In a sea of new ships boasting dozens of dining options, Disney Dream's five main restaurants (excluding the buffet at Cabanas and Flo's Cafe on the pool deck) might seem comparatively limited. But, Disney does more with five than others do with twice that many, and it reminds us that quality trumps quantity. Each of Dream's three themed main dining restaurants -- Animator's Palate, Enchanted Garden and the Royal Palace -- has its own appeal, and all have elaborate themed decor. It's in this area -- creating magical, whimsical spaces that come to life -- where Disney triumphs.
The waiters on our sailing were efficient, pleasant and funny, adding a personal touch by immediately remembering the names of everyone in our party. They also cater exceptionally well to diners with food allergies. We were asked twice -- once on the first night of the sailing by our team of dining room waiters and once in Palo -- if we had any dietary restrictions; we didn't, but the effort was impressive and appreciated.
The Rotational Dining system in place on Disney's other ships carries over to Dream, so you rotate among the three themed restaurants each night while your servers follow you. It's fun to move to a new setting nightly and get to know your waiters, but the system does necessitate traditional assigned dining times of 5:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., the latter of which can be a bit late for families with young children, who might prefer more flexibility.
Overall, the quality of the food is exceptional, though success varies from venue to venue. The kids' menus are a mix of perennial favorites (mac 'n' cheese, burgers, chicken strips) and healthier/more adult fare (cream of mushroom soup, baked cod and pork tenderloin with green beans), and dining room staff are even able to whip up baby food for the littlest cruisers.
Coffee, soda, fruit juice and tea (iced or hot) are available at no charge; wine, specialty coffees, smoothies and other bar drinks incur an extra fee.
Animator's Palate (Deck 3): At Animator's Palate, screens adorned with Disney art transform into an underwater world with fish, bubbles and appearances by Nemo, Dori, Bruce the Shark and Crush the Turtle, who holds conversations with diners. (We still haven't figured out how he does it, but it's pretty amazing ... and mildly creepy.) The restaurant serves contemporary American and Pacific Rim cuisine. We especially enjoyed the butternut squash soup and truffle ravioli.
Enchanted Garden (Deck 2): Also promising to entertain you while you eat, the Versailles-inspired Enchanted Garden throws a bit of pizzazz into the dining experience by cleverly transforming day into night with lighting effects. The pan-seared sea bass at Enchanted Garden was outstanding and cooked perfectly; the prime rib was tasty, as well. The venue is also open for buffet breakfast (8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.). Breakfast has limited offerings: meats and cheeses, pancakes and Mickey waffles, breakfast meat, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt and cereal with no made-to-order options.
The Royal Palace (Deck 3): The Royal Palace will tickle princess-lovers with its hand-painted portraits of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Waiters decked out in royal duds make you feel as if you're about to witness the changing of the guard, and little imperial touches are everywhere, right down to bread baskets in the shape of Cinderella's coach, window treatments topped with crowns and a central chandelier bedecked with glass slippers. However, compared to the technical effects of the other main dining venues, this one is a bit lackluster, without even princess stop-n-chats to add that wow factor. The food did not disappoint, however; we enjoyed the deep-fried brie appetizer and oven-baked salmon royale, as well as the perfectly sized Sweet Temptations dessert sampler. A sit-down breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The waffle sandwich is delightful, but beware of the premade scrambled eggs. (We found them a bit soggy.)
Cabanas (Deck 11): This is a food court with food and drink stations and the predictable selection of hot and cold buffet items, with very few, if any, made-to-order items. Seating is indoors or out. There's a late-night pirate buffet held there on Pirate Night. (Open for breakfast 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., lunch noon to 2 p.m. and dinner 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., though hours vary slightly each day.) Keep an eye out for the "mine, mine, mine" seagulls from "Finding Nemo" as they perch above various food stations.
Flo's Cafe (Deck 11): Flo's Cafe is three "Cars"-themed dining venues in one. Tow Mater's Grill offers up burgers, sausage, grilled chicken and chicken fingers; Luigi's Pizza serves mediocre slices; and Fillmore's Favorites comprises a salad bar and a sandwich station with paninis and wraps. (Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with late-night pizza at Luigi's from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.)
Eye Scream: A soft-serve ice cream station is located on the opposite side of the pool deck from Flo's Cafe. Serve yourself from a rotating selection of flavors. Tip: There are no toppings available, but you can get creative by snagging a to-go pack of cereal from the buffet at breakfast and crushing it up to make your own.
Room Service: Continental breakfast can be ordered via door tags for delivery between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., or you can call in the morning. A 24-hour menu includes sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza and snacks. Room service is not available after 1:30 a.m. on the final night of the cruise.
Remy (Deck 12); $85: Remy, which debuted on Disney Dream, is so very French that you might want to have your French-English dictionary handy. The venue -- named after the star of "Ratatouille" -- is, in our minds, the first cruise ship restaurant to vie for a Michelin star. (Its menus were created by a Michelin two-star chef in France and Scott Hunnel, the head chef at Disney World's award-winning Victoria & Albert's.)
Remy means serious business when it comes to food, and it charges serious prices, with an industry-high service fee of $85 per person just to set foot inside the door. (And, don't even think about coming if you're not properly dressed in 50th-anniversary gala kind of garb.) Having said all that, Remy truly is a wonderful special-occasion restaurant. An evening there is so memorable that the steep cover represents significant value for money. Remy offers a private dining room for special group events. If it's not in use, you can request to be seated there if space is available.
Cocktails and wine are additional, and a wine-pairing option costs an additional $99 per person (total charge $184). Passengers are invited to meet with Remy sommeliers before their meals to plan wines for the evening. Go for it -- it's a great chance to learn something, and the menu is marvelous. The lobster with vanilla sauce and veal chops with sweetbreads are outstanding.
A Champagne brunch is offered on sea days on cruises of four nights or longer. The fee is $55 per person, or $80 for a Champagne pairing.
Palo (Deck 12); $30: Palo, the ship's other adults-only venue, is a Venice-inspired Northern Italian eatery and worth every cent of the cover. It serves dinner nightly, as well as a Champagne brunch on sea days, also for $30. A set menu with wine pairing will run you $89. We fell in love with the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce, tomatoes and asparagus, as well as the osso buco; the panna cotta with fresh berries and chocolate souffle are dreamy. The brunch is equally enticing, with a cold buffet (meats and cheeses, shrimp, salads, desserts) and a selection of hot made-to-order items (omelets, fish).
Vanellope's Sweets & Treats (Deck 11); a la carte: Added in the ship's 2015 refurb and exclusive to Disney Dream, Vanellope's is found just outside of the Cabanas buffet, where the arcade used to be. It's themed after "Wreck It Ralph" character Vanellope Von Schweetz and offers for-fee ice cream, gelato, candy by the pound, lollipops, and a wide variety of candy apples, cupcakes, truffles and other confectionary nibbles. Be sure to perch atop Vanellope's race car or stand next to King Candy for fun photo ops. Also keep your eye on the three gumball machines in the center of the shop; the one in the middle has a fun surprise inside.
Vista Cafe (Deck 4) and Cove Cafe (Deck 11): These two venues specialize in specialty coffees and teas, though they also stock a variety of liquors for cocktails. Snacks and pastries are complimentary. The Vista Cafe overlooks the Atrium, while the Cove Cafe is by the Cove Pool and is for adults only.
Preludes (Deck 4): With stations by both theater entrances, this is the place to stock up on candy, popcorn, smoothies and cocktails (all for added fees) prior to the show. There's also a popcorn stand outside the Buena Vista movie theater.