Product Reviews, Restaurant Reviews and Recipes: All GLUTEN FREE!
I always travel with my own food, whether popping down my Allotment or visiting family and friends, but when you’re on a Ocean Linear cruising for seven days from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean, did I survive my GLUTEN FREE Week with Disney Cruise Line?
Of course I did: It was Magical!
This Blog post covers the GLUTEN FREE Dinners onboard with a separate post on other meals(breakfasts, lunches & snacks, as well as as well as covering my Excursions to Cozumel, Mexico and Castaway Cay: Disney’s own Bahamas private island). I also cover Disney Line Cruise’s Rotational Dining Restaurants and primarily I am focused upon the food rather than a holiday review (but you will note I sometime ramble on!).
Unlike other Cruise Ships, Disney Cruise Line operate meals with Rotational Dinning: meaning you eat your main evening meal in a different themed restaurant every evening with a choice of Early Dining (at 1745) or Late Dining (at 2015). And it’s all pre-allocated and pre-arranged, so when you check-in, they provide you with a “Key to the World” card, which is like a Credit Card, which provides your dining arrangements for the cruise including your table number (which stays constant). On the first evening, you meet your Server (and his helper) and reassuringly they move around the Ship with you. It means I was always served my Apple Juice (with ice) fairly promptly and of course, with my food allergies, I always had my GLUTEN FREE Bread basket placed in-front of me, just for me! And despite not ever sitting in the same seats at the table, with our fellow guests, we rotated around Table 30, which proved no problems for the Server or his helper.
Day 1: Leaving Port Canaveral, Florida @Enchanted Garden Restaurant
The Enchanted Garden restaurant was inspired by (an American’s view) of Versailles and is meant to be like eating in a Conservatory or a beautiful Garden Room. It has the feel of an outside space, even though you’re on Deck 4 and with only a few windows and the lights are shaped like flowers (with petals which open and close during the evening, and change colour!). I was still getting my sea-legs on Day 1 as I wasn’t feeling that hungry, and possibly nervous about my GLUTEN FREE choices but the Server (Christian from Eastern Europe) was quick to put me at ease. Indeed, he explained the process to me, having already been informed about my allergies. He explained that he would pre-order all my evening meals for the following evening and complete the required “Red Ticket” as they were very proactive in managing cross-contamination. It meant that before it was served to me, all my food would be reviewed by the Head Server and with the exception of the first evening, my dishes would be carried separately but served alongside all the guests at the table. He even showed me the form and we had a discussion on what to include (as I am Lactose Intolerant but still have some dairy items such as Butter, Cream, Cheese and Yogurts: as these contain very low Lactose in them and I am able to tolerate them. Primarily this was to ensure that there wasn’t a delay in clearing my items for service but it reassured me that I would be fed!).
My “Starter” for Day 1 was the straight-forward “Spinach & Raspberry Salad” which was a very simple and plain collection of leaves with a few plump raspberries and served without the crumbled Gorgonzola (as I don’t do Blue Cheeses). A good sized portion.
This was a good “safe” Entree for Day 1 “marjoram Scented Roasted Chicken” which had a little Red Wine Jus on top. A very good portion of chicken which was very tasty and the sweet potato mash was creamy alongside the Broccoli. After this, I was disappointed that none of the desserts in the Menu (a separate Menu from the Starters and Entrees) had the GF symbol but I wasn’t feeling too great, so declined Ice Cream or a GF Cake (which were offered to me).
Before I left the restaurant, our Server presented me with the Menu for the Royal Court Restaurant (which were scheduled to attend on Day 2). Again, it was good to see some choices for me on the main listing of Entrees as well as three standard “smaller plates” which were all GF. Whilst it felt a little strange to be given the preferential treatment of pre-ordering, it is better than travelling on an Airline and finding the just present your dinner to you (even in Business Class!) with zero choice!
Day 2 At Sea: Dinner@Royal Court Restaurant
Our second restaurant; Royal Court Restaurant is themed around the Disney Princesses with ornate grand furniture, decorative murals (or mosaics) and stained glass windows with “Beauty & the Beast”, “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty”. The Menu is French-inspired although again, as a fairly frequent visitor to the Continent, I would suggest it is only “inspired” by the French, which isn’t a bad thing. Of course, I had already selected my courses from the Menu and as I was seated, moments later I had my drink and GLUTEN FREE Bread!
The “Duck Confit” was really good with stripped duck meat arranged into a square block. It had a good flavour and was accompanied with a simple oil dressing and a few contrasting crasins and walnuts. A generous portion for a hungry passenger: who had now settled into the movement of the boat!
The “Red Wine Bosc Pear Salad” was again a good plate of leaves with the sweet moorish pear alongside the salty crispy lardons. I wasnt served with the Sherry Wine Dressing (as it must contain WHEAT!) but found it to be a good fresh plate before my main course.
This Entree came off the side Menu of the Evening and was served cold. The Tuna was cooked well although (being British) I would have had it seared a little more and there were lots of new potatoes, green beans and olives to add to this “Ahi Tuna Nicoise” salad. I rather enjoyed this although recognising another plate of salad, decided that I would be more adventurous with tomorrows meal!
In order to make it special, the Desserts were presented in a separate Menu and I was reassured that on the Menu, they directed me to how I could have a dessert so it was GLUTEN FREE.
GF Dessert @Royal Court
I do love Creme Brulee so of course I choose the “Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee” (although Christian was quick to challenge me as I have an EGG YOLK allergy and he wasn’t unconvinced that it would be served to me. Indeed, the Head Server came along with my dessert to advise that it contain both EGGS and DAIRY (Cream) and asked whether I would be OK to eat it. I know from experience, that I can tolerate and enjoy only a small amount of this, but I did! Very creamy with a crunchy crisp melted sugar topping: which I think is the best bit about Creme Brulee: without the Biscotti biscuit!)
Again, I was presented with the Menu for tomorrow evening’s dinner and asked about shore visits. I explained that I was on a trip and therefore not returning back to the ship for lunch (with food provided). The Head Server was very cautious about me eating on land, and presented me with a large box of GF DF Donuts which I took with me on my Trip. Of course, I always carry some food and the trip was no exception but they were good to assist me.
Day 3: Port Day: Cozumel, Mexico: Dinner @Animators Palate
After a busy day on an excursion exploring the Mayan Ruins in Cozumel, I returned back to the Ship hungry and maybe had a light snack before we headed down to Dinner, dressed in our Pirate outfits (as it was “Pirates in the Caribbean” onboard the ship! And whilst dressing up seems a little corny, if you didn’t make the effort, you really stood out as on the Disney Cruise, it’s part of what you do!).
The Animator’s Palate Restaurant is the best themed restaurant onboard the Disney Fantasy. The chairs are inspired by Mickey Mouse in colours and style and the walls are covered with digital screens which start off in very Matt colours but during the evening, transform into colourful displays: with film footage interrupting the proceedings. It is laid out with different rooms so that different screens are sharing different moments simultaneously (which was used to great effect later in the week, when we returned for the second dinner at Animators Palate). It is a lively with Crush talking to individual tables (from the Screens) and a delight to see fellow passengers conversing with a cartoon character from Finding Nemo (which I believe to be a similar experience to Walt Disney World’s Monster Inc experience or “Crush Talk” at EPCOT. A very entertaining dinner: even the crockery and cutlery is themed. Fellow guests were quick to point out that it is now available in the Gift Shop (as previous experience suggests the knives (shaped like brushes) were “walking out” of the restaurant!
For the first time in forever, I had chosen a hot soup which was GLUTEN FREE. The “Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup” was lovely and creamy. Indeed, I was tempted to ask for another bowl (and they would have) but I was looking forward to a great dinner with several courses!
No surprise that my second starter was a plate of salad. The “Arugula Leaves” (or Rocket as we say in the UK) with orange segments and a few white beans was quite refreshing for a change.
My Entree was the “Lemon Thyme Marinated Chicken” which was a generous portion of meat. It was well flavoured although I would have appreciated more vegetables! The sauce was good and added bite to the dish. And then I finished off with:
This was a refreshing and very light dessert after my soup, starter and Entree. It was lightly flavoured with a really sticky sweet sauce and looked as good as it tasted. Another great GLUTEN FREE Meal, with Finding Nemo entertainment before we headed off for another “Show” for our evening’s entertainment.
Day 4: Grand Cayman: Dinner @Palo
Onboard the Disney Fantasy, there are two adult-only restaurants which are difficult to book (we had tried before we were on the Ship but thorough MFT, we managed to get a reservation) which provide a luxurious dinning experience in an intimate restaurant with great service. Being British and having traveled several times to both France and Italy, yes the Menus are inspired by the respective countries but eating Italian food isn’t that exotic for us Brits. Indeed, the service was excellent and they look after your needs very well but unlike our fellow American travellers, we didn’t rave about this dinner: it was very nice though.
Palo is inspired by Italy with an amazing glass sculpture above you when you enter. Indeed, on a Ship Tour we learnt that it was representative of Spaghetti and the restaurant facilitates a more intimate and private affair with curved booths and separate tables with an emphasis on wooden decor, Italian pictures and frescos and Italian music. Alongside the regular Menu, and of course an extensive Italian Wine list, they had a separate Menu for Water! Yes a selection of 10 Still and 10 Fizzy waters were available which was novel although over-the-top!
The first course was “Antipasti” taken from a trolley which was wheeled around the restaurant and served on a plate, for the table to munch on. It included lovely fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese, deliciously rich and salty prosciutto di Parma and other sliced cold cuts, marinated olives and artichokes and roasted peppers. In addition we were offered an assortment of flavored oils whilst I was presented with my GF Bread.
A good healthy starter with a multitude of flavours and all GLUTEN FREE. My Bread was pizza bread with garlic and herbs and was probably the best “bread” I had onboard. It had a crunchiness, served warm and really good depth of flavour. Indeed, I had two “baskets” of bread as this was delicious!
As above, I quite like a soup and from the starters I selected the “Tuscan White Bean Soup” which was a very large portion. It had a good poultry flavour alongside the contrasting soft white cannellini beans and the salty pancetta floating in the stock. A good solid soup.
This was followed by a Palate Cleanser which was a lovely frozen lemon sorbet with a contrasting blueberry. This was a nice touch to the grand dinner.
For my Entree, I had selected the Lobster “Pappardelle con Aragosta“, after reassurances that they could prepare this with a GLUTEN FREE PASTA which I was exciting for.
It didn’t disappoint although I received GLUTEN FREE PENNE and not PAPPARDELLE as that’s what they had! The Lobster sauce was light and yet powerful with a drizzle of White Truffle Oil which you could smell when it arrived. It looked quite a small portion when it arrived but I assure you it was filling, tasty and just right!
And during our Main Course, our waiter came over and shared with us the Dessert Menu as the “famous” dish often selected by Diners was the Souffle which takes a little time to prepare. After a little debate and surprise from me (as they could prepare a GLUTEN FREE one), I had an easy choice to make and opted for the Souffle!
With a lot of ceremony, the Chocolate Souffle was presented to the table before the waiter cut a hole in the top and poured in firstly the Vanilla Bean sauce before the Chocolate Sauce. It had risen well although I noted that mine (the GLUTEN FREE one) was rather solid with a crunchy edge, suggesting it had been pre-made and warmed up for service. Indeed, it never fell or sunk as the Almond Flour was probably molded so I had a risen souffle. It was a tasty chocolate sponge: quite light although not as airy as traditional sponges and the sauces were amazingly sweet.
It was a very indulgent dessert after a good meal, but we’re not quite finished as the waiter had also presented us with an additional dessert: “Panna Cotta with Strawberry-Basil Sorbet” which I didn’t take a photo of! This sneaks into the close-up of the Souffle and was a contrasting flavour to our rich chocolate souffles. And having a little fruit and even more ice-cream was lovely.
So a gourmet evening of GLUTEN FREE food, excellent service and interesting flavours but probably not the best meal on the cruise (which would surprise many of our American Travellers!) I rolled out of the restaurant, full, content and well-fed!
Day 5: STAR WARS DAY AT SEA: Star Wars Dinner @Royal Court:
On some Disney Line Cruises they are have organised a “Star Wars Day at Sea” which characters from the films (new and old) around for photo appearances, showings of the new Star Wars film “The Force Awakens” in 3D and 2D as well as Fireworks at Sea and outside Star Wars show with characters. Ticketed slots for popular characters included Darth Vader, C3PO and R2D2, and we had a timed slot with the original Bounty Hunter (Boba Fett) as well as the new baddie Stormtrooper Captain Phasma (who actually spoke to us!).
For a fan of the films, this is a great way to enjoy Star Wars and the dinner was no exception and of course, there was the dressing up:
As it was a Star Wars Day at Sea, irrespective of which Themed Restaurant you ate in, the Menu and food was the same. And this was presented with a Special Menu, which was animated with moving holograms of scenes from the films. I requested to Christian whether I could take the Menu but he requested to keep them, as they would reuse them for the later dining and again on the next Star Wars Cruise! The Kids Menu was double-sided with a face mask on one side whilst the food details were on the other. He did offer one of these for me but given I had a “helmet” on, I didn’t need another “mask” so back to the food…
I started with a “Lars Homestead Garden Salad” which seemed a little odd as everyone had commenced with starters but again, with my “pink ticket” highlighting my allergies, Christian (our Server) had swapped my courses so that I could eat something even if it was in the wrong order. It was a little plain but with a GF Balsamic dressing.
GF Starter for Star Wars Day @Sea
So my proper starter was ” Marinated Opee Sea Killer” which was a simple prawn cocktail. It was tasty although I would have liked more greens to go with it as after a few mouthfuls, it was over!
My Entree was the “Lord Vader’s Nerf Steak” which had clearly attracted me to it because of the name: Darth Vader is my favourite character but also it was nice to have a Rib Eye Steak for a change. I was really impressed with this as the meat was so tender and soft, and with the layers of fat: really tasty. There was just enough vegetables and mash to support the huge slab of Steak and for the first in forever, I finished the whole plate! My fellow diners gave me a round of applause as they’d never seen that from me, on the cruise so far!
Clearly giving a dish a “name” makes it a Star Wars dish but this was probably my best meal, and definately the best Entree I had onboard the Ship.
After Dinner, there was a Star Wars show on deck which included a great selection of characters parade on deck before they set-off Fireworks from the Ship accompanied by Star Wars Music. This was a great day, and I didn’t realize but Disney Cruise Line are the only cruises whom let out Fireworks at sea. Indeed, they are coated with sea-friendly fish-food so that the remnants of the fireworks are welcomed by the creatures of the Ocean! How strange!
And if that wasn’t enough for Dinner, after the fireworks, they had yet another buffet of food laid out in Cabanas for all to enjoy (until 1230am). Whilst we had a look, I was surprised how many people loaded up plates and plates of yet more food. It wasn’t as if anyone could be hungry!
Day 6: Day at Sea:Dinner@Royal Court Restaurant
Dressed up for the Captain’s Dinner, with a reception in the Lobby to meet him and his Senior Staff, all in smart white tunic uniforms (and of course plenty of drinks flowing) before heading into the Royal Court Restaurant. Indeed, this was a grand affair with lots of drinks and many families dressed up; men in dressy black and white tuxedos, ladies in long flowing dresses and children in smart uncomfortable clothes!
Of course, I received my special GLUTEN FREE bread and had pre-selected the “Aged Prosciutto” which was delicious. Indeed, not as salty and flavoured as the sliced meat in PALO (see above) but a refreshing and light starter:
This was followed by a change from the usual salad or soup with “Marinated Tiger Shrimp”. This was a great light starter which could have done with something more with it rather than the coldslaw bowl (made of celery hearts, red peppers and remoulate).
For my Entree, I had selected the “Lobster Tail” which I was excited to receive.
It arrived with much ceremony and was clearly a popular dish as on our large table, there were several of us that enjoyed a Lobster Tail. Our Server, Christian was quick to work the table and pick the Lobster Tail up, de-shell the “meat” and replaced it on the dish. He was great in changing his cutlery and the plate before he sorted mine out which was a nice touch (avoiding any cross-contamination or issues, given my dish was cooked and prepared separately. It came with Lemon Pesto Mash and his assistant provided a melted butter sauce (which, in hindsight, was probably not required and certainly not in the volume they poured on the plates!).
Finally, after my rather fishy meal, I finished my Captain’s Gala with the “Creme Brulee” I didn’t finish this dish as I was quite full but also the amount of EGG and CREAM would have made me uncomfortable. It had a great fresh flavour and of course, the best bit is cracking the sugar top and dipping into the creamy delight
DAY 7: Castaway Cay (and FINAL MEAL)@Animator’s Palate.
After a busy day, up early to leave the Ship and run 5 kilometers on Disney’s own Private Island; Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas, and a lazy day feeding Stingrays, cycling around the small island and sitting on the beach: watching the world go by, our “Last Supper” was at the Animator’s Palate. Our fellow diners were very excited as we’re promised a “show” and it didn’t disappoint.
As it was the last meal, the selection was much more limited (as I had seen from the evening before when I was presented the Menu) but still, I looked forward to a hearty meal after my running and being outside on the island. Once in the restaurant, we all had to “draw” a cartoon character on our Place-Mat and hand it in. It wasn’t exactly Oscar Award-Winning Art but great to see everyone give it a go and try to be creative which is quite hard when you’ve only a few felt-tip pens on the table! This was to be part of the “Show” later on…
I started with simple Vegetable Soup which was a simple broth and tasty, accompanied by my basket of GLUTEN FREE bread.
And then I enjoyed the “Appetizer Sampler” which was a collection of small items (bite sized).
The Duck was deliciously salty and had a deep flavour whilst the Smoked Salmon Tartar had a really creamy taste, and the Shrimp was different with a kick from the horseradish cream. All very small bite-sized pieces but enough to enjoy (with most of the table having some sort of Appetizer plate).
More fish for my main course: “Salmon Savoy” with Celeriac Puree and a few vegetables (just a few!). It was a good dish with a large piece of Salmon which was very soft (if slightly under-cooked for my taste!). And I would have appreciated some further vegetables (some fresh greens which would have added colour as well as another crunch to the dish). I was worried as on the Menu, I hadn’t selected a dessert as there wasn’t any Gluten Free options but Christian had assured me that I would be well-looked after with a “surprise dessert”.
Indeed, it was fruit moose served inside the chocolate shell with chocolate works, fruit compote sauce and a little more chocolate. It was delicious, fresh and light and even though it was a sweet indistinguishable fruity moose: a nice finish to another great filling meal. And the our “Show” started:
Having completed my “character” with a purple suit and trousers, green shoes and a rather large sinister smile, Christian, our Server, directed us to a specific large screen in the restaurant. After a musical introduction with Mickey Mouse, alongside the music from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the cartoon characters which we had drawn were shown on screen and then danced across the screen in groups of four. It was the gasps, the ooohhhs and aaarrrhhhs which also entertained, when people recognized that their art-work had cleverly been animated and made “alive”. My odd purple suited man danced across, spun around and waved at us! It was such good fun and of course, everyone’s characters were in the short clip but an excellent entertaining way of involving Diners in the world of Disney. Hard to remember you’re still on a Ship, travelling across Oceans, eating GLUTEN FREE and in the company of a MOUSE!
If you are a member of Coeliac UK, they produce a comprehensive directory which covers over 16,000 food and drink items (including GLUTEN FREE Chocolate Bars). This is available in a paper-based Manual and online FREE to members of Coeliac UK. They have also published an Easter listing (although it is not as visually EGG-citing as Part 1: Chocolatier & Chocolate Manufacturers, or Part 2: High Street Supermarket Chocolate Easter Postings).
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This information was correct as at publishing in March 2016.