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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
But that’s nothing compared to what we actually ordered…
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.
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.
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!
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?
My table-mate ordered the pizza Ai Gamberi, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, shrimp, and asparagus, which he very much enjoyed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.