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The Changing Face of Palo: Disney Cruise Line Dining Review

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 05-11-2012 > Articles > Disney Cruise Line > Dining  

Everything changes, and moves on, and that's very much the case with everything Disney, as we discovered when we boarded the Disney Dream last year.

So much was new, while other things were reassuringly the same, but at the same time very different. One of those was Palo.

Palo is the original optional, adults-only restaurant on the Disney Magic and Wonder, serving up an amazing Italian dinner nightly, and brunch, and afternoon tea on days at sea. It's a measure of how successful Palo is that it can be tough to secure a reservation there, although we've certainly lucked out over the years.

On our first cruise, we managed to dine at Palo for two nights running, after enjoying such a superb meal there on our second night on board. After that, somehow the other restaurants just couldn’t hold a light to it. Our second cruise included days at sea and the chance to enjoy both the brunch, and the afternoon tea, along with dinner of course! By the time of our third cruise, we moved up to the Disney Dream, with our fourth cruise just months later returning us to the Wonder, and allowing us to compare the two different Palos.

Let’s start with what’s the same, and that’s the dinner menu. I was surprised to see that they were absolutely identical across both the newer, and original ships in the Disney fleet, but I guess it makes sense. After all, stick to what you know makes sense. It’s easier, no doubt, for training chefs, and at least the customers who’ve previously cruised with Disney know exactly what they're going to get. But, for us, that was part of the problem.

Disney Dream - Palo entrance photo
Disney Dream - Palo entrance

The entrance to Palo, complete with stunning glass sculpture. - photo by chezp

We went on to the Dream, knowing exactly what we would get at Palo, and sadly we were disappointed with the quality of the food. It certainly didnt live up to our expectations, but perhaps they were set too high? Not so it appeared, for when we returned to the Wonder on our Alaskan cruise, and revisited Palo, we found the same high quality weve always enjoyed at the restaurant. Perhaps we hit Palo on the Dream on an off night, or maybe theyre finding their feet, and just need time. Another slightly more unpalatable possibility is that the energy is going into Remy, the other adult-only restaurant on board the Dream, and now the Fantasy. Its something Ill be interested to try out on our upcoming cruise on the Fantasy, just to see how well Palo does, or doesnt deliver.

Outside of the menu, and the food, perhaps just as important is the ambience. After all, its a place to which adults can escape and enjoy a special meal out, perhaps with a special person, or friends. I loved the ambience of Palo on both the Magic and the Wonder. Having visited Italy before, the second you arrive on deck, youre immediately transported to that part of the world. That continues as you walk in, with beautiful Venetian masks lining the walls of the restaurant. Its all very subtle, and has a light feeling to it, partially due to the light streaming into it during the day, with the windows overlooking the scenery outside.

By contrast, Palo on board the newer ships is a very different beast, much more elaborate, as you can tell the second you walk in. Its impossible to miss the glass sculpture in the ceiling, with its rich red, orange, and yellow tones. The theme of warm colors continues inside, with deep red walls alongside the tables at back, complete with murals of Italian scenes. The whole feel of the place is very much upscale dining, rather than the slightly more laid back Palo that you get on the Magic and the Wonder. Its almost as if the Imagineers decided that they needed to step things up, and perhaps they did.

The addition of a piano and prominent displays of wine reminded me of Remy next door, and I couldnt help but wonder if that was the intention-trying to ramp up the feel of the place, so that it would be true competition for Remy.

The other difference between the two restaurants is their location on board the ships. While the Magic and the Wonder have Palo on deck 11, with nothing above them, on the Dream, and now the Fantasy, theyre on deck 12, with the Goofy Sports Deck above. This wasnt so much of an issue on the night we dined in Palo, although it was something we certainly noticed in Remy a night earlier. Its something that the Magic and Wonder definitely win out on.

The new and the old version of Palo both have their own advantages, and to be honest, Im not sure I can pick between the two. Despite the lower quality meal on board the Dream, the atmosphere really is something there. I know one thing for sure, whenever were on board a Disney cruise, well always be trying to book at least one dinner, and if its available, a brunch at Palo, as it remains one of our favorite experiences on board. How can you beat adult alone time, and good food?

Magic - Inside Palo photo
Magic - Inside Palo

Inside Palo, the place for exclusive, adults only dining on board. - photo by chezp

About the Author:
Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!

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Reader Comments:

Wow, we've had completely different experiences of Palo on the Dream versus the Magic and Wonder.

First, we feel that the quality of the food on the Dream was even BETTER than anything we've had on the Magic and Wonder. We enjoyed three dinners and two brunches on our recent B2B cruises (NYE and following) and were overwhelmed by the deliciousness.

Second, although the decor on the Dream's Palo is decidedly different, we did not feel it was upscale to a point of being not comfortable (as opposed to uncomfortable). It was warm and cozy, much more so than Palo's Magic and Wonder version -- those have much more of a slick city cocktail lounge feel than the lovely old world feel of the Dream's Palo.

We're sailing on the Magic out of New York in August and will definitely be visiting Palo yet again....this time, with an eye to see if your opinion holds up to ours, lol!

     Laura Schwartz on May 11, 2012 @ 3:02 pm
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Updated 05-11-2012 - Article #803 

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