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Credit: Disney/Matt Stroshane

Rotational Dining for Families with Young Kids on the Disney Cruise Line

Diets be warned! When going aboard the Disney Cruise Line, the belt bucket tends to get a little tighter just by looking at all the amazing cruise food! There are plenty of places aboard to grab a quick meal and an ice cream or two. We are thankful however, Disney has superb table service restaurants that are part of the rotation dining offered on all four cruise ships. Check out the notes below to help with your rotational dining experience if traveling as a family with young kids in tow!





 

1 – What Is Rotational Dining?

This concept was new to us before we cruised! Rotational Dining means that each night of your cruise, you’ll have a scheduled place to dine. You’ll “rotate” through the three restaurant venues offered aboard the Disney Cruise Line. This means if your cruise itinerary is longer than three nights, you’ll double up on a few of the restaurants. All rotational dining restaurants are included in your overall cruise price, so no bill comes at the end of your meal unless you’ve purchase alcohol with your meal.

2 – Three Venues on Each Ship

Which ship are you cruising with? Each ship has a different line up of rotational dining restaurants including the following:

  • Disney Magic: Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s, Rapunzel’s Royal Table
  • Disney Wonder: Animator’s Palate, Tiana’s Place, Triton’s
  • Disney Dream: Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace
  • Disney Fantasy: Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Court

You’ll receive your dining schedule in advance, so you’ll know where to be each evening. You can also find it on the Navigator Cruise App when on board.  You may also dine at one or more of these locations for breakfast or lunch. You’ll also have a chance to dine at some of the restaurants for breakfast.

3 – Themed Dining

The best part is that each restaurant has themed dining which makes for a perfect distraction for the kids! Our kids’ favorite was Animator’s Palate which is available on all of Disney’s ships. As you enter Animator’s Palate for dinner, the room starts off very plan with a few splashes of color here and there. But as the dinner progresses, the room starts to come alive with color. There are also multiple screens where Crush from Finding Nemo will come and talk with you at the table! It’s a real-time conversation so prepare your kids that they may be asked a question or two.

Animator’s Palate. Credit: Matt Stroshane

4 – Pick the Early Dining Slot

Part of the booking process for the Disney Cruise is to request a dining slot. There are two options including Main Seating (5:45pm-6:15 pm) and Second Seating (8 pm – 8:30 pm). If your kids are anything like ours, the 8 pm dining time is simply too late. Especially after a full day in the sun with lots of activities, having them sit down to a meal at that time is our worse nightmare! So, be sure to request that early dining slot. Keep in mind this is only a request, so the earlier you book, the better chance you have to get the dining slot you want.

5 – Be on Time

We understand being on time can be super tricky for families with young kids! Try to haul your kids away from the pool or other activities well before your dining time to get them dressed and ready for dinner. If the meal time says 5:45 pm, the service will start at that time. There was a family sitting near us that came in closer to 6 pm, and their servers were extremely polite but obviously had to rush through appetizers and entrees. Plan to arrive on time!

6 – Dining Dress Code

What to wear? Swimwear and flipflops are not allowed in rotational dining restaurants. In other words, don’t expect to run right from the pool to dinner. In general, think of casual wear. Nice jeans or slacks and a polo shirt are appropriate for guys. Girls can wear jeans and a nice top, or dresses/skirts are welcome. There is one night that is an optional dress-up night and some people really do go all out for this! There is also a pirate night on many of the cruises which allow you to come to dinner in your pirate wear. Our recommendation is that whatever you dress the kids in, remember they will be eating so make it comfortable. You don’t want it to be something that will make you upset if they spill or get food on it. Each night our little guy kept asking if we were going to church because we kept putting his casual church clothes on!





 

7 – Same Wait Staff

The best part of the Rotational Dining Experience in our opinion is having the same wait staff. Your two serves follow you from restaurant to restaurant. This is such an exceptional experience because they learn your kids’ names and what their preferences are. Our kids started feeling comfortable around them and looked forward to seeing their buddies each evening for dinner! Servers may also perform a magic trick or two if they see your little one needs a good distraction. Our kids were blown away by this! We even saw one server cutting the food for a little girl, so Mom didn’t have to. You can tell they have been well-trained in how to work with kids and how to make it an exceptional experience for them… which makes it all the better for us adults.

8 – Picky Eaters & Allergies Rejoice!

If you have a picky eater or a child with allergies, you’ve come to the right place! The Disney Cruise Line is the cruise for you because Disney knows how to handle these issues beautifully. First of all, the kid’s menu has a fairly good selection each night and does try to change it up for the kids. On the other hand, our little guy wanted Mac and Cheese each night – and that’s exactly what he got. If it’s not on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask for it because the staff may just be able to work their magic. Our daughter is in that awkward tween stage where a kid’s meal might not be enough food, but an adult meal is too much. There were times when she got something small (like an extra bowl of fruit) to make the kid’s meal a little larger. When talking about allergies, the staff is excellent at handling these allergies with the help of the Chef. If you need the Chef to come to talk with you, they will make that happen. Even better, since it’s the same staff that follows you to each restaurant, you don’t have to repeat everything all over again the next night. The staff knows and accommodates beautifully.

Rapunzel’s Royal Table. Credit: Disney/Matt Stroshane

9 – Great Atmosphere for Kids

To be honest, we were nervous about rotational dining. We didn’t know what to expect! We were worried that our 3-year-old wouldn’t care to sit to eat when there is a ship full of things to do. We also didn’t know if our 10-year-old would think some of it was too childish. We were pleasantly surprised at how much they both loved it! The noise level was a bit loud so that alleviated our concerns about our little guy being too loud. From previous cruise experiences, our parents said the later dining slot is much quieter than the first. The only complaint we had is how full it seemed. The tables were close and there are a lot of people dining at once. On the flip side, our kids thrived off this atmosphere.

10 – Room Service Anyone?

We get it. Sometimes you have great plans to make it somewhere on time, but so-and-so is having an epic meltdown because they have had nothing but sugar and fun in the sun all day. Occasionally you need to regroup and sitting down to dine just isn’t going to happen. Go ahead and plan to stay in your room for the night and order room service. You’ll miss that rotation of dining, but room service is still included in your package (minus the tip). Sometimes a little quiet time is exactly what kids need.

So, who’s hungry? Let the Rotational Dining begin!



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About Mike & Jamie Sylvester

We are Disney nerds. Two kids at heart who love the magic and the memories of Walt Disney World! We follow all things Disney and have great experiences with being Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and RunDisney participants. We enjoy the vacations, day trips, weekend getaways and geek out over the planning of such events. From lodging to dining to Fastpasses we have a spreadsheet for every occasion. Mike’s frivolous Disney goal is to acquire as many MagicBands as possible while Jamie’s goal is to experience as many Disney desserts as possible. Usually there isn’t a day that passes without some discussion of the master plan of our next trip to the happiest place on earth. Most people think we’re normal – until they travel to Disney with us. We have been married for 13 years and are blessed with two children - our 8-year-old daughter and soon to be 2-year-old son. As a family we thoroughly enjoy the magic and the memories at Walt Disney World and are here to help others experience the magic as well.