Andrew Rossi returns with a review of the Royal Palace aboard the new Disney Dream.
I recently had the good fortune of sailing on a preview cruise of the Disney Dream and was completely blown away by the immense size, beauty, and intricate details of the new ship. I have been on Disney cruises in the past on both the Magic and Wonder and have always been impressed by everything they have to offer. For this reason, I had extremely high expectations when stepping aboard the Dream and it exceeded them in every way. Disney has truly gone above and beyond with this ship and has once again raised the bar for the cruise line industry.
One of the things that struck me most about the Dream is how elegant and upscale it felt, much more so than the Magic and Wonder. The Dream's grand atrium with its opulent chandelier is truly breathtaking and sets a tone of luxury that is carried throughout the rest of the ship.
Even with its immense size, there is still great attention to detail everywhere you look. Whether it be in the areas dedicated to kids or teens, the theaters, the shops, or the nightclubs for adults there is always more than what first meets the eye. To truly appreciate the Dream, you really need to take your time and absorb everything you see because some details may not be apparent on just a cursory glance.
The same effort, skill, and craftsmanship that Disney puts into its theme parks have gone into creating this ship. The Dream truly lives up to its name because when you see some areas of the ship you think that they can not possibly be real. Creativity and originality have always been mainstays of the Disney theme parks and this has been carried over to the Dream and is evident throughout the ship, especially evident in its restaurants.
Like the Magic and the Wonder, the Dream has three main dining rooms, each with a different theme and menu, and like the other ships diners rotate to a different restaurant each night while their servers travel along with them. Two of the restaurants, Royal Palace and Enchanted Garden, are brand new to the Dream and the only carryover from the Magic and Wonder, Animators Palate, has been completely re-imagined. The result is three completely new dining experiences that cannot be found anywhere else at sea.
Unfortunately, being just a two-night preview cruise, I was only able to experience two out of the three restaurants: Royal Palace and Enchanted Garden. Since Royal Palace is the most visible of the ship's dining rooms, centrally located just off the ships atrium, I have decided to highlight it first.
The restaurants on the Dream are just as much about atmosphere as they are about food. Each dining room has its own unique theme that uses a combination of both atmosphere and food to create a truly immersive dining experience.
The Magic has Lumiere's and the Wonder has Triton's that pay homage to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid respectively, but Royal Palace is a salute to all Disney princesses and places diners right in the middle of a fairytale setting. Like the rest of the ship, however, the Disney touches are not over-the-top or overwhelming by any means. The restaurant does feature beautiful, hand-painted portraits of various Disney princesses, such as Snow White, Aurora, Belle, and Cinderella, but the other details throughout the restaurant are far more subtle.
Royal Palace is quite possibly the most elegant restaurant on any of the Disney ships (with exception of Palo and Remy) and has the feel of dining in a grand ballroom. The fluted columns, polished marble floors, lush carpet, beautiful chandeliers, and even the circular shape of the dining room all contribute to create an air of refinement.
That being said, one should not think that this restaurant is inappropriate for little children. On the contrary, I would love to see the look on little girls' faces as they enter the restaurant and feel as though they have set foot into the castle of one of their favorite Disney princesses.
What I enjoyed most about the restaurant's atmosphere was all the little details and embellishments that really help to convey the theme of the restaurant and help to create a truly immersive dining experience. These details are evident before you even set foot inside the dining room. The entrance to the restaurant itself has a very grandiose feel and inlaid on the marble floor floor is a coat of arms with the images of a glass slipper, a tiara, a rose, and an apple symbolically representing the different princesses.
Once inside the dining room you will notice these images continue throughout the restaurant's décor. The carpet features not only crowns and roses, but you might also spot Cinderella's coach, as well as the swords and shields of the various princes. Even the magnificent chandelier at the center of the restaurant is themed and accentuated by glass slippers.
The valences over the portholes have the appearance of tiaras embedded with gemstones.
And look carefully at the bread baskets. They are in the shape of Cinderella's coach.
The integration of the princess theme into the restaurant is skillfully but subtlety done; it is noticeable and yet not overpowering. The result is an atmosphere that conveys both a sense of fantasy and elegance.
One last note about the atmosphere. Because the Dream is a larger ship and has more staterooms, the dining rooms are larger and accommodate more people. I was worried that the restaurant would have a crowded feel and that it would be noisy once it was filled with people. Instead, I actually found the restaurant to be very spacious and not too loud at all. The restaurant may be grand in scale and design, but it still had an intimate and slightly romantic feel.
Just as the entire ship itself seemed to me to have a more elegant and upscale feel, I also felt that the food offerings throughout the ship were more gourmet and refined that the food found on the Magic and the Wonder. It also appeared as though the restaurant menus featured a wider variety of selections than those on the other ships and some of those choices were far more exotic than anything I had encountered on my other Disney cruises.
Royal Palace features a menu of French-inspired, continental cuisine and its different dishes are fit for a king, queen, prince, or princess. It is a menu offering a complete four-course meal comprised of an appetizer, soup or salad, entrée and dessert. The appetizer selections include Pomegranate Glazed Duck Breast, Double Baked Spinach Soufflé, Escargot Gratines which come topped with finely chopped mushrooms and garlic butter, and Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp served with lemon-dill dressing and horseradish cream.
Soup and salads feature an Avocado-Citrus Salad topped with an orange vinaigrette, a Royal Market Green Salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, the Comtesse Du Barry's Soup (a cauliflower cream soup), and Belle's French Onion Soup.
The entrée selections are numerous and diverse. The most popular item on the menu had to be the Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Lobster Medallions. I noticed this dish being brought to many tables, but it appeared to me that the amount of lobster was not too big. Other entrees include an Oven-Baked Salmon Royale topped with a smoked salmon and horseradish crust, Roasted Wild Boar Tenderloin, a Grilled Farm-Raised Chicken Breast Salad, a Double Cut Rack of Lamb with a Dijon Crust, a Baked Farm-Raised Chicken Breast, Wild Mushroom Filled Pasta in a Vegetable Broth, and Pan-Seared Tofu with Roasted Zucchini, Eggplant, and Red Peppers.
Finally, the dessert offerings include a Grand Marnier Soufflé, Peanut Butter Mousse, a Strawberry Shortcake Sundae, Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulee, Mango Cheesecake (sugar free), Chocolate Ganache (sugar free), and Sweet Temptations featuring a trio a Peanut Butter Mousse, Mango Cheesecake, and Crème Brulee.
For my appetizer I decided on the Double Baked Spinach Soufflé. I noticed a lot of people ordering the Escargots and they looked really good, but (even though I consider myself to be an adventurous eater) the thought of eating snails just does not appeal to me. However, I was not disappointed by the Spinach Soufflé. Even though the portion size appeared small, it was actually a very rich and filling appetizer. The soufflé was topped with a rich three-cheese cream sauce that paired very well with the flavor of the spinach. I likened this appetizer to a thick, heavy spinach puff.
Next, I chose Belle's French Onion Soup, which may be the second best I have ever tasted next to Chefs de France at Epcot. This was yet another rich, filling dish and I had to control myself not to finish it all or else I would not have room for my entrée. The soup came topped with a generous helping of gruyere cheese that really helped add extra flavor to the dish. Sometimes you order French onion soup and it's just a lot of broth and not many onions, but that was not the case here. I also liked that the onions were cooked just right so that they were not mushy, which really added a nice texture to the soup in contrast to that of the cheese and bread on top.
For my entrée I went with something a little more exotic and decided to try the Roasted Wild Boar Tenderloin. I had never had wild boar before and figured that the cruise would be a perfect place to give it a try. Considering that boar is in the pig family I was expecting the flavor and texture to be similar to that of pork tenderloin, but I was surprised to find it more akin to steak. The boar did have a very distinct, gamey flavor, but it was extremely tender and I did not find the flavor to be too overwhelming. The boar came topped with a red currant reduction that provided a light and slightly sweet contrast to the stronger flavored boar. The boar was also accompanied by a carrot and onion potato cake, providing a twist on your traditional potato and vegetable side dishes; it was something different, but very tasty, and combined well with the flavor of the boar.
Finally it was time for dessert, even though I didn't have much room left at this point to eat anything else. Regardless, I chose the Grand Marnier Soufflé. This was actually a nice, light way to end what had been a very rich and filling meal. The soufflé itself was light and fluffy with just a hint of citrus flavor (which I had been expecting to be stronger than it actually was). It came served warm and the server added in the crème anglaise right at the table. This sauce had a vanilla flavor that paired extremely well with the citrus and added some sweetness to the soufflé.
It should also be noted that in addition to being a part of the roational dining for dinner, Royal Palace also offers an al a carte menu for both breakfast and lunch that provides a nice alternative to the ship's buffet. Being just a two-night preview cruise, I did not have the opportunity to take advantage of these offerings.
The Overall Experience:
Everything about dining at Royal Palace was about elegance and refinement, from the atmosphere to the food. Any Disney princess would feel right at home dining here, with its chandeliers, polished marble, and gourmet food. For those who have been on either the Magic or the Wonder, Royal Palace is most similar to Lumiere's or Triton's, but it has exceeded them and gone to a whole new level. Not only is this true of the atmosphere, which is far more upscale, but also the food as well. While I did find the portion sizes to be a little smaller than on past Disney cruises, in terms of variety, presentation, quality, and taste the food on the Dream exceeded most of the meals I have ever had on the Magic or the Wonder. Whenever I go on a cruise one of the things that I most look forward to is the food and the Royal Palace certainly did not disappoint.
The previous post in this blog was Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 1, Sail Away.
The next post in this blog is Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 2, Nassau.