Dining aboard the Disney Magic

Disney Magic server Simoun Olba removes a lobster from its shell for Logan Peters.

Disney Magic server Simoun Olba removes a lobster from its shell for Logan Peters.

ABOARD THE DISNEY MAGIC – My grandson Logan did a double take when we walked into Parrot Cay for dinner the first night of our Magic cruise and a server called him by name. How did anyone know Logan’s name? We sure weren’t wearing nametags.

The mystery was solved when Simoun Olba introduced himself as our server for the entire cruise. When he saw us walking toward Table 67, I guess Simoun had no trouble figuring out who was Logan since the other three of us at that table were women.

But a few days later, I was surprised myself. Looking over the Lumiere dinner menu, I was about ready to order when Simoun said he bet he knew what I would be choosing.

Oysters Rockefeller for appetizer? Correct. Lobster entrée? Right again.

So how did Simoun know what my dining choices would be? Because on Disney Cruise Line the same server goes with the passenger for the entire cruise. And these servers are experts at paying attention and knowing what their diners like. Plus I almost always go with seafood.

A colorful mural from the movie Beauty and the Beast provides a lovely backdrop for the Lumiere dining room.

A colorful mural from the movie Beauty and the Beast provides a lovely backdrop for the Lumiere dining room.

After that first day, our assistant server Eduar Centeno Suazo always had a Coke by my plate soon after I sat down for lunch. For dinner, it would be Sprite intead of Coke. No caffeine after lunch for me. He also knew the drink preferences of the rest of my group – Logan, my daughter Kelly and my sister Elaine.

“We are the first to have rotating servers who move along with our guests,” says Hotel Director Thomas Praxmarer. “We are very proud of that because we think it lets our servers and guests get to know each other so we can take better care of our guests.”

Disney Magic has three main dining rooms and they are all quite different. Animator’s Palate is a visual pleasure as well as a dining one. It’s a big hit with children because the Disney character sketches on the restaurant walls slowly transform from stark black and white to brilliant color with the familiar classic orchestral themes of Disney movies playing over head. Servers’ vests also change colors. Youngsters seated near us seem thrilled and far more interested in the Disney movies than in their food.

Menus do offer kiddy choices such as chicken strips, fries, burgers, macaroni and cheese and others.  A special touch is when children get ketchup – servers bring a white saucer and create the ketchup blobs in the shape of a Mickey Mouse face, complete with round ears.

Animator’s Palate serves contemporary Pacific Rim cuisine made up of Pacific Island foods, Asian cooking techniques, fresh California fare and a host of other cultural and culinary influences. Some of my choices were the ahi tuna tartare appetizer with caviar, chives and wasabi cream, Asian marinated beef short ribs and salmon fillet with sun-dried tomatoes.

Delicious food with lovely presentation is a trademark of the Disney Magic.

Delicious food with lovely presentation is a trademark of the Disney Magic.

Parrot Cay is a bit more informal, brightly colored with a tropical beach feel. Lights on the walls are held up by Sebastian the Crab from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Parquet wood floors, shutters, large green leaves and khaki bamboo furniture mingle amid a turquoise-blue setting reminiscent of the sea and sky, complete with the musical call of parrots. Delicious dishes in Parrot Cay include baked crab dip Martinique, island spiced grilled beef rib eye and poached halibut with clams and mussels.

Based on the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, Lumiere’s has a French flair reminiscent of classic transatlantic ocean liners. A colorful mural makes it seem as though diners are part of the movie. Lumiere (meaning “light” in French) is the candelabra character with a French accent in the film. Lumiere is always trying to fix up the Beast with Belle and succeeds in the end so that the evil spell is broken and Lumiere, the Beast and other characters are transformed back into humans.

Lumiere was my favorite dining spot. I liked the elegant décor and the menu choices – Gaston’s escargots, Mrs. Potts French onion soup, three-cheese lobster macaroni,  seared sea bass with mushroom herb risotto and sweet onion marmalade.

“The sea bass in Lumiere’s is the most popular choice of entrée on this cruise,” Thomas says.

Desserts are scrumptious and I often pick the Sweet Temptations offered in the three restaurants – a trio of desserts, very small portions of sweets such as strawberry sable, cranberry and orange cheesecake and double-fudge chocolate cake.

The $20 extra charge is well worth it to dine in the adults-only Palo. Inspired by Italy, the birthplace of Disney ships, Palo offers Northern Italian cuisine in a beautiful setting. Elegant Venetian glass, inlaid wood paneling and sweeping 270-degree panoramic ocean views from floor-to-ceiling windows, an open kitchen and a backlit bar add to the magical ambiance.

Dinner at Palo begins with a tasty antipasto that certainly could be a meal. Between courses, Palo serves a palate refreshing sorbet. The lobster ravioli is a famed Palo entree. Dessert has to be ordered early for special preparation – a chocolate soufflé with vanilla bean and chocolate sauce. My granddaughter Stefanie had ordered it on a previous Disney cruise so I knew this would be my choice.

As a cruiser for over three decades, I have noticed that serving sizes have gotten smaller – thank goodness. I always felt guilty leaving food on my plate on those early cruises and I sure didn’t need to eat everything that I was served. Hotel Director Thomas confirmed that change.

“In 2006, we noticed that we served too much so we kind of scaled it down,” Thomas says. “We’ve gotten good comments about that.”

After all, no one goes hungry on a Disney ship. Big appetites can order double, plus there are always tempting choices at the Topsider’s Buffet, Pluto’s Dog House, Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, Goofy’s Galley and more. Complimentary room service also is available 24 hours a day.

A glass beer stein is a refillable souvenir aboard the Disney Magic.

A glass beer stein is a refillable souvenir aboard the Disney Magic.

Disney Cruise Line offers complimentary soft drinks, including a self-service station by the pool. I wish all cruise lines would do that. The cost of soft drinks can quickly run up a weekly tab.

Each day, the Magic offers special alcoholic concoctions for less than $5, such as a Bahama Mama, Sting Ray, Planters Punch and Malibu Breeze. If you are a beer drinker, Disney has a nice option – a 20-ounce glass beer stein with the Disney Cruise Line logo on it. The souvenir mug costs $14.95 with refills thereafter at $5.69, which is the same price for a 16-ounce beer on the ship.

I thought that would be a good deal for beer drinkers. But who in the world would want to carry that glass around all the time, I wondered? Disney thought of a solution for that, too. When the glass is empty, you can turn it into a beverage server and get a small cardboard token. Then, when you want another beer, all you have to do is pull out the token and exchange it for a clean beer mug. Be sure to redeem the token at the end of the cruise for a clean stein to take home. Or, if you have another Disney cruise coming up and don’t want to carry the heavy glass mug home, you can keep the token and use it for a stein on your next cruise.

Disney seems to think of almost everything!

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

About Jackie

Jackie Sheckler Finch fell in love with cruising 35 years ago when she rode the magnificent Mississippi Queen riverboat in its inaugural 1976 voyage. A newspaper reporter, photographer and travel writer, Jackie has cruised on large and small vessels on numerous rivers and oceans. Read more...

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