*This dining experience took place in October 2014.
Cabanas is the Disney Dream’s buffet style dining option for guests looking for breakfast or lunch options. Located on Deck 11 (near the top of the ship), it has incredible outdoor seating (as I found out while enjoying breakfast outside on my Castaway Cay day) and a fun beach vibe inside.
During embarkation, Cabanas was the first restaurant open for dining when we boarded the ship. I was accompanied on my cruise by my mom and was also lucky enough to have some fellow GF friends also on board the ship. Before boarding the Disney Dream, we met up with my friends and all went to Cabanas together, particularly as we had heard from the Disney Cruise Line that there was a special dining session available on the ship (more on that later).
When we arrived at Cabanas, we asked a cast member for a chef or someone we could discuss special dietary needs with. We also asked about the special dining session set to take place during embarkation, but no one on staff seemed to know about it (and it wasn’t in our personal navigator i.e. the cruise ship daily program).
Chef Christopher came out and spoke with my friend and I briefly, stating that we would be taken care of and that Dogan, the Head Server, would assist us. This began our first experience with Disney Cruise Line special diets accommodations, which I will be honest in saying is a bit confusing compared to Disney World’s standard practice of handling special diets. Essentially, here’s what happened to both myself and my friends (and we didn’t dine together except this one meal) throughout the trip.
You, as the special diets guest, consults with what’s known as a head server (or the lead server over the restaurant and/or designated tables in a restaurant). The head server asks you what kinds of food items you would like (this can be something you saw on the buffet line or on a menu or something off-menu). They then take this to the chef who then confirms if what you requested is safe, then they relay this to the head server who then tells you if what you requested is OK. It’s a bit of a telephone game but worked better once I figured out this is what was happening. Day 1? not so much!
After Dogan took our requests (I asked for seafood, chicken, and a starch; my friend ordered chicken and gluten free mac & cheese for her daughter and chicken for herself), we took a look at the regular buffet.
To me, the buffet seemed like a terrible cross-contamination nightmare. We were one of the first groups at the restaurant but by the time we walked by the buffet it had already been ravaged. As I learned later, the smaller restaurants are definitely the way to go (more on that when I review Enchanted Garden for Embarkation Lunch Round 2!).
Dogan came back with chicken and French fries for me, but I was told that I should get my seafood (mussels, crab claws, and shrimp) from the buffet. I found the station that seemed the least likely to cause cross-contamination and used a fork to grab items from the back of the seafood presentation. I did not get any sauces and opted to eat everything plain (good thing, as I saw Chef Christopher, and he told me not to consume any of them because of cross-contamination).
Later at Enchanted Garden, they told me that they would get everything from the back for me, so lessons learned – go with the smaller buffet (which opens about 30 minutes after Cabanas does).
I can’t say that the seafood was anything exciting. The shrimp were pretty bland as were the mussels. I enjoyed the crab, but they are a lot of work to eat. It’s too bad that they couldn’t get any safe cocktail sauce from the back at Cabanas.
The chicken had some salsa-type marinade on it. It was a little spicy, almost like fajita-type chicken. The French fries were thick cut steak fries. Not particularly my favorite, especially without a dipping sauce.
My friend’s daughter also got the same chicken served alongside Amy’s gluten free mac & cheese. She seemed pretty excited about this, as I know she was getting hungry while we waited.
Cabanas and several stations on deck 11 are the only places with self-serve drink stations. I brought along my Tervis Tumbler (shout out to my local running store Fleet Feet!) and a Disney refillable mug to keep myself stocked in beverages. It’s a long ways to travel from your room to deck 11 typically, so filling up refillable glasses while at Cabanas is a very good idea.
I dined at Cabanas one other time during the trip for breakfast and will be recapping that here on the site. I can’t say Cabanas was my favorite restaurant by any means while on the cruise. Given the choices, I would pick any of the other smaller rotational dining locations over Cabanas. My meal options definitely improved a lot as the cruise went on!
My friend Alexis from Gluten Free in Orlando has also been on the Disney Dream and she shares her experiences her blog. I highly recommend checking out her site for Disney Cruise Line tips too!
Stay tuned for all of my dining reviews from my Disney Cruise Line vacation. I’ll also be sharing a tips and tricks post too!
Have you been on the Disney Dream? What are your tips for vacationing on the Disney Cruise Line with a special diet?