The brand new table service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park, the Jungle Cruise-themed “Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen” located in Adventureland, had it’s official grand opening on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. But it actually had a soft opening prior to that, beginning on Sunday the 13th of December. I was lucky enough to be celebrating the holidays at WDW with my family during the soft opening earlier this week, and had a wonderful dinner at the Skipper Canteen on Monday!
In talking with a cast member while dining at the restaurant, I learned that currently they are only planning on doing walk-ups (that’s right – NO advance dining reservations at all!) at this new location, as a sort of test to see how this new & different method goes. He explained to me that they realized there were too few table service dining locations in the Magic Kingdom, for such a popular & busy park, and that getting reservations at one of them was becoming a difficult task for many guests, unless booking very far in advance. So they saw a need for something to change the game, and this is their proposed solution for the time being – to offer this alternative on a first come, first serve only basis. Of course, as with all things Disney, this could be subject to change in the future, based on the results of this little experiment. But at least for the month of January, don’t be expecting to make any reservations to eat here! Lucky for us, there was no wait at all when we arrived around 4pm on the 14th. However, if they are on a wait when you go, they will take your mobile phone number at check-in and text you to let you know when your table is available. This is so nice considering you won’t have to actually wait around right outside the restaurant and you’ll be freed up to go do something else until they’re ready to seat you!
The staff are trained to fully immerse you in the Jungle Cruise theme & story for the entire duration of your visit. The full backstory is printed on the backs of the menus – a letter from Alberta Falls, the restaurant owner – but the servers are very good at telling you all about it in their own words when introducing you to your surroundings, and with enthusiasm. The story goes that Alberta’s grandfather, the famous explorer Dr. Albert Falls, established the Jungle Navigation Company in 1911, a cargo shipping business on the jungle rivers of Adventureland. But soon after Alberta inherited it from him, the business declined and it was “dry docked.” Then one of the jungle boat skippers came up with an idea to offer guided tours of the jungle to visitors.
These jungle cruises became very popular with globetrotters and now business is booming! Due to the success, Alberta decided to open up the home offices to hungry travelers. There are 3 dining rooms – the crew’s mess hall, the old Falls family parlor, and her grandfather’s old secret meeting room for his Society of Explorers and Adventurers (the S.E.A.). I just loved the eclectic decor throughout – the leopard print chairs in the once hidden S.E.A. meeting room, the wooden hand-carved scenes from the Jungle Cruise attraction incorporated into the parlor fixtures, and the stained glass parrot chandeliers in the parlor (which remind you of the Enchanted Tiki Room).
There are tons of great details to look at everywhere, but the best feature of all was the gorgeous preserved butterfly round booth in the S.E.A. room – rumored to be Dr. Falls’ favorite. Fun fact: Many of the artifacts and masks hanging on the walls of the mess hall were relocated there from the long gone Adventurer’s Club that was once a staple in the old Pleasure Island district of Downtown Disney.
Our server, Paul, was fantastic and just like all the other servers and jungle cruise skippers, he was always quick and ready with the signature dialogue we’ve come to know and love about the Jungle Cruise – plenty of cheesy puns! He starts off by telling us that “Trader Sam told me you’d ‘beheading‘ this way.” We ordered a Thai Fanta melon frosty soda from the “exotic Coca-Cola selections,” which came with free refills just like any domestic soda offered! It was very refreshing & delicious, like a Sprite but with a rich melon flavor instead of lemon-lime. I loved the different twist. We also got a Schweitzer Slush specialty beverage ($5.50 or $14.50 with a souvenir mug), a frozen apple juice and passion fruit concoction topped with lots of bursting green apple boba balls (just like the ones you find in all different flavors at your local frozen yogurt shops.) It is very good and I highly recommend it as I really enjoyed the boba. We were served a plate of Ambasha bread prior to our meal, for the table to share, with a side of honey infused with fenugreek for dipping. It was really great! For an appetizer, we got the Falls Family Falafel ($8) – a “secret recipe” of chickpeas, garlic, onions, lemon juice and herbs served with white bean dip and tomato-cucumber salad. I was told it was “so good you’ll falafel your chair,” but this was the only thing we ordered that I wasn’t completely jazzed about. It was good, but the only reason I wasn’t totally crazy about it is that I felt it was a little too dry.
In my opinion, it just needed some sauce to make it better, and since it paired real well with the tomato-cucumber salad, I’m thinking a tzatziki sauce would be the perfect compliment. Next came our entrees. My husband had the rice noodle bowl with chicken and I had the Char Siu Pork, served with Chinese broccoli and white jasmine rice. Oh my god, the marinated pork flavor was crazy good!!! You definitely need to try it! My husband enjoyed his noodle bowl as well. The portion sizes are perfect. I’d love to try something different next time for the sake of trying something new, but it will be very hard not to get the pork again knowing just how good it is.
During your meal at some point, you might hear your server come by and say “Safari so good?” Haha! Picky eaters beware, because the kid’s menu doesn’t have the typical fare. Instead, they’ve chosen to include some of the more adventurous standard menu items, but with smaller portions for the kiddos. My little guy is a mac and cheese lover, so we ordered him the Junior Skip’s Mac and Cheese, which is an Egyptian style consisting of spiced ground beef (layered on the bottom), pasta, and bechamel sauce – so it’s more mild and creamy than cheesy. It’s wonderful. The combined beef is actually really good and even my picky eater loved it! His kid’s meal came with his very own dessert – a little chocolate volcano with a cool-looking candy lava spray. Wow. This dessert is amazing. Our Kungaloosh dessert was also equally amazing! Both are very rich, very chocolatey and to die for. The Kungaloosh is an African-inspired chocolate cake with a caramelized banana, cashew-caramel ice cream, and topped off with coffee dust. Needless to say, I was very, very satisfied with our meal and can’t wait to go back again!
Are you excited to try out this fun new eatery, or are you one of the lucky few that have already had the pleasure? If so, let us know what you think in the comments section below!
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