What do we look for when choosing the perfect vacation for ourselves? Sometimes it’s the “wow” factor of a game-changing innovative ship, exciting ports of call, or the overall experience onboard. For me, it’s all about the cuisine and service that the ship has to offer. As a chef here in San Diego, I was thrilled when my cousin, Jason, asked me to review the culinary operation on the latest ship we traveled on, the Disney Fantasy from the Disney Cruise Line.
There are many different components that make up a successful culinary service operation like food quality, knowledgeable staff, excellent service, diversity in the menu offerings, and uniqueness. The Disney Fantasy offers all of these and then some to their patrons. The diverse menu offerings and dishes that were offered the first night in the Enchanted Garden dining room pleasantly surprised me, and I knew from then on that we were in for a real culinary treat.
I was extremely impressed by the ambitious dishes that the culinary staff produced every night in the dining rooms because they were always using unique ingredients and an interesting fusion of flavors like with the buttered popcorn soup at Animator’s Palate, which was delicious.
I really have to commend the Fantasy’s culinary staff on being so conscious of all their patrons and their needs. Every menu in the dining rooms has sugar-free desserts, vegetarian options, and lighter fare that you can choose from along with the regular menu offerings for that evening. I was pleased by the quality and flavor profile of the few sugar-free desserts and vegetarian appetizers that I sampled in the main dining rooms. Many food service operations attempt to cater to patrons with dietary restrictions, but very few are actually successful in providing thoughtfully-constructed flavorful dishes that are still beautiful and decadent.
The Disney Fantasy offers many different food service options for their customers such as Cabanas located on deck 11 that serves an extensive buffet at breakfast, lunch, and dinner; or Flo’s Café on the pool deck that serves a large variety of specialty pizzas, hamburgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, and wraps. The buffet at Cabanas is a great option for breakfast, and we actually preferred it to that in the dining room. However, I wasn’t as impressed with the food variety offered during the lunch buffet. Flo’s Café is a great choice for lunch or to grab a quick slice after an exciting day of exploring a tropical port-of-call.
The ship also provides a very unique dining experience to their customers by having three main dining rooms that you and your dining staff rotate through multiple times during your cruise. This is the first time that I have experienced this concept of rotational dining on a ship, and I have to say that I am a fan of this experience. Each dining room is themed so perfectly from Enchanted Garden’s whimsical feel to Royal Court’s classic Disney elegance, fit for any princess.
For me, my favorite main dining room of the three was Animator’s Palate because it is so imaginative, and it is the perfect, fun, interactive dinner show for adults and children alike. What’s not to love about a place where you can travel on the East Australian Current to talk with Crush or animate your own character that will perform alongside some of your favorite Disney characters.
The Fantasy offers two unique specialty restaurants onboard. First there is Remy (pictured in the header above), which is inspired by the Pixar film Ratatouille and serves French food executed with the perfect blend of classic and modern techniques. As a chef that was classically trained in French food, I was quite excited to try Remy on this trip. Remy is the quintessential French fine dining experience that provides their patrons with an elegant atmosphere, knowledgeable staff, and a 5 course-tasting menu that is beautifully constructed and executed by their kitchen staff.
Second is Palo, which specializes in classical Northern Italian cuisine. We did not have the opportunity to experience Palo’s dinner offering, but we did have a chance to have brunch there on our last sea day. From the buffet portion that houses the fresh seafood, antipasto, fresh breakfast pastries, and desserts to the classical Italian hot dishes coming out of their kitchen like pizza, chicken parmesan, and lasagna; the brunch at Palo is an amazing value and one that everyone should experience.
The most impressive aspect of the Disney Fantasy’s food and beverage department is the commitment to excellent service demonstrated by the front of house staff everyday. Our main dining room team of waiters – Devendra and Rolando – demonstrated the best example of this excellent service. When we would walk into the dining room every night, our favorite drinks would be sitting on the table waiting for us to enjoy.
On the second to last night, the most amazing chocolate lava cake was served in the Royal Court dining room, and the whole table was raving about it to our server. The next evening in the Animator’s Palate dining room when it was time for our dessert course, our server brought out the desserts that we ordered along with the decadent chocolate lava cake that we enjoyed the previous night. When I critique the service experience at an operation as a chef and food service professional, I ask myself two questions. First, would I hire you and second, would I keep you. If the answer is yes to both of those questions then I know that I experienced great service.
I am impressed with Disney Cruise Line’s culinary department more so than other lines that I have sailed on previously because many of their dishes are innovative and ambitious for any food service operation, let alone a cruise line. Disney Cruise Line is definitely a game changer when it comes to hospitality, food and beverage operation, impeccable service, and overall cruise experience. The Walt Disney Company has always been known as an example of excellence, but the Disney Cruise Line exceeds that standard of excellence and is the ultimate Disney experience.
What is your impression of Disney Cruise Line’s cuisine? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below…
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: JASON LEPPERT