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How Does Dining on Disney Cruise Line Work?

How Does Dining on Disney Cruise Line Work?

Are you planning your first Disney cruise? Cruisers new to DCL often have lots of questions about how dining on Disney Cruise Line works.

I’ll answer all of the most commonly asked questions about meals on a Disney cruise—everything from handling food allergies, to how seating arrangements work, to requesting extra dessert at dinner.

What food and drinks are included in my Disney cruise fare?

All Disney cruise ships offer three Main Dining restaurants that are complimentary for all passengers. But you’re not limited to eating in the MDR if you don’t want to pay extra for your meals and snacks!

You’ll also find quick-service dining options for a poolside meal, a buffet that becomes a table-service restaurant at dinner, and 24-hour room service, all for free!

Every ship also has upscale specialty dining restaurants along with elevated snack options available for an added charge.

To find out what complimentary and for-a-fee dining options will be available on your cruise, check DCL’s dining venue list and select your specific ship from the drop-down menu.

Soft drinks served at meals and at each ship’s beverage station are also included in your cruise fare.

What is rotational dining on a Disney cruise?

If you’ve sailed before on other cruise lines, you’ll notice that DCL does things a bit differently when it comes to dinner. Disney cruises use a concept called rotational dining, where guests receive a personalized dining schedule on embarkation day. You’ll be assigned to either early or late dining, and your schedule shows which restaurant you’ll dine at each evening.

Rotational dining is Disney’s way of making sure each guest has a chance to try each of the three Main Dining restaurants while on board.

Animator’s Palate, one of the rotational dining restaurants on DCL(image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Each evening, you and your tablemates will rotate to a different themed restaurant. Plus, your servers rotate with you! This way, the service staff gets to know your preferences while you experience the unique atmosphere of each dining venue.

Disney Cruise Line doesn’t offer a version of “anytime dining” in their main dining rooms. However, if your set dinner time interferes with your plans on any day, you can always eat at an alternative dining venue or make reservations for a specialty restaurant.

Be sure to let your server know if you’ve made other dining plans—they’ll usually delay service for the rest of the table if they think you’re just running late.

Will I have to sit with strangers at dinner? Can I request a private table?

DCL’s standard policy is to seat guests from the same stateroom together at dinner in the Main Dining venues. If you have friends or family sailing with you but in a different cabin, you can absolutely ask to sit together. Just be sure to request this when you book your cruise, or let your travel agent know.

Disney staff aim to fill the dining tables, which generally seat four, six, or eight. If you have a smaller party, they’ll usually seat you with other guests. They do try to match dining groups—seating adults without children together and matching families with other similarly-aged families.

Although they generally do a great job of matching guests for dinner, occasionally they get it wrong and you’ll find yourself sitting with someone you can’t stand. Just let the Head Server know, and they often can make alternate arrangements.

Don’t like the idea of eating with people you don’t know? You can request a private table for dinner. Just call DCL or tell your travel agent, and the cruise line will try to honor your request.

What time is dinner served on Disney cruise ships?

Each evening on a Disney cruise, there are two seatings for dinner, the main or early seating, and the second or late seating. The early seating begins sometime between 5:45 PM and 6:15 PM (exact times vary based on itinerary). The late seating begins between 8:00 PM and 8:30 PM.

Your assigned seating time (along with an alphabetical code for the order of your dining rotation) will be noted on the dining tickets you’ll find in your stateroom on embarkation day.

Want to change your seating time for your cruise? You can submit a request through DCL’s Planning Center.

Do the rotational dining venues offer entertainment at dinner?

Several—but not all—of the complimentary restaurants offer entertainment at dinner.

Inspired by Tangled, Rapunzel’s Royal Table on Disney Magic features lively singing and dancing from a band of musicians. You’ll enjoy appearances from Tangled characters like Flynn Rider, the Snuggly Duckling Thugs, and of course Rapunzel herself.

Menu items at Rapunzel’s Royal Table, like this Tangled Pasta, take their inspiration from the animated film (image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

At Tiana’s Place on Disney Wonder, the Crawfish Crooners perform New Orleans-style jazz numbers during your meal. Louis the trumpet-playing alligator joins in on the fun, and Tiana is on hand to greet her guests and sing a few of her favorite songs.

Animator’s Palate, inspired by animation from Disney and Pixar films, is available on all Disney ships. Depending on the ship, each Animator’s Palate features a different show during dinner. On Disney Dream, diners can interact with a digital Crush the sea turtle from Finding Nemo.

On Disney Magic, Fantasy, and Wonder, guests at Animator’s Palate are treated to a montage of Disney and Pixar clips. The show’s finale features the theme song from Fantasmic, with a visit from Sorcerer Mickey who dances and mingles with passengers.

Are there other character dining experiences available on a Disney cruise?

Disney fans (especially the littlest ones) love character dining, and you can book even more character experiences to enjoy at mealtime.

Is your kid obsessed with Disney princesses? Royal Court Royal Tea, designed for children aged 3 to 12 is offered on all Disney cruise ships. Adults are welcome, but they must be accompanied by a child! Cinderella, Belle, and Ariel host this beautifully presented tea party, where guests can enjoy small sandwiches and pastries.

Royal Tea is a bit of a splurge, but your child will also receive several high-quality gifts during the hour-long experience (you can choose between princess-themed and knight-themed gifts).

If your Disney cruise is seven nights or longer, the family can enjoy a character breakfast, and it’s free! Disney Junior Breakfasts are usually scheduled twice a week on sea days. Space is limited, so you do need to request tickets in advance through your Disney Cruise Personalizer online or via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.

Geared toward little cruisers, the characters you might see include Sofia The First, Doc McStuffins, Jake, and Vampirina. Of course, Mickey Mouse will also be there to meet the family.

Is room service available on a Disney cruise?

Although many cruise lines now charge a fee for room service, DCL offers complimentary round-the-clock meal delivery right to your stateroom.

You can order meals or snacks at any time, although lunch and dinner options are unavailable during the breakfast hours of 7 to 10 AM. Room service is available until 1:30 AM on the last day of your cruise.

Certain snacks and beverages do have an additional charge, and tips aren’t included (a dollar per meal is just fine).

Do Disney ships have a buffet?

Most Disney Cruise Line ships feature Cabanas, a buffet-style restaurant that offers more than ten diverse food stations for breakfast and lunch. At dinnertime, Cabanas converts to a table-service restaurant with menu options cooked to order.

For breakfast, Cabanas serves classic American breakfast fare to start the day. Enjoy made-to-order omelets, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, Mickey-shaped waffles, muffins, fruit, cereal, and more.

The lunch offerings at Cabanas include salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches, steak, chicken, seafood, and pizza, along with a range of sweet dessert treats.

If you’d like to skip your scheduled restaurant at dinner, you can eat alfresco or choose an indoor oceanview table at Cabanas. The menu features signature dishes from the Main Dining restaurants, plus their own exclusives.

For an additional charge, you can order cocktails and specialty drinks from the full-service Clam Bar.

Cabanas has plenty of kid-friendly options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll find classic children’s food favorites to satisfy picky eaters of any age.

The new Disney Wish ship, launched in July 2022, replaces Cabanas with a new buffet concept called Marceline Market.

Marceline Market, the buffet restaurant on Disney Wish (image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Marceline Market is a food hall with ten stalls, all inspired by marketplaces around the world. Cruisers can enjoy a variety of food options, including American favorites and comfort foods, international specialties, and vegetarian and vegan fare.

Which restaurants serve breakfast and lunch on Disney cruise ships?

In addition to the buffet and the various quick-service restaurants on board each Disney ship, some of the Main Dining restaurants also serve breakfast and lunch daily, including:

  • Disney DreamRoyal Palace and Enchanted Garden
  • Disney FantasyRoyal Court and Enchanted Garden
  • Disney MagicLumiere’s
  • Disney WonderTriton’s
  • Disney Wish: 1923

Check your Personal Navigator daily newsletter or the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app on board for specific breakfast and lunch times.

Are all the restaurants on Disney cruise ships kid-friendly?

All of the Main Dining restaurants you’ll visit in your rotation are kid-friendly, along with Cabanas and all of the quick-service food venues. However, the specialty restaurants are all adults-only. All guests at these added-charge restaurants must be 18 or over.

Adults-only dining venues on Disney ships include:

  • Remy (on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy)
  • Palo (on all DCL ships)
  • Palo Steakhouse (on Disney Wish)
  • Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement (on Disney Wish)

What’s the difference between the Main Dining restaurants and the specialty restaurants on DCL?

The food served in Disney’s Main Dining restaurants tends to be excellent, with a variety of options for all palates. But the adults-only specialty restaurants on Disney cruises elevate the cuisine, service, and ambiance to a much higher level.

Foodies and those seeking a reprieve from the often noisy atmosphere you’ll experience with rotational dining might want to consider booking dinner or brunch at a specialty restaurant. It’s not cheap—but many Disney cruisers agree that the experience, as well as the food, are well worth the money.

Remy is DCL’s ultra-luxe gourmet French dining venue featuring a menu co-curated by Chef Arnaud Lallement (of France’s three-Michelin-starred L’Assiette Champenoise) and Chef Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World. The décor is loosely inspired by Ratatouille, but you won’t find costumed rat characters—it’s an elegant experience, perfect for a romantic dinner or special occasion.

  • Dinner: $125 per person
  • Remy Champagne Brunch: $75 per person (add $30 per person when you include the Champagne pairing)
  • Remy Dessert Experience: $60 per person (add $25 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • Petites Assiettes de Remy: $50 per person (includes one wine pairing per course) 
  • Remy Wine Pairing Experience: $105 per person

Palo, Disney’s upscale Italian restaurant, takes its name from the colorful poles lining the canals of Venice. Within Palo’s sophisticated atmosphere, diners can enjoy a memorable experience savoring Northern Italian specialties and classic reserve wines.

  • Prix fixe dinner: $45 per person (add $59 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • À la carte menu: Priced by item (add $59 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • Brunch: $45 per person
Servers at Palo filet the Dover sole tableside (image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Palo Steakhouse takes the well-loved Palo concept of authentic Italian dining and combines it with the refinement of a modern steakhouse. Beauty and the Beast‘s Cogsworth is the inspiration for this new restaurant.

  • Prix fixe dinner: $45 per person. (add $70 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • À la carte menu: Priced by item (add $70 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • Brunch: $45 per person

Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement is another luxurious Disney dining experience curated by the renowned French chef. Inspired by everyone’s favorite candelabra maître d’, Lumiere, diners at Enchanté can expect to be surrounded by elegant, romantic design details.

  • Enchanté Dinner Collection: $195 per person
  • Champagne Journey: $140
  • Passion (six courses): $125 per person (add $115 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • À la carte menu: Priced by item (add $115 per person when you include the wine pairing)
  • Brunch: $75 per person

How do I make reservations for Disney Cruise Line specialty restaurants?

As long as you’ve paid for your cruise in full, you’ll be able to make reservations in advance depending on your Castaway Club level. You can see what dates and times are available, as well as book your reservation, in your online cruise planner.

Here’s how far in advance of sailing you can make specialty dining reservations:

  • Platinum Castaway Club (completed at least 10 DCL cruises): 120 days in advance
  • Gold Castaway Club (completed at least 5 DCL cruises): 105 days in advance
  • Silver Castaway Club (completed at least 1 DCL cruise): 90 days in advance
  • New DCL cruisers: 75 days in advance.

Guests staying in concierge level staterooms can always make reservations 120 days in advance. Just be sure to reach out to your shoreside concierge prior to that 120-day mark so they can help you with booking.

Will restaurants on a Disney cruise accommodate food allergies or special diets?

If you have a food allergy or intolerance, let your Head Server know soon after you arrive on embarkation day.

Guests with severe or life-threatening food allergies should contact DCL’s Special Services team at (407) 566-3602 well before sailing.

Servers and kitchen staff on Disney cruises are well-trained to handle food allergies, but they don’t have separate kitchens to prepare allergen-free items.

For guests who follow a special diet for medical, lifestyle, or religious reasons, all of the table-service restaurants offer gluten-free, vegetarian, no sugar added, dairy-free, and “lighter note” offerings on the menu.

Other special diet options, including kosher meals, are available by advance request. Let your travel agent know what kind of special meals you’ll need, or call Disney Cruise Line well before your sailing date to discuss your options.

You may also like: How to Eat Whole30 (ish) on a Cruise

Is there a limit to how much food I can order at the dining venues?

When you’re eating in one of the rotational dining restaurants or at a quick-service spot, feel free to order as much food as you can eat! Maybe you’d like to order an extra appetizer (or two!) for the table so you can all share. And yes, if you have a sweet tooth, you can absolutely order two desserts.

This goes for the main course as well! For cruisers with hearty appetites, you can definitely order two entrées if you’re feeling ravenous.

In the for-a-fee specialty restaurants, you can generally ask for an extra starter or dessert if you’re ordering from the prix-fixe menu. Some cruisers have had luck ordering additional main courses, but many others haven’t. It seems to be a YMMV situation!

The Limoncello Tart at Palo is so yummy, you might want a second one! (image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

However, when ordering from the à la carte menu at any of the specialty restaurants, you’ll be charged for each item you order.

You may also like: What New Cruisers Don’t Know About Cruise Food & Drinks

Do restaurants on Disney ships have a dress code?

In the Main Dining restaurants, the dress code is “cruise casual”, so shorts and tees are allowed. Swimwear isn’t allowed in the dining rooms, and (at least officially) tank tops are banned. However, dining staff don’t tend to turn away women wearing dressy tanks, sleeveless tops, or tank-style dresses. Male passengers won’t be allowed in if they show up in a tank top.

Although cruise casual is the official minimum dress code, most passengers tend to dress up a bit for dinner.

On most Disney sailings, one night will be themed as Pirate Night. That evening the restaurant servers, dressed in pirate costumes, will bring you Caribbean-inspired food. Many guests like to join in on the fun, wearing their own pirate-themed outfits to dinner.

You’ll also have at least one optional dress-up night (seven-night sailings have one formal and one semi-formal night). DCL recommends dress pants with a jacket or a suit for men, and a dress or pantsuit for women.

Learn more: What to Wear on Formal Night on a Cruise

For adults-only restaurants, like Palo, Remy, and Enchanté the dress code is a little more strict to maintain an elegant atmosphere.

The dress code at adults-only restaurants on Disney ships is dressy but not too formal (image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Disney Cruise Line used to have very specific dress codes for each adult dining venue. However, in June 2022 the cruise line relaxed the rules.

Per DCL, the new dress code states: “Formal or semi-formal attire is recommended. Dress casual attire with a polished look is permitted (such as dress pants, jeans in good condition, collared shirts and blouses and lifestyle shoes). Clothing such as T-shirts, swimwear and sports attire is not permitted.

Can I bring my own food on a Disney cruise ship?

With all the options available for dining on Disney Cruise Line, many people wouldn’t even think of bringing their own food on a DCL ship. But for parents of especially picky kids, or adults who can’t imagine being without their favorite snacks, this is a question that comes up fairly often.

Parents of babies eating solid foods also wonder if they’ll be allowed to take the specific jarred baby food their child enjoys onto the ship.

Disney has specific rules surrounding food items, as well as food prep and storage items that guests can and can’t take on the ship.

You can bring:

  • Nonperishable foods in sealed, original packaging. (All items must either be consumed prior to returning to your home port or remain unopened.)
  • Breast milk (in your carry-on luggage only).
  • Coolers no larger than 12″ x 12″ x 12″ only for storing medications, baby food or items related to dietary restrictions (in your carry-on luggage only).

 You may not bring:

  • Homemade, pre-cooked, or perishable foods or open food containers.
  • Ice chests or coolers, except as noted above.
  • Electrical appliances such as rice cookers, hot plates, coffee makers, blenders, bottle sterilizers, and bottle warmers (each ship has a limited number of approved bottle warmers and bottle sterilizers available—request these through Guest Services)

More resources for your Disney cruise

What do you think about dining on Disney Cruise Line? Or is your first sailing coming up and you still have questions about how dining works on DCL cruises? Let me know in the comments below!

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Carrie Ann Karstunen