The best $45 you can spend on board a Disney cruise

Would you be surprised if I told you one of my favorite fancy meals on earth is only $45 per person? Yes, I know $45 isn’t cheap, but for a multi-course, white tablecloth, fine-dining experience, it’s also far from expensive.

Would you also be shocked to discover that you can only get this meal on a cruise ship dedicated to kids?

It’s true. The venue is Palo, the adults-only Italian restaurant found on each of Disney Cruise Line‘s five ships. Its all-you-can-eat brunch and prix fixe dinner each cost $45 (before drinks and gratuities).

The high quality of Palo’s menu and dishes is in keeping with Disney’s rigorous standards, and you might assume that all Disney experiences come with a high price tag. However, in the case of Palo, you get excellence without the sticker shock. (To be fair, you have to pay a pretty penny to get on board a Disney cruise ship — the only way to sample Palo’s delicious fare.)

To dine at Palo, you must make a reservation, dress up a bit and leave the kids behind in the ships’ included kids clubs. That combination elevates the ambiance compared to the other 97% of the ship, where the atmosphere is more casual and family-friendly.

After sailing on several Disney cruise ships and dining at Palo a few times, I’m confident that a meal at Palo is the best $45 you can spend on a Disney cruise.


Brunch at Palo

While I’ve had dinner at Palo a couple of times, I tried the Palo brunch for the first time on my most recent sailing aboard Disney Magic. Though brunch is not a buffet, the $45 price gets you anything on the menu — and as much as you want to try. Just order everything one plate at a time from your waiter.

The brunch menu is a culinary jackpot of omelets, frittatas, waffles, flatbreads, crab claws, shrimp, ravioli, steak, snapper and more. You can start with breakfast, skip to lunch and go back and finish with more breakfast — or enjoy whatever you want in any order.


You can start with a welcome mimosa if you desire, as that’s included in the price. If you want more than one glass, each additional cocktail costs just $5. Did I mention there’s a whole dessert menu, too?

I tried as many things as humanly possible and took almost every recommendation the server gave me during my 90 minutes of dining delight.

The standout items for me included some nibbles from the bread basket, which was frankly too indulgent to ignore completely.

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The seafood antipasti with crab claw, ahi tuna, shrimp and dill honey mustard was a fresh, light counter to some of the heavier items that made their way to my place setting.

The wild mushroom ravioli with its nut brown butter and toasted pine nuts was absolutely heavenly and not to miss, even though it was barely 10 a.m.

The parmesan-crusted chicken breast with its tomato-basil sauce and mozzarella cheese was unlawfully flavorful and delicious and also worth sampling no matter the time of day.

I was too full by this point to fully appreciate the flatbread, but there’s no denying it’s a winner if you can find the stomach space for a slice. Next time I’ll try the one with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato.

After all that indulgence, the dessert menu felt like a trap, but one that I gleefully fell into. I wanted to appear at least a little reasonable, so I only ordered one treat — the warm amaretto chocolate fondant with hazelnut gelato and mocha chocolate soil.

The mixture of temperature and texture (and chocolate) was too good to have just one bite, so even though stomach space was at a premium, I enjoyed as much of the dessert as I could.

Ninety minutes, a decadent bread basket, five ordered plates and a dessert later, it was time to rejoin my kids. I said goodbye (for now) to this special experience on the ship with two certain truths. First, I needed to change into my stretchy pants ASAP. And second, I had certainly gotten more than $45 worth out of this meal.

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Palo dinner

While brunch at Palo is fun and indulgent, dinner at Palo feels extra special and upscale — especially if you are there as the sun slips below the horizon on another day at sea. After a day spent stuffing your face at the all-you-can-enjoy soft serve machine with your kids and doing the waterslides on repeat, the calm, upscale nature of Palo in the evening transports you to a world seemingly far away from the rest of the ship.


In fairness, dinner at Palo can cost more than $45. As an alternative to the four-course “prezzo fisso” menu, you can dive into the a la carte menu options. Choosing your favorites from the menu is still an affordable option, with sides starting from $4, salads and other starters from $7, pizza and pasta from $12 and entrees starting from $15.

Either route you take, any beverages you care to enjoy, as well as staff gratuities, will be additional.


If you aren’t sure where to start, the $45 four-course menu features many of my favorites, such as the tomato and mozzarella caprese, pan-seared salmon and the absolutely-under-any-circumstances-do-not-miss chocolate souffle.

The beauty of the a la carte menu — in addition to simply having more choices — is you can indulge as much or as little as you wish. If you want to try just the pizza and baby arugula salad, you can. If you want to create your own multi-course masterpiece, you can do that, too. If Wagyu steak is on your list of favorites, you can enjoy six ounces starting at just $20, which isn’t bad as far as Wagyu goes.

Expect a multi-course dinner at Palo to be close to a two-hour affair, which I’d say is an excellent use of your $45 (plus tip). Consider that a child’s Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique hair, makeup and dress makeover costs $180-plus, most massages start close to $200, and an onboard beverage tasting is typically in the $40 to $50 range, and it’s clear that dinner at Palo is a comparative steal by comparison.

Related: 15 ways new cruisers waste money

Bottom line

Most of the sit-down dinner restaurants on Disney (even the Marvel and Frozen-themed ones) are included in the price of your cruise, so it can feel silly to book one that costs extra.

However, while the included restaurants are generally well done and absolutely worth experiencing, they are serving hundreds of guests at a time. The venues can get loud and simply can’t provide the same experience you’ll find in a more intimate and peaceful space with high-end food and no kids allowed. The $45 price tag certainly isn’t too much to ask for all that.

If you want to dine at Palo, make a reservation as soon as you are eligible, which is 75 to 120 days before your cruise, depending on your Castaway Club status level and whether you are sailing in a concierge cabin.

I can assure you that brunch or dinner at Palo is the best $45 you can spend with Disney while at sea. It’s such a refined (but still comfortable and not stuffy) place to enjoy one of the best meals of your life. Your only regret will not be having more room in your belly for more than one chocolate souffle.

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