the disney food blog Rotating Header Image

Disney Dream Dining: Palo Review

As you know, I had the wonderful opportunity to sail on the Disney Dream cruise ship’s Christening Cruise from January 19-21! What an incredible two days! I ate my way around the ship and had some amazing food, but I truly couldn’t wait to share this very special experience with you — dinner at Palo.

Atmosphere

One of two adults-only restaurants on the Disney Cruise Line’s brand new ship, the Dream, Palo can also be found on the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic cruise ships, but in a slightly different form. It will also be found on the Disney Fantasy, sailing in 2012; this version will be similar to the restaurant on the Dream.

Palo Entryway

Palo is pure luxury. Decorated in muted tones of mustard and wine (natch), rich velvets, and dark woods, the restaurant is posh, comfortable, and blessedly quiet — a quality you certainly won’t find at many other dining venues on the Dream! Service is impeccable and food quality superb. You will be wanting for nothing at Palo.

Chandelier in Entryway

Close Up of Chandelier in Entryway

Palo Wine Cabinet

Palo Wine

To take advantage of the sea view, the restaurant has been built with graduated seating, and all tables face the wall of windows. A piano offers background music during dining hours.

Palo Seating on Upper Level of Restaurant

Seating By the Window -- Lower Level of Restaurant

Palo Booth Seating on Lower Level

Table with a View

Piano

There is one room set aside for large parties. This will book quickly, so be sure to make reservations in advance for this one. You can see when online reservations are available in our Overall section below.

Seating for Large Parties

And one table is set within a beautiful mural made of glass beading. The mural looks a bit like Florence, as Palo serves Italian cuisine.

Seating in Mural Alcove

Close Up of Beaded Mural

I stopped in to the restaurant early on in the cruise so that I could get my “atmosphere” photos during daylight hours, and you can clearly see how stunning this place is. Just imagine sailing and dining with a view of the sea or Castaway Cay — gorgeous! While I was there, the restaurant had catered to those of us taking photos and gathering information with a small tray of delicious dessert samples! Yum!

Samples During Media Event

But that’s nothing compared to what we actually ordered…

Eats

I was lucky to share my table with three other reporters, so I had the opportunity to snag a few more photos than I would have normally (lucky for you and me, eh?)!

I had to stare at the menu for quite some time; I wanted to order everything! There are so many delicious sounding dishes on the menu, including some really intriguing vegetarian items. It seems like some of the dishes from Palo on the Magic and Wonder have returned to this version of Palo, but there are some new additions as well.

Menu -- Click for Larger Image

But before I share what I ordered, let me first tell you about the pre-appetizers we were served. The fresh breads from the pizza oven included Grissini sticks, Olive and Ciabatta Rolls, and Foccacia Bread. These were served with tarragon butter.

Bread Service

Butter

After we indulged in bread, our server quickly came around with the antipasti carello and plated up prosciutto, bresaola Parmesan Reggiano, and marinated vegetables sprinkled with olive oil. The meats and cheese were so rich, they were easily a full appetizer in themselves! Coupled with my glass of the house Chardonnay — Cervaro della Sala — which had already been filled a couple of times at this early point in the meal, I was in heaven!

Antipasti Cart

Plated Antipasti

House White Wine

Next up, we were served our ordered appetizers. I simply had to sample one of the famous Palo pizzas, as did a table-mate of mine. I had the Quattro Formaggi (which, you know by now, is my standard!). While my first bite didn’t wow me, I think that’s primarily because I didn’t catch the full Gorgonzola flavor I had been hoping for. Happily, I found that strong Gorgonzola flavor scattered around the pizza, but I wish there had been more of it.

The true winner of this dish, however, is that creamy, delectable Mascarpone you see melting on the top. Oh my goodness, my friends — once I had a taste of this, the dish was a winner. I’d never thought of pizza as “creamy” before, but this was a truly incredible addition both texturally and taste-wise to an otherwise standard pizza. I’d definitely order this again — heavy on the Gorgonzola and Mascarpone! I will also mention that it was interesting to find tomato sauce on what is usually served as a white pizza… thoughts?

Quattro Formaggi Pizza

My table-mate ordered the pizza Ai Gamberi, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, shrimp, and asparagus, which he very much enjoyed.

Ai Gamberi pizza

My two other companions ordered the Sicilian Pesto Marinated Grilled Shrimp on a Mussel, Crab and Cherry Tomato Ragu; and the Melanzane Funghetto — lightly salted eggplant sauteed with Garlic and Parsley, served warm with a Balsamic Dressing drizzle. Both were deemed excellent — especially the eggplant.

Sicilian Pesto Marinated Grilled Shrimp on a Mussel, Crab and Cherry Tomato Ragu

Melanzane Funghetto

A very nice addition at this point in the meal was a lemon sorbet palate cleanser — the perfect amount and a wonderful sweet-tart taste.

Palate Cleanser

Next up — entrees! You’d think we were full by now, but the slower pace of the meal, the flowing wine, and the great conversation kept us animated and ready for more.

I had a difficult time deciding between the Gnocchi di patate con Gorgonzola e Asparagi (potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce and asparagus) and the Beef Tenderloin “Palo” Served with Palo Signature Barola Red Wine Sauce or Gorgonzola Sauce…so I got both. Well, sort of. I ordered the Tenderloin (with both sauces, of course), and asked for an appetizer portion of the gnocchi. Don’t forget that it’s possible to get a Palo entree as an appetizer portion — just ask your server!

Both dishes were simply incredible. Ah-maz-ing. And even after eating both of them, I still can’t make a decision. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked to a medium rare and could be cut with a butter knife. While I enjoyed the wine sauce, I thought the steak paired much better with the Gorgonzola (I’m a cheese girl…you know this). The richness of that sauce took the dish to a higher level than anything else I ate on the cruise.

Palo Tenderloin

The gnocchi was just about perfect in an appetizer portion. Coupled with extremely fresh and crunchy-cooked asparagus (one of my favorite vegetables when it’s cooked properly), it was absolutely one of the winning dishes of the night. As is the case with many creamy pasta dishes, I wonder if a full entree of this might have been overwhelming — but I can highly recommend getting a small portion, or ordering an extra entree to split with your dining companions. It was the perfect accompaniment for the steak, as I mentioned. And again — that Gorgonzola sauce… heavenly.

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Asparagus

My dining companions ordered some incredible looking dishes as well: the Penne Arrabbiatta Lombardia with spicy fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce topped with Grilled Shrimp; and the Risotto di Mare — Saffron Risotto served with Fried Zucchini, Shrimp, Mussels and Clams. Both dishes looked absolutely gorgeous, and the Arrabbiatta received very high marks. The Risotto was a hit as well, though one of my dining companions mentioned that it could use a bit stronger saffron taste.

Penne Arrabbiatta Lombardia

Risotto di Mare

Picking up on that critique, that might be the only box left unchecked for me at Palo — extremes of flavor. While the richness was there, I personally like a bit more spice and strength in the flavors — stronger cheeses, spicier sauces, etc. This is absolutely a matter of opinion, however, and isn’t considered a negative by me — just an observation.

Now, before our entrees arrived, our wonderful server (Katarina) brought out the dessert menus. Why so early? Castaway Club members say it with me… chocolate souffle!!! Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. I has to be ordered 20 minutes in advance, so we quickly ordered two of these delectable goodies, which are served with vanilla bean and chocolate sauces.

Palo Dessert Menu page 1 -- click for larger image

Palo Dessert Menu Page 2 -- click for larger image

After entrees, we ordered our other desserts. I had a very hard time choosing between the Orange Soda Float with Vanilla Gelato and the Pistachio Cake with Amaretto Cream and Hazelnut Meringue. In the end, the Pistachio Cake won out. Two of my companions were sharing the other souffle (one was mine, of course), and the other table-mate ordered the no sugar added dessert — Apple Crostata with Salted Caramel Sauce (sugar dough, braised cinnamon apples, and whipped cream).

First up — that souffle. I can’t help it. I have to talk about it. I think I found my soul mate. You’ll smell this dessert long before you ever get to taste it. The scent invades the table — the strong, dark chocolate cocoa aroma steams around the plate and makes this dish all the more enjoyable. And when your eyes and nose have already fallen in love with a dish, your taste buds would have to fight pretty hard not to like it, too.

This souffle is rich, velvety, and moist — almost approaching a pudding in the middle once you break through the crunch of the sugared crust on the top. The generous portion is plenty to share with a companion, but why would you?! (I’m sorry…am I being selfish with my chocolate again?) Of course the heated vanilla bean and chocolate sauces expand the flavor instead of mask it. They’re great additions.

Souffle with Vanilla Gelato and Chocolate and Vanilla Sauces

Now, after this, I felt kind of bad for the rest of the desserts on the table. ;-) But when I took a bite of the Pistachio Cake I was pleasantly surprised. Moist cake with a nice, strong flavor. Probably not the dessert I’d order first, but there was nothing negative about it.

Pistachio Cake

And, believe it or not, the no sugar added dessert knocked my socks off. I’ve had bad experiences with no sugar added desserts at Disney restaurants before — and I’ve had bad experiences with apple desserts at Disney restaurants before — so I was expecting this to be sub-par. Happily, it was incredible. I was reminded of my grandmother’s apple pie — fresh apples (nothing canned or even slightly processed — these tasted orchard fresh), a wonderful dough crust, and a delicious caramel sauce.

The dish was light, flavorful, and exactly what I want from an apple dessert. I absolutely loved it, and even though it was ordered by a table-mate, I think I ate all of it (as she is vehemently anti-raisin and realized too late that the dish had raisins in it). ;-) Highly recommended!

Apple Crostada

Finally — even though we’d been drinking wine all evening — Katarina brought around the signature Palo after-dinner drink: shots of what appeared to be a slightly melted lemon sorbet, mixed with prosecco and vodka. A very thick limoncello, basically. This was heavenly. The perfect end to a truly fantastic meal.

Overall

I was very impressed with Palo. As a comparison, it was along the lines of California Grill and Napa Rose — high-end decor and impeccable service; fresh, market-inspired menu; and inspired dishes.

While dining at Palo will tack an extra $20 onto your cruise tab, it is absolutely worth the cost and probably worth three times that amount or more. I know I’m not the first to sing the praises of this restaurant, but I’m definitely singing them loudly.

Table Setting at Palo

Now, here are a few pieces of info that are good to know:

1. Be forewarned future Disney Dream cruisers — Palo is not easy to find! It’s on Deck 12 aft, and on this boat, aft does not connect to forward on Deck 12. If you end up on Deck 12 forward, you’ll have to head to Deck 11 and walk the length of the ship before heading back up the Deck 12 and the Remy/Palo area. Believe me — I was late to many of my dining adventures before I figured out the system! ;-)

2. Reservations for Palo can be made online as follows:
* Concierge Guests: 120 days in advance
* Castaway Club Levels:
o Platinum Castaways: 120 days in advance
o Gold Castaways: 105 days in advance
o Silver Castaways: 90 days in advance
* First Time Cruiser: 75 days in advance

3. An additional charge is required to dine at Palo:
* Dinner: $20 dining charge, per person
* Brunch: $20 dining charge, per person

4. Palo does have a dress code: think “business” or “church” clothes and you’ll be fine. No jeans, t-shirts, ripped clothing, bathing suits, flip flops, etc… .

5. Palo is adults-only. The kiddos will have to stay with family/friends on the ship or head over to the kids’ clubs when you visit the restaurant.

FYI: I was invited by Disney on this Christening Cruise, and my expenses were paid by the company. I am under no obligation to review or discuss the event, and all opinions are 100% my own.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

27 Comments

  1. Brenda says:

    Palo is a must for us whenever we cruise Disney … brunch and dinner for sure! We’ve also had their afternoon tea service but I think that’s the one area where they could use some improvement (or drop the option altogether). Here’s another tip – if you ask your server they will give you a copy of the chocolate souffle recipe!

  2. Jeff says:

    Between this and Mike Newell and Annette Owens live broadcasts, I’m ready to book my first cruise! I don’t know how dining works on cruises – are gratuities included? and how about all that wonderful wine?

    Thanks for you awesome blog! I’ve ate many a Disney dish based on your reports.

  3. Rob says:

    Are reservations at the adults only venues typically hard to get? I know with the parks you can hardly ever get a seating at the popular table service restaurants within the 75 days being offered to first time cruisers. Also how is it fair that a first time cruiser has the shortest window. Should they not have the longest?

  4. Josh says:

    Wow, for only $20 more to the tab that definitely is worth 4/5 Star Quality!

    Wonderful description of the Chocolate Souffle, as it gives a great visual idea.

    I could just see everybody eying AJ’s Souffle wanting a bite! ;)

  5. Deb says:

    Great review as usual! I could almost taste it. I can’t wait to try Palo on the Dream. We’ve enjoyed it very much on The Magic and Wonder. The souffle sounds dreamy;) and never mind sharin’ my chocolate!

  6. Eric says:

    Thanks for another wonderful review. Soo happy that you were able to participate in this media event and share your experience with all of us.

  7. Carolyn says:

    I loved Palos on the Magic when we went in 05 and like you would suggest it highly.

    Just a little side note. I got a giggle out of your use of the word POSH. Do you know where the word came from??

    P.O.S.H. stands for the most desired deck chair reservations on the old classic ships. Your ticket would be stamped P.O.S.H. This gave you the best sun exposure and was considered high class and luxury.

    P – Port
    O- Out
    S – Starboard
    H – Home

  8. James says:

    Okay, AJ, I’m sold. My only question is whether or not they serve the souffle at lunch although, looking at that dessert menu, I don’t think it would matter too much to me if it’s not.

  9. Heather says:

    Can’t wait to eat at Palo in July!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Shayne says:

    Outstanding review, AJ. With the photos and your descriptions, I practically felt like I was there! We have cruised only once — aboard the Magic for our honeymoon in 1999. I remember scrambling to get to Palo on embarkation day to get a reservation. Perhaps you couldn’t get advance reservations back then?

    In any event, I’m also curious how quickly this books up and whether you have any shot at getting in if you’re not an upper level Castaway Club member?

  11. Brenda says:

    @ james … unless something has changed Palo only offers the souffle at dinner; they aren’t open for lunch and only offer brunch on days when the ship is at sea.

  12. Alan says:

    Oh AJ what a great review. Everything on that menu looks fantastic. This is the kind of food we would remember for a long time. As Josh said the $20 surcharge is a great bargain.

    Carolyn – I loved your JOSH explanation. I had heard that years ago, but it had fallen deep into the recesses of my cluttered mind.

  13. Angelique says:

    Wow, thanks for this great review!!
    It looks great, all of it.

  14. Emma says:

    great review AJ! I’m even more excited to try Palo on our honeymoon cruise this June aboard the Dream :)

    Quick question.. do you know how much a glass of wine/cocktail would be at Palo? I’m trying to estimate our spending for the cruise – will need to remember the $20 each for Palo and any drinks!

    Thank you very much

  15. Gray says:

    Wow, I would probably want to eat here every night of a cruise! Not only does the food look outstanding, but the adults-only environment really appeals. The extra $20 would be worth it, IMO.

  16. Chris says:

    That looks incredible. I just emailed this to a client who is thinking about a land/sea trip in November. I’m so unfair!!!!

  17. Mary says:

    I had a feeling you would like Palo. It has always been terrific on the Magic and it looks like they have taken the decor up a notch on the Dream. Oh and isn’t that souffle to die for? I dream about it (no pun intended)!

  18. Anna says:

    Can’t wait! We’ll be there very soon.

  19. AJ says:

    Anna — was just going to write you to see if you’d already gone! :-)

  20. Stanley says:

    Does anyone know where I can purchase the 8 year old balsamic vinegar like I was served at Palo’s? It was fantastic! Many thanks in advance.

  21. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the review of Palo. Since there are so many items on the menu, would it be fine if I want to order more than one appetizer, entree and dessert so I can try everything I want in one sitting?

  22. AJ says:

    Jenny — Yes!

  23. Beth says:

    I’m excited. I just booked Palo for our October cruise. Palo on Nassau night, Remy on the night at Sea…sounds like a perfect cruise to me!

  24. Paul says:

    Hi AJ!

    I’m strongly considering booking Palo for my cruise in November, and so just re-read this review to prime myself. Awesome review, and my tastebuds are watering already…

    One question – it sounds like Palo is a very long involved meal. You mentioned that it was a very slow pace. I wonder – how long does it actually take? Should we plan on missing the evening’s show in the Walt Disney Theater if we book Palo? Or is it possible to do Palo and still see one of the shows that night?

    Thanks!

  25. cheryl says:

    I’ve recently returned from the Disney Dream cruise to the Bahama’s, and after one dinner at Palo’s, I never returned to the main restaurants. Service was as slow–or as fast–as you wanted it. The food truly was amazing, comparable to that in any high-end restaurant I’ve been in in Boston,Toronto or Montreal. At the same time, the staff was friendly (e.g., not at all stuffy) totally accommodating and made the entire “event” of dining at Palo’s a highlight of the cruise. Guerstel runs a spot-on restaurant; and Luis and Carlos were attentive and just plain fun. Their knowledge of the menu, the food and all things “wine” were astonishing. I actually would return to this cruise solely to dine at this Palo’s.

  26. Melanie says:

    I had read somewhere that in addition to the $20.00 they charge a $15.00 cover charge per person. Is this correct?

  27. AJ says:

    Melanie — On my last visit in November 2013, there was no extra cover charge.

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *