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Top Ten Disney Cruise Line Dining Tips

Kim L. is our Disney cruise guru around here! (Seriously. She knows EVERYTHING about cruising and was even the Disney World Moms Panel Cruise Specialist her second term on the panel.) She’s put together her top 10 tips to get the most out of your Disney Cruise dining experience, but we want to hear your tips as well, pretty please. Will you add yours in the comments section below?

1. Order The Cake of the Day: Order the Cake of the Day from Room Service! Room service is complimentary (although a gratuity is appreciated) and it’s fun to sample (um, okay, devour ;-)) different cake slices.

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake at Animator's Palate

2. Skip Shore Excursion Eats: Use Room Service for a quick sandwich while getting ready for your shore excursion. Then time your return to the ship to coincide with your next meal.

3. Find Hidden Treats: Ask your server to start each meal with a cheese (similar to All Hands On Deck) or seafood platter (I saw shrimp served in the Mediterranean) for the entire table to enjoy. It’s not on the menu. Parents can request cheese, grapes, and crackers for the kids. Just ask if it’s available during your voyage!

Likewise, chocolate covered strawberries are not on the dessert menu but are sometimes available by special request. Ask for a small plate of them to be brought with your dessert. They are divine!

Bacon, Brie, and Tomato Panini from Flo's V8 Cafe

4. Late Night Dining: If you’re dining late and the kids are getting hungry, stop by one of the counter-service restaurants (or call Room Service) for a snack prior to the show. Then, you’ll be able to bypass the expensive concession stand outside the theatre.

At bedtime, have Room Service deliver cookies and milk (yes, you can even get the cookies warm!) and the kids will think they’ve sailed to Neverland!

5. Miss Dinner?: If you have a family member that is unable to make dinner due to an illness, wardrobe mishap, etc., ask your server for a meal to bring back to your stateroom. The Wait Staff will go out of their way to accommodate your dining needs whenever possible.

Tea on the Disney Dream

6. Always Ask: Mickey ice cream bars (not always available on European cruises) are not on the Room Service menu but if you request one, it’ll be delivered to your stateroom. Need a PB&J Uncrustable for a picky eater? Just ask! These are also available at the dining rooms by request.

7. Tea Time: At table-service restaurants there will be some herbal tea available, while the self-serve Beverage Station’s selection is quite small. For your tea fix, visit the spa. There’s always a selection of complimentary tasty teas set out for patrons and you don’t need an appointment to enter the fitness center hallway on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. Likewise, you can get some tea in the relaxation room aboard the Dream! Stop in for your spot of tea or take a tea bag (or two) with you.

8. Don’t Forget the Vino!: Pre-purchase a wine package. Each night at dinner, you’ll be able to pair a wine with your meal. The bottle can be enjoyed throughout your meal. Any remaining wine can be sent to your stateroom!

9. Sweets For the Grown-Ups: While relaxing in the adults-only Cove area, stop in to the Cove Cafe for complimentary baked goods.

Cove Baked Goods

10. Mix and Match!: You can mix and match menu items. At dinner, try two appetizers. Have a soup and salad, then two desserts. Don’t feel obligated to have every course. And don’t feel shy about adding an extra portion of your favorite dish.

Did you enjoy the entree on your previous night so much that you are craving it again? Ask your server if they could kindly get it for you!

OK — your turn!! What are YOUR top tips for dining on the Disney Cruise Line? Let us know in the comments section below!

Read our Disney Dream Cruise dining reviews here!

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79 Comments

  1. Silvio says:

    Just got back from Disney Dream 3/31/13 the cruise was great but or I’m confused or not properly informed. while the main Dining was good I was looking for other options for casual dinner like on the Deck outside, like Cabanas and every night that I walk upstairs it was close. So is this coincidence or on short cruises this is the norm?.

  2. Emily says:

    Silvio- the hours of each restaurant are listed own your ships “Navigator.” The info is easy to miss. Always ask a Disney staff member if you have questions, they are the best!

  3. Cathy says:

    My husband and I went on our honeymoon September 2011 aboard the Disney magic. I have to say Palo reservations are a must!! For most people the dining experience on a cruise ship is just amazing. Wonderful service, foods you’ve never tried before, and a full 4 course meal. However, The service, the food, the atmosphere of Palo is just wonderful!! It was a very romantic intimate dinner for just the two of us. The food was outstanding ( chocolate soufflĂ© dessert!!) I have to admit the menu was a bit intimidating at first but our server was absolutely wonderful! You won’t be sorry you spent a few extra bucks on this meal (seriously $20 a person for 5 star dining!)

  4. Sam says:

    1) The servers are usually exceptional, if you don’t get good service the first night, mention it!
    2) You can definitely get different meals than on the menu at the restaurants. I am a pretty bland eater :) I’ve been on 4 cruises with Disney, and on the occasional night the menu was too fancy for me, I asked for a salad and grilled chicken and it was NEVER a problem, they are great!! Getting a kids meal is another option, and you can mix and match from the adult and the kids menus. (Salad from one, nuggets from the kids, desserts -multiple!- from both.)
    3) The servers are MAGIC with the kiddos. We had 8 kids with four couples one trip, and I never had to even go cut up food! Our servers have all been beyond amazing, with the exception of one, who was good. And the little touches like the ketchup being put on their plates in the shape of a mickey head with ears is always a hit – look mom!!
    And another example of the spectacular service: my husband and I had a cocktail on the Dream at one of the adult bars and the next night I was telling everyone at dinner. So I ran over to that bar and order 6 of them. I told her I would take three at a time, so I’d be back for the others. She said, no problem, I’ll bring them for you – and she did. Amazing!

    If you travel with family or friends:
    4) Make sure if you travel with another family with their own room that your rooms are linked together by the ship by just asking on the 800 reservation number. We had 4 families, with 8 kids and they put all 16 of us at a table together for the meals.
    5) While they have the dine and play option at the late dinner, (where the playroom folks come and sign your kids in and take them back to the club) if you are dining on the early dinner, we had one of the parents run the kids down in sign them into the club after they finished eating. You just have to list each other when you register your children, and share passwords. If you have trust issues and don’t want to share your password, volunteer to take the other kiddos down. :)
    6) It is hard to get bigger reservations for Palo. However, you can book two tables for the same night/time, and then request when you get on board that you be seated together. We have done it two times and it has worked for us both times. And yes, the service and food is all it’s been said to be. We love the appetizers and desserts the best.
    We LOVE Disney cruising, my husband and our kids are just about obsessed, it is such a GREAT way to vacation with kids. I’m a safety crazed mom, and there is NOTHING like a Disney cruise for a fun, relaxing, no stress vacation. Can’t say enough. But then again, looking back at this huge post, maybe I have said enough. ;-)

  5. Mary says:

    We have taken 5 Disney cruises (all 4 ships) and totally agree with requesting food not listed on the menu. I like simple garden salads (not the frou-frou fancy ones) so I requested that each night. We’ve had Mickey Premium Bars for dessert, too. You can always have a burger and fries, if that’s what you want. If it’s available anywhere on the ship, they are likely to go get it for you. My sister was addicted to the coconut ice cream served in Cabanas and at the lunch buffet in one of the restaurants. She asked for it for dinner, and it magically appeared every night even though it wasn’t offered there.

    Related to the unhappy with your service tip, you should also speak up if you are unhappy with your table location/arrangement. On our last cruise we were seated at a large table and half of us had our seats backing up to a wait station (or whatever those are called), causing the servers to have to reach over the other people all the time. We spoke up when the head server came over to introduce himself, and although we were stuck at that table for that meal, we were given a complimentary bottle of champagne.

    If you are unsure if you will like a dish on the menu, go ahead and order it to try. If you don’t like it, ask for a different meal. They will gladly go get another.

  6. Maureen says:

    We skip the buffet breakfast and lunches and eat at Royal Court or Lumiere’s – the food is so much better, plus I’m on vacation, I want to be waited on!

  7. Karl & Jenny Paulsen says:

    Dining at the Palo brunch? Ask for your pizza to go. Often they’ll make you an entire one of your choice. Then take it to your stateroom and enjoy it later.

  8. margaret fuchs says:

    Only ever been on one cruise but it was so wonderful! I stuck to the menu but my daughter would order differently. She would order an appetizer size of one entrée and another appetizer. She would change things all around. The staff never blinked an eye. They were marvelous!

  9. Amy says:

    We’re going on the Fantasy tomorrow–thanks for all of the tips! We love cheese! Thanks!!

  10. Gina says:

    My family and I have been on several Disney Cruises and we will be sailing again in Sept.on the Fantasy..We have no complaints!! They really try to cater to your every need..On our last cruise my son wasn’t feeling well and very tired,so he asked to skip dinner so he can rest. The waiter asked for him at dinner and we explained to him what was going on. He personally delivered a dinner plate to our stateroom with my sons favorites!!! Now how magical was that!!

  11. Vicky says:

    I went on the dream in Jan “13… And I have to say I was disappointed with our server. I asked for the cheese platter and the waiter looked confused. So I told him I read where you could get it and he just said no you can not. Then I asked for 2 appetizers and the waiter acted like I lost my mind. He explained I need an entry. It was not fun at all so we skipped the rest of the nights in the dinning room. I guess we just got a bad apple. We are cruising again and I hope it’s better this time. We have been on Carnival, and food service was awesome, so we were hope disney would out do them. Maybe we set our expectations too high.

  12. Jaime says:

    Is it easy to tell what is included food wise on the cruise? Do they tell you when there is a fee for certain snacks and such?

  13. AJ says:

    Jaime — There really isn’t too much that’s not included. If something is not included, it’s usually marked or noted.

  14. Sam says:

    As a side note to my post above. We did a cruise on the Dream and the service was nowhere near what I have experienced on the older ships. In my experience the Wonder sets the bar – truly only exceptional, above the high bar service by EVERY member of the staff, and they are happy to be at work and enjoy their jobs – it shows. However, I was talking to an employee who said that part of the staff went to both the Dream and the Fantasy when they started the last couple years, but the Wonder has an amazingly stable staff. The Staff director was on my first cruise many years ago and I recognize many of the staff. The Dream and the Fantasy are only a year and two years old, and twice the size of the older ships. Hopefully they will also get a stable staff and the new ships will come up to the amazing service and high standards of all Disney experiences.
    As far as what is paid and what is not – ALL RESTAURANT FOOD is included except the adult restaurant Polos. (If you have a chance to book it early, the $20 fee is an amazing price for Palo’s food and the experience.) Alcohol is not included or the coffee shops and stores, of course. The snack bar outside the movie theatre is the only other place I can think of that is not included. All of the food places on the swim deck are included, the ice cream bar, the soda station and the fruit and wraps- all included. We would order our regular dinners, and if there was something interesting on the menu we would ask for one for the table to split. Extra sides, whatever you want. Sometimes they would bring us an extra dinner because they wanted us to try it. :)
    As a side note, we take a plastic straw cup with us to use with soda. The soda station is only up on the swim deck. We also take a flask and bottle of alcohol and make rum and cokes to take to the meals. It is a don’t ask, don’t tell thing, the staff doesn’t care. We will try some of the fun drinks here and there, but as all resorts, the alcoholic drinks are expensive.
    So Palo’s, the night clubs (even soda has a fee in the clubs), alcohol, coffee shops, internet, shopping stores, and the movie theatre snacks/drinks.
    Anyone else, anything I forgot? :)

  15. Jenna says:

    I’m looking at doing the Alaska cruise this May with my husband and have read mixed reviews on how good the food is on Disney cruise ships. I have read consistent reviews that Palo’s is very good (one bad review that it was not that great, slimy cheesecake, chewy steak) and the food everywhere else seems to be acceptable. As we are a late 20s couple who enjoy our food – I’m talking good food, not just any old McD’s every day of the week and in abundance kind of enjoyment – and we don’t have kids, the experience on the Disney cruise will, for us, not only be wonderful due to the entertainment and the general theme of the ship (we love Disney!) but also the quality of the food will have a big impact on the enjoyment for us. It needs to be edible, enjoyable and not just burgers, fries and chips and ice cream to get us through each day. I don’t expect 5 star dining from a buffet but I also don’t want to see gluggy mashed potato or dry looking cuts of meat if you know what I mean? One word I did see about the buffet was “bland”. So, for those out there that also like to eat well and good quality that have been on a Disney cruise – were you disappointed? Or were you impressed? The food is kind of a make or break for the choice of cruiselines (looking outside of Disney as well). Please help :)

  16. Sandy says:

    Does anyone know the names of the waitors on the disney dream cruise. I just got back today 3/13/14 and my mom thought it would be cool to try to find them on Facebook and get their email.

  17. Teresa says:

    Jenna, you do not have to eat at the buffet for breakfast or lunch. Some of the sit-down restaurants are also available for menu service. When we were preparing for our trip on the Fantasy, the travel agent told me that when she travels with her mother, who has dietary concerns, they eat at the restaurants as opposed to the buffet.

    We loved everything we ate on the cruise. Generally after having the breakfast buffet at Cabanas we grabbed something on the pool deck for lunch, if we had anything at all. Our waiter was wonderful. I had to laugh the first night when I was told that he “knew what we would like for dessert”. He made a good choice, even if it wasn’t chocolate.

    We didn’t make any special requests, so I really don’t have any tips on that, but I can recommend the lobster ravioli :D.

  18. Laurie says:

    We cruised on the Disney Dream in January. The servers were beyond amazing. The tricks with the kids kept them entertained. They actually still want us to see if we can request to have JoJo and Vladimir (our host) on our next cruise. As for food we had anything we wanted. When we had trouble deciding they offered to bring us one of each. Our last night there we had reservations at Palo (must do) but went to say goodbye to the servers and host while the rest of our party was having dinner at the restaurant. I pointed out that several things looked good on the menu and they had it sent to our room even though we had dinner at Palo. I couldnt have imagined a better place. Disney really does do it best

  19. Laurie says:

    Jenna my husband and I are foodies as well. We thought that the food was great. Palo is a must do. Even the buffets had good food on them and lots of it

  20. Jdcharles says:

    We are going on the Dream next week. Which is better early or late seating for dinner? We weren’t given an option when we booked.

  21. Derek says:

    Jenna – We rarely do buffets, because buffets aren’t normally exciting. You don’t ever have to do a buffet, if you don’t want. You can do full service for breakfast and lunch, if you are so inclined. With that said, some of the counter service food on deck is pretty tasty! Alaska was our first cruise and it seemed so short that we booked the Panama Canal while on board, just so we could take a trip with more ship board time!

    Our favorite excursion in Alaska was the Crab Fisherman’s Tour aboard the Aleutian Ballad. I’ve never seen so many bald eagles in my life!

  22. MarkD says:

    Went on a cruise nearly two years ago. It was my first time, celebrating my completion of grad school and my parent’s anniversary. I have to say, I wasn’t overly impressed. Waiting in line for dinner was frustrating, the lunch restaurants seemed to be done with minimal effort and the food (aside from Remy’s) was mediocre. I seriously doubt I’ll ever go on a cruise again, as I’d prefer to just say on Disney property in Orlando, go to the parks, play on one of the putt-putt courses, and choose from the restaurants in the parks and resorts. Better food, better atmosphere, and more options.

  23. Livc1981 says:

    I haven’t been on a Disney Cruise yet, but I’m definitely considering it. These are all good tips and comments.
    I wanted to just say that I went to a classical french cuisine culinary school and would’ve loved to work for Disney! I can guarantee that the chef’s & cook’s will be able to make anything that you can think of, provided that they have the ingredients available on the ship. (beef wellington, house made green tea ice cream) If there is a special dinner or item that you’d like them to make, let’s say for a celebration of some sort you might be able to have your travel agent send in a special request at time of booking. Or ask them upon arrival for that meal or dessert to be made for the special occasion. A lot of times chef’s get bored making the same things over & over again. Being able to make something different than the norm is the most fun in this career. Also if you look at the menu items online it will showcase the foods that are well stocked on the ship. The ships are huge! And the kitchens are going to be as well.

  24. Jonathan Weinman says:

    What are the hours of room service generally on a Disney Cruise?

  25. Sandy says:

    MarkD ~ I don’t understand why you waited in line for dinner. We’ve been on five Disney cruises and have never waited in line. I think the mistake people make is showing up early, before the doors to the dining room are open. On our last cruise our dinner was at 5:45pm. We got there a few minutes after, maybe 5:48pm and walked right in and were shown to our table immediately.

    Jonathan Weinman ~ Room Service is open 24 hours a day, except for they last night when they close down at 1:30am. You can’t order anything after that.

  26. Karl says:

    Here’s some not so well known ‘specials’ that should help you if you’re new to Disney Cruise Line (in particular Fantasy, where one of the entertainment managers just happens to be our son!!).

    First off – as soon as you can – depending upon your Castaway member status (or if this is your first time on DCL) – be sure all your pre-sailing registration is done — well in advance, as this puts you in line to get on board (check in time) and it sets you up for dining and excursion selections.

    Second – see if you can get your dining rotation early (or put in a preference). You have to CALL the cruise line directly, and they may not accommodate you – but try anyway. Once you have an idea, don’t waste any time in booking premium dining at Palo (brunch is exquisite, and dinner is also very good); or Remy (which is indescribable but only for adults 18 and over). If you can’t get a reservation on line well in advance, read on…

    If you didn’t or weren’t able to book Remy or Palo online; be sure to get on board sailing day before about 1230 PM…there is a slot (usually at 1:00 PM sharp) in the Royal Court dining room where Palo and Remy reservations can be made or adjusted/changed if you didn’t get what you want. Often there is a line to meet the reservation team, but don’t worry. The main Guest Services can’t do the restaurant updates nor can the actual Palo or Remy locations.

    Remy is usually quite exquisite – and something you’ll remember for a lifetime. The dining team is incredible. Sometimes they do wine pairings for each course of the meal (an extra charge), or you can buy the wine package (pre-sailing, separate costs) and select from that list.

    If you do Palo for brunch – when you finish, ask for the pizza to go. They will make you a fresh one, plate it, wrap it and you can take it to go. The plates ‘just fit’ in the stateroom refrigerator, too. The pizzas are great cold as well.

    Room service is great. The food is prepared just like in the restaurants, and there are extras available if you ask. If you have a veranda stateroom, sit on the deck and enjoy.

    We love the Cove for early espresso before the main meal. Complimentary pastries and don’t forget to get a coffee card and have it stamped. After the 5th, you get a free drink. In the morning it’s a great hang out, usually not too crowded. Look in the Navigator for their hours or call to find out.

    Dining in Cabana’s? Get your food, head out the side door and to the very stern of the ship – find an outside table. Sometimes it is a little more peaceful, and if you’re on a sea day, its fun to look from where you just came.

  27. AJ says:

    Karl — Thank you so much for the great info!

  28. Rory says:

    Our second cruise, we just got off the Wonder Alaskan cruise. Food was good but not as good as on the Fantasy. SPEACIAL NOTE: We always pre-tip before the cruise but found out that the wait staff is on contract and their pay is our tips. We added up the amount that each adult is suggested to pay and the total for the week was between $400 and $600 depending if people will tip for their children – I don’t think most do – so the more children seated at the tables with adults the less they make. I was told that what they make is still more than they were able to make in their home country – and many of them are away from their families months at a time in order to support them. They have my respect – so we always tip extra for great service from our wait staff and our state room hosts.
    On another note. Many people want to know what movies on the current cruise – on the Wonder Alaskan cruise beginning in Aug. 2014 was; Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy, Million Dollar Arm, The New Planes Movie, The New Captain America, and Frozen.

  29. Melissa W. says:

    First off, thank you everyone for all your tips, insight, and Disney wisdom! Truly amazing how your help changes families experiences and memories :)

    Question regarding the “hidden treats,” what is the correct verbiage to ask about this to our server. I’ve D-cruised about 5 times and have never heard of this tip, excited to try!
    Also, I’ve never dined at Palo or Remy and was wondering if they offered an early/late dining session like the rotational restaurants? How do they structure eating times?

    Again, thank you for all you do!

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