Tiana’s Place is a table service restaurant themed to Princess and the Frog featuring meet & greet characters and a live band aboard Disney Cruise Line. We’ve dined at Tiana’s Place aboard the Wonder a few times, and will share food photos, atmosphere & entertainment impressions, and food thoughts. (Updated April 19, 2021.)
At Disneyland, that presents a great opportunity for Tiana’s Place to finally happen. It might sound like heresy, but if the Country Bears are never going to return (and honestly, they aren’t) we wouldn’t mind seeing Tiana’s Place replace Hungry Bear Restaurant. At Walt Disney World, there’s an even better spot for Tiana’s Place, and it’s nowhere near Magic Kingdom…
Walt Disney World’s perfect location for Tiana’s Place is hiding in plain sight. Many fans have probably never heard of Bonfamille’s Café in the lobby of Port Orleans French Quarter. That’s because it’s a defunct table service restaurant, which was closed following the post-9/11 tourism dip.
With Port Orleans French Quarter still closed and no reopening date set in 2021, now would be the perfect time for Imagineering to go in and revitalize that unused space. It could be reimagined into Tiana’s Place, taking a Topolino’s Terrace-like approach with a character breakfast and more sophisticated dinner. This would be a big draw for French Quarter, and would undoubtedly help with bookings.
That’s significant because Reflections was intended to be the home of a waterfront Princess and the Frog dining experience. This restaurant was to be located “along the bayou of Bay Lake” and feature a modern interior. Concept art was shown for this at the last D23 Expo, and the restaurant took literally no visual cues from the movie. We’re actually pretty happy that project isn’t moving forward, and we hope this opens the door for Tiana’s Place where it makes infinitely more sense, at Port Orleans French Quarter!
Let’s move on from our armchair Imagineering to the actual substance of this review. If you’re not familiar with Disney Cruise Line restaurants, one thing to note is that all of the rotational dining has a utilitarian vibe. This isn’t to say the restaurants are not well-themed, it’s just that they are cavernous, single-room restaurants. They all feature a lot of wide open space in the middle and are designed to serve a lot of people each night.
Tiana’s Place is no different. It’s open and expansive, but to the extent that it can be, it has a sense of intimacy and charm. Right from the entrance, you’re greeted by brick, lacy iron scrollwork, and beads emblematic of New Orleans’ French Quarter.
There, you’re also greeted by the restaurant’s marquee–a large “Tiana’s Place” that you could easily envision atop the restaurant’s exterior…if this weren’t on a cruise ship.
In this same area, there are also several smaller details easily lost as guests race inside for their seating, trying to finish in time for the evening’s entertainment.
Here, you’ll also find a nod to New Orleans Square, framed paintings, photos, newspaper clippings, and personal belongings of the characters. We won’t spoil them, but there are a ton of fun easter eggs from the Princess and the Frog so be sure to spend some time in the lobby and area around the podium.
I don’t think this level of detail exists in any other rotational restaurant on any Disney Cruise Line ship. These are really nice touches, and establish a ‘homey’ sensibility from the outset.
This first impression is crucial, as the interior is relatively low-key. Even then, anyone who has stayed at either Port Orleans Resort should notice the same sort of Southern charm in the flourishes.
From the ornate light fixtures to the chairs to the fanciful paneling along the walls. It all goes to subtly reinforce a Southern sensibility.
This could be accomplished better in a smaller, multi-room restaurant, but it works very well even in the rotational dining Disney Cruise Line setting.
Moreover, since this is part meal, part dinner show, perhaps the expansive single room is the right approach, irrespective of the operational needs of DCL.
Speaking of the entertainment, that’s unquestionably the highlight of Tiana’s Place. The Crawfish Crooners are the house band, and they perform on a dedicated stage at the rear of Tiana’s Place. They perform two sets over the course of each dinner seating, amounting to around an hour total.
The Crawfish Crooners were joined on stage by a walk-around Tiana performer, who performed a few familiar songs during each meal. While the Crawfish Crooners are talented musicians on their own, Tiana was a show-stealer during both of our meals. She had exceptional stage presence, and commanded the attention of every guest while she was on-stage.
When Tiana was not performing, she was mingling around the tables, welcoming guests to her restaurant. We watched her for a bit and noticed that this wasn’t a typical character meal, as Tiana was more about the interactions. She wasn’t stopping for photos unless guests explicitly requested a photo.
Also present as a more traditional ‘smile and pose’ character is Louis the trumpet playing alligator from the Princess & the Frog. The differing approaches of the two characters struck a nice balance, and kept the energy of the restaurant high.
Our second meal at Tiana’s Place had even more energy than the first, as that was when we did the Mardi Gras Parade, which included dancing around the restaurant. It was an absolute hoot–probably the most convivial meal we’ve had aboard any Disney Cruise Line ship.
Okay, that’s a lot on the atmosphere of the restaurant…what about the food? To be entirely honest, I’m not entirely sure how useful our informative this review will be in that regard. As this was the Alaskan cruise, we had special ‘regional inspiration’ menu items each night, and we tried to focus on those.
With that said, the standard menu items we tried were fairly hit or miss. One fairly consistent criticism we had of the menu that the dishes were consistently mild. When we think of creole cuisine, mild is not typically the word that comes to mind.
Now, we understand that this needs to be a crowd-pleasing restaurant, but this surpassed even World Showcase in terms of making these dishes inoffensive to the simplest palates. In so doing, they made the food lackluster to all palates. In fact, our first meal at Tiana’s Place was our least favorite food-wise of the entire cruise. The second meal was better, but still not up to Disney Cruise Line standards.
I’d like to think this was a “two-off” or the result of inconsistencies in the kitchen, but choosing to omit spices seems like a pretty deliberate thing, and we found this to be the case with several different dishes. We still enjoyed our meals, but the choice to skew so far towards bland was a bummer. Include safe options if the goal is to not alienate guests–don’t dumb down cajun cooking.
In any case, here are some food photos of what we ordered:
Overall, Tiana’s Place was an exceptional dinner experience thanks to the live band, Princess Tiana, and Mardi Gras fun. It has a great energy that works perfectly in this venue, and we really enjoyed both of our meals here for that reason. Our food was hit or miss and generally on the mild side, but we’d still rate Tiana’s Place as the second-best of Disney Cruise Line’s rotational dining options thanks to the superb entertainment and ambiance.
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Have you dined at Tiana’s Place? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the atmosphere and cuisine? Did you know it was Palace and not Place at the end of the film? Are you interested in eating here? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!