Palo Dinner Esperienza del Vino (Wine Pairing) Review

During a recent sailing aboard the Disney Fantasy, we decided to book Palo dinner following our day in St Maarten, which happened to be my wife’s birthday (and Pirate Night). At some point late last year, Palo began to offer guests a Esperienza del Vino (wine pairing) option. We saw that it was available on the Disney Magic following her re-imagination, but were unable to try it as we only had brunch during those sailings. Needless to say, my wife was eager to try the new pairing menu.

Palo Reservation Card Disney Fantasy

We arrived a bit early, so after checking in we hung out in Meridian. Right around six o’clock, we were seated and met our excellent server for the evening, Vicky. As I mentioned, Emily knew ahead of time she wanted to try the wine pairing experience, and since I am still living in the semi-sweet wine phase (thankfully nearing the end) I opted for the tradition a la carte menu items.

Palo Table Setting

Vicky returned with the bread service and the cheese cart… err.. sorry, Remy on my mind, the antipasto cart, and placed a little bit of everything on our plate which was then topped off with a drizzling of aged balsamic vinegar.

Palo Bread Service
Palo Antipasto

After looking at a couple versions of  the Palo Esperienza del Vino menu from across the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the only difference I found to date has been the vintage of the particular wines. In fact, the vintage served during our dinner was not necessarily what was printed on the menu. Below I attempted to provide links to the various wines.

Palo Wine Pairing Menu Disney Fantasy March 2014

The first course begins with a pour of the Ferrari Brut NV which is paired with Tuna Carpaccio and Lemon Oil Dressing.

Emily’s comments: This was a delicious pairing, as the sparkling drier brut paired well with the tuna. It brought out the lemon flavors well.

Course numero two is a Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenata dish paired with a glass of Summus Castello Banfi 2010.

Emily’s note: This was another delicious pairing, as the flavors played off of each other very well. Enjoyable.

The third course begins with a glass of Cervaro della Sala Antinori 2008 followed by Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli.

Emily’s note: This is one of my favorite dishes at Palo, and I was pretty excited to have it in a tasting size. This pairing was my favorite. I detected a nice buttery finish that went along perfectly with the food.

Course number four, Branzino in Cartoccio paired with Planeta Chardonnay 2010.

Palo Wine Pairing Branzino In Cartoccio With Planeta Chardonna

Emily’s note: This is a nice smooth Chardonnay. It paired well with the dish, but overall, felt this was more of an average wine. It seems versatile and would pair with many dishes; no ‘wow’ factor.

The Esperienza del Vino is far from over, and time for a brief intermission with a refreshing palate cleanse.

Palo Palate Cleanser

The fifth course is the Osso Buco (veal shank) paired with Luce Marchesi Dé Frescobaldi 2010. However, my wife does not eat red meat and requested an alternative which was the Grilled Sea Scallops with Borlotti Beans, a regular Palo menu item, which they brought in the tasting size.

Palo Wine Pairing Grilled Sea Scallops With Borlotti Beans (Su

Our wonderful sommelier, Marco, arrived with the Luce, quickly noticed the substitution and suggested an appropriate wine pairing, but Emily did not mind and insisted to stick with the Luce instead of having Marco open a new bottle.

Palo Wine Pairing Luce Marchesi Dé Frescobaldi 2010 Bottle An

Emily’s note: While the red wine would’ve paired perfectly with the red meat, it was still a delicious, full-bodied red. I enjoyed the scallops, as I am a huge seafood fan, and Palo prepares them excellently.

I am pretty sure Marco had the following reaction after he served the Luce with seafood rather than the intended veal dish.

The sixth and final course is the Tartufo, a homemade ice cream with dark chocolate rolled in hazelnuts. This chocolate delight was paired with a glass of Passito Di Pantelleria Pellegrino 2008.

Although, I left out my portion of the dinner from this review, no dinner at Polo would not be complete without the Chocolate Soufflé served with vanilla sauce and a scoop of ice cream.

Palo Desserts Chocolate Souffle And Tiramisu

In addition to the Esperienza del Vino dessert, Vicky presented Emily with a Happy Birthday plate and, one of her favorites, the Tiramisu.

Emily’s note: I am not a chocolate dessert/ice cream type person, but I am also not picky in the slightest and will try just about anything. I just had a few bites of the ice cream with hazelnuts in order to taste the pairing, and I would say that this was probably my second favorite pairing. It’s sweeter than I usually choose, as it is a moscato (sweet) wine, but that is what a dessert wine typically is – sweet. The wine played off the dark chocolate and the hazelnuts perfectly, as the dessert itself wasn’t too sweet. After about 3 bites, I did bypass the rest to enjoy the tiramisu, as that is my all-time favorite dessert anywhere.

Limoncello - Palo After Dinner Shot

For the encore, a refreshing post dinner Limoncello slush.
Emily’s final note: It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of wine, so this was a completely enjoyable experience for me. The pours aren’t very large, I would say in the 2oz. range, so that totals about 12oz. of wine in total. I didn’t leave tipsy at all. One of my favorite things about this were the small portions of the food, as I would prefer not to leave stuffed. I enjoy the tasting sizes, which is one reason I prefer Remy over Palo. However, this wine pairing completely changed my feelings about Palo dinner and I cannot imagine doing Palo dinner without the wine pairing. As Platinum cruisers, our Palo meal is complementary, so the additional cost doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I am looking forward to our next cruise and having this enjoyable treat again.

The Esperienza del Vino, or wine experience is an extra $59 in addition to the $25 base fee for Palo dinner. There is an additional 15% auto gratuity added to each Esperienza del Vino for the sommelier which calculates to $8.85 making the total per person amount $92.85. As you can see on the receipt below the overall cost of our Palo dinner was offset by our Platinum Castaway Club perk of a free Palo dinner. Please note, the auto gratuity added is only for the Esperienza del Vino portion of the bill, and does not include the additional customary gratuity for your server, and any extra you may want to give your sommelier.

Palo Wine Pairing Receipt March 2014 Fantasy

Have you tried the wine pairing at Palo? Did you enjoy the new experience and more specifically what did you think about the additional charge?

17 Replies to “Palo Dinner Esperienza del Vino (Wine Pairing) Review”

  1. Robin

    Thank you for the review. We ate at Palo a few weeks ago on the 9 day Alaskan cruise and saw the pairing menu but did not try it.
    We always have a question about how much to tip at Palo. Do you have any guidelines?

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      How much to tip is a great question and will certainly vary from guest to guest. I’ve heard of people leaving very generous tips to those that stiff the server because of the way DCL has written their gratuity information over the years. There was a time where DCL stated gratuities were included with the price, however if you look now Palo is listed as ‘your discretion’.

      My mother taught me at a young age to take tip well. Some people tip based on a comparative priced dinners on land.

  2. Jodie

    I’m salivating reading this review – not sure if its the wine or the food (or BOTH). I’m not a meat eater either, and I always struggle with how to drink the red wine that I LOVE with a non-meat dinner, so I tend to just drink and eat what I like (which doesn’t always work well together). Great review – I’m adding this to my MUST DO list on our Alaska cruise next summer.

  3. Kevin w

    Palo…I don’t know where to start. 3 cruises into my Disney cruising and I never made it to Palo. I don’t know if I should do a brunch, dinner, or wine pairing now. I am a semi-picky eater and I think that has swayed me every time from going. Next cruise is in February after the princess 10k. I have to make plans for Palo. Please help me pich my best route.

    1. Hannah

      Kevin…My favorite is Dinner and if you don’t like what you try, they will bring you something else. However the Brunch may be the best for you. There are so many different choices. There are many tables of sweets, seafood, fruit etc…etc…plus you can order anything from pizza to eggs benedict and beyond. They are very helpful and give you a tour of all the brunch tables and the items you can order fresh. I don’t think you could go wrong. It’s a great experience.

  4. Karl Paulsen

    The dining staff on Fantasy is just magical. Whether it is Palo or Remy, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable dining experience. We really enjoyed Neto on our first Fantasy Remy experience, and always try to find him on each of our cruises.

  5. Linda

    Great review. Do you just need to book the regular Palo dinner and request the wine pairing option and menu when you arrive at the restaurant or is there a new option available when you book Palo on-line now?
    Also, I was keen to hear your thoughts as to how the meal went with one of you doing the pairing and one of you just selecting from the regular menu. My husband wouldn’t want to do the wine pairing so I wondered how they would pace both meals and if it all flowed nicely?

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      Linda, you just ask for the wine experience when your server takes your order.

      As for the pacing, it was managed well. I never felt like I was sitting at the table watching and waiting while Emily ate. Keep in mind the wine experience portions are smaller tasting sizes.

      1. Linda

        Thanks for the info Scott. I would love to have the tasting size portions so this sounds perfect for me. My husband can stick to the regular menu so it looks like it will work out well for us
        I shall just book a regular Palo dinner for our cruise when our window opens in a couple of weeks and select the wine pairing menu on the night 🙂

  6. R. S.

    Do both parties need to be part of the experience, or can just one do it (ie, the other party does not drink)?

  7. Kurt

    We just returned from a week on the Fantasy. I had this Esperienza Del Vino during our dinner at Palo. I really enjoyed the meal. The wine pairings were a good size, just enough to get you to the next pour without going dry or getting you drunk. I loved the polenta and the tuna dishes and the Luce super tuscan. I found the Osu Buco a little too rich and large for the meat course in a 7 course meal and I left stuffed. Your wife’s substitution of scallops was a good idea!

    All in all it is a great “Esperienza” and a good value for the price. That being said if I could only do one on my next cruise, I would pay the extra and go to Remy over Palo.

    1. Linda

      We did this on our cruise in October. The food and wine were excellent but our server was most upset that only 1 of our party of 2 wanted to participate. My husband does not drink alcohol and wanted to order from the regular menu. We almost had to beg our server to let me select this experience! Worst service we have ever had in Palo

  8. Elizabeth

    I leave on Sunday for a week on the Magic, reservations for Palo a week from today! Tartufo wasn’t on the menu two years ago when I was on the Magic. It’s my favorite dessert from when I used to live in Germany (Italian gelato places everywhere). Can I order it on its own? I’m definitely going to ask! Yum yum!

      1. mpegtoo

        A couple of possibilities. First, you can order a wine package (2 versions are available) by calling Disney Cruise Line and ask about the advance wine purchases – up to I believe 48 hours prior to day of sailing. They save you about 25% off on board direct purchases. You can open a bottle, the dining cast members will save it until the next time you want it; and you can have it retrieved at any of the dining rooms (including Palo). For a 7-day cruise, the 5-bottle package is great for two. You can take unopened bottles with you (up to the duty limit – on debarcation); and you can have them delivered to your state room with glasses (and free treats). For the Palo experience – these pairings are sometimes seasonal and vessel specific. You can most likely (call DCL if in doubt) order the pairing at the table. Check in at the Palo reception desk anytime during the cruise (earlier the better). It is almost always staffed by hosts or hostesses. Have a great time, we’re doing the Magic Baltics sailing in May/June next year (2015)…all our previous sailings were Fantasy and Dream – you will have a great time!! If Brent Davies (he is Australian) is the Cruise Director, say hello from the parents of the Assistant Stage Manager on the Disney Fantasy…he’ll probably know who you mean. Brent is a great guy!!


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