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 really triumphs.
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. Families with young children might prefer more flexibility.
Overall, the quality of the food is exceptional, though success varies from venue to venue. Disney handles food allergies and dietary restrictions remarkably well, in both the sit-down and buffet venues, and can even whip up baby food for the littlest cruisers. The kids menus are a mix of perennial favorites (mac 'n' cheese, burgers, chicken strips) and healthier/more adult fare (such as cream of mushroom soup, baked cod and port tenderloin with green beans).
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 Crush the Turtle (who holds conversations with diners), Bruce the Shark and other "Finding Nemo" characters. 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 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. 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.
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.)
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 Panini 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.
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 may 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; the steep cover is significant value for money -- it was that memorable of an evening. 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's marvelous. The lobster with vanilla sauce and veal chops with sweetbreads were 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 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. The fish and seafood entrees are superb, and 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).
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.