Cruising with Disney: Halal Dining and Much More
By Anisa Tayab
Every family looks forward to going on vacation. It’s a time where the family can relax, bond, reconnect and make memories. When my husband and I were planning our vacation, a cruise was not on our list. The idea of being in close proximity to thousands of people did not seem relaxing at all.
After some convincing from friends, we decided to give it a shot. While researching, I came across the Disney Cruise Line. I remembered a friend had been on one recently and I reached out to her. She had nothing but good things to say and after reading hundreds of blog posts online, we booked our first Disney cruise!
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people say that Disney World is the happiest place on Earth. I disagree; the Disney cruise is definitely the happiest place on Earth. From the instant we stepped on the ship and were greeted and welcomed by name, I felt like royalty. The lobby onboard the Disney Fantasy was so beautiful I felt like Cinderella walking into the ball! Disney goes out of their way to ensure you are taken care of and having a good time. We were stopped by numerous cast mates and crew to ask if we were enjoying our day and if there was anything we needed. And a lot of the times they would give us a few tips on how to make our trip even more enjoyable.
We stayed in a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with a Veranda which consisted of a queen sized bed, a sofa and a veranda. While we were out having dinner, our stateroom host would magically make bunk beds appear. The bottom bunk was the sofa while the top bunk was pulled down from the ceiling. There was also a privacy curtain between the two areas which separated the kids and made it feel like two separate areas. The best part of the room was the bathroom.
If you are travelling with young kids, you know how hard it is to make them shower, well not on a Disney cruise! There are two bathrooms, one with a full sized tub (yes, your kids can still take their nightly bubble bath) and sink and the other with another sink and toilet. This made getting dressed every day a lot easier.
The rooms on the Disney cruise are considerably larger than other cruise lines. There was plenty of room for storage including two closets, a dresser with drawers and our suitcases fit perfectly under the bed. Not once did we feel cramped or crowded in our room.
Another perk is that you can watch any Disney movie on demand. This was great during our “down time” and while getting dressed for dinner, the kids were able to watch movies from the Disney “vault”.
Each night at turn-down service, our stateroom host would place a “Navigator” on our bed. The Navigator was our guide as it outlined all the activities available the next day. We were able to plan our character meetings and family fun time using the Navigator. Disney Cruise has a variety of activities each day. They are split up to kids only, adults only and family fun. The kids activities took place in the kid’s club and trust me, you won’t feel guilty leaving your kids there.
My kids didn’t want to leave most of the time. Aside from decorating cookies, boot camp with the Green Army Men from Toy Story and sports activities there was also an interactive dance floor, computer area and my son’s favorite, Andy’s Room. Andy’s room was a life size version of all the toys from Toy Story so the kids felt like they were one of the toys. My six-year-old would spend all his time in there. The counselors really enjoy their jobs and do a great one entertaining the kids. If you have older kids, there are separate areas for tweens and teens that cater to them only and there are no adults allowed!
While the kids are playing, there are plenty of activities and spaces for the adults to disappear to. There is an adult only deck with pool and hot tub. This was a great place to sit and relax as it was much quieter than the family deck and pools. There were also scheduled activities for adults such as cooking classes, Mixology (where you learn how to make all your favorite drinks) and games. There are plenty of little cafe areas where you could sit and enjoy a coffee as well. At night there are adults’ only lounges where you could go and have a drink and meet new friends.
There is always something to do on the ship; there is no way anyone could get bored. Every night there was a Broadway style show that my family looked forward to. Most were Disney themed and included all of our favorite Disney characters. If you are an avid movie watcher, there was a movie theatre that was playing recent Disney hits and you could always watch a Disney favorite outdoors on a huge screen while swimming in the pool. The Disney Fantasy also had a mini-golf course, ping pong, giant shuffleboard and a water coaster called The Aqua Duck. If you are a fan of water slides and roller coasters, you will love The Aqua Duck!
Meals and Halal Dining
One of our favorite things about the cruise was dinner time. Disney is very accommodating, especially at dinner. As soon as we booked our cruise, based on our last name we were asked if we would like to dine Halal. I was very impressed with the offering and was surprised that I had not heard Disney offered halal dining. Another thing that made dinner so accommodating was that Disney assigns two servers to you and you have the same servers every night.
We were assigned a Muslim server to help with our Halal dining experience. Our servers came to know our preferences and had our drinks of choice ready as soon as we sat down. They knew we liked extra spice and had hot sauce and chili flakes ready at the table, they knew I liked a cup of tea immediately after dinner and a mug appeared with a tea bag, hot water and milk while I took my last bite.
The kids ordered from a kids menu with 3 courses while the adult menu had four courses. The kids meals came out during our first course so they didn’t have to wait while we ate. The servers were kind enough to cut the kid’s meat each night so the adults could enjoy their meals while they were hot. The staff kept everything Disney themed. When my son asked for ketchup they served it Mickey shaped!
The Halal dining experience was a great part of our experience. While on vacation it is so difficult to check ingredients at every meal time. However because it was in our file, our servers knew ahead of time and were able to assist us when ordering. Not everything on the menu is halal and this is where our server and his expertise came in handy. While the lamb is halal the mint jelly was not (so he didn’t offer it to me). There were a few dishes made with pork so he requested replacements for us as well. There are halal chicken and some beef offerings but your server must request it from the chef ahead of time so it can be prepared in time for you at your meal time. This was a little disappointing because I thought I would be able to order anything off of the menu and have it prepared for me but I had to let my server know the night before if I wanted chicken or beef. There are plenty of seafood options and most nights I chose those as I don’t eat seafood on a regular basis.
There are no halal options during breakfast or lunch. I personally didn’t inquire about them either since there were plenty of vegetarian options available. There was a delicious veggie burger at the pool deck and a variety of pizzas available but most of the time I had a salad or shrimp. My kids were obsessed with the Mac and Cheese. It was so good that my son ate it every single lunch and dinner. He didn’t even have to ask for it, the servers just confirmed it with him every night.
My favorite appetizer was the Breaded and Deep Fried Brie with orange and cranberry chutney. It was crispy on the outside and perfectly warmed on the inside. My favorite meal was the Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin. It had a tamarind BBQ reduction that was a perfect blend of flavours.
On our second night, our server asked us what type of food we enjoy. He asked if we liked Indian food and was happy when my son told him he loved biryani.
On our third night, along with our regular dinner, he also brought out a platter of Indian food which included fresh made rotis, lamb korma and a vegetable curry. We were so shocked but so happy. It tasked and smelt like home.
It was so nice to know he went out of his way to request something from the check knowing it would make us more comfortable and dinner even better than it already was. And as a bonus on our last night, the chef prepared biryani for us! The personal touches at dinner were very surprising and welcoming. We felt like we were part of a family. Our dinner experience was by far one of the best experiences we have had on any vacation. My kids were so happy with dinner that they still talk about our servers every day since we have been back.
The Disney Cruise was by far one of our favorite family vacations. The attention to detail on the ship and to its guests makes you feel like the most important person on the ship. All of the staff is so pleasant and welcoming; it puts all of the guests in an even more pleasant mood. We walked around with the biggest smiles for a week and forgot about everything else. We were so happy and satirised with our cruise that, we booked our next one while we were still onboard!
For more information on Disney Cruises, visit: disneycruise.disney.go.com
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