Rotational Dining on a Disney Cruise: What You Should Know

dining tables

Are you curious about how Disney Cruise rotational dining works? Even if you are an avid cruiser with other cruise lines, the rotational dining method that Disney Cruise Line ships use may seem confusing at first. 

My family and I really enjoy the way Disney Cruise Line allows you to rotate between main dining rooms throughout your cruise. This way, you get to experience all the themed restaurants on the cruise ship. Each dining space is wonderfully unique, and it is fun to spend time in each of the different restaurants.

If you’re wondering about how the Disney Cruise rotational dining system works, we’ve got you covered! In this post, I will explain what you need to know about rotational dining, and I will provide some dining tips and hacks to aid in your planning process!

When do you find out your dining rotation?

Disney Cruise Line used to print guests’ dining rotations on the Key to the World Card. Once you received this card during check in at the cruise terminal, you could determine what your dining rotation was.

Disney Cruise Line main dining room
Animator’s Palate

However, DCL has changed the way they are doing this. At the time of this writing, guests can find out their dining rotation on embarkation day. Once you are inside the cruise terminal or onboard the ship, just login to the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App. Your dining rotation will be listed along with the menu for each restaurant.

How does the Disney cruise dining rotation work?

Each Disney cruise ship has three main dining rooms. You rotate between these dining rooms throughout the duration of your cruise. The main dining restaurants on the Disney ships are as follows:

  • Disney Dream – Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace
  • Disney Fantasy – Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Court
  • Disney Magic – Animator’s Palate, Rapunzel’s Royal Table, Lumiere’s
  • Disney Wonder – Animator’s Palate, Tiana’s Place, Triton’s
  • Disney Wish – 1923, Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure, Worlds of Marvel

So, if you sail on a 3 night itinerary, you would visit each dining room once. If you sail on a longer itinerary, you will visit one or more restaurants multiple times, depending on the length of your cruise.

Pictures of Disney Cruise Restaurants with text overlay How does Disney Cruise Rotational Dining work

That being said, even though you may eat in the same dining room, the experience is completely different. For example, my family and I ate in Animator’s Palate on the Disney Magic during nights 2 AND 3 of a 5 night Disney cruise from Miami. During night 2, we had the regular dining menu for Animator’s Palate, and we experienced the special Sorcerer Mickey show. 

Pirate Night Kids’ Menu Disney Magic
Pirate Night Kid’s Menu

We were also assigned to Animator’s Palate on night 3, but this was Pirate Night. Therefore, we had a special Pirate Night menu, and the servers provided entertainment to go along with this theme. So, even if you visit the same restaurant multiple times, you’ll get to enjoy a unique experience with a different menu at each visit.

Main Dining Room Servers 

During dinner on your first night, you will meet your wait staff, which includes your server, assistant server, and head server. These three individuals will rotate dining rooms with you throughout the cruise. In addition, if your family has been seated with other travelers, they will also move with you and your servers through the same dining rotation during your trip.

Live Music at Rapunzel’s Royal Table
Live Music at Rapunzel’s Royal Table

This means that even though you may be dining in a new location each night, your serving team will remain the same. The assistant server is typically the first to arrive at your table each evening, and he/she will take your drink order. The server is the one who takes your food order, and the head server is kind of like the manager. He/she walks around making sure everything is running smoothly. 

Disney Cruise Dining Times

Before I get into the details about your dining time, I want to start from the beginning with the Disney cruise booking process. When you initially book your cruise with DCL, you will be prompted to choose between Main Seating and Second Seating. 

Main Dining Time

Depending on the ship and itinerary you choose, Main Seating should take place at around 5:45 PM. Since the Broadway style shows on the ship tend to start at around 6:15 and 8:30, those who dine at the early time would go to the later show.

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Disney Cruise Planner

I’m going to give you a heads up that the Main Seating time fills up fast and is often “sold out” unless you book your cruise far in advance. But, if you continue reading below, I will give you some tips for getting into the Main Seating time.

Late Dining Time

The Second Seating dining time usually begins at around 8:15 PM. Now, if you are cruising with a toddler or small kids, you may be thinking there is no way your family can eat at 8:15 at night. I totally agree with you! So, I’m going to explain a few ways to make this late dining time work for you. 

Disney Magic Cruise Ship

First, consider the time zone in which you will be sailing. The Disney cruise itineraries that visit the Bahamas and Caribbean typically follow Eastern Time. Therefore, if you live in the Central Time Zone, 8:15 PM is really only 7:15 for you. 

If you think your family can handle this second seating time, I’ve actually heard that people prefer it. The dinners are a lot less rushed and much more quiet. Also, if you eat during Second Seating, you get to attend the earlier live show in the theater. The theater during this show time can often be much less crowded as well. 

Changing Rotational Dining Times

If the time zone trick still doesn’t make the Second Seating assignment work for you, these are the steps you can take to change your Disney Cruise dining time:

Get on the Waitlist

After you finish booking your cruise, call Disney Cruise Line and ask to be placed on the waitlist for Main Seating. They will tell you that this is not guaranteed. Also, they do not (in our experience) send an email confirmation about your request. 

Castaway Cay picture of beach
Castaway Cay

Because I am a planning/control freak, I always call DCL again a few weeks later just to clarify that I’m actually on this waitlist. Once you have done this, Disney will sometimes (eventually) move you to Main Seating before you sail. Again, they won’t email you to let you know. Instead, we have always found out by just logging into our online account, and seeing that one day it magically says Main Seating. 

Check the App Often

This brings me to my next solution. Because I’m a crazy planner, I tend to check my account on the Disney Cruise Navigator App daily. On my most recent cruise with DCL, Main Seating randomly became available on the app about 30 days before we were scheduled to set sail. 

Main Dining Room with lanterns hanging from ceiling

I just happened to log in one morning and see this option. So, make sure you check your account on the app regularly so you don’t miss Main Seating if it opens. I don’t think it was available for very long. 

Make Changes Onboard

If you have done all of these things and they did not work, you can go to the dining changes meeting after you board the ship. When you check in on embarkation day, you will receive a Personal Navigator explaining the cruise schedule for this first day. 

This Personal Navigator will list a meeting time and location for those who need to make dining changes. You just show up to the location during the time listed and wait in line until it’s your turn. Once you are able to speak to the crew member in charge, he/she may be able to add you to the Main Seating time right then. 

Disney Cruise Dining Tips

If you’re a first time cruiser, these are some of my top Disney Cruise Line dining tips:

Request a High Chair/Booster Seat

If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, you can request a high chair or booster seat in your account on the Navigator App. 

Food Allergy

You can make a note of certain food allergies and preferences (like vegetarian) directly on the app. I will note here that my husband has a gluten intolerance and was able to tell the dining servers once we were onboard the ship. They easily accommodated his allergy, even on Castaway Cay.

Kid’s Menu Requests

The kid’s menu rotates kid-friendly favorites like chicken fingers, hamburgers, pasta, macaroni & cheese, etc. Your kids are welcome to order off of the adult menu as well. And your servers can take care of simple menu changes for you. For example, both of my girls asked for broccoli as their side item each night even if it wasn’t listed. 

Ask Your Servers

If you’re not sure what to order, just ask your serving team! They always give great recommendations since they know the menus so well!

Seating Arrangements

If you are concerned about the seating arrangements and eating with strangers, call DCL before your cruise to request a private dining table. **Note that Disney Cruise Line now allows guests to request a private table in the DCL Navigator App prior to sailing.

Dinner Attire

You will see all kinds of outfits in the dining rooms onboard, so you really can’t go wrong no matter how fancy or casual (within reason) you want to dress. Just make sure to take a cardigan or jacket with you if you tend to get cold because the dining rooms can be quite chilly. You can find the official dress code for the dining venues on the Disney Cruise ships here.

Dining Rotation Request

Some Disney Cruise Line guests prefer specific dining rotations during their trip. This could be due to many factors, including a desire to be seated in one of the “fancier” dining rooms on formal night. In other words, some families prefer to eat at Enchanted Garden or Royal Court rather than at Animator’s Palate when in formal wear.

cruise ship and restaurants with text overlay Disney Cruise Rotational Dining Hacks

Additionally, sometimes cruisers have a favorite dining room that they don’t want to miss during the trip. If those guests booked Palo or another activity that conflicted with their main dining time, they may want to request a rotation that allows them to still visit their favorite restaurant on another night.

Although my family and I have never requested a specific Disney cruise dining rotation, it is something that others consider. If this is important to you, just call DCL to make a note of your request. Similar to other requests, it is not guaranteed. However, they will try to work with you.

Final Thoughts on Disney Cruise Dining Rotations

Overall, I really enjoy the concept of rotational dining. It’s nice to visit multiple dining rooms on your cruise, especially since Disney is so great at theming these spaces. My family and I also really love the dinner entertainment that is provided at certain venues.

The live music and dancing help keep the kids (and sometimes toddlers) entertained throughout the meal. Whether you are planning your first Disney cruise or you’ve enjoyed Disney’s rotational dining experience on other ships, we hope you enjoy all the themed dining venues onboard!

I hope this helped explain how Disney cruise rotational dining works! Comment below to let me know how you feel about rotating restaurants!

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    1. Hi Haja,

      Yes, the rotational dinners are included in your initial cruise fare. Hope you have a great trip!

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