don’t mind watching a show, but don’t force me to play along while my stomach is growling.

It’s a an unsettling contrast between the high quality of the food and its presentation and the interference created by Turtle Talk. Independently, they are both phenomenal. But they should not be combined into one experience.

After it was all over, Michelle and I ended up staying at our table for an additional hour, at least, chatting with our newly-met dining companions. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to eat with and were the last ones out of the restaurant (but were never rushed to leave). The lively conversation helped solidify Animator’s Palate as my favorite dining experience aboard the Disney Dream, despite Crush occasionally getting in the way. On the way out, I snapped more photos of the Disney- and Pixar-inspired decor.

Animator’s Palate slideshow:


Enchanted Garden

Enchanted Garden

A stylish restaurant straight out of a 1950s dream, the Enchanted Garden wins high points for looks, but low marks for its menu options. Walking into this restaurant is breathtaking. Guests are transported from the long hallways of the Disney Dream into a lush wonderland. I use that word on purpose, as the menus even feature the singing flowers from Alice in Wonderland:

Menu - Enchanted Garden

While the decor is relaxing, the menu left me a bit uneasy, as I didn’t find much that suited my tastes. It’s an overwhelmingly seafood and vegetarian based menu, leaving few options for those who want neither.

From the starters, I chose the Thyme and Garlic Brioche, as the other three options sounded completely unappetizing to me:

Mushroom brioche - Enchanted Garden

It would be better called “mushrooms in a bread bowl” as it lacked any other flavors. Fortunately, the mushrooms were quite good. Michelle chose nothing, as none of the appetizers appealed to her.

For the soup and salad course, I had the Curried Carrot and Apple Soup:

Carrot & apple soup - Enchanted Garden

Michelle had a Baby Spinach Salad:

Spinach salad - Enchanted Garden

My soup was not as sweet as the carrot soup I enjoy from Disney’s Boma restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but still had a nice flavor with a creamy consistency. Michelle seemed to enjoy her salad as well.

Due to the limited options on the menu, the “guest favorite” Grilled NY Strip Steak was ordered by nearly everyone at our table, including myself and Michelle:

Steak - Enchanted Garden

This steak was all about the butter. While the meat was cooked perfectly and well-seasoned, the handmade butter brought it all home. When combined with the twice-baked potato, the dish worked as a hearty dinner with a huge portion size. But if I ever went back to Enchanted Garden, I’d have to order the same entree, not because I loved it, but because it is the only item on the menu I would want to eat.

For dessert, I had a “Sacher” Chocolate Torte:

Dessert Sachet - Enchanted Garden

Michelle had another Sweet Temptations trio:

Dessert trio - Enchanted Garden

My torte was good, but not great. Call my palate immature, but I enjoyed the previous night’s sundae much more. Michelle once again ate up her cake, cheesecake, and mousse.

Rotational dining options also include breakfast and lunch. During our short time on board, I ate breakfast once with table service, at Enchanted Garden:

Breakfast - Enchanted Garden

It may look similar to what I picked up at Cabanas the morning before, but the breakfast food at Enchanted Garden was far superior, cooked to order. Eggs were perfect, not runny. Bacon was still ultra-thin, but was really crispy this time. Sausage was roughly the same, and the hash brown was crunchy and not overly greasy. It took a bit longer than I expected for the dish to come out of the kitchen, but it was worth the extra wait.

The Enchanted Garden is relaxing, and even refreshing, but would need a menu with more meaty selections to entice me to dine there again.

Enchanted Garden slideshow:


Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Of the three rotational dining restaurants on the Disney Dream, the Royal Palace is the most elegant. Inspired by Disney Princesses, this is the dining centerpiece of the ship, located just off of the main lobby. Unfortunately, I only had two nights at sea during the Christening Cruise and was not able to eat here, or at any of the ship’s other restaurants, so my onboard reviews end here. In place of reviews, I offer an extensive photo gallery of each of the following restaurants, along with a brief video tour.

Take a trip around the beautiful Royal Palace restaurant in video:

And take a closer look at some of the details found throughout the restaurant, including Princess-inspired chairs, bread baskets, carpet, and lighting fixtures. Especially notable are entire rooms devoted to characters from The Princess and the Frog.

Royal Palace slideshow:


Remy

Entrance - Remy

Inspired by Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille, Remy is the Disney Dream’s finest dining restaurant. While the rotational dining restaurants are included with the cost of the cruise, guests must pay $75 per person to dine at Remy, which fills up on reservations months in advance of departure dates. Book early if you want a chance to eat in this small but luxurious restaurant. You won’t find animatronic rats or any over-the-top Disney theming here. While walking through, I noticed just one Ratatouille-related design.

See if you spot it in this video tour of Remy:

And, of course, below are a few more photos of the restaurant.

Remy slideshow:


Palo

Palo

Across the hall from Remy sits Palo, another up-charge restaurant aboard the Disney Dream, though this one costs just $20 per guest. It’s an Italian restaurant that’s present on Disney’s other cruise ships and features plenty of privacy and intimacy. Guests must dress up to dine here.

But you don’t have to get out of your pajamas to take a video tour of Palo:

And here are some Palo photos as well.

Palo slideshow:


Snacks and Drinks

Pink lounge

In addition to table service restaurants, the Disney Dream has a number of counter service windows serving up cheeseburgers, chicken strips, hot dogs, and all the usual quick food. It’s on par with what you’ll find at counter service meals at Disney’s theme parks. None of it is spectacular, but it gets the job done. And unlike in the parks, all of it is free to eat as much (or as little) of as you’d like on board.

In addition, plenty of lounges are available for drinks at night. Some are bars, others dance clubs, and others comfortable sitting areas, but all offer a chance to relax and chat up a few friends, new or old. My favorite is the one pictured above, Pink.

Check out our photos of the snacking and drinking locations throughout the Disney Dream.

Snacks and Lounges slideshow:


Cookie’s BBQ on Castaway Cay

Cookies BBQ - Castaway Cay

Rounding out this food wrap-up of the Disney Dream is a restaurant found on shore at Castaway Cay. It’s called Cookie’s BBQ, though there’s also a Cookie’s Too elsewhere on the island with identical food. As you might expect, barbecue is what’s served, though I’d use that term loosely here. You’ll find hamburgers, chicken, ribs, and a selection of side items.

Here’s what I grabbed after a whole lot of swimming:

Cookies BBQ food - Castaway Cay

If I had to choose a favorite item on that dish, it would be the chicken, but none of it was particularly good. The cheesy onion focaccia was not bad either, though I was hungry enough to eat just about anything at that point. You won’t find an incredible meal at Castaway Cay, but just enough to keep your stomach satisfied while you soak up the sun.

And if you’re hot enough, you can grab some soft serve ice cream nearby:
Ice cream - Castaway Cay


In Summary

Dining aboard the Disney Dream is most certainly a hit-or-miss experience. The Animator’s Palate had my favorite food of the trip, but I kept wishing Crush would leave everyone alone so I could eat in peace. The Enchanted Garden had incredible decor but lacked the menu to back it up. The buffet options at Cabanas and even at Cookie’s BBQ on Castaway Cay were surprisingly mediocre, not up to Disney’s usual standards. I wish I had enough time to try all of the options throughout the ship, but I imagine the trend would continue throughout, pairing a lot of good with a little bad. Fortunately, the good was always exceptionally good, and the bad was never horrible, only a minor disappointment among plenty of enjoyment.


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