The Disney Magic cruise ship’s re-imagined restaurants offer an enjoyable rotation of varied meals throughout each voyage, enhanced by a few new surprises. Animator’s Palate remains the star over the ocean, presenting an all-new show that brings classic film history to life during dinner, while Carioca’s dishes out meals with bold, unique flavors unlike other at-sea eateries.
During the Disney Magic’s six-week dry dock update, several of its dining experiences received an overhaul. Animator’s Palate received a high-tech face lift. Carioca’s and Cabanas replaced formerly dated concepts. And Lumiere’s just got a little sprucing up. Though not nearly as fancy as the restaurants aboard the newer Dream or Fantasy, the Magic does now stand up by serving excellent food within enhanced environments.
The old trick of Animator’s Palate on the Disney Magic was that the restaurant turned from black and white to color right before guests’ eyes, down to servers sporting costume changes. But now Disney has plussed that experience by adding HD screens and advanced computer control systems to bring two new shows to the ship.
One is familiar to those who have been on the Fantasy, called Animation Magic, in which diners can draw characters of their own on placemats only to see them become animated on screens around the restaurant. It’s a fun, impressive, and not too intrusive during mealtime.
But new to the Disney Magic is a second Animator’s Palate show called Drawn to Magic, a much more subtle display – at first.
Video: Full new “Drawn to Magic” show in Animator’s Palate on the Disney Magic
Guests enter the restaurant in its black and white motif with sketches of Disney characters are drawn on the screens throughout. Maleficent, Rapunzel, Lady and the Tramp, Genie, and dozens of other familiar faces slowly take shape.
As appetizers arrive, these “pencil tests” become animated showing off iconic character movements and moments. Then the characters are inked and painted, still slowly filling in the details in the background while patrons dine casually. Those who care to pay attention can become enthralled in the drawing process while those who simply want to eat can easily ignore it all.
But as dinner reaches dessert, the restaurant commands attention as the 10-minute grand finale suddenly begins. Lights dim as the fully animated show tells a hero’s journey through Disney and Pixar animation. It’s all a bit familiar for those who have seen World of Color or Fantasmic, a similar run through emotional Disney clips with excitement, adventure, and even heartbreak. The room changes colors to match the displays, taking guests on a trip through Disney animation history that’s worth putting the fork and knife down to watch.
Finally, the connection to Fantasmic solidifies as its theme song plays while Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey Mouse appears in person, leading the service staff out – with their signature colorful costume change. It’s a surprise character ending that excites everyone in the room.
“Drawn to Magic” is featured on the Disney Magic on three-, four- and five-night itineraries, while guests on voyages of seven nights or more can see both “Drawn to Magic” and “Animation Magic” shows.
Much as the shows are a treat, the food is as well, featuring a tried-and-true menu of favorites. Among the best are the black truffle pasta, Serrano ham, and breaded veal chop – but there are few complaints to be found.
Inspired by “The Three Caballeros” and the culture of South America – specifically Brazil – Carioca’s features bold Hispanic flavors across all of its dishes. Unlike Animator’s Palate where the show is the star, Carioca’s decor takes a distinct step back with a bit more subtlety.
Video: Carioca’s restaurant tour on the Disney Magic
The new hanging lanterns overhead are nice, but nothing too special and neither is the rest of the room. The restaurant is essentially one giant box, split up by columns and dividers here and there. It never believably gives the impression of dining in a South American eatery, but is comfortable enough to enjoy while focusing on the food.
Fortunately, the food at Carioca’s is fantastic. The lunch buffet offers a series of surprises with lots of spices added to each dish.
And dinner features solid offerings that will appeal to anyone craving food with a little extra kick. Though the “Jose Carioca” menu item falls a little flat in attempting to replicate the Brazilian steakhouse / churrascaria experience and the tres leches is lacking a leche or two, the rest of the dishes are quite good and most importantly offer a change from typical cruising fare. The Pork Belly is wonderfully crispy on top and tender throughout.
Of the three main rotational dining restaurants on the Disney Magic, Lumiere’s received the fewest new touches during the recent updates. The establishment is essentially the same as it once was, though the entrance is easier to get to now that the ship’s main atrium only has one grand staircase.
The interior has been spruced up but when compared to Be Our Guest at Walt Disney World, this “Beauty and the Beast” inspired restaurant’s decor falls severely flat.
In my recent voyage, I only had the opportunity to eat breakfast at Lumiere’s, which was nothing special, so I can’t write much about the French food there.
The casual buffet restaurant is a staple of all cruises ships and the Disney Magic’s version has gotten the “Finding Nemo” treatment in its recent re-imagining. But unlike the Cabanas restaurants on the Dream and Fantasy, this location is much more understated in its design, feeling beachy without displaying too many characters. There are “Nemo” touches in wood carvings near the entrance – but that’s about it. The rest is a comfortable environment, but one no different than any typical beach eatery.
Video: Cabanas restaurant tour on the Disney Magic
The food features standard Disney buffet items, from pasta to chicken strips to freshly carved beef and turkey. It’s all good enough, but doesn’t match the quality of the table service restaurants – or even the buffet at Carioca’s.
The up-charge Italian restaurant common to the Disney Cruise Line ships is Palo and aboard the Disney Magic, the decor has received an appealing update. With cultural touches like masks lining the entry way, Palo has a subtle feel of Italy while focusing primarily on the wrap-around ocean views. This version of the restaurant is not quite as attractive as that of the Dream and Fantasy, but retains an intimate feel while staying open at the same time.
Video: Palo restaurant tour on the Disney Magic
Certainly no one will go hungry on a Disney Magic cruise. And travelers looking for a little dinner entertainment will definitely enjoy the shows in Animator’s Palate. It’s all a well-rounded balance of mostly good dining experiences that, while still a bit dated in places, isn’t likely to disappoint many guests. Though a little more attention to detail could have been poured into Cabanas and Carioca’s, the overall upgrade of this ship’s restaurants is positive and one that its future passengers should look forward to experiencing.
More photos from the Disney Magic’s updated restaurants: