Today we’re visiting the newest Disney dining establishment on the high seas… Carioca’s!
The Disney Magic is Disney Cruise Line’s original ship. After fifteen years of sailing, she recently underwent her first lengthy renovation (referred to as a “re-Imagineering” by Disney Cruise Lines ). Several of the dining and adult lounge areas were refreshed and enhanced, while others received a complete redesign.
With the ship’s launch in 1998 came the introduction of Disney’s unique approach to dinner seating known as Rotational Dining. Instead of gathering in one large dining room every night, guests aboard Disney Cruise ships are assigned to a rotation among three different dining rooms. Their table servers rotate with them, getting to know their likes and dislikes (as well as any special dietary needs), allowing for a more seamless dining experience.
With the Magic’s recent post-renovation relaunch, what was formerly Parrot Cay in the dining rotation has become Carioca’s!
Carioca’s is inspired by and named after Donald Duck’s pal, the one and only José Carioca! You may know José from two Disney films from the early 1940s: Saludos Amigos and The Three Cabelleros.
Even if you aren’t familiar with these films, you may have enjoyed sailing and singing along with José, Donald, and their third amigo, Panchito, on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion!
“Where one, two, and three goes, they’re always togetheeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrr!” If that song is stuck in your head for the rest of the day, please allow me to say, “You’re welcome.”
José’s last name, Carioca, refers to a native or inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The doors are open to welcome you, and with your first steps into Carioca’s, you feel as though you’ve entered into a lovely South American town.
Be sure to check out the intricate “paper-cutout” type details of the archways around the restaurant!
There is much more to see, but the truth is that it’s difficult to take your eyes off the charming and whimsical festival lanterns hanging from the ceiling throughout the restaurant.
If you stroll to the back of the dining room, you’ll notice the town windows and a few hints as to who resides inside these homes. It’s nice to know that José and Donald are not only friends, but also neighbors ;).
Looks like someone is home for the evening!
Carioca’s serves a buffet breakfast and lunch throughout the cruise itinerary. By day, guests are treated to this colorful mosaic behind the buffet stand.
For the dinner seating, however, the scene changes. The buffet station disappears and in its place is a glowing lighted cityscape of Rio de Janeiro.
Now that we’ve strolled through the setting, let’s talk about the all new menu featuring South American specialties!
It’s not unusual for guests on Disney Cruise Lines to be seated at a table with other guests. My husband and I were seated with three other couples. As luck would have it, my tablemates (who quickly became wonderful friends) included a couple from Rio de Janeiro!
It was wonderful to have a friend at the table who graciously advised us regarding the dishes most authentic to her home. I went ahead and ordered everything she suggested :), starting with the appetizers!
Even without my new friend’s recommendation, I likely would have gone with the Empanadas Panzudas de Carne — Argentinean beef empanadas with red chimichurri.
The presentation was simple and clean. The fried pastry crust was light and flaky with a bit of crunch, and the chimichurri added a lovely flavor boost to the spiced beef.
From what I could tell with a glance around my area, it appeared to be the most popular appetizer, and it’s a solid choice.
Next was the Sopa de Frijoles Negros Habanera – Havana-style Black Bean Soup (with Olive Oil).
I couldn’t keep from digging in right away (hence the spoon in the picture ). My soup was served nicely warm and I found both the flavor and consistency to be spot on. My only regret was not being able to finish the entire cup, but I knew I had to save some room for what was coming next.
Not only is our friend José honored by the name of the restaurant; he also has an entire entrée named after him, which no one at our table could resist… every single one of us ordered a José Carioca’s!
The presentation here is part of the fun! Expecting a traditional plating, we all shared a few glances of surprise and slight confusion when the first thing to arrive at each of our place settings was this:
Next was a beautiful and enormous grilled shrimp on a bed of Mexican Tomato Rice.
Things suddenly became clearer with the next addition to the table. One by one we were each presented with skewers of grilled sausage, adobo chili crusted lamb, and beef tenderloin.
Please forgive, by the way, the presence of the drinking glasses in my pictures. I didn’t want to be rude to my tablemates by pushing things towards them.
That said, I think the pictures stand as a good example of how well the amazing table service Cast Members take care of their guests throughout the meals. Guest service on our cruise was completely and consistently remarkable.
After the serving is complete, the final presentation is up to you! Here is the outcome of my dish:
I was surprised by how much I truly enjoyed everything about this entrée. I especially liked the lamb – it was flavorful, tender, and prepared just right (though my husband, a dedicated shrimp fan, enjoyed the grilled shrimp most of all).
The green chimichurri was a wonderful complement to every piece of meat, along with the Mexican rice.
Did I leave enough room for dessert? Not really. Did that stop me from getting one? Heavens, no! I struggled a bit with my choices here. There were several terrific-sounding options, and certainly ones that were more authentic than what I chose.
Both the Cream Cheese Flan and the Tres Leches Cake sounded wonderful, but ultimately I couldn’t pass up Carioca’s Ice Cream Sundae featuring Dulce de Leche ice cream and caramelized apples… all topped with a Churro (and a chocolate Mickey)!
I found some solace in the fact that my Brazilian friends ordered the same thing ;).
Carioca’s honestly surpassed my expectations. I was certainly interested in the new surroundings, but I wasn’t expecting the meal itself to be a dining highlight of the cruise.
I’m more naturally drawn to the French cuisine of Lumiere’s (where literally each course I ordered included cheese ). But while my top culinary experience for the trip still goes to Palo, the South American menu at Carioca’s came in a strong second!
From the creativity in the menu, to the presentation of the dishes, to the quality of the meal, Carioca’s is a winner and I believe it will be surprising and delighting guests sailing aboard the Disney Magic for years to come.
What do you think of the new atmosphere and menu at Carioca’s? Tell us in the comments below!