This review of the dining areas on the Disney Fantasy is by Amy Whitley, who blogs about travel with her three school-age sons at Pit Stops for Kids. She sailed with Disney Cruise Line in 2012, when this story first appeared on Expedia. Amy and her sons began their vacation in Orlando, then bussed to Port Canaveral for a short cruise to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, and back to Florida.

Oy the food! I’ll come right out and say it: we’re not big eaters (we’re actually kind of health nuts), and the lure of food has never been an incentive for us to cruise. So how did we feel about the constant food offerings on the Disney Fantasy? Well, it was fantastic. And frustrating. And fantastic. Here’s why:

All-inclusive food offerings mean NO food stress. If you’re a family who has to watch their vacation budget at every meal (as we are), you can imagine how welcome it was to sit down to meal after meal on the Disney Fantasy and not worry about who was ordering what and how much it cost and whether they’d waste it and if they’d like it. Truly, it brought us closer together as a family. (And yes, I recognize how sad this is.)

All-inclusive soda and ice cream offerings mean definite food stress. If you want to limit your child’s dessert and sugar intake even while on vacation (yes, we’re strict like that), good luck on the Fantasy. With a self-serve ice cream machine always on, and a drink refill station with soda, iced tea, water, and coffee, and at least one counter-service style snack spot always serving pizza, chicken strips, and the like, it’s a true challenge to keep kids from over-doing it. I thought I was doing okay until our final night, when Nate (age 12) couldn’t eat a bite of dinner. Turns out, he had eaten four ice cream cones that afternoon.

Viewfinder Tip: Even if it’s not on the menu, you can always ask for an ice cream Mickey Bar (dipped in chocolate) at any of the on-board restaurants.

The dinner meal is an event. And this was a very welcome addition to our cruising experience. At first, the kids weren’t so keen: four courses at dinner, which require over an hour of sitting at the table with their mom? Boring! Except… it wasn’t. It was fun for everyone, and a great time to reconnect as a family unit. Diners on the Fantasy are assigned one of two dining times (5:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m.) and follow a rotational schedule of the three main dining restaurants (so you experience all of them). Best of all, your servers follow you from restaurant to restaurant, so you get to know them (and vice versa). Our server, Mircea, and his assistant, Yadi, always entertained the kids with card tricks and mind puzzles. And since dinner is all-inclusive too (except for alcohol), anyone, no matter what age, can order off the adult menu (or kids’ menu), order as many appetizers as they’d like, or request something not even offered in print. (Hint: Frozen Mickey Bars are available at all of the restaurants.)

Breakfast and lunch are on your schedule. I never felt hungry once on the Fantasy, which was both awesome and icky. (Good thing I put the Senses exercise space to good use – though not often enough.) One thing we loved, however, was eating at Cabanas for breakfast and lunch. A buffet with a myriad of offerings (mostly healthy), Cabanas is open early for a continental breakfast and later for a full hot breakfast, and again during the lunch rush. And because we were up later than normal during our vacation, it was really nice to be able to order the kids a pre-bedtime snack from room service. The fruit and cheese plate comes highly recommended.

How do you manage all of the food options found on a cruise?