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Sunday, August 20, 2023

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 4] Palo Brunch & Pirate Night

On Day 4 of our New Year's Cruise, the Disney Fantasy arrived in Grand Cayman. After dealing with tender boats and a mostly closed port the week prior on our Celebrity Summit cruise, I was happy with our decision to stay on the ship today.


We started our day with 10AM brunch at Palo, one of the two adult-only restaurants on the Disney Fantasy. In the past, I've had not-so-great dinner experiences at Palo, but we really enjoyed brunch at Palo on the Disney Dream.

Palo Brunch can be a difficult reservation to get. The trick is that it is much easier to book on a Port Day than a Sea Day. If you really want to dine at Palo for brunch, I would recommend booking on a port day for a port of call you've experienced several times already (Nassau and Cozumel are also great choices).


We waited briefly in Meridian Lounge before being seated.


We were in port with Celebrity Reflection.


We were seated at a round table that was elevated and in a little alcove. It was a little weird, like we were on stage. I would've preferred to be by the window with a view outside.

Our server was Ian from South Africa, and he was pretty much always there... refilling water glasses, switching out silverware... did he have any other tables??


You can order as much as you want at Palo Brunch. They did away with the serve-yourself buffet portion of the brunch post-Covid, and I've read a lot of comments from people online who miss it and don't think Palo Brunch is as good of a value without it. Personally, I don't like serving myself buffet-style, so I did not miss it.


At Palo Brunch, you can order whatever you want and as much as you want. You can also choose to split things or share if you'd like to taste several different dishes. The pacing is also your choice, too - you can start out with a few things for the table, or you could start by ordering everything all at once. There's a lot of flexibility, and it seems like they will accommodate almost any timing/order request.


We started with both antipasti selections to share - the Jonah Crab Claw, Lemon-Marinated Shrimp, Marinated Green Lip Mussels, Spiced Ahi Tuna, Gravlax served with Meyer Lemon, Saffron Aioli, Dill Honey Mustard and Cocktail Sauce. Rachel liked the tuna and shrimp from this antipasti the best.


We also tried the Sliced Prosciutto, Sliced Coppa, Sliced Bresaola, Salame Gentile, Marinated Cerignola Olives, Roasted Garlic, Caciotta a Tartufo, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Sweet Pepperdew.



For our next dishes, we chose from the "Eggs," "Soups," and "Waffles & Pancakes" portions of the menu. and chose items to split between couples. We later selected two flatbreads to share.

I ordered the Zucchini Frittata and was surprised by how large it was. I found it to be a little dry and thought could've used a sauce on the side.


Aaron had the Poached Eggs on Toasted Buttered English Muffin with Rosemary Ham (this was the portion size I was expecting for the frittata). He said that it was great and could really taste the rosemary in the ham.


I got the Heirloom Tomato and Basil Soup which was good but nothing special.


Aaron had the Celery Soup with Spiced Italian Sausage which he said tasted like a big bowl of cream. There was no celery flavor, and the sausage didn't seem to work with the soup. He thought it would have been better if the sausage was crumbled and cooked in with the cream.


Aaron and I split the Apple Cinnamon Waffle. It comes in a fun Mickey shape, and the quality of the waffle is very good. Per Aaron, "You could put charcoal on that waffle and it would still be tasty."



We ordered a flatbread half and half to split among the table - the Spicy Italian Sausage Flatbread and the Grape Gorgonzola Flatbread (special item not on menu). The Grape Gorgonzola flatbread had its own flavor that worked well together like PB&J.

We did not finish all of the pizza, and I asked Ian if we could get the remaining slices to go, and he responded that the flatbread tastes best at the temperature it was prepared at. I told him that I was sure it tasted good next day and cold, too. I understand not wanting to send me with a rare steak or eggs to-go, but this is pizza! Cold pizza is a thing! He begrudgingly agreed and packaged it up. Then later, our stateroom attendant threw it away that evening, and I was annoyed that I didn't have breakfast pizza for the next day.


Judy and Stove were the only ones who ordered from the "Entrees" section of the menu.

Judy had the Lasagna Bolognese which she said, "will clog your arteries."


Stove with with the Veal Saltimbocca which he raved about. He said it was his favorite part of the entire meal.




At this point, we weren't really hungry for dessert, but when in Palo...

Warm Amaretto Chocolate Fondant with Double Chocolate Sauce, Hazelnut Gelato, and Mocha Chocolate Soil -


Italian Zabaglione with Fresh Berries, Marsala Wine, and Biscotti -


Final thoughts - Aaron wished that he was hungrier, and thought that our dining time was too early (you really just get whatever time you can nab, though, with how popular it is). He thought that it was a mismatch of food, and that the pizza didn't really fit with the rest of the menu. After reflecting more, I think that mismatched food is kind of what (American) brunch is all about, and I thought the menu was screaming, "Brunch! Brunch! I am Brunch!" It's interesting that the menu is a very Americanized version of brunch when Palo is an Italian restaurant. I know all too well the battle of Creative intent versus Operations, and I see that Cruise Line is not exempt from this struggle.

My verdict is that I do not think that Palo Brunch is worth its $45 upcharge. When it was $20-25 per person, I considered it a great value. When it was $30-35 per person, I thought that it was getting a little close to the threshold. Now that it's $45 per person... nah, that's it for me. You can get great quality food in other locations on the ship, and there are so many other themed dining rooms with unique menus that I don't really need to go to Palo. Not to mention, I actually prefer the type of service I receive in the rotational dining rooms to the service I receive in Palo. I've dined in Palo on different ships for brunch and dinner, and 3 out of 4 of the times, I felt pretentious vibes from the servers.


Still, I had no regrets with staying on the ship in Grand Cayman.



When we returned to our room, there was a gift for us.


A commemorative lithograph and sturdy cardboard to pack it in so it doesn't bend - how nice!



We also received bandanas for Pirate Night -


Since we only had an hour or so until our scheduled Champagne Tasting, we didn't really have time to hit the pool deck. Aaron and I decided to tackle some laundry.


We packed our own detergent sheets, so we did not need to purchase detergent.

You pay for your machine on the kiosk with your Key to the World Card, and it's synced to the app so that the app will actually notify you when your load is finished.


The machines are very small, and the dryers did not work well. We ran the dryer a few times, but it just would not dry our clothes. We ended up having to hang our clothes up all over our stateroom to dry.



Now back to vacation...


The Champagne Tasting Seminar was held in Ooh La La in Europa District. We paid $50 per person (Note: as of May 25, 2023, the Champagne Tasting now costs $70 per person) which was more than we paid for Palo Brunch. We did the Champagne Tasting on our Disney Wonder Test Cruise and were surprised by how much we enjoyed it.

The Champagne Tasting was led by Eka from the Philippines. I was pleasantly surprised that the material she covered differed from our Champagne Tasting on the Wonder.


They had already set the table with chocolate and fruits. We did not have food pairing on the Disney Wonder, so this was a fun surprise.


The table was set when we arrived with two pre-poured glasses per person which were already starting to condensate. This was different than on the Wonder when they poured them glass by glass.


Our first Champagne was Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut.


Eka explained how smaller bubbles indicate better quality. Or, in other words, "Big bubbles, big headache!"

Champagne allows three different grape varieties - Chardonnay (body), Pinot Noir (red grape), and Pinot Meunier (balance).

Pairing champagne with chocolate can balance out the acidity. Eka instructed us to take a bite of the chocolate, then a sip of champagne.


Our next champagne was Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut which we paired with the chocolate macaron. Popcorn and cheese are also good champagne pairings.


Our next class was the Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rose. The pink color is produced through maceration, a process in which they soak crushed red grapes to allow the grape skin to color the juice. The process can last anywhere from a few hours to 48 hours, depending on the style of rose. The longer the maceration period, the darker the rose. Once the skins have macerated, the juice is drained from the skins and fermented to make rose.


We paired the rose with strawberry.


Our next champagne was Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee which was served in a wine glass. Eka explained that it needs to be in a big glass so that we can taste the aromas trapped inside the bottle.



Our final champagne was Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial. It's also served in a wine glass, over ice to cut the sweetness and create a smoother taste.


We added the raspberries to the Moet Ice.


Moet Ice Imperial is Judy's new drink of choice, thanks to the Champagne Tasting!


Champagne can be paired with any kind of food. It's quite a versatile drink when it comes to food pairings.

Eka taught us how to elegantly open a champagne bottle. The pressure inside a Champagne bottle is roughly 6 bar (90 psi). While keeping pressure on the cork with one hand, use your other hand to slowly twist the small "key" sticking out from the cage six times counterclockwise, then slowly remove the cage while keeping pressure on the cork. Cover your hand with a napkin/towel, then keep the bottle at a 45-degree angle with one hand holding the cork as you slowly twist the bottom of the bottle to you. Voila!


I enjoyed the Champagne Tasting Seminar, and I appreciate that the content was different than what we covered on the Wonder. I do think that Cadillac Lounge on the Wonder is better suited as a "classroom" for a seminar. Aaron and I were seated in the back, and the configuration of the tables made it a little difficult to see and hear.

What also made it difficult to hear was a party that was seated opposite the room from us who weren't interested in the educational aspect. They chatted among themselves while Eka was speaking. It really seemed like they just came there to drink.... in which case, I think they'd get better value by just going to a bar instead of a seminar.

I think the Champagne Tasting is a good value for $50. You receive 5 glasses, so that's roughly $10 per glass of quality Champagne. Now that it's $70 per person, that's about $14 per glass... which is no longer under market value. You can purchase a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for $50 (Costco and BevMo regularly have this deal) which has about 5 glasses, so roughly $10 per glass just to purchase it from the store and try it at home yourself. More expensive Bollinger Special Cuvee and Moet & Chandon Imperial Ice run around $70-90 per bottle, so I suppose there is still value-add there.

From a learning and exploratory perspective, I would still recommend the Champagne Tasting. But it's definitely getting up there in cost, so if you already know that you like champagne, it may be better value to just buy your own bottles.


After the Champagne Tasting, we headed up to the Quiet Cove for some sunshine and to watch the ships leave port.



We stepped into the Quiet Cove Cafe and noticed the vast Champagne offerings. I never would have guessed that this would be a great place to get a glass of Champagne -


Time to get ready for Pirate Night! We wanted to make sure that we were dressed in time for Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Show.

My Pirate Hat Headband is from Amazon. I got my red and white striped boatneck shirt from Amazon years ago, and it's unfortunately no longer available, but this cute short sleeve red and white striped boatneck is similar. My black vegan leather shorts were from Abercrombie & Fitch in 2021 - no longer available from A&F in stores, but I've seen them available second-hand on ThredUp (use my referral link for 45% off and free shipping on your first order).


Aaron was Captain Hook for Halloween, but he told me that he was tired of dressing like a pirate and that he would make do with the free bandanas they give you. Fair enough.


Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Show takes place earlier in the evening (before dinner) and features Mickey Mouse and the gang.


We scored an awesome viewing location above the stage.


It's a cute, fun deck show and a great way to see all of the characters dressed in their pirate attire.


The characters enter the stage from the stairs on Deck 10, so if you want a close-up of the characters, this is a great spot.



Mickey and the Crew take us through Pirate Academy and teach us how to be pirates.


Then suddenly we are interrupted...


Enter our villain, Captain Hook -


Uh-oh! Hook and Smee have tied up the ship's Crew!


Not so fast, Hook! Our fearless leader, Captain Mickey, challenges Hook to a Captain's Challenge!


If Hook wins, Mickey walks the plank (oh no)! If Mickey wins, Hook will see himself out while we all chant, "Hook is a codfish!" The bet is a little lopsided, but luckily, this is Mickey's ship! And we just went through the Pirate Academy, so everything that we need to know to make sure that Mickey wins the challenge is fresh in our brains.


HOOK IS A CODFISH! HOOK IS A CODFISH! The embarrassment is a far worse punishment for Hook than something more noble like walking the plank.


This is my favorite Pirate Night Deck Show. I find it far superior to the show featuring Captain Jack Sparrow. It's also much less crowded and easier to get a good viewing location.


After the deck show, we headed to Skyline Lounge to get pre-dinner martinis.


Unfortunately, the lounge was hoppin' and service was slow, so we ended up having to take our drinks to go.

Judy also got her Pirate Hat from Amazon. It came as a headband, and she added the lace that matched her vest. She also removed the headband piece and stitched a barrette on the underside, then added bobby pins through the lace to keep it in place.


If you're looking for a pirate-themed shirt, you can get Landon's Short Sleeve Pirate Skull Button Up on Amazon.


Tonight, we returned to Royal Court for dinner. Remember how on Night 1 we had the special New Year's Eve Dinner? It threw off our servers a little for the first night (we didn't really notice - they told us this), but in this case, I think we majorly lucked out. Instead of getting the Pirate Night menu (my least favorite menu), tonight's menu was Royal Dinner (which would have been served on our first night in Royal Court, had we not had the New Year's Eve menu).

Aaron and I both started with Gaston's Escargot Gratinee which was much better than the escargot we had the week prior on Celebrity.


Rachel had the Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp. She said that it was better than the shrimp she ate earlier in Palo that morning.


I had the Farmhouse Salad. I appreciate the salad variety on DCL.


Not sure who had the Chateaubriand-Roasted Filet Steak because I don't have any notes on this. Possibly Rachel.


I had the Conchiglie Pasta. It was a large pasta, and I didn't eat a lot of it. William asked me if I like it and told me that they usually don't recommend this dish.



For dessert, the Grand Marnier Souffle -


And Aaron had the Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. He said it had the slightest taste of butane.


Pirate Night

After dinner, we headed up to Deck 10 for the Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party. The show features Captain Jack Sparrow and is a little scarier (and much louder) than Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Party.


Personally, I prefer Mickey and Friends in their pirate attire to Captain Jack Sparrow, but this show does have pyro.

Pirate Fireworks

The fireworks are weather-permitting (high winds may cancel the show).

Pirate Fireworks

After the deck party, Aaron went to the Buena Vista Theater to watch Avatar Way of Water (which he left halfway through because it's soooo long), and I went to bed.


Next: Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise [Day 5] Falmouth, Jamaica


  1. Love your review!

  2. This looks like so much fun! Never been on DCL, but now may have to re-consider