Friday, December 19, 2014

Gluten Free on the Disney Magic

Last week, we took a 7-night western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic.  Our previous 5 cruises on the Disney Cruise Line were all on the Disney Dream, which you can read about here.  

The Disney Magic, Disney's first cruise liner, was recently re-imagineered.  It is smaller than the Disney Dream, and less grand, but I enjoyed the more intimate feel of the ship, and that it had many fewer passengers.  My travel agent always notes my gluten/wheat "allergy" on my reservation, so that my service team is alerted ahead of time.  After boarding, I headed to Carioca's, which was open for lunch, to pre-order my dinner with one of the Head Servers.  I don't know if this step is necessary anymore, because the Disney Cruise Line is now marking gluten free items on their menus on all of their ships.  My friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW recently sailed on the Disney Dream, which now has gluten free and dairy free menu items listed on their menus.  

After pre-ordering my dinner at Carioca's, I met my family for lunch at Cabanas, an indoor/outdoor casual dining restaurant that features buffet dining for breakfast and lunch.  I always ask to speak to a chef, who gives me a tour of the gluten free options on the buffet, which are plentiful.  On the first day, I enjoyed lamb chops, salmon, french fries, and mashed potatoes.  Almost every day, both options at the carving station were gluten free.  One of my favorite lunches at Cabanas was a lamb curry dish with rice.  

On occasion, I will ask for food prepared in the back, like the sauteed shrimp and rice in the picture above.  Gluten free dessert options are usually limited to Enjoy Life cookies, but occasionally they will have other choices like chocolate mousse or jello.  You can also walk right outside of Cabanas to Eye Scream to get a cup of gluten free soft serve.  

The first night of our cruise, we dined at Animator's Palate, where we experienced the Drawn to Magic dinner show, which we enjoyed more than the Finding Nemo theme in this restaurant on the Disney Dream.  The only naturally gluten free appetizer was the smoked salmon tartar, which I tasted, but did not enjoy, so I was thankful I had pre-ordered the sliced serrano ham without the tomato bread.  For the soup & salads course, I chose the roasted red bell pepper, zucchini and red onion salad with aged balsamic dressing.  Minus the onion, I really enjoyed this dish and the serrano ham.  None of the main courses on the menu were listed as gluten free, but several vegetarian options and lighter note offerings were gluten free, like the jumbo shrimp salad, grilled grain-fed sirloin steak, slow roasted breast of chicken, and the oven baked fillet of salmon.  I had the slow roasted breast of chicken with a baked potato and vegetables, which was very bland, and something I would not order again.  For dessert, I chose the walnut cake, which was more of a chocolate mousse layered on top of chopped walnuts.  I loved that I got to choose it, unlike all my previous cruises, where my dessert was always a surprise, and I could never pre-order it.  My family raved about the no sugar added mango mousse, which was also gluten free, but I did not try it, because I avoid all sugar substitutes.  

For breakfast, we ate at Lumiere's every day, except our Castaway Cay day, when I dined at Carioca's, which was the only Main Dining restaurant open.  We always ordered a large assortment of fruit, like berries, kiwi, mango, papaya, and pineapple.  These items were not listed on the menu, but our server Pedro gladly arranged for them to be brought out at both breakfast and dinner for us.  Most days, I ordered poached eggs with bacon and sausage, and I also tried their gluten free pancakes, which are pretty good.  I pre-ordered all of my breakfasts at dinner the night before with Pedro.  Sadly, still no gluten free Mickey waffles, but they do have gluten free frozen waffles, muffins, and donuts available.  

One morning, I did allow our server to bring me a gluten free donut, but I prefer to start my day with a healthier breakfast.  

The next night of our rotational dining, we had dinner at Carioca's, which serves South American specialties.   My appetizer, the Peruvian Causa, which featured yellow, blue and white potato with cucumber, olive-tomato salsa and huancaina sauce was good, and so was my Havana-style black bean soup with olive oil. For a main course, I ordered the lobster, shrimp and salmon skewers with Peruvian quinoa, but I preferred the garlic rubbed roasted beef ribeye with jack cheese double baked potato and roasted vegetables that I shared with my brother.   

The highlight of my meal though was the Suspiro Alimenea, which is baked lemon cream, topped with port wine meringue and cinnamon.  It might have been my favorite dessert of the cruise.  

Night three, we dined at Lumiere's, which has a similar menu to the Royal Palace on the Disney Dream.  I didn't really enjoy my leek and potato soup, but the red wine bosc pear salad was delicious.  My filet was cooked and seasoned perfectly, and I finished my dinner with an amazing creme brulee. 

On night four, we were back at Animator's Palate, which featured a menu that was being served in all the Main Dining Restaurants that evening.  The one and only appetizer was gluten free, but the soup was not, so Pedro brought me a dish with tomatoes and goat cheese.  I enjoyed the shrimp & lobster, and small Caprese salad on my appetizer plate, but didn't try the duck.  For dinner, I ordered lamb with roasted vegetables, which was one of my favorite dinners on the cruise.  There weren't any gluten free dessert options on the menu, but Pedro brought me a beautiful dessert with layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse.  It was so good, I could have eaten it every night!  During our second meal at Animator's Palate, we got to experience the Animation Magic dinner show, where we drew our own characters, then got to watch them become a part of the show.  Everyone was so excited to see their drawings come to life, dancing with Disney characters on large screens on the walls.

We had dinner at Palo on Pirate's night, but rejoined my family for dinner at Carioca's on the 6th night of our cruise for the Captain's Gala.  I loved my two starters, the aged prosciutto served with sun-dried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and roasted garlic, and the Asian pear, sweet corn, and jicama slaw with avocado puree and lime vinaigrette.  I am glad I ordered two main courses, because I wasn't crazy about my oven-baked lobster tail.  I really liked the bean casserole and saffron rice that accompanied it, but the lemon butter that was served with the lobster tasted a little weird to me, maybe because it lacked salt.  My second entree was a vegetarian option, the green pea and fava bean risotto drizzled with pesto sauce.  It was creamy and full of flavor from the cheese and pesto sauce.  

For dessert, I chose the banana foster sundae, which was good, but I preferred the banana creme brulee my brother ordered.  I stole a few bites before he dug in, which thankfully he didn't mind, because he ordered two desserts.  

For our final dinner of the cruise, I ordered a gluten free version of the lobster bisque, which was not labeled gluten free on the menu.  I only took a few bites, because the soup did not appeal to me.  I also did not enjoy the main course I chose, the roasted red snapper served on a bed of fennel, olives, sweet peppers, and a Yukon Gold potato ragout with saffron broth.  Thankfully, my husband had pre-ordered the risotto we liked the night before.  All the gluten free desserts on the menu were also no sugar added, but Pedro brought me some chocolate mousse with berries.  The Till We Meet Again meal at Lumiere's was my least favorite dinner of the cruise, but it was nice to have a night where I didn't feel like I ate too much.  

Dining gluten free on the Disney Magic was a little easier than my previous cruises on the Disney Dream, because the Disney Cruise Line is now marking gluten free options on their menus.  Every night, four gluten free lighter note offering are available: grilled grain-fed sirloin steak, slow roasted breast of chicken, oven baked fillet of salmon, and a salad with either chicken or seafood.  These entrees, which are also dairy free except the salad, are served with garden vegetables and your choice of steamed white rice or baked potato.  There were also plenty of vegetarian options. 

Gluten free bread is available, but Disney Cruise Line is still using Ener-G rolls, which are not very good if they are not heated well, so I told our serving team not to bring me bread after the first night. 

The only food I ate on the ship that I brought with me were two cups of Canyon Oats sweet honey cinnamon oatmeal.  I wanted to make sure I had some lighter options on hand for breakfast if I was eating too much for lunch and dinner.  I was really worried going into this cruise that I would gain a lot of weight, which is certainly not ideal right before I start my Christmas baking, but I walked 4 miles every day on the ship, and managed to lose the one pound I gained as soon as I got back.

A big thank you to Pedro and Dharma, our server and assistant server, for making our cruise so special.  My whole family loved the 7-night cruise so much, we booked a cruise on the Disney Fantasy for January 2016.  


  1. I'm finding the GF markings both a blessing and a curse. Now I feel bad when I pre-order something that I know will take extra time for them to make, but it IS nice to be able to get a feel for if I even want to go to dinner that night. I agree with your "Lighter Offerings" notes, they are pretty bland - it's definitely better when I can pre-ordering something yummy! And yes, I'm enjoying them letting me choose desserts - I know that it's probably fun for the chefs to create something new and amazing, but sometimes I just want a Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bar (because then I can swirl the leftovers into my evening coffee, YUM!) :)