Skipper Canteen (also known as it’s full name; Jungle Navigation CO. Ltd Skipper Canteen) is the newest addition to the food scene at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park. Many agree that the park needs more sit down dining options. So, the announcement and opening of the Skipper Canteen came with a lot of excitement as well as high expectations. The restaurant opened in mid-December and I dined there just 2 days after it seated the first guests. In this quick review we will look at the theme, the food, and some pros and cons.
Jungle Navigation CO. Ltd. Skipper Canteen is the headquarters for the skippers who navigate you on the world famous Jungle Cruise attraction. They have opened their headquarters to weary travelers and fellow adventurers and as you would expect from any Disney restaurant, the theme is everywhere.
TIP: If you are a first time Disney guest, ride the Jungle Cruise attraction at least once, paying attention to details, before eating here. Otherwise it just won’t make a lot of sense.
For those of you who are big fans of the Jungle Cruise, you will be delighted by the details. I don’t like to give too much away but be sure to wander around and pay attention to details such as the books in the bookcase, pictures on the bulletin board, and the carpet and light fixtures in each dining room. I will note here that while the theme is well done, it all felt very new, not authentic and aged as you would expect a mess hall or an old secret meeting room to feel.
There are 3 Dining Rooms and you can’t help but compare that to the set-up of Be our Guest. I am sure you will have your favorite and I am sure many will try to request a specific room to eat in. Like always, requests are just requests and can’t be guaranteed. The mess hall is the largest dining room, followed by the jungle room, which is themed like a private family parlor, and then the SEA room which is supposed to be where the Society of Explorers and Adventurers used to secretly meet. The SEA room is where we were seated. It’s the smallest, most intimate room, and my personal favorite.
The server introduced us to each room and gave us the backstory of the SEA room as we were seated. Each Cast Member we interacted with stayed in character and enjoyed explaining the history of the place and showing off the artifacts. This was a nice touch and helped you really get into the theme of the restaurant. I will note here that we had our 5-month old daughter with us and the Cast Members were fantastic with her as well. We had a clean high chair brought quickly to the table, and they spoke to her and not about her, which I always appreciate. It’s the little things at Disney that go a long way!
The menu is an Asian-African-South American fusion based on the locales you visit on the Jungle Cruise. The food is not your typical theme park variety and for this I was grateful. The menu is written for the adventurous explorers to try something, well, adventurous. This could turn some picky eaters off. However, if you read the descriptions and ask your server any questions, you will quickly recognize most of the offerings, whether or not you want to try them depends on you. I do think the menu will turn some people off. Americans just aren’t known for trying new things and for some, this menu will be a lot of new things. That being said, I loved the options and had a hard time deciding. We ended up ordering a few appetizers and one entrée to split so we could taste a variety of flavors. For the appetizers we chose SEA Shu Mai which is basically steamed pork and shrimp dumplings, and Falls Family Falafel. Both were great but the Shu Mai was my favorite Our entrée was Trader Sam’s Head-On Shrimp served with rice and Chinese Broccoli which is like Bok Choy. I don’t usually like to peel and eat my shrimp- I didn’t have to peel it but I did have to remove the heads which was fairly easy to do because they were well cooked. The entrée was delicious but it was the size of an appetizer. Had I been hungrier, I would have been disappointed. We opted for a frozen drink instead of dessert which was an excellent choice. The bread service at the beginning of the meal was also a nice touch and was good. Not the best ever, but good. Overall the food was excellent, just a bit overpriced for the portion sizes.
- Magic Kingdom needed another table service option and this is a nice addition.
- UPDATE! As of today, June 3, 2016, the Jungle Skipper Canteen is accepting Advanced Dining Reservations up to 180 days in advance! It’s fairly easy to get in since you can’t make reservations 180 days in advance like most locations. Instead, you can get online or call and request a same day reservation or walk up to the podium, put your name in, and get a text message when a table is ready. In keeping with the theme the website says “Because we welcome intrepid adventurers whose travel plans change quickly, reservations are accepted on a same-day basis only. Or, you can trek in during operating hours to see if there’s a table available.”
- The food really is excellent. Disney is becoming well-known for its theme park food taking welcomed departures from pizza, chicken strips, and hot dogs.
- The theming is well done and Disney enthusiasts will notice some enchanting details worthy of pictures and ogling.
- The menu may not appeal to picky or non-adventurous eaters. The cooks, however are willing to accommodate your pallet or any dietary restrictions.
- Small portions for the price
- While the theming is exciting and nostalgic for Disney World, and especially Jungle Cruise, enthusiasts; first time visitors won’t get it and may not appreciate the details.
- UPDATE! As of today, June 3, 2016, the Jungle Skipper Canteen is accepting Advanced Dining Reservations up to 180 days in advance! For those who like to plan out every hour of the day, this may throw a wrench into their plans. Skipper Canteen does not offer Advanced Dining Reservations. Disney is training us to plan our days out with dining reservations and fastpasses but this location can’t be officially planned in advance. Walk ups or same day reservations only.
If you are pinching pennies or quite hungry for a filling meal, skip this one. If you are on the dining plan, need a break from walking, and have ridden the Jungle Cruise multiple times (and still laugh at the corny jokes), this one’s for you!
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line.