This Palo Review covers dinner on the Disney Magic. On this ship, Palo is an optional, adults-only fine dining restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine on Aft Deck 10. There are versions of Palo on each of the Disney Cruise Line ships, and it’s always located on the topmost aft deck. Palo offers picturesque ocean views from virtually everywhere in the restaurant. As an optional, adults-only fine dining experience, there is $25 per guest surcharge if guests make reservations for Palo.
While the other Disney Cruise Line restaurants on the Magic are each nice and have their own allure, the difference at Palo is apparent as soon as you arrive on Aft Deck 10. The entire area has a muted color scheme and looks elegant by comparison. This difference is apparent inside the restaurant, as well. While the other restaurants do a good job masking the fact that they are large, high-capacity eating areas, Palo feels quieter and more intimate.
For Walt Disney World veterans, here’s some perspective: Lumiere’s is like Be Our Guest Restaurant (large and loud–but nice) whereas Palo is like California Grill (smaller and nicer). In both cases, the analogies only extend to ambiance, and both Lumiere’s and Palo offer superior ambiance to their Walt Disney World analogues.
The difference in ambiance is also apparent in other guests at Palo. Not only are there no children, but Palo has a dress code that is strictly enforced. That means slacks/khakis and a collared shirt or sport coat for men, and the same (or a dress) for women. No flip flops, shorts, torn clothing, jeans, etc. If guests do not have appropriate attire, Palo has slacks and coats available, but I personally wouldn’t want to wear pants that have been worn by others.
Decor throughout the restaurant is elegant yet understated. There are masks at the entrance and vases with fresh-cut flowers in the restaurant, but otherwise, the elegant feel is mostly conveyed through color choice, upholstery, and the flowing, fluid design of the restaurant. It’s definitely more inviting than Victoria & Albert’s, but it’s still quite clearly a fine dining restaurant in terms of style and design.
Let’s take a look at the ambiance and decor of the restaurant…
Before we discuss the particular dishes we ordered, let’s talk service. This is something we normally skip in Disney dining reviews because we feel that service is hit or miss, and not useful to readers since your experiences are likely to differ from ours. We are confident this is not the case with Palo. The service here at both of our meals was first-class all the way. Our server, Andrea, was superb. He was well-versed in the menu, made excellent recommendations, and was incredibly professional without being stuffy. (I’m sure everyone who eats at Palo thinks their server is the best; still, we highly recommend requesting Andrea if you dine at Palo on the Disney Magic.)
Other members of the staff we encountered were also excellent, and Chef Silvio was also great. He was incredibly friendly with Sarah and me as we chatted during dinner and brunch. He ‘secretly’ gave me a fresh-cut rose to give to Sarah after dinner and at the end of the cruise left a ‘Magic Moment’ certificate for us outside our stateroom. While the cuisine was great, the service made the meal at Palo special.
We ate a lot at Palo (you’re not limited in how much you can order, and we have the stomachs of competitor eaters), so we’ll cover each item with relative brevity. We suspect the menu changes regularly (?) anyway, so reviews of specific items may not be all that useful to you, anyway. (I forgot to take photos of the menu, so I’m assuming the menu descriptions Disney lists are accurate.)
You’re probably going to get tired of words like “rich,” “flavorful,” and “decadent” but those are my three go-to words that pretty much encapsulate the experience at Palo. The presentation of each dish speaks for itself, and the complex flavors of each dish are difficult to articulate. Suffice to say, Palo is not your typical American-faux-Italian restaurant.
This is the Palo Martini. It’s a mix of Absolut Pear, Limoncello, and some other stuff. It’s, as they say, the bomb. Disney Cruise Line has drink stations on the ship were you can get soft drinks, coffee, and other stuff. We’d pay a decent premium if they included this bad boy on the adult deck. Now that would get the party started! 😉
The meal started with a bread course, but knowing that there were no limits on what else we could order, we only each had one piece. This took some restraint, as the breads and dipping sauces were excellent. Next, an antipasta cart was brought out to our table, and a plate consisting of prosciutto, bresaola, parmesan reggiano, marinated olives and sun-dried tomatoes was prepared for us. These starters were excellent–fresh and full of rich flavor.
Next up were the appetizers. This is Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta with a Roasted Shallot Sauce. We both love portobello, and this did not disappoint. The portobello was perfectly cooked and the polenta and the creamy shallot sauce made it absolutely decadent. Highly recommended.
Here’s the Fritto di Calamari. You can never go wrong with calamari, which is always just varying degrees of delicious. The calamari here was tender and lightly breaded. If you like calamari, definitely order it.
After the appetizers, our server brought out a palate cleanser.
The Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli was recommended by our server, and we’re glad we ordered it. There was ample lobster in this, and the flavors balanced perfectly. It’s a relatively small portion, but we think this is the perfect dish to order to share since it’s so rich. We can’t recommend this enough.
The Tuna on a bed of Linguini Pasta with Artichokes and a Tarragon Veal jus was good, but it was the one item that didn’t knock our socks off. For tuna, I thought it had good flavor and it’d be a dish we’d recommend virtually anywhere else, but at Palo, there are better options. Next time we’d skip this and instead get the Beef Tenderloin.
The Garlic Roasted Rack of Lamb Served with Barolo Roasted Shallots, Crunched Potatoes and Herb jus was the highlight of the meal. This is unquestionably the best lamb I’ve ever had, and in retrospect, we both wish we had each ordered our own. The garlic gave a perfect flavor to the lamb, which was a tender cut, perfectly cooked. We highly, highly recommend ordering this. (My mouth is watering as I type this.)
Our server highly recommended the Chocolate Souffle, and it did not disappoint. It took 20 minutes to prepare, and was every bit worth it. The souffle came out hot, and the server poured vanilla and chocolate sauces into it when it arrived at the table. It was rich, but so good that we each could have had our own.
Palo’s Homemade Tiramisu was another excellent dessert. It was light with a perfect texture and great taste. A bit unconventional for a tiramisu, I’d put it right up there with the souffle, even if the tiramisu doesn’t have nearly the same “status” as being a fan-favorite Palo dessert.
I don’t recall the name of this dessert (it might be the Chocolate Amaretto Indulgence, but I don’t recall much of an Amaretto flavor), but it was a milk chocolate mousse topped with a cannoli in a gorgeous presentation. I really like this dessert as well, although Sarah indicated that she would have preferred dark chocolate.
Based on our research before the cruise, it appears that the champagne brunch that Palo offers during a day at sea is the more in-demand choice for cruisers than dinner. This could be because it has less capacity (dinner at Palo is offered nightly, versus days at sea for the brunch) or it could be because savvy cruisers realize that they’ll be missing a “free” meal at one of the rotational restaurants by doing Palo for dinner. While this logic makes sense, we highly recommend doing dinner at Palo.
We did both dinner and brunch, and while both experiences are phenomenal, we give the edge to dinner. It’s a more intimate, personalized experience, with your server spending more time with you. We also feel that the food is slightly better at dinner. Both brunch and dinner are foodie experiences, but there’s something to be said for solely prepared to order dining versus a mix of that and a buffet. This is absolutely no knock on brunch–spoiler–it will earn a 10/10 from us too, but the 10/10 that dinner is earning is a slightly ‘better’ one, if that makes sense.
If you’re going on a longer cruise, book Palo dinner after night 3. This ensures that you’ll have the full experience of your initial dining rotation (it’s our understanding that the Animator’s Palate show only occurs the first time you dine there). If you’re going on a short cruise, book it on a night when the Pirates party is not occurring. This is what we did, booking Palo for night one. When we got on-board and received our dining rotation card, we noticed that we were assigned Animator’s Palate on our Palo night. We went down to Dining Services to request a new rotation that began with Carioca’s, and we were accommodated. Our reason for this was that we’ve heard Carioca’s is the least impressive of the dining experiences, so that’s the one we wanted to miss. Although we can’t speak to the quality of Carioca’s (we’ll try it next time and report back), based on our experiences at Lumiere’s, Animator’s Palate, and Palo, we are confident that this was the right decision for us.
Overall, Palo is the best Disney restaurant at which we’ve dined outside of Victoria & Albert’s. Some guests are likely to balk at the additional cost of Palo, especially given the opportunity to dine in a nice, no additional cost restaurant in its place. We fully believe that Palo is well worth the additional cost and highly recommend it for any couple looking for a romantic meal or foodies wanting a fine dining experience. Our total for the meal was just over $100 ($50 for the surcharge, plus drinks, and additional (optional) gratuity), and we feel it was well worth the added cost. Since it’s a fine dining experience highlighting sophisticated flavor and presentation, don’t be afraid to take your time at Palo and order an extra entree (or two), fully enjoying it for all it has to offer. The incredible service, atmosphere, and cuisine are all virtually unparalleled, and we now cannot imagine doing Disney Cruise Line without a meal at Palo.
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Have you dined at Palo? What did you think of it? If so, what did you like? Did you think it was worth the extra cost? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!