*This gluten free dining experience took place in January 2020. It includes information about dairy free options, as well as a review of fish/shellfish free, peanut free, cabbage free, hazelnut free, and chicken & turkey free options.
Embarkation Lunch at Animator’s Palate
Recently, we just returned from a wonderful 3-day cruise on the Disney Dream to celebrate my birthday. It was a great way to spend a long weekend, relaxing, and enjoying all that Disney Cruise Line has to offer. The Disney Dream currently departs from Port Canaveral, so a weekend getaway on DCL is a lot easier for us as Orlando locals. One of our favorite traditions whenever we board the Disney Dream is to get embarkation lunch. Currently, it’s located at Animator’s Palate.
As guests with special dietary needs, both Brandon and I prefer dining at the a la carte embarkation lunch instead of going to the ship’s buffet – Cabanas. That’s because we feel like we can talk through the options and not feel like we’re waiting forever for our meal. This method works well for us, but of course, if you do dine at the buffet, be sure to speak with a head server and chef to help ensure you have safe and delicious options. If you’re curious about the process at Cabanas, check out my friend Alexis from Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures blog posts about Cabanas on the Disney Cruise ships.
I have to admit, that Brandon and I both find Animator’s Palate to be our least favorite of the three main rotational dining options on the Disney Dream. This is a restaurant that you’ll dine at at least once while you’re aboard the Disney Dream. And, it’s also open during embarkation lunch currently.
One of the reasons we don’t like the restaurant as much is because it can get quite loud. To add to this, we generally find the combination of classic Disney animation with what is essentially Turtle Talk with Crush from Epcot into one restaurant a bit odd. While we don’t hate the restaurant, we just don’t love the atmosphere and food overall during main rotational dining meals.
At embarkation lunch, we find the restaurant to be a little more relaxed, though on this visit, we both agreed it was a bit louder than it has been in the past.
There are a lot of cute Disney touches throughout the restaurant. I do like the Mickey Mouse inspired chairs.
And, I have to say I personally think my favorite part is the sparkly Disney-inspired carpet. I don’t know why, but I just love it.
The Disney Dream introduced allergy-friendly dinner menus for each of the three main rotational dining options on the ship sometime in late 2019. We’ll go into detail about these at our dinner, but it’s important to know that they don’t offer allergy-friendly menus at any other meal. This includes embarkation lunch.
Your server team will work to ensure you have safe options throughout your meal. We had a great experience at our last embarkation lunch when we cruised in May 2019 and knew we’d be fine this visit too.
After we were seated, our server team noted our special dietary needs and quickly brought us some Ener-G rolls to start our meal. These are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, fish/shellfish free, peanut/tree nut free, and soy free. They are also vegan.
While I’m always served these rolls, it depends on the restaurant we’re dining at and the regular bread served there for Brandon. Because of his peanut and hazelnut allergies, he is often brought Ener-G rolls too to help avoid cross-contamination. Both Brandon and I actually enjoy these rolls when they’re well-heated. In this case, they definitely were, and they were a great way to start the meal.
One of Brandon’s favorite things about the Disney Cruise Line is that he can usually enjoy the soups served in the restaurants. Because he’s allergic to chicken & turkey, we always have to ask about the soup base to ensure it’s vegetarian. Brandon loves soup, so it’s always disappointing when he can’t enjoy it. On this visit, he was able to get his two favorite soups on the Disney Dream, including this Potato Leek Soup.
We both ordered this as an appetizer. The soup is gluten free, fish/shellfish free, peanut/tree nut free, and chicken & turkey free. It does, unfortunately, contain dairy. If you’re dairy free, I do recommend either the smoked salmon appetizer or a side salad if you’re dining at the a la carte Embarkation lunch.
Brandon ordered a second appetizer as a back-up just in case the soup was not going to be safe for him. so, the restaurant brought him both. He ordered the Beef Empanada with Red Chimichurri. This was fish/shellfish free, peanut/tree nut free, and chicken & turkey free. This contains gluten, so this is not an option that is safe for those who are gluten free.
For the most part, Brandon does enjoy this dish. He’s ordered it before and found it to be tasty, though maybe not his favorite thing.
For my entree, I ordered the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. It can be made gluten free by omitting the croutons. The dish does contain dairy and fish, so if you have those special dietary needs, you’ll want to avoid this one. If you can have dairy and are looking for something a bit lighter, I highly recommend this. It’s definitely a nice easy-going lunch, and I never leave feeling too full when I order this at embarkation lunch.
Brandon got the Sliced Roasted Beef Sirloin with Double Baked Potato and Green Beans. This is a dish I’ve ordered in the past and one of the dishes, the servers almost always recommend to me as a gluten free option. This dish is gluten free, fish/shellfish free, peanut/tree nut free, and chicken & turkey free.
This has been Brandon’s go-to entree at the Embarkation Lunch for quite a while now, and it’s definitely one he will be getting again. He’s a big fan of the baked potato especially.
For dessert, I always get the Chocolate Marquise Bombe which is the restaurant’s no sugar added dessert. I usually hate no sugar added desserts, but there’s just something about this chocolate mousse. I find the flavors to be light, creamy, yet rich. I can definitely recommend this to guests who are gluten free and can have dairy.
Brandon usually gets the Welcome Aboard Ice Cream Sundae, but the servers brought him the Cookies n’ Cream Cheesecake before we could even request dessert. He’s not usually a big fan of cheesecake, so he said this was OK, but not amazing. This dish was safe for fish/shellfish, peanut/tree nut, and chicken & turkey allergies.
If you’re interested in seeing and hearing our first impressions or want to see a bit of our cruising experience, check out our Disney Cruise Vlog that we did while we sailed on the Disney Dream. Day 1 includes this Embarkation Lunch and lots more!
While it may not be anything special in terms of the options, both Brandon and I really do enjoy the Embarkation Lunch at Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream. We love the relaxed atmosphere and the servers ability to help ensure we have a safe meal without feeling rushed or in the way like we do at Cabanas. We also really enjoy some of the standard dishes at the a la carte lunch. They make for a perfect way to begin any Disney Cruise.
Have you been on a Disney Cruise? Which do you prefer – a la carte lunch or buffet lunch during embarkation?