Palo Aboard the Disney Magic

Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of articles from Intrepid Traveler publisher Kelly Monaghan as he makes his way from Galveston to Barcelona on the Disney Magic (and beyond).

No cruise aboard the Disney Magic would be complete without a visit to Palo, the specialty restaurant that wraps majestically around the ship’s stern on Deck Ten. Here is a chance to escape (if that is the right word) from the laughing children and the happy (if mute) costumed Disney characters — a chance to dress up and enjoy being a sophisticated adult.

Colorful masks are part of the decor at Palo. (Photos by Kelly Monaghan)

The word “palo” means “pole” Italian and the restaurant takes its culinary theme from Venice. The reception area is lined with the fanciful masks worn during the Carnivale de Venezia, although the Italian theme fades away once you are led to your seat by one of the wait staff, which hails from all corners of the globe, primarily Europe.

There is a $20 per person supplementary charge for dining at Palo, but the quality of the food, the view (for those with a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows) and the personalized service more than justify the expense. There is more good news on the expense front — the wine list and the prices are pretty much those you’ll find in the main dining rooms.

We found the food to be quite good. A tasty risotto, buttery osso buco, and perfectly done fish were fitting preludes to sinfully rich desserts.

Dining at Palo.

After dinner, we were glad we had thought to book a brunch at Palo later in the voyage. This is a brunch buffet to put all other shipboard buffets to shame. Yes, there are the usual calorie-laden pastries, but those who choose to eat more sensibly won’t be disappointed. I especially enjoyed the grilled and marinated vegetables of all descriptions.

In addition to the buffet offerings, Palo’s brunch offers a number of prepared-to-order hot dishes. You can choose a breakfast omelet or lean to the lunch side of the concept with a nicely rendered veal saltimbocca.

And of course, there are desserts, all in sensibly sized portions that encourage you to sample two. Or three. Or four.

Palo bookings should be made the instant you firm up your sailing. We had the luxury of a 15-night transatlantic crossing and, perhaps because of that, neither of our meals were sold out, so we got a window table both times. I was told that on other nights, the restaurant was quite full. Of course, on shorter three- and four-day sailings, space is probably at a premium. So it’s a good idea to choose an early seating. Dinner hours are from 6 to 9 p.m. Brunch (only on cruises of four nights or longer) is from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Palo is not without its minor problems. We found the service could be a bit smothering, but that may simply have been because when we dined the restaurant was far from full. Tablemates from our regular dining rotation reported being offended by guests arriving in shorts and flip-flops, while a woman at the next table carried on a loud, 10-minute cell phone conversation — on speakerphone, no less. Apparently, the staff is powerless to enforce the stated dress code or normal restaurant decorum.

Still, the odds against your encountering problems like this are slim and shouldn’t dissuade you from making your booking as early as possible. Palo will very likely be one of the non-child-related highlights of your Disney Magic voyage.