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Dining on Disney Cruise Line: What You Need to Know

Let us chat with you for a minute about something we are fond of… ok, probably too much so – but don’t judge. That our friends is FOOD! We know for certain everyone aboard the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) will eat, right? Some of us will eat more than others (our hands are raised), while others will stay strong and keep to their diets (good for them!). Regardless, you’ll still need fuel for your voyage out to sea. Here’s what you need to know about dining on a DCL cruise.

Editor’s Note: Disney Cruise Line has suspended all cruising through February 28, 2021. We present this article for future cruise planning.


1 – Not Your Typical Cruise Food

The reviews you read when researching the different cruise lines available, in comparison to the Disney Cruise Line, are very true when it comes to food. On many cruises, you won’t go hungry, but the quality of the food may not be at a level you’d expect. On the DCL, food quality and taste aren’t something you’ll have to worry about. The DCL has a wide array of cuisines, each one seemingly better than the next! We found the food on the DCL to match the fresh and exceptional taste you can find on land at Walt Disney World. Dare we say we almost like the cruise line food even better than Disney World’s food?

2 – Buffets

Editor’s Note: Disney Cruise Line has not announced any changes to how the buffets will work on their cruises. We do expect to see this experience modified in the future when cruising resumes. 

Chances are when you think cruise line food, your mind goes to buffets. The DCL does have buffet options that make eating exceptionally easy at almost all times of the day. No reservations are needed; you just show up at any time the buffet is open and enjoy! We like the casual atmosphere a buffet has to offer, plus we know we can go get as much of whatever we are craving. Carving stations, tacos, pasta, seafood, French fries, rice, veggies, salads, desserts… and SO much more – you’ll never go hungry at one of the DCL buffets. Tip –buffets can be busy, so try to avoid the regular dining hours if possible. We’d also recommend looking for a seat away from the entrances as people tend to sit down at the first seat available, making these areas crowded.

Some of the food options at Rapunzel’s Royal Table

3 – Rotational Dining

Our FAVORITE! DCL offers something they call “Rotational Dining.” This will give you a chance to dine at the table-service restaurants that are included in your cruise package. You can select from two dining window time frames when booking your cruise. You are then assigned to a restaurant in the rotational dining loop at your designated dining time. Each night you move to one of the three restaurants, with the chances of repeating one or more of these restaurants depending on your cruise length. Did you know each rotational dining restaurant has a unique theme? For example, don’t be surprised if you get a chance to talk with Crush while dining at Animator’s Palate. And get this! Your servers move with you! By the end of your cruise, you get to know your servers, and they get to know you. Calling our kids by name, knowing our drink preferences, and being a familiar and friendly face, each evening is wonderful! Go ahead and take full advantage of rotational dining. Tip –no flip flops or swimsuits are allowed in rotational dining restaurants. You’ll want to head back from the pool in plenty of time to clean up your attire before you dine.

4 – Fine/Signature Dining

Let’s step it up a notch, shall we? Requiring reservations and not included in your cruise package is fine/signature dining available on the DCL. If you’re looking to take your dining to that max, the restaurants, including Palo (on all four DCL ships) or Remy (on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy), are where you’ll want to be. While there is a charge per person, the food is nothing short of spectacular, and the atmosphere is unmatched. As mentioned, reservations are required, so be sure to book these in advance. You’ll also want to note these dining experiences are for ages 18 and older, and there is a dress code.

5 – Poolside Dining

Something about swimming makes us hungry! Just steps from the pools, you’ll find dining options that act like a quick-service restaurant. The menus at these locations vary but typically offer quick grab and go eats like pizza, chicken tenders, chips, and fries. Super simple, but yummy food when you need something to keep you going. It’s especially nice to get out of the sun and eat under the shade of the deck above. Plus, you can’t beat swimming, eating, and views of the big blue ocean surrounding you!


6 – Desserts

Go ahead and admit, you’ve been waiting for this! If you’re a fan of the sweets, you have come to the right cruise as the DCL seems to have goodies overflowing around every corner. Of course, you’ll plan to have a dessert each night with Rotational Dining or Fine Dining, but don’t forget you can enjoy desserts throughout the day too. The buffets have a great line up of desserts! Try as many kinds as you’d like. Then, of course, there are the soft-serve ice cream machines that can draw a crowd like no other. Soft serve vanilla, chocolate, swirl, and even banana-flavored might be just a few ice cream options you’ll find. The Disney Dream even has a sweet shop called Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats. Here you’ll find desserts at an extra cost – but WOW are they impressive. Have as many desserts as you’d like… we aren’t counting!

7 – Breakfast

If you’re not off at your Port of Call for lunch, you typically look to dine at the buffet or poolside dining. For dinner, you’ll have the Rotational Dining or Fine Dining. So, what do you do for breakfast? Check your cruise schedule as there are select Rotational Dining restaurants available for breakfast! The experience isn’t the same as you won’t have your server come to breakfast with you, but you’ll still get to experience a buffet-style breakfast within one or more of these themed restaurants. You can also visit the buffet, which has a bountiful breakfast available with everything from pancakes and salmon! Then there is always room service…

8 – Room Service 

Speaking of room service – did you know besides the room service gratuity, this is included in your cruise package? Room service is the overlooked dining option on the DCL because chances are you aren’t in your room much. It is nice, however, to wake up and answer the door in your pajamas for breakfast, take a mid-day break with lunch in your room, or even skip a fancy dinner and hang out in your room with views of the ocean. You can also order room service for things like milk and cookies before the kiddos go to bed for the night! So many options – be sure to keep room service in your hip pocket.

Soft-serve ice cream available on Disney Cruise Line ships and Castaway Cay

9 – Lounges

DCL may be about the kids for the most part, but there are plenty of adult-only spaces and lounges. It’s relaxing to have a drink, but even better when you can have a lounge appetizer to go with it. Many of the lounges have a bar menu where you can get some essential appetizers to partner well with your drink. Keep the lounges in mind if you’re craving a late-night snack!

10 – Food Allergies

Have a food allergy? With Celiac in our family, we understand this isn’t simple in everyday situations. Simply put – DCL is the exception of catering to food allergies. Not only do their high standards allow you to ease your mind with cross-contamination, but they have allergy-friendly food that actually tastes good! When booking your cruise, add your food allergy to your reservation and let the DCL handle it from there. Tip –if eating from the buffet, let a Cast Member know you have an allergy. They will bring out a special plate of food that doesn’t have a risk of being cross-contaminated.

11 – Gratuities

Lastly, but most important – gratuity should be at the forefront of your mind. Whether it be your bartender at the lounge, a Cast Member delivering your room service food, or the servers that stay with you through your whole cruise… provide the gratuity you would personally hope to receive. 18% is standard, but see if you can budget to go above that when exceptional service is provided.

An 18% gratuity is automatically applied to drink purchases at lounges and dining rooms. Tips for your dining room attendants are given on the last night using envelopes that will be placed in your stateroom. Simply place your gratuity in the appropriate envelopes and bring them with you to dinner. You may want to plan on having cash for this ahead of time. Standard tip amounts are $4 per night for your server, $3 per night for your assistant server, and $1 for the head waiter. When ordering room service, $1-2 per person on the order is appropriate.

Many of these Cast Members are far from home, and they work incredibly hard to make sure your experience is amazing. Go ahead and return a little dose of magic back their way!

Now, let’s eat!

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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.