Disney's rotational dining experience is nothing short of brilliant, especially for parents cruising with young children. Even though as an adult I appreciate the grand dining rooms other ships offer, I really enjoyed the varying and entertaining decor of each night's restaurant -- as well as the side benefit when I traveled with my children: They were occupied enough that we could enjoy an appetizer, salad, and at least most of the main course, before they got antsy to leave.
There are three main restaurants on the Wonder, and every passenger dines in each of them at least twice. Your dining tickets will be waiting for you in your stateroom indicating your dining time (6:15 or 8:15 p.m.), table number and restaurant rotation. Also on your dining tickets is the date and location of your Character Breakfast, where Micky, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Chip and Dale stop by each and every table for photos and to sign autographs. Your table number, dining companions and servers remain the same throughout.
Animator's Palate is an animation-themed restaurant, right down to the holograms on the menus. As dinner begins, the black and white room becomes wrapped in a ribbon of blue with twinkling green lights in the "bristles" of the giant paintbrush shaped pillars. Throughout the course of dinner everything but the carpet seems to change colors, as scenes from Disney movies transform from simple black-and-white sketches to full-color moving images in Flintstones-like frames. The menu includes appetizers like Wild Garlic Mushrooms served in a Flaky Pastry Cup; Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, and a main course of Maple Glazed Salmon or Veal Chop encrusted with Parmesan and Herb. Each dinner also includes a "lighter fare" selection like Grilled Grain-fed Sirloin Steak or Oven-Baked Filet of Salmon.
Parrot Cay is the liveliest of the three restaurants; a Caribbean-themed multi-sensory experience, with the sound of birds chirping as you enter (and the tune "feeling hot, hot, hot" during dinner), parquet wood floors, shutters, and turquoise colored wood carvings. We visited for lunch and discovered a delicious seafood buffet and elaborate salad bar. The restaurant's dinner setup includes South Beach-style sheer drapes to create a more intimate atmosphere and menu items that include Pan-Seared Grouper, Caribbean Roast Chicken, and Island Roasted Rib-Eye of Beef.
Triton's -- the most formal of the three -- is an upscale dining room with stained glass walls, a massive shimmering tiled wall depicting a scene from the Little Mermaid and Continental cuisine with a French flair.
Two additional Disney dining perks include free sodas during dinner at these restaurants (and at the self-service beverage station on the pool deck), along with a different children's menu/activity sheet each night, filled with fun word games, a coloring sheet and maze.
Parrot Cay and Triton's are also open for breakfast and lunch.
Palo, the adult-only restaurant serving Northern Italian cuisine, is an elegant eatery with views that vary from an open kitchen to sweeping ocean vistas. Inspired by the Italian birthplace of the ship (Disney Wonder was built by Fincantieri), Palo is named for the poles that line the canals of Venice. The restaurant is open daily for Champagne brunch and dinner; both require reservations, which should be made as soon as you board the ship, as a four-page waiting list is not uncommon. Due to its popularity, passengers are only allowed to book one brunch and one dinner for the duration of the cruise. The food and service here is worth so much more than the $20 per person brunch and $24 dinner charged. Be sure to take a peek in the intimate dining room for 14 tucked away in the back of Palo; here you'll find a gorgeous wall-sized mosaic portraying a gondolier in Venice. The room is typically reserved by groups; however, if it has not been reserved, passengers can come on the day they board and make a reservation, even if it is a group smaller than the room can hold.
Beach Blanket Buffet (Deck 9) is the indoor/outdoor venue for breakfast and lunch buffets serving salads, sandwiches, made-to-order omelets, Mickey-shaped waffles, gravy & biscuits, and assorted fruits. The omelet service here is wonderful. You place your order at the station, take your number back to your table and your omelet is delivered once complete.
Casual outdoor eateries include Pinocchio's Pizzeria, Pluto's Dog House (for burgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders) plus, a wonderful new edition -- Goofy's Galley, serving delicious panini and wrap sandwiches with a bountiful selection of fruits to choose from, plus soft-serve ice-cream with lots of fixins'. These outdoor eateries are l on Deck 9, with a self-serve beverage station. Sodas and juices are free at the self-serve locations, but if you order them in the cafes, you will pay for the drink, as well as a 15 percent gratuity. Any alcoholic beverages ordered during any meal or at any location on the ship also includes a 15 percent gratuity. Although passengers are not permitted to bring alcohol onboard at embarkation day, they are permitted to bring on wine and beverages purchased at excursion ports.
The restaurants offer a wine purchase program, as well. You can elect to purchase a seven- or three-day wine program to receive a discount on seven or three bottles of wine. Any wine not finished is recorked and saved for your table. We didn't find a great deal in these packages and elected to pay by the glass.
Room service is available 24 hours a day. Continental breakfast is featured in the mornings. Later in the day the menu offers a selection of soups and salads, cheese and crackers, and chicken fajitas and lasagna (among other things). Guests in suite accommodations can order from dining room menus during mealtime (though arrangements must be made in advance from the concierge).
The service in all four restaurants was excellent, so much so, that a highlight of my recent cruise was watching the two boys at a nearby table positively beam when they caught sight of our server Witt each night for dinner. He squirted ketchup in the shape of Mickey, crafted pirate hats for the boys out of napkins, and performed magic tricks ... all while serving the rest of his tables as well.