One of the best tips for anyone going on a cruise is to fly to their embarkation port at least one day early. If you have an evening to spend in Fort Lauderdale, a great family dinner experience is the Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show.
Mai-Kai is a bit of a local landmark, known for serving up Asian fare, tropical drinks & a Polynesian show. The building alone catches the attention of anyone passing by. So much so that I took my family to check it out for dinner on an evening prior to our Royal Caribbean cruise.
Depending on the day of the week, there are one, two or three shows offered. The most shows are on the weekend, and they are closed on Mondays. You definitely want to call ahead and make a reservation as Mai-Kai is a very popular choice for tourists, celebrations, date nights and more.
As you drive up to Mai-Kai, the building's Polynesian architecture is hard to miss and in a part of South Florida that definitely has no other buildings that look anything like this one, it is hard to miss. It is mandatory valet parking, so bring cash or take a Lyft ride over. They offer standard valet parking ($3), as well as “express valet” ($10) that promises to get you out faster. I paid for the express valet to avoid a rush when the show was over, but there was hardly a line so next time I would go for the standard valet option.
Mai-Kai is a very large building, with the Molokai Bar immediately on your left as you walk in. You could forgo the dinner show and just enjoy drinks here while also walking the grounds for a less-expensive evening.
Dinner at the Mai-Kai means you are paying for the meal, and the show. At the time this review was written, the show charge is $15 for adults, and for kids 2-12 years old, no show charge when ordering from the kids menu, or $10 per child without the kids menu.
You should also be aware Mai-Kai has a business casual dress code for the bar and dining rooms. Their site says, “No shoes meant for swimming or beach (flip flops or such sandals ok for the women). No swimwear or gym attire. No hats for men. No sleeveless shirts for men. Slacks are required for men.”
Upon check-in, the wait staff directs you to your assigned table. There are a variety of tables with views of the stage, and I am not certain how tables are assigned. We ended up with a great table that was slightly elevated, which provided the perfect view for my kids of the stage.
Dinner is served prior to the show, and you can (and should) walk the garden grounds before the show begins. Outside the restaurant is a large outdoor South Pacific inspired green space, which is perfect for family photos.
The menu is massive, and features a large variety of tiki drinks to enjoy. In addition, the food menu covers a wide variety of choices. Most of the food is Americanized Chinese food, with some sushi available as well.
Speaking of the menu, this is not the cheapest meal you will find in South Florida. It is fairly pricey, but the experience is part of what you are paying for overall.
The food is far from the best I have ever had, but certainly tasty and everyone enjoyed what they ordered. Mai-Kai is not serving up avant garde cuisine, or looking to break the mold with their offerings. This is comfort Chinese food that anyone can enjoy.
Of course, the reason for going to Mai-Kai is for the show. A troupe of performers who have been doing the show for decades regales the audience with a variety of musical and dancing styles from across the South Pacific.
The Polynesian Islander Revue provides the music and dancing styles of Samoa, New Zealand, Hawaii and more. During the summer months (starting in mid June to mid November), the Mai-Kai features a Kids Show every Sunday evening.
Mai-Kai claims the restaurant owner and choreographer began as one of the original dancers in 1961, and the show is now the longest running Polynesian dance show in the continental United States. In fact, the owner crafts a new show each year that aims to showcase village life in the South Pacific at the turn of the last century.
Overall, the Mai-Kai restaurant was a big hit with our family. Anytime I can find food that the adults can find appealing and my young daughters do not complain about is always a win. The show and performance is what truly drew us in, and it was a big winner.
The show's pacing and styles keep the audience engaged, and it is exactly the kind of pre-cruise family outing that we were looking for to get our vacation off on the right foot.
If the price is not going to break your vacation budget and you are staying in the greater Fort Lauderdale area, Mai-Kai is a great choice for an night out.