Yes, I'm still writing about the Disney Fantasy! There was so much to tell about this ship, as you can imagine, it's taken a while to process it all -- I'm not sure when I'll ever catch up. But for those of you gearing up for the AllEars.Net Fantasy Cruise that commences on May 19, I wanted to make sure to get this very important aspect of the cruise experience online before you set sail!
As you might expect, there's a wide range of dining experiences aboard the Disney Fantasy to accommodate every taste, from fast food to fine cuisine. I had the opportunity to chat with Christine Weissman, manager of food standards and menu development for the entire Disney Cruise Line fleet, when I was on the Fantasy media preview cruise a few weeks ago. She spoke about what's different about dining on the Fantasy vs its sister ship, the Disney Dream, as well as some of the challenges of keeping the ship's larders stocked with something for everyone:
As Weissman indicates, the Fantasy has restaurants ranging from the fast-food Flo's V-8 Cafe, to a casual buffet, to more formal table service spots. Unfortunately, I didn't get to dine at either of the so-called "adult" dining spots, the upscale Remy and Palo, during the media preview cruise. Bad luck for me -- next time! And I didn't try any of the pizza or burgers at Flo's. But I did dine at the other eateries, and have some thoughts and lots of photos to share.
Cabanas has a split personality. A well-endowed buffet for breakfast and lunch, Cabanas goes table service for dinner. The space is bright and airy, with beautiful mosaics that feature scenes from Finding Nemo and that film's seagulls overseeing the activity.
A bit noisy and cafeteria-like at breakfast, I found this the least satisfying meal offered here, even though everything is presented beautifully.
The chocolate Mickey waffle was fun, but rather heavy, the muffins so dry and crumbly they were nearly impossible to eat, the sausage was extremely fatty, and the scrambled eggs had a consistency that made them unpleasant. No, breakfast was not good.
Lunch, however, was much better. The buffet features an assortment of hot and cold foods, as well as a stunning fresh seafood display and an impressive sushi table.
I sampled the peppered shrimp and polenta cakes -- both rated a thumbs up.
The salad bar was loaded with an assortment of dishes that were all very fresh-looking and fresh-tasting, like cucumbers in sour cream with dill, and pasta salads with a variety of vegetables. I could have just eaten from the salads alone.
My first table service experience aboard the Fantasy was at the welcome buffet presented in the beautiful Enchanted Garden.
The decor in Enchanted Garden is inspired by the gardens of the French palace of Versailles, with trellis-covered walls, floral landscapes and an airy, almost conservatory-like feel. Custom flower-shaped light fixtures start the day closed, then gradually "bloom" as the day progresses, while the ceiling changes from a daytime blue to an evening sky dotted with stars.
We also dined one evening in the Enchanted Garden and had the chance to see it change over the course of an hour.
Our meal that evening started with appetizers:
I really enjoyed the tiny Thyme and Garlic Brioche, although I could have used a bit more of the filling, which was lobster, morels and porcini mushrooms and Leek Stew in a light buttermilk cream.
The Cucumber Garden Roll, filled with delicate strips of carrots, bell peppers and zucchini, had a hint of cilantro and was dressed with lightly tart and lemony dressing.
The asparagus soup was a little uninspired, relying too much on flour as its thickening agent.
After a couple days of eating like there was no tomorrow, I asked our server if I could have a smaller portion of an entree. He obliged and brought me a scaled down version of the Caramelized Sea Scallops. Just four small scallops cooked perfectly on a bed of savory pearl pasta and sweet sundries tomatoes.
Since I had been "good" about my main course, I decided a small dessert was in order as my reward. Faulty logic, I know, but the Steamed Lemon Buttermilk Pudding, which came with a dab of citrus reduction, was light and fresh and helped me to continue to delude myself into thinking that I wasn't overeating.
While the star of the dining experience at Animator's Palate is undoubtedly the new show, Animation Magic (click HERE for a full description), the food at this restaurant runs a close second. Influenced by California's light style of cooking, there's an emphasis on freshness and creativity that mirrors the restaurant's artistic surroundings.
Passengers on the regular seven-night Fantasy cruises will have the chance to dine at this restaurant twice, and will see a different menu each night. The night I dined here, however, the menu featured a sampler of appetizers -- Marinated Garlic and Herb Shrimp with zesty lemon aioli; Prosciutto with Melon; and Sesame-crusted Tuna Sashimi. All three morsels were well-prepared -- the shrimp was just tender and not overly seasoned, the tuna very fresh, but I wish the melon had been a bit riper.
I opted to dine vegetarian, and had a hard time deciding between the two choices offered. In the end my decision didn't matter -- after our server realized he had brought me the wrong entree, he brought out the other as well, so I had the chance to sample both. Both were winners! The rich Farro stew with garlic roasted green beans, shallots, hazelnuts and shredded red radishes was a perfect mix of textures and tastes, while the Green Pea and Fava Bean Risotto drizzled with pesto sauce and toasted pine nuts was cooked perfectly and full of sweet pea flavor. I could easily have eaten both dishes in their entirety!
Dessert was also a trio sampler plate, this time consisting of small tastes of a little apple tart, banana creme brulee, and lemon-infused cheesecake. The creme brulee was a little too sweet for me, but the tart was very good, and the cheesecake -- well, it reminded me of my mother's, with it's cream-cheesy top layer and lighter bottom. I wouldn't have minded more of that!
Between the entertaining new show, and the wonderful food, this meal was easily my favorite of the cruise.
The most elegant of the family restaurants, the Royal Court simply drips of opulence, with exquisitely detailed mosaics, gilt-trimmed fixtures and crystal chandeliers that all incorporate touches of the royal Disney characters: glass slippers, apples, roses and tiaras.
For example, Cinderella's coach is represented not only in the light fixtures around the room, but in the whimsical bread baskets placed on the table that are filled with a savory warm herb brioche accompanied by an olive spread.
All this elegance is meant to take this dining experience a step beyond that of the equivalent restaurant on the Disney Dream, the Royal Palace. I'd say that it succeeds -- make that EXCEEDS -- on at least the physical level, if not on a culinary one.
As at Royal Palace, Royal Court, treats you to elegant, continental French cuisine, beginning with your starters.
My tablemate opted for the Double Baked Spinach and Cheese Souffle coated with a three-cheese cream -- she was glad that they skimped on the spinach as it's not her fave, but I think they could have used a bit more.
She also tried the Avocado-Citrus Salad with Iceberg and radicchio leaves and orange vinaigrette, while I decided on a classic Royal Market Green Salad with cherry tomato, cucumbers, peppered goat cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette. Loved the generous portion of goat cheese!
For dinner, I selected the Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin topped with garlic shrimp and served with sauteed snow peas and marquis potatoes with a cognac reduction. My beef was a shade overdone, and didn't quite live up to the "tender" portion of its name. My tablemate, who had requested the Double Cut Rack of Lamb with a Dijon Crust had an opposite problem -- even though she had been warned it would be prepared rare, she felt the lamb was too underdone.
For dessert, I decided to indulge in the Grand Marnier Souffle infused with fresh orange zest and served with creme Anglaise, thinking that it would take some time to prepare and would allow me a few moments to digest a bit. But, no! Our server whisked the souffle out to me within just minutes after I had ordered -- guess they had them all made up and waiting to pop into the oven in the back. Despite this, the souffle was airy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the vanilla sauce rich and not-too-sweet. My only complaint? A little on the small side. I wanted more!
So there you have it -- my take on the array of family dining experiences on the Fantasy. Having not ever cruised on any non-Disney ships, I can't say how the fare compares with, say, Norwegian Cruise Lines or Royal Caribbean. I will say, though, that most everything (save for the breakfast at Cabanas) ranges from perfectly adequate to very, very good. So you might want to try to drop a few pounds before you set sail on the Fantasy -- or at the very least bring some very loose clothing, and forget about the belt-tightening while you're enjoying eating your way around the ship!
And if you want to read more about dining on the Fantasy, you might also be interested in Laura Gilbreath's food blogs from her experiences on the Fantasy's maiden voyage.
DISCLOSURE: As an invited media guest, AllEars.Net's cruise expenses for the Disney Fantasy Media Preview Cruise were paid by the The Walt Disney Company. Opinions expressed herein are solely mine, however, and do not reflect the opinions or policies of The Walt Disney Company or its affiliates.
The previous post in this blog was Summer to Remember: Resort Showcase Day 3.
The next post in this blog is AVENGERS, ASSEMBLE! .