The Disney Fantasy is very similar to its sister ship, the Dream, especially in terms of its dining venues. The three main dining rooms are Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden and Royal Court, which on the Dream is called Royal Palace. The dining rooms are larger, and there are subtle and not so subtle design changes in each, such as the chandelier in the Royal Court, which was an elegant Cinderella pumpkin on the dream and on the Fantasy is less extravagant.
Because the Fantasy takes longer excursions, passengers dine twice in each venue, and the same serving team follows them from restaurant to restaurant.
In terms of elegance and comfort, the Royal Court is the best place to dine. The early seating might provide nice sunsets.
That might be the case in the Enchanted Garden, too, but to me that room just has a plastic, institutionalized feeding station feel to it.
By far, of the three, Animator’s Palate is the most fun. On one night, as is the case on the Dream, diners are visited by Crush, the talking turtle from Finding Nemo. But unique to the Fantasy, on the second evening, guests have the unique treat of watching a figure they have drawn on a special placemat come to life as an animated character that moves and dances with Disney characters onscreen. It’s an incredible bit of magic. Click here for more details on the Animation Magic at Animator’s Palate and to see a video.
As for the food, nothing I sampled on the recent media cruise was a knockout. Most of it was rather modest. You have to keep in mind that basically what you’re experiencing is several nights of banquet food, although unlike a banquet dinner you’re given some options to choose from.
Christine Weissman, manager of food standards and menu development, told me that everything is prepared a la minute (at the time it is ordered), which is a monumental task given the number of diners at each of the evening’s two seatings.
In the Royal Court, I sampled the iced lobster and jumbo shrimp appetizer with white and green asparagus and micro-greens. It should have been micro-lobster because it consisted of a thin half-dollar-sized coin atop three shrimp (not so jumbo they, either). Aesthetically, however, the plate was quite nicely arranged.
Escargot gratines featured six slugs in a delightfully ungarlicky butter sauce. The Comtesse Du Barry’s Soup was a cauliflower cream stock with subtle flavors, topped with a crouton decorated with salmon caviar.
I enjoyed the entree of double-cut rack of lamb. The meat was a beautiful red and it had a delightful Dijon-infused crust. It was accompanied by green beans, gratin potatoes, and dressed with rosemary jus.
The Grand Marnier souffle, a difficult dessert for less frenetic, land-based restaurants, was nicely done -- sufficiently rich and creamy. So, too, the creme brulee, which had a good and hardened burnt crust.
An appetizer trio was offered as the first course on the evening I dined at Animator’s Palate, so there were no choices to make. It featured two intertwined shrimp, a piece of prosciutto with melon, and sesame crusted seared tuna.
The soup course featured a popcorn soup, with a thin corn bisque and a ramekin of glazed popcorn to add to it. If I hadn’t been told the other item on the plate was cornbread, I wouldn’t have been able to guess. It was all a nice idea that just didn’t work.
For my entree I selected the tuna steak. But when it was placed in front of me I wondered if there hadn’t been a mistake -- it looked like a charred burger patty. The quality of the tuna itself wasn’t bad, but the seasonings were so salty I was gulping for water.
Here again, the dessert were winners, especially the chocolate lava cake, impossibly chocolatey and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
We were served in both restaurants by the same two people. They seemed a bit overwhelmed at times with all the tables they had to service, but they were certainly friendly enough. It was a bit uncomfortable on our last night with them when one of them urged -- nay, pleaded -- us to fill out the survey regarding their standards of service. I got the same beseeching from the cabin steward -- apparently the crew members have all been told their ratings are very important. I got the impression that if one of them got a bad review he’d be keel-hauled on the next Pirates of the Caribbean night.
I did not dine in Enchanted Garden because I was on an annotated cruise and was invited to dine the final evening in Palo. You can read my review of Palo here.
The shipboard buffet has been the punchline of many a nautical joke. For good reasons, too. There have been many seagoing buffets equal in quality to your typical Asian all-you-can-eat place. That is not a compliment.
But Disney Fantasy’s buffet takes the concept to a new level. In fact, let’s not even call it a buffet. It’s more along the lines of a food court, with various stations for international cuisine or food types. There’s an Italian station and one for sushi. You’ll also find cold shellfish, such as crab claws and peelable shrimp. A roast beef carving station and one for grilled seafood. Salads galore, of course, and lots of fresh fruit, too. And much much more.
Cabanas, on one of the uppermost decks, has its own galley separate from the three below-decks restaurants. And a good deal of the food is prepared a la minute, and the serving stations are kept kempt and appealing. And very little of it is served in traditional steam tables but rather offered in bowls or dishes. Much more appetizing.
In fact, if I were to take the seven-day cruise on the Fantasy, knowing what I know now, I think I would opt to have more of my meals at Cabanas and skip the nightly rigamarole
of the main dining rooms. You have more control over what you eat, when you eat it, with whom you eat it and how long it takes. You can have your dinner and be back out on the Aquaduck while everyone else is waiting for the salad course.
And that goes for the food served on Castaway Cay, the privately owned island the ships dock at for a day of beach play, snorkeling or land-based recreation. The food is standard barbecue fare -- ribs, chicken, grilled fish and such -- and very little is appealing.
One tip for the adults: there is an adults-only area on the other side of the island with its own food station. The food is a tad more appealingly presented and there are a couple of items not offered in the family area, such as a delicious marinated steak that easily was the best thing served on the island. Salads were good, and fruit is freshly cut. But can anyone tell me why food service professionals even try to offer corn on the cob in a setting like this? It is always mushy.
Few people will take a Disney cruise for the food -- for that you’ll want to take a foodie cruise, such as the one I’m leading in January. And no one is bound to be terribly disappointed with the quality of the food on the Fantasy or its sister ships. The task of serving so many thousands of meals every day to the passengers and crew is formidable. That anything palatable comes out of the galleys at all is worth celebrating.