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Empress Lilly

Empress Lilly


Empress Lilly Riverboat

A Mississippi Sternwheeler on the Buena Vista Lagoon

 The Empress Lilly was named after Walt Disney's wife and was an authentic re-creation of a 220-foot 19th-century paddle-wheeler decorated in Louis XV style.  It opened on May 1, 1977 and was christened by Lillian Disney.  It had several different dining options and lounges.  The Starboard Lounge had appetizers such as chicken liver pate, sauteed crab meat, oysters and clams.  There were also after dinner drinks such as Buena Vista Coffee and Starboard Coffee.  The Promenade Lounge was located above The Starboard Lounge and was more of a sitting area.  There was also a character breakfast in the morning.  It was one of the few character breakfasts during the park's early years (seatings were at 9 and 10:30 a.m.) and kids that attended would receive a certificate or a pennant.  The boat closed on April 22, 1995 and reopened as a Levy Restaurant called Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996.  Some changes once Fulton's took over was that the smokestacks and paddle wheel were removed and a gaudy sign was added on to the boat.   In early 2016, Fulton's closed for refurbishment and is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2016 as Paddlefish.  Concept artwork shows the paddle wheel and smokestacks back on the boat.

Empress Lilly character breakfast ticket
(Thanks to Debi Q for this Character Breakfast ticket from 1990.  Check out the price!)

The Restaurants of the Empress Lilly:

Fisherman's Deck

Located on the forward Promenade Deck, this restaurant had windows that curved 180 degrees and overlooked Lake Buena Vista.  Sample menu items from Fisherman's Deck included:

Black Bean Soup
Fresh Fruit Salad
Avocado Salad
Crab Meat Sandwich
Fried Oyster and Bacon Omelet
Pan Fried Chicken Salad
Baked Stuffed Shrimp Imperial
Crab Imperial with Mustard Dill Sauce
Lobster Bisque
Empress Lilly Sauteed Crabmeat
Fried Shrimp in Ale Batter
Oysters en brochette
Stone-Crab Claws with Avocado Mustard Sauce
Snapper
Prawns en Brochette
Maine Lobster
Empress Delight (Pompano, oysters and bacon en brochette and crab-meat stuffed lobster)
Poached Salmon
Smoked Whitefish
Shrimp Scampi (same recipe also served at the Outer Rim in the Contemporary Resort)
Sauteed Red Snapper
Sauteed Trout with Cashew Cilantro Butter
Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
Seafood Primavera

Steerman's Quarters
Empress Lilly Concept Art

The restaurant on the main deck was open for dinner only and faced the paddle wheel.  It was one of a select group of Florida restaurants that served certified Angus beef.
Sample menu items from Steerman's Quarters included:

Mushroom Appetizer
Beef Barley Soup
Steersman's Salad
Peanut Slaw
Chicken Pot Pie
Steak En Croute
Empress Lilly Au Gratin Potatoes
Duchess Potatoes
Tenderloin Chasseur
Prime Rib with Minced Horseradish
Strip Steak
Beef Tenderloin
Oysters on the half shell
Shrimp Cocktail
Diced Chicken in Mornay Sauce
Veal Oscar
Seafood Crepes
Empress Room
Empress Room

This elegant restaurant was located on the Promenade Deck.  It served Continental, four-star award-winning cuisine and the mahogany-paneled Empress Lounge featured a harp player.  There were only seatings at 6:30 and 9:00 each night.

Chilled Avocado Soup
Country Pate
Smoked Duck with Creamed Horseradish
Dover Sole stuffed with salmon mousse
Sauteed Oysters
Malabar and Dressing
Bibb Lettuce Dressing with Pine Nuts
Green Goddess Dressing
Empress Lilly Spinach and Oyster Veloute
Cheese Crepes
Lobster in Mustard Cream Sauce
Lobster Thermidor
Les Crustaces A La Nage
La Cote de Veau D'Ostende (Veal Chops Stuffed with Oysters)
Amaretto Souffle



Baton Rouge Lounge
Baton Rouge Lounge

This lounge was located on the lower deck and had a beautiful Art Nouveau stained glass window behind the stage.  Cocktails such as a Mark Twain, Mississippi River Water, Huckleberry's Cooler and a Scarlett O'Hara were served here, as well as appetizers such as homemade potato chips.  Steve McCollum writes:  "I have an item that might be of interest to a lot of people who visited Walt Disney World in the 1970s and 1980s.  It's not exactly an attraction but more of a 'fixture' that made an impression on my friends and I over the years.  His name is Denny Zavett and he was a comedian and the leader of 'The Riverboat Rascals'.  They played for years on the Empress Lilly in the Baton Rouge Lounge.  He was at Walt Disney World for 18 years!  I thought he might deserve a mention on the Empress Lilly page.  I've attached a picture of him and the Baton Rouge Lounge (Circa 1983).   

Denny Zavett and the Riverboat Rascals

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See ya real soon!