Diabetic Dining on the Disney Dream
by, 11-26-2011 at 10:10 PM
We've just indulged in that grand American tradition of feasting on Thanksgiving turkey. Our pants may still be feeling a bit snug, but it got me to thinking back on my recent Micechat trip on the Disney Dream last month. We all worry about the amount of food we’ll eat on a cruise and not be able to fit in our clothing as we waddle off the ship, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
I was diagnosed as a diabetic 7 years ago and this summer was prescribed my first type of insulin. I had managed fairly well over the years, but being a 4th generation diabetic, I always knew where I’d end up, thanks to my genes. With the insulin my doctor gave strict orders to avoid bread, pasta and potatoes. EEK! Those are staples in my book, but I have managed to cut most of them to a minimum. As I approached the Micechat Cruise, I was very worried that my glucose levels would sky rocket with the abundance of tempting food on board the Dream. I’ll be the first to admit, my willpower is weak around scrumptious food. My other weakness is all of those fancy umbrella drinks Disney Cruise Line concocts, which I am no longer able to enjoy due to the high sugar content.
Well, folks, let me tell you Disney Cruise Line does an outstanding job of offering food and drink choices that are conducive to my diabetic needs without sacrificing any of the “fru-fru” quality. Let’s take a look at diabetic dining on the Dream. We'll start with the beverages.
The drink station (located on deck 11) has both Diet Coke and Sprite Zero as options, so I could easily have a soft drink just like everyone else. At dinner, the same soft drinks were available along with iced tea, hot tea, coffee and water. I did find a nice “mocktail” that was refreshing and made me still feel like a grown-up. I’d ask for cranberry juice with a splash of soda water and a lime, which most folks call a cranberry spritzer, but be warned if you ask for that you may get some vodka in your drink. At breakfast, I found a selection of juices, hot teas, coffee, and milk - so I didn’t have any problems finding the right beverage, nor did I become bored by drinking the same old thing at every meal.
For quick food options, there were an abundance of choices on deck 11 at Flo’s Café, where you’ll find Tow Mater’s Grill, Luigi’s Pizzeria, and Filmore’s Favorites. At Tow Mater’s Grill there was a delicious grilled chicken sandwich I ordered without the bun. At the the topping bar, found carrot and celery sticks. Fillmore’s Favorites offered lighter items such as salads and wraps.
Another buffet option is Cabanas, which is set up with a nice variety including Deep Sea (subs and sandwiches), Neptune’s Italian, Paradise Pizza, Sea Gull Grill and a dessert station. I found the fish choices to be very tasty along with the great choice of vegetable dishes and salads.
On Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, you’ll find Cookie’s BBQ buffet (serving grilled burgers, chicken, hot dogs and fish). I found the grilled red snapper to be a perfect choice along with the tomato, cucumber and onion salad, and fresh fruit. I did indulge in a couple BBQ ribs and wasn’t disappointed. The sauce is pretty sweet, so I didn’t eat too many. . . really I didn't.
I did have room service delivered on a couple of occasions, and I’ve got to say this is the only area the Dream is lacking in diabetic friendly options. The breakfast choices, unless you’re in a concierge stateroom, are mostly carb laden croissants, bagels, and muffins. They do offer a fruit bowl, but it was mostly cantaloupe, of which I am not a fan. However, the room service options for the remainder of the day were greatly improved with salads, sandwiches, cheese plate, soups, etc. I split the Caesar salad and All Hands on Deck cheese plate with my sister.
There were two occasions my traveling companions and I had breakfast in the Royal Garden restaurant - on our day at sea and disembarkation day. Naturally, the selections are greater on the sea day menu as the crew isn’t trying to turn the ship around for the next cruise (that final meal on disembarkation morning is a bit of a whirlwind for staff and passengers). On the sea day, I was able to get an egg white omelet with ham and a small amount of cheese with a side of bacon. It came with one of those fast food looking hash browns that I despise, so it just sat on the plate lonely as could be. On disembarkation day the menu was pretty basic, but still diabetic friendly with scrambled eggs, meat choices, coffee and juices.
For main dining, we ate at Animator’s Palate on the first night, where I had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes - pasta purse filled with truffled cheese and coated with a delicate champagne sauce for my appetizer. I did only eat one of these and shared with my 3 traveling companions. The dish was divine and I happily would’ve eaten all of it, but didn’t because of the pasta I’d be having with my entrée. Next I chose the Curly Endive, Arugula and Watercress Salad - sliced peaches, toasted almonds and tossed with sherry vinaigrette. Despite being a more health conscious choice, I didn’t personally care for it as much as I had anticipated. For my entrée I chose Animator's Trio of Veal - grilled tenderloin, pulled shank and tortellacci pasta with a sun-dried tomato and sage reduction and garnished with a potato crisp. This was an excellent dish with a minimal amount of pasta.
For dessert, I had Dense Chocolate Cake (essentially a brownie) with caramel sauce and whipped cream - which was one of two no sugar added options. This was amazing! I felt like I was being so bad by eating something so decadent . . . but I wasn't!
The second night in the Enchanted Garden, turned out to be my favorite of the main dining rooms. The decor is absolutely lovely with the feel of a solarium and fantastic food! My appetizer for the evening was North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli - with roasted garlic and sweet basil in a light tomato broth, which was, as they say, to die for!
I’m so glad there were only 2 raviolis because I could have eaten this as an entrée. I had the Creamy Tomato and Basil soup next, which wasn’t too heavy on the cream and just tangy enough from the roasted tomatoes. Again a big hit with me! For the entrée, I had Caramelized Sea Scallops with roasted asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and pearl pasta, garnished with caramelized leeks and veal jus reduction. I am very picky about my scallops (as overcooked or undercooked just ruins them for me), but these were very good.
Scallops and pearl pasta
There was so much on my plate that I only tasted the pearl pasta and left most behind. Again, there were two choices for my no sugar added dessert and I chose the Silky Dark Chocolate Mousse - with whipped cream and berries. Even my chocoholic teenager traveling companions chose this and we were all mighty pleased!
The third night of the four-night cruise was Pirates in the Caribbean night and the menu is the same in all three of the main dining restaurants. Our rotation placed us in the Royal Palace for this celebration. Wanting to be different from my table mates, I chose Pirates Golden "Pot Stickers" - oriental pork "dumplings" served with a tamarind-ginger soy sauce and pickled vegetables.
This is one of the few dining disappointments I experienced on the cruise, as the dish wasn’t much tastier than what I can get at my local Chinese restaurant at home. However, I did snitch a taste of the Black Beard's Jumbo Crab Cake - with golden raisin-carrot and coconut slaw served with a spicy Calypso dressing and was quite jealous. The bite was full of crab and very little filler…excellent! I decided on a salad, Mr. Smee's Bibb Lettuce Salad with baby greens, chicory, tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and raspberry vinaigrette. It’s a very nice salad punctuated with a bit of spice from the chicory. For my entrée, I went with the fish dish, Captain Hook's Macadamia Nut-dusted Mahi Mahi - Jasmine rice and sautéed pineapple on a mild curry sauce.
The mahi-mahi was flaky and good, but the crust was a bit too thick for my taste, so I scrapped most of it off to the side. As usual, there were two no sugar added dessert choices, but I’m not a fan of bananas nor was I in the mood for angel food cake with berries. Instead I was truly bad and picked from the regular options. The Floating Island was a crisp meringue with vanilla anglaise and marinated fruits. It was most definitely sugar laden, but so heavenly! I just walked a few more decks that night to burn off as much of the sugar as possible (that works, right?!).
Our final night, we were again in the Royal Garden, but with the standard menu. To begin with, I had the Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp with white and green asparagus, micro greens, and lemon-dill dressing in a horseradish cream for an appetizer. This was perfectly chilled and tasty! My soup choice was a no brainer for me…Belle's French Onion Soup with Gruyere cheese crouton. It was a diabetic friendly soup, but I wasn’t thrilled with the flavor. To me it seemed to be lacking some sherry, which I always add to my French onion soup. For my final entrée I chose the Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Lobster Medallions - sautéed snow peas and marquis potatoes with a cognac reduction.
Grilled beef Tenderloin
I requested it cooked medium rare and it was perfect! Because of the abundance of food for the meal, it was again, easy to only taste the potatoes and leave most of them behind. The no sugar added desserts looked fabulous and I opted for Chocolate Ganache served with Breton Sable and mango coulis. This was the best of the best in my book! However, as the infectious nature of my new found Micechatter friends found it’s way to me, I splurged and had a second dessert, Grand Marnier Soufflé infused with fresh orange zest and served with crème Anglaise, which was just as delightful as I remembered from a previous Disney cruise in my pre-diabetic days.
Along with each evening’s menu, there were two additional diabetic main entree choices, a baked salmon and an oven roasted chicken. I didn’t feel that the regular menu options were lacking for my diabetic needs, as there was always a protein dish with sides or a vegetarian dish that I might choose. However, for a person with more specific dietary needs you can let your travel agent or representative know what they are when you make your reservation. Once your agent notes this on the reservation, you may need to speak directly with the Food and Beverage team on the ship. The team is typically located in Rockin’ Bar D, WaveBands, or D Lounge depending upon the ship you're on (you'll want to visit between 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm on the day you arrive). Any of the ship's staff can point you in the right direction. It’s not a bad idea to remind your specific servers on the first night of dining as well - and since your servers follow you from night to night, it makes handling special dietary needs a cinch to manage.
Now, you’re probably wondering if I gained weight on my cruise with all that delicious food I had. I’ll honestly tell you I don’t know for sure because I didn’t weigh before or after the cruise. But I don’t feel as though I did because my clothes fit comfortably. What I can tell you is that my glucose levels remained in the same range as they were prior to the cruise and even began to dip a little lower. I’m sure it helped that I had someone preparing my meals for me and that I was more active on the ship than I am in a normal day at home. So, if the decadent menus have you too worried about not being able to remain healthy and eat right on a Disney cruise, forget it and go have a magical cruise! It is possible . . . and delicious.
Laura is a Disney fan who lives in Illinois and has been visiting Disney Parks since 1990. She has been to Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line numerous times since. Laura teaches a community education course entitled "Walt Disney World: Undiscovered" at her local college. When she's not busy planning her own Disney trips, Laura is planning trips for others as one of the Fairy Godmothers at Fairy Godmother Travel. Laura is a foodie, married to Eric with a college age son, Nic, and in her spare time works as a sign language interpreter. You can reach Laura or any of the other godmother travel agents at Fairy Godmother Travel.