Eating Plant-Based on the Disney Dream
If you ask someone about their Disney Cruise, I guarantee they will very quickly share anecdote after anecdote about the amazing food they enjoyed while onboard.
Along with entertainment, character greetings, and port adventures, dining is a prevalent experience when sailing with Disney Cruise Line but as someone who eats exclusively plant-based I was a little hesitant about what dining would be like for me on the Disney Dream.
Overall, I will say that Disney truly tries their best to accommodate all dietary needs and happily assists with any questions concerning restrictions or allergens. However, I found that the standard menu offerings at all onboard locations on the Disney Dream were not particularly plentiful for plant-based eaters. This is where the magic and dedication of Disney Cast Members truly shines and where planning and research on the part of the guest goes a long way.
Here are 4 quick tips for eating plant-based on the Disney Dream
- Alert your Cruise Specialist of your allergy or dietary restriction when you book your cruise so they can make note of it on your reservation ahead of time. You can also update your dietary preferences in the “Cruise Options” section on the Disney Navigator app under “Special Requests.”
- Once onboard, touch base with your head server at dinner on your first night so they are aware. One of the great things about Disney Cruise Line’s rotational dining is that your serving staff follows you throughout your sailing and you should only have to explain your dietary restrictions once for these dining experiences.
- Ignore the menu (for the most part). While there are some good options on the standard menu, many items have to be modified to accommodate a plant-based diet. I highly suggest speaking with your serving staff to see what other options might be available as sometimes the chef will whip up something special just for you!
- Pre-order your meals. Each night after dinner, our head server would ask what I wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. While the available alternate options are not especially diverse, it does help to have a game plan to ease your dining experience.
Please join me as I outline my dining experiences at the buffet-style eatery Cabanas, each of the three rotational restaurants (Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and Royal Palace), Palo, and more while sailing on the Disney Dream!
Day 1 – Lunch at Cabanas
Once onboard, our team decided to meet at Cabanas for lunch. I was fortunate enough to travel with my wonderful teammate Meagan who happens to have an allergy to wheat and gluten, which means that I had a buddy to navigate the whole “dietary restriction while dining at sea thing” with.
While our Cruise Specialist had previously made note of our dietary restrictions, Meagan and I found our first dining experience aboard the Dream to be a little confusing. After giving the food stations a cursory look ourselves, we deduced that there really were not options there for either of us. The stations were not clearly labelled with dietary needs in mind, such as with a gluten-free or plant-based symbol as you can often find on signage and menus at Walt Disney World Resorts and at the Parks.
We approached a Cast Member who was admittedly unsure of how to best help us at first, but who then instructed us to write down anything that appealed to us at the buffets and they would see if the items could be made to accommodate us. After giving the server our request forms, we joined the rest of our team outside on the deck. While it did take a bit longer to receive our meals, the same Cast Member delivered multiple options right to the table for us.
I ended up being served a personal-size thin crust pizza with non-dairy cheese, a falafel salad without dressing, and plain scrambled “eggs.” While none of these options were spectacular, the effort put in by the Cast Member to ensure we had something to eat for lunch was so very appreciated.
Day 1 – Dinner at Animator’s Palate
Our first dinner was at Animator’s Palate, an imaginative venue where storyboards come to life right in front of you! After our experience at Cabanas that afternoon, Meagan and I decided to sit together for ease of communication with our serving team for the remainder of the cruise.
We were presented with a separate bread basket and a dish of plant-based butter. I will say that while the rest of our team had a variety of different breads to choose from each night, we did just have the one gluten-free and plant-based option at all rotational dining locations.
For an appetizer, I was served the Arugula Leaves which consisted of marinated white beans, orange segments, and red beets. As the mustard dressing that traditionally comes on the salad is not plant-based, I was given oil and vinegar; this was common for all salads I ate on the ship as none of the standard dressings accommodate those with plant-based dietary restrictions.
The main course was Black Bean Chipotle Cakes served over brown rice and corn kernels, with pico de gallo and a salsa drizzle. Now, I am quite a wimp when it comes to anything remotely spicy and generally skeptical when it comes to black bean dishes as they can be quite dry, but these cakes were mild yet flavorful and the salsa ensured the dish was not too dry. This was probably one of my favorite entrées onboard and I would definitely recommend it.
For dessert, our server brought out a decadent plant-based chocolate cake with strawberry mousse and fresh fruit which was absolutely delicious!
Day 2 – Brunch at Palo
On our second day, David and his wife Cathy treated us to a wonderful brunch at Palo, an exquisite dining experience that gave us the opportunity to dress up and share a very special meal together.
With nothing marked as plant-based or vegan on the menu, I was initially worried whether it would be “worth” taking me along for the meal as Palo is at an additional cost. However, as soon as we were seated our server asked if anyone had dietary restrictions or allergies and readily assisted us throughout the meal.
Quite honestly, I was advised to ignore the standard menu completely and instead let the chef conjure up some amazing plant-based dishes just for me.
We started the meal with a garlic and herb infused flatbread, which was light and just perfectly toasted; this option was also gluten-free, so Meagan and I were able to share.
From there, I was served a delicious antipasto with marinated olives, artichokes, eggplant, and zucchini. This was my first-time eating antipasto and I have to say, I felt quite fancy!
While the chef was unable to accommodate my request for a plant-based Mickey waffle, I was able to enjoy fluffy blueberry pancakes for my next course.
Next up was a savoury plate of penne with tomato sauce. While quite simple, this dish was absolutely delicious and by far the best pasta I had onboard.
Lastly, my dessert (because apparently, brunch on a Disney Cruise comes with dessert, which I am wholeheartedly in support of) was a raspberry sorbet served with a variety of fresh berries.
Day 2 – Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats
I don’t often feel like I’m missing out by eating plant-based but I will admit that I was pretty envious of the unlimited dairy-based soft-serve available for guests to enjoy at Eye Scream Treats. As there are no non-dairy options, I decided to take a peek inside Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats, a dessert shop inspired by the Sugar Rush game in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.
At the time of our sailing in late April of this year, there was only one vegan ice cream flavor available, Pineapple Coconut, and there were no plant-based options in the dessert case. I ended up trying the Pineapple Coconut ice cream, but did not enjoy it very much. It was not creamy and tasted rather bland in my opinion. I would not recommend the current plant-based options here, especially since anything purchased at Vanellope’s is at an additional cost. That said, the shop itself can be a great spot for fun photos with King Candy, Vanellope, and her race car!
Day 2 – Dinner at Enchanted Garden
With its light and romantic atmosphere, Enchanted Garden was aesthetically the dining location I was most excited to visit on the Disney Dream. My appetizer here was the Cucumber Garden Roll; yet even with a hint of cilantro, this dish was not particularly flavorful. That said, it was a nice change from a typical salad and the presentation was beautiful.
After speaking with our main server the previous night, I was served a vegetable stir-fry over noodles, which was quite enjoyable.
Dessert at Enchanted Garden was another decadent chocolate confection, this time paired with a plant-based whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and drizzled in chocolate sauce. I found this quite rich, but super yummy as well!
Day 3 – Breakfast at Enchanted Garden
Before heading out to join our teammates on Disney’s private Bahamian island Castaway Cay, Meagan and I enjoyed a delicious breakfast back at Enchanted Garden. We placed our breakfast order with our head server the night beforehand and then just needed to give the breakfast dining team our stateroom numbers when we arrived.
I had never had an omelette before, plant-based or otherwise, but this one was absolutely delicious and one of my favorite things I ate onboard. I was able to specify the vegetables I wanted (and those I’d like to avoid – ahem, mushrooms) and the Cast Member happily obliged.
Day 3 – Lunch at Castaway Cay
A buffet-style BBQ lunch is served for guests who visit Castaway Cay at Cookies Too BBQ. I enjoyed a veggie burger, fresh fruit, and potato chips. Our day at Castaway was chocked full of fun and I will admit I forgot to snap a photo of my lunch, so here is one from my teammate Zoe’s meal from an earlier sailing. The vegetarian chili should also be vegan, but I would advise speaking to a Cast Member for the most up-to-date information about ingredients and food preparation.
I did, however, take a photo of this adorable Olaf sipper! I just couldn’t resist and the Ice Palace drink with fresh banana, pineapple chunks, mango puree, and coconut water was delicious! You can pick up one of these sippers with a choice of frozen beverages at Olaf’s Summertime Freeze, which is also on Castaway.
Day 3 – Royal Palace
Our last stop on the rotational dining for the Dream was at Royal Palace, a gorgeous space decorated with nods to our favorite Disney Princesses. For an appetizer, I had pear salad which was very fresh and included arugula, sliced red onions, and a bosc pear.
My main course at Royal Palace was another off-menu item, vegetables over rice. Our head server made sure the chef left out any mushrooms without me saying anything; they had remembered that I was not fond of them from a previous meal and moving forward took it upon themselves to keep that in mind, which I found amazingly thoughtful and wonderful service.
Dessert was a delicious cookie/brownie combo topped with the same raspberry sorbet I was served at Palo. This selection was full of flavor and I would highly recommend it.
Overall, I will say that the plant-based food on the Disney Dream is enjoyable and there are delicious options available to guests. That said, it is the Cast Members and their commitment to go above and beyond that truly makes the dining experiences comfortable for all diners regardless of their dietary needs and restrictions. Just be sure to communicate with your serving staff and they will do their best to ensure you are taken care of.