DiningDisney Cruise Line

Juggle Those Plates! Managing a Meal at Marceline Market

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The self-service buffet is a familiar staple of cruise ships, but the Disney Wish puts a twist on it. There are individual stations where you can get individual plates of food, and it’s not self-service. When Erin returned from her trip on the Wish to report that you get a new plate from every station but there are no traysI had questions. If you’ve got multiple kids, and multiple plates for each person, how do you get all the food to the table?

Len Testa sits at a table with multiple plates of food; one plate holds an omelet, another an individual quiche, sausage, and blistered tomato, there are two bowls of fruit, glasses of water and a cranberry-colored beverage, and a final plate with eggs, toast, bacon and Mickey waffles. There is a small oblong plate with breakfast pastries.
I count 8 dishes to bring all this food to the table, but only two people are eating!

One obvious and straightforward answer is to limit yourself to food from a single station, but that’s no fun. When TouringPlans researcher Chrissy sailed on the Wish in September, I asked her to bring me some answers. Here’s what I wanted to know.

  • Do you really need to get a new plate at each station? Can you hand the server a plate that you already have?
  • If you do, how are families managing the explosion of plates?
  • If you aren’t serving yourself, how well are you able to control the portion size if you’re trying not to overeat or waste food?

Do You Really Need A New Plate at Every Station?

Yes, yes you do. You can’t hand your plate to the server, they will give you a new plate at every station. I spent several years working in a biology lab, and I can totally appreciate the food safety considerations behind this policy. But wow, it does feel like it makes things kind of challenging.

How Do You Get All the Plates to the Table?

Chrissy saw a mix of strategies. Quite a few families were leaving a single adult with kids to anchor the table while the other adult took on the role of hunter-gatherer. Some families had creative solutions; a standout example was a lady using the stroller cover as a tray to carry the plates. And in some cases crew members were helping to carry plates back to the table.

One thing to know is that breakfast and lunch both had at least one station that was better for a one-stop meal. At breakfast, the omelette station gives you a number instead of a plate; a server delivers your finished omelet to your table. This same station had a variety of scrambles and several “standard” breakfast items as well. You could get what felt like a complete breakfast at this single station.

A plate of breakfast from Marceline market with scrambled eggs, hash brown, blistered tomato, and home fries
Some of the more common breakfast items are at the same station, so you can get a full plate – and only one of them.

Another breakfast station that offered a good selection in a single location was the Kid’s Counter, and this was a winner at lunch too. For example, the plate below with chicken tenders, pot pie, crudite, and fruit cup all came from the Kid’s Counter. There were also options to get cooked vegetables and fries at this same station.

A plate of lunch from the Kids Counter station at Marceline Market on the Disney Wish, with a pot pie, two breaded chicken fingers, a small square glass cup holding 3 sticks of crudite and dip, and a similar cup holding a small fruit salad.
The Kids Counter can be a good station for one-stop shopping.

More Strategies

Based on what Chrissy reported, I’m going to lean on my experience with some cafeterias that had a similar layout to make a few additional strategy suggestions. I don’t think any of them are mutually exclusive, so be creative in combining them to find something that works for you.

Start by taking a lap around the buffet before you get any food. Chrissy says that both sides of the buffet are the same, but she definitely found this helpful to get your bearings and decide what you want to eat.

Next, and this might seem obvious, combine as you go. Did you go to the seafood station and get 6 shrimp and now you’ve moved on for a serving of rice pilaf? Move the shrimp to the pilaf plate and stack the full plate on the empty one before proceeding to the next station.

Use family-style service. Two people each getting a bagel and a blistered tomato at breakfast is 4 plates. If one person gets both bagels and the other person gets both tomatoes, that’s 2 plates. You can either redistribute the food when you get back to the table or simply ask a server for a few extra plates to serve out onto. (Extra credit: start with 3 people each getting a bagel, a blistered tomato, and a fruit cup. How many plates do you save by switching to family-style service?)

Visit stations in the right order. This isn’t just about managing the plates, it’s also about feeling like your food is freshly prepared and hot items are hot when you sit down to eat. Gather cold items first – and if you’re serving family-style and you’ve got a kid who’s old enough to carry plates, don’t be afraid to send them back to the table with stuff that can wait at room temperature while you collect the hot dishes. If one station seems to have a big line, consider starting there so that it will be quick to collect the rest of your meal once you get through it.

Rice pilaf and fish being held in a steam table at Marceline Market on the Disney Wish
Getting hot foods last helps make sure they’re still hot when you get back to the table.

Make more, smaller trips. One reason that widely separated station setups like this are used is that they cut down on lines. You tend not to get backups like you sometimes see at buffets, where you can’t get to the food you want because it’s blocked by people waiting in line for food just a little farther on. There’s a fine line, of course – you don’t want to feel like you’re eating your meal one dish at a time. But stopping to eat after you’ve collected only some of the food you’re planning on can help keep your plates under control.

Why doesn’t Marceline Market have trays? Honestly, we don’t really know. I’ve seen lots of eateries with station setups like this, but never one that didn’t have trays to make it easier to collect from different stations. We hope that this changes in the future, but until then we hope that the tips above help make it easy for your group to eat here.

How About Portion Sizes?

I love to try everything at a buffet, but I also don’t like to leave stuffed. I’ll generally aim for a two-bite portion of everything I want to try, and then go back for a few extra bites of the things that were my favorites. Cafeteria-style service where you select pre-plated items can be frustrating, and I worried that this might be what you’d see on the Wish.

The shellfish station at Marceline Market on the Disney Wish, showing mussels, shrimp, and crab legs. The presentation will be familiar from the buffet on the other Disney Cruise Line ships but the tongs are pointing inward towards the back of the counter because they are meant to be used by servers.
This shellfish station should look familiar to anyone who has sailed the other Disney Cruise Line ships, but the tongs facing backwards toward servers is a new twist just for the Wish.

There’s good news here, no need to worry! Chrissy found that you can ask for a specific number of anything that comes in “per each” – bacon strips, roasted tomatoes, you name it. When she asked for cold shrimp, they asked how many individual shrimp she wanted. For carving stations, servers asked if you wanted more than one slice, and Chrissy was confident that you could request a smaller piece. There were a few items such as salads that were pre-plated to keep the lines moving. But for the most part you can have total control over how much food lands on your plate.

How Are Food Allergies Handled at Marceline Market?

Bonus question! Chrissy happened to be sailing with a guest who has a food allergy, and this is what they found. You’ll need to speak with the kitchen crew, but they will make you a custom meal.

On the first day when eating at Marceline Market shortly after boarding the ship, it took about 25 minutes to get food after letting the kitchen crew know about the allergy. On the second day the kitchen staff took her custom breakfast order, but they also had an allergy-appropriate muffin waiting for her to get started on while they prepared it.

Chrissy said the communication from the kitchen staff about what they were making and when it would be out was excellent, and she was very impressed.

Wrapping Up

The internet is not overflowing with complaints about how tricky it is to balance your plates at Marceline Market. But Chrissy has sailed on other DCL ships, and it was clear that the stations on the Wish presented some challenges to getting your food compared to the self-service buffet model of Cabanas. To help get your food effectively and minimize plates, here’s what we recommend:

  • Start by checking out what’s at each station.
  • Take advantage of stations where you can get a complete meal (or most of one) in a single place.
  • Have multiple people collect plates with several portions of items to be served family style, instead of each person getting only their own food.
  • To make sure your food is hot when you get to it, visit stations with hot foods towards the end of your route.
  • If practical, don’t be afraid to combine the plates before you get back to your table.

Have you eaten at Marceline Market? What did you think about the individual stations and individual plates? Let us know in the comments!


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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer has a background in math and biology, so she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

2 thoughts on “Juggle Those Plates! Managing a Meal at Marceline Market

  • I can see trays being a new fish extender gift on the Wish then….

    • Could be! You know, I have always wished for some kind of portable folding tray to use at the EPCOT festivals. It would be perfect for this too!


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