*This gluten free dining experience took place in May 2019. It also includes information about peanut free, fish/shellfish free, and chicken and turkey free options.
Embarkation Lunch at Animator’s Palate
In May 2019, we were lucky enough to take another 3-day cruise on the Disney Dream. While it was a short cruise, we always love being able to get away from it all — even if it’s just for a short long weekend. Departing from Port Canaveral, it’s an easy drive for us and the Disney Cruise Line terminal at this port makes it super easy to get in and on the ship early in the day. After an easy embarkation, our first stop is always embarkation lunch.
Embarkation lunch options on the Disney Dream include an all-you-care-to-enjoy lunch at Cabana’s — the ships buffet restaurant — or an a la carte lunch, which is currently being held at Animator’s Palate. Because of our special dietary needs, we always choose to go to the a la carte lunch. It’s much easier to navigate and talk through our special dietary needs without feeling like we’re being rushed and without worrying about major issues of cross-contamination.
This was also Brandon’s first cruise after being diagnosed with peanut, chicken and turkey allergies (we already knew about his fish and shellfish allergies), so we really wanted to ensure that he was safe and that we could speak with the service team about lunch options for him too.
Animator’s Palate is one of the three main rotation dining restaurants on the Disney Dream. It’s also the only main rotational dining restaurant on all of the four current Disney Cruise Line ships. Each one has their own twist on Disney animation. On the Dream, Animator’s Palate is inspired by Crush the turtle from Finding Nemo. If you’ve ever been to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, you’ll find this restaurant’s theme very familiar, especially during dinner where Crush will actually talk to you.
During embarkation lunch, Animator’s Palate is usually fairly quiet and low-key. You’ll get plenty of opportunity to explore the restaurant and take a look at its impressive animation theme.
I love how touches from the support beams to the decorative elements all take inspiration from classic animation.
Even the carpet is pretty magical too! Check out the adorable not-so-hidden Mickey on the carpet near our table.
The theming truly covers every inch of the restaurant. Even the tables and chairs get in on the theming action.
I love how the table markers on your table even look like paint brushes.
Embarkation lunch at Animator’s Palate includes a small but varied menu of options. Guests with special dietary needs will notice that the lunch menu includes a few notations like gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian. But, we always recommend you talk to your server about options. Even on this visit, I was able to get something not marked gluten free with an easy modification.
With Brandon’s allergies, we definitely needed to consult with our server team too because nut free and other allergens are not listed on the embarkation menu.
Unlike Walt Disney World, you will rarely have a chef come to your table to discuss options. Usually, you’ll tell your server dishes you might be interested in, and they will consult with the kitchen to see if it’s safe. It can take a little bit of time, but in our opinion, it’s well worth the effort.
While we pondered our appetizers and entrees, our server team brought us rolls to start once the kitchen team confirmed they were safe for us. I was given a basket of Ener-G allergy-friendly rolls with butter and margarine. These rolls are gluten free and also cover the top common allergens too. While, I wouldn’t say they are the best rolls I’ve ever had, if they are well-heated, they are a nice addition to any meal.
During this meal, Brandon was served the regular bread service. Depending on the meal, sometimes he was given regular gluten-filled bread, and at other meals he was served the Ener-G rolls. It really depended on what bread they were serving that day. He was not particularly fond of this bread service, as he said the rolls were not heated and very hard and crunchy.
One of Brandon’s favorite things when we dine on the Disney Dream is soup. We were both quite concerned that he would not be able to get soup on this cruise because chicken broth is a common soup base. We were super excited to learn that many of the soups were vegetable broth based so that they could also be vegetarian (and in some cases vegan).
Both of us ordered the Leek and Potato Soup. This is gluten free, fish/shellfish free, peanut free, and chicken & turkey free. It does contain dairy and cannot be modified to be dairy free. If you’re gluten free, be sure that they do not serve the soup with the soda bread. We both really enjoy this soup, and it’s one I actually ordered on multiple occasions during this cruise. It’s very mild in flavor and a great comfort food soup.
Because Brandon didn’t think he’d be able to get soup, he also asked if the Beef Empanada with Red Chimichurri was safe for him to eat. He was doubly surprised when he got both the soup and the empanada. The empanada was fish/shellfish free, peanut free, and chicken & turkey free.
While Brandon said it wasn’t his favorite thing during lunch, he said he would definitely order it again.
On our previous other cruises, I have ordered Sliced Roast Beef Sirloin, which Brandon ordered on this cruise. I have really enjoyed that entree, but on this cruise, I was looking for something a little lighter during lunch. I mentioned that I was interested in the Chicken Caesar Salad if it could be made gluten free.
Luckily, this was an easy gluten free modification and only needed the croutons removed to be GF. This was the perfect lunch option for me, as it wasn’t too heavy, but it had a nice amount of protein with it. This made eating several courses and dinner later that night a lot easier too! While the dressing contains dairy, you might be able to get a different dressing to make it dairy free. On our next cruise, I’d definitely order this again.
Brandon ordered the Sliced Roast Beef Sirloin. This dish was gluten free as is. But, it needed the sauce removed to be fish/shellfish, peanut, and chicken & turkey free. I believe the sauce contained chicken broth.
Brandon said this was as good as it has been on the previous cruises, though we both agree that we find the embarkation lunch sirloin a little on the fatty side compared to the cuts we’ve had during dinner. Still, if you’re a red meat person, this is a great hearty lunch option.
For dessert, I was served the Chocolate Marquise Bombe with chocolate mousse and raspberry sauce. This is the no sugar added dessert on the lunch menu and is gluten free, as is. While I typically really dislike sugar free desserts, this mousse is really good. I had it on our last cruise and really loved it. I was super excited to get this again, and it was just as good as it was the first time I had it. I will definitely continue to order this at embarkation lunch!
Brandon was served a dessert that we both ended up getting a few times during the cruise. This is an allergy-friendly dessert that is part chocolate chip cookie and part brownie. It is topped with raspberry sorbet. The dessert is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, fish/shellfish free, peanut/tree nut free, and vegan.
Brandon liked this dessert better than I did, as I would have preferred it to be either a cookie or a brownie instead of the combination of both. I think I’d also rather have a non-dairy ice cream instead of sorbet too. But, Brandon really enjoyed this at lunch and on future dinners too.
Both Brandon and I agree that we both much prefer the low-key and relaxed atmosphere of the a la carte embarkation lunch at Animator’s Palate to the busy and chaotic buffet lunch at Cabana’s. Though the lunch menu may be limited, we both found excellent options during our embarkation lunch. It’s definitely a much less stressful experience for guests with special dietary needs and gets your cruise started on a positive and delicious note.
For more about Cabana’s, check out the reviews from our friend Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures on her blog.
Have you been on a Disney Cruise? Where do you have lunch on embarkation day?