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Sailing with Disney Cruise Line During the Pandemic: Dining Experiences

One of my favorite things about cruising on Disney is the food. From soft serve ice cream at Eye Scream to black truffle pasta purseittes to Cove Cafe specialty coffees, I just like to try it all!

As you can imagine, sailing during the pandemic brought some challenges for the dining teams at Disney Cruise Line! If you’ve ever cruised on a sailing (or just after a sailing) where norovirus was present, you know that they will quickly modify self serve opportunities like the buffet in Cabanas and pool deck drinks. Disney and all major cruise lines have installed handwashing stations and/or have had hand sanitizer wipes for years. We knew Disney could make dining safely happen, and it was interesting to see how they did it!

For most cruisers, you head to lunch first thing after boarding. We boarded so early that we had to wait 20 minutes for Cabanas to open for lunch, and then we were ready for our first onboard meal! In Cabanas, the first thing we did was wash our hands. There are three handwashing stations in both entrances. Once our hands were clean, it was time to choose our foods. Plates are kept behind the serving stations and solid plexiglass has been installed between guests and the food. All food is served by crew members. Due to plexiglass and masks on both the guests and the crew (and often some accented English), sometimes this was better accomplished by pointing and waving than actual words! Everyone is willing to make it work though. Once you’ve had your plate loaded with all your choices, a crew member hands you your plate, and you choose your table. At this time, only about half of Cabanas is open and the tables are quite spaced out. Another crew member walks around and brings you napkin-wrapped silverware rather than them being available in the center of each table. In most cases, someone also came and took our drink order. In the rare case they didn’t, you could walk to the drink area and a crew member would prepare your desired drinks for you. This actually works well for everything except maybe the coffee; I’d really like to prepare my own coffee, but I can make it work for a week!

Cabanas with spaced out tables and no bar seating

On the pool deck, things are a little different, too. At the quick service locations, they’re running one central line and dispersing guests to any of three counters to order the same things. All the usual offerings were still there–pizza, burgers, fries, sandwiches, fresh paninis, salads, and fruit. The drink stations on the pool deck worked similarly as the one in Cabanas–you tell the crew member what you want and he/she will prepare it and hand it back to you. Eye Scream also works the same way; make your choice, and a gloved crew member hands you a beautifully prepared cone. They must’ve gotten ice cream dispensing training!

On Castaway Cay, the set up is very similar to Cabanas. Crew members are serving all foods, drinks, and ice cream there.

In the main dining rooms, the tables are quite spread apart. Every evening a plethora of servers gathered at the restaurant entrances to clap and welcome you to dinner. It was actually rather funny after about day 2! Your party is seated separately, so there are no tables comprised of strangers. Our party of three was seated as a party of three. If you are traveling with a larger party or multiple staterooms, you can still be seated together! The menus were wonderful, and there was no shortage of food or choices!

Royal Court without the large round center table

Animator’s Palate very distanced!

Enchanted Garden without the round booths and very distanced.

Another view of Animator’s Palate

In bars and lounges, tables are spaced out, and some are marked as “do not sit here.” Palo and Remy don’t have any real changes as they’ve always kept people nicely spaced out! The only other food change to note is no popcorn sold outside either theater and no food allowed in, and there is no drink service or drinks allowed into the theaters.

As the Fantasy is returning to 7-night cruises, the animation is also returning to Animator’s Palate for the second night of dining at this restaurant. The only difference is that you don’t get to keep your drawing, so take a photo before you hand it off!

No judgment on my artistic abilities!

Featured guest animators…we feel so special!

Truly the hardest thing about dining onboard the ships right now is communicating in the masks. In Cabanas, talking through plexiglass and masks and trying to understand beautifully accented English was challenging! It was easier on the pool deck as neither guests nor crew members are required to wear masks unless they are directly serving or preparing food. For the main dining rooms, guests wear masks until they are seated, and then they may remove them. Servers wear them for the duration of the meal, so sometimes we had to ask them to repeat their recommendations.

My actual view at dinner in Enchanted Garden!

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