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Category: Disney Food (page 1 of 2)

Cinderella’s Royal Table is a Huge Waste of Money. Here’s Why You’ll Go Anyway

Last month, my 9-year old daughter and I had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom. For the uninitiated, CRT, as it’s commonly known, is located in Cinderella (adding the “S” is a faux pas among Disney fans) Castle. It’s one of the most coveted reservations on Disney property. It’s also one of the most expensive and one that, quite frankly, will leave you feeling a little bit ripped off. Here’s what to expect and why you’ll go anyway.

One excited kid.

You can’t talk about CRT without first mentioning the cost. You’ll pay around $60 for breakfast for guests ages 10 and up. Kids 3 – 9 are around $35. Keep in mind these prices are a few dollars higher during busy holiday periods like Christmas. Lunch and dinner is around $74 per adult and $48 per child. Children under 3 are technically free in that they may eat off of another member of their party’s plate; of course you can also order a meal for them. Your set price includes a drink, entree and dessert. Breakfast comes with a plate of pastries–the same pastries you’ll get at breakfast all over property.  Your price includes gratuity as well.

No matter how you try to sell it to yourself, this is an expensive meal, and for an expensive meal, you expect great food, right? Well, lower your expectations, because you’re not really here for the food, you’re here for the experience. Sadly, the experience itself is somewhat lacking, but more on that later.   Kids meals are a bit skimpy for kids on the higher end of the “kids menu” age range.

My daughter ordered the standard kids’ breakfast, which came with a scoop of eggs, two slices of bacon, and a Mickey waffle. It’s not a huge amount of food, but since the characters are coming at you less than three minutes apart, your child won’t have time to eat it anyway. I ordered the spinach and eggs with steak. It was good, but it was overpowered by a large scoop of boursin cheese.  Cut that in half and it would have been much more enjoyable.

Since you’re not really here for the food, or at least you shouldn’t be, let’s get down to the real reason for your visit:  Seeing Cinderella Castle and meeting the princesses.  No matter what you’re age, if you were raised on Cinderella and Disney, going into the castle is a big deal. There are really only two ways for regular guests to go inside the castle: One is to make an appointment at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique for a princess makeover (and sorry, if you’re over 12, no makeover for you!) and the other, of course, is to have a meal in the castle. You’ll check in at the desk at the entrance and then wait a few minutes before you’re admitted into a large meet and greet area. Cinderella is there to say hello and for a photo.

After that, you’ll go upstairs to be seated. We didn’t see Cinderella this trip, but my daughter was so excited as we went up the staircase, she didn’t really care. And that’s the magic of being a kid and going into Cinderella Castle. We were seated on the edge of the circular room with a great view of the entire area.

Service is friendly and efficient, but to say that it’s also brisk is really an understatement: we received our drinks and food almost immediately. Characters came and went so quickly that we barely had time to take a few bites. This didn’t bother my daughter at all, inexplicably happy with the sparkly blue wand she received with her meal. She took a few bites and then BAM–another princes. She couldn’t have been happier. I couldn’t help but feel that we were being rushed.

As an adult, it’s difficult not to think about how much money you’re spending. The food is just okay. The character interaction is probably the worst on property. But just as I was about to stifle yet another eyeroll, my daughter looked up at me at said “Thanks mom for taking me here.” And that’s when I realized that it was worth every penny. Because they’re only little once, right?

And you can bet she carried that sparkly wand with her everywhere that day.

FYI, when you make a reservation for CRT, you’ll pay in full unless you’re on the dining plan, which uses two table-service credits. 

Skipper Canteen Review

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The Jungle Cruise is a funny thing:  you either love it or hate it. The same can be said for the Skipper Canteen, the Magic Kingdom’s newest table service offering. Themed after the Jungle Cruise, the restaurant, which is located in Adventureland across from the Swiss Family Treehouse, echoes the theming of the long lost Adventurers Club in the former Downtown Disney.  If for that reason only, it’s bound to be a fan favorite among a small, niche group of Disney fans, but what about the menu? That’s the tricky part.  Let’s take a look.

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Technicolor Disney Treats.

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Craving a snack that’s bright and . . . well, bright, on your next vacation? Disney has you covered.  Next time you’re in the park, feast on these treats for which “colorful” is an understatement:

These Cookies.

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Disney loves white chocolate, but do you  know what they love even more? Food coloring. They’ll take white chocolate and food coloring and slater it on an old boot if they get a chance. While these cookies don’t exactly taste like an old boot covered in white chocolate, they come awfully close.

The Pinkest Cupcakes You Have Ever Seen.

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There’s a variation of these cupcakes just about everyone on property where desserts are sold and you know what? I like them.  There’s a good frosting to cake ratio, which is to say, you don’t have to wade through a mountain of frosting to get to the cake.  I even like the pink frosting. In fact, there probably should be more pink food in the world. There. I said it. Give me pink food. And yes, I am a grown up.

The $12 Mickey Head Apple.

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You can find these Mickey head apples in every Disney-fied incarnation, including Cinderella’s carriage:

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Incidentally, white chocolate in action . . .

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Mickey Head Cake Pops.

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Cake pops dipped in white chocolate (again!) and rolled in sugar? Of course you want one.

This Pink and Red Cake Cup.

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In the Magic Kingdom? Stop by the Cheshire Café and get a Queen of Heart’s Strawberry cake cup. Especially nice if you like frosting. A lot of it.

Mickey Macaroons.

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Disney jumped on the Macaroon craze with their own, delightfully neon, version.

Candy Covered Rice Krispy Treats.

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File this treat under “Stuff Kids Like.” A lot.

What’s your favorite bright colored Disney treat?

 

2015 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

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I was lucky enough to go to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival this year the day before it opened and was rewarded with non-existent crowds and, you guessed it, great good. Here’s a quick rundown of what I saw that first day.

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Brunch Now at Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian.

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Who doesn’t love Sunday brunch? It’s a great excuse to slow down, nosh and talk about the day’s plans. Well, now you can do just that during your Walt Disney World vacation at Narcoossee’s, one of Disney’s signature restaurants at my absolute favorite resort, the Grand Floridian. Here’s the scoop from Disney:

Beginning Nov. 22, Guests will be able to enjoy a Waterfront Brunch at Narcoossee’s on Sundays from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.. It will feature a prix-fixe menu priced at $69 per adult and $41 per child.

All dining plans, discounts, and dress code that apply for dinner will apply for Waterfront Brunch. Guests wishing to use the Disney Dining Plan will need to use two Dining Plan meal entitlements per person for the DDP and deluxe plans and one Dining Plan meal entitlement per person for Premium and Platinum plans.

Effective Sept. 16, Guests are able to book online and through the Disney Reservation Center.

Don’t worry about the dress code–you can dress up, and that’s part of the fun, but as long as you’re wearing neat, tidy clothing that and no t-shirts with offensive content (and you wouldn’t, of course, because you are awesome), then you’re good to go.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Disney Dining Scalpers

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You’ve probably heard by now that unscrupulous businesses have found another way to make money off of Disney by “buying up” reservations at the 180 day mark and selling them to guests.  This isn’t any different than those folks who were selling their Guest Assistance Cards (GAC) last year to buyers who wished to use a disability “pass” to get front of the line access to Disney attractions, although it probably doesn’t have the visceral sting of hiring a person in a wheelchair to help you bypass long lines.  However, just like with the GACs, Disney now has egg on its face through no fault of its own and you can be assured that they’re working on a way to stop it.  So what’s going on?

First a little background. There are two different types of sites. The first site messages you when a dining reservation comes up. You’ll pay $8 or more for the privilege of logging into your own MyDisneyExperience account and then making the reservation yourself. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the reservation; it’s more of a heads up, but you’ll pay for the notification just the same.  I personally don’t use or recommend these sites, but they aren’t technically selling a reservation, they’re just letting you know when one becomes available.

The second type of site is the real issue. This company books reservations at 180 days out using, I would assume, some type of gift cards to hold the reservation (at a penalty of $10 per head for no-shows). They then offer you two options:  1) You buy a reservation for $6 or more and then set up a “chat” with someone from the site who will then cancel and you will, the theory goes, immediately book, your desired reservation; or 2) you purchase a guaranteed reservation where you’ll pay $15 and simply go to the restaurant as “John Doe” or whatever other fake name they give you.  The company says that they use “John Doe” each time but I would imagine they are smarter than that give that it wouldn’t take cast members long to smell a scam, so I assume that they actually use some other aliases.

Since there’s no guarantee on that the first option will work since you have to get the timing just right, and frankly there’s no guarantee that reservation even exists in the first place,  it behooves you to book the more expensive option and check in under an alias. In fact, this company is telling you that their cheaper system really won’t work for more popular reservations. And guess what? Everything they’ve got is popular.

You may think that this doesn’t effect you, but let me assure you, it effects all of us. Here’s a good example: this website has 27 Be Our Guest reservations available for October. This means that, at a minimum,  27 families who searched for the most popular restaurant on Disney property 180 days prior to travel did not get that reservation. But for a price, you can purchase it.

So you’re scrambling at 180-days out to get that reservation and you can’t.  And the problem is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. At a certain point, with more revenue and a bigger website, they can book just about everything out there.  All they really need is have a small amount of capital available to hold these reservations and a courtesy hold on a room (which falls off automatically, no questions asked, if you don’t pay the deposit) that they use to get the on-site advantage of booking 180-days plus 10 (as opposed to guests who stay off site). These people are, frankly, screwing all of us over. And not just Disney guests, but locals who come to dine as well.

Even if you’re tempted to use a company like this, why would you? Can you really trust someone who makes a living so unscrupulously? Who’s to say these “non-guaranteed” reservations even exist? It’s quite easy for someone to pay for the $8 option for 1900 Park Fare, for example, go into chat with the booking agent and have them release it, and then not have it show up? Who’s to say it didn’t show up because someone else didn’t get there first? You can’t. You don’t have access to their MyDisneyExperience account and Disney Dining won’t let you verify a confirmation number unless you have all the main guest’s information–and they just booked this reservation under an alias!  And so you’re out $8 and you’re going to have to keep looking.

Here’s the thing. At some point in the very near future, Disney will figure out a way to stop this. And trust me, it will be more work for cast members and also come be at a cost to you.  And again, this isn’t Disney’s fault. But if Disney makes it mandatory that the reservation holder must show ID in order to check in, that means that you can’t run your littlest one to the bathroom while your spouse checks in for you.  And that’s just another rule that you have to follow on a vacation that’s already asking you to make dining 180-days in advance and fastpasses 60-days out!

Meanwhile, you can do your part by not helping these businesses take something from you that was intended to be free.  People have always found a way to make a buck off of the Mouse, but this time, it effects all of us in a very tangible way.

Sorry, I did not link to the main offender because I didn’t want to send them any traffic. If you’d like the link, feel free to email me.

The Boathouse at Disney Springs: The Part Where I Take a Bullet for You.

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Friendly staff and big tables full of families.

Before I start, I should be clear about one thing: I’ve never been a huge fan of Downtown Disney, that monolithic Disney-fied outdoor shopping space selling merchandise you can find in just about any mall across the country. It never made sense to me to come all the way to Disney World to shop when there are four amazing parks where you can’t possibly see everything in one trip.  Add to that the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find a parking place and always crowded, and it was never a draw for me. Still, when Disney announced plans to revamp the space a couple of years ago, I was intrigued.  Recently, one of those new additions, The Boathouse, opened up and I decided to try it the first chance I got.  Reviews of this restaurant, which is a high-end mix of seafood and steaks, were reasonably good, but to be honest, I was unsure how reliable they were: A lot of reviewers appeared to be “invited” by the management. I wanted to hear from regular guests or try it myself before I decided.

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The view really is spectacular.

First, the Boathouse is bright and airy with a nautical theme–as one would expect being called the Boathouse and all–and exceptionally loud. More so when the band, which played 70s easy listening tunes that were bad then and worse now, started playing.  However, every person who spoke to us was super friendly, right down to the person who brought us our water and left a small pitcher behind, a nice touch.

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More of the view. If you go, ask for a waterside table.

I was able to get a walk-up at around 6:30 (on a Wednesday night) and had my pick of tables; about 30 minutes later, the place was packed, so they’re not hurting for patrons. Our server showed up about 15 minutes after we were seated and flashed one of those perfect smiles that no doubt make up the dreams of orthodontists everywhere and which, unfortunately, did not immediately allude to the fact that she was terrible at her job.  So terrible in fact that I tipped low, something I haven’t done in ages.   Friendliness only goes so far.  It’s called The Boathouse, not Hooters.

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Nondescript rolls and cold butter.

Some time after our initial introduction, our server brought us a basket of soft rolls and it was well, it was bread, which is to say that the 8-year olds at the table thought it was absolutely divine but I can tell you, because you’re a grownup and have discerning tastes, that it was essentially a basket of disappointment that looked buttery and yeasty but was simply bread. And cold.

When you order a steak here, you’ll order just that: A steak. You’ll pay extra for any sides and when I say you’ll pay extra, think in the $9 to $20 range, so you’d better like your steamed broccoli a lot is all I’m saying.  Same for the basket of fries which, in our case, was delivered cold. This in addition to a steak that will set you back around $50.

I’d spent most of the day driving from Atlanta by myself with three children in the car who alternated between feuding and laughing and wanting to kill each other, so at this point, I was not only hungry, I wanted a little bit of comfort and I was hoping that this steak would deliver. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.  Overly charred on the outside and unevenly cooked on the inside, this steak was over-seasoned and tough in places. I could almost forgive the fact that the temperature was inconsistent, ranging from well done to rare when I’d ordered medium rare,  if the meat itself had been edible, but the cook was so heavy-handed with the seasoning that I ended up cutting off pieces of the outside and giving the well-done parts to my eight-year old.

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I know, that doesn’t look like a $58 hunk of meat to me either.

The kids meals were also lacking, with one child not being served at all.  The menu is pretty typical: Burgers, fries, and a side, for around $10. My daughter ordered a burger which resembled a tiny hockey puck.  She’s a good eater but she barely picked at it. My older son got some over-cooked nuggets. Those were ignored as well. Both kids also received a microscopic side order (or was it a garnish?) and perhaps owing to the cuteness factor, they actually liked those.  In the end, the kids were still hungry after their meal, especially the kid who never got his order in the first place.

At this point, I don’t think The Boathouse is undergoing growing pains. I think it’s actually just a substandard restaurant in a long line of not so great Downtown Disney–excuse me, Disney Springs–establishments. I’d had high hopes for this place, but I’ve had better (and considerably cheaper) steaks at Chefs de France or Grand Floridian Cafe, both non-signature restaurants, to say nothing of really standout steaks at Disney’s signature restaurants like Yachtsman Steakhouse

My advice: Skip The Boathouse and save your money. Go with a Disney-owned steakhouse if you have a craving for a steak.

If you must:  We were told that The Boathouse only offers a few tables per night for Disney’s online reservation system, so if you can’t find a spot online, call the restaurant directly.  Expect to pay around $80 and up per adult.

The King Cupcake: Banana, Bacon and Peanut Better at Pop Century.

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You’ve probably heard about Elvis Presley’s love of junk food, but did you know about his favorite sandwich? It was called “Fools Gold” and it contained extra crispy bacon, peanut butter, and bananas, all piled high on white bread and grilled in copious amounts of delicious butter.  Well, someone at Disney’s Pop Century Resort decided to pay homage to The King by putting those ingredients together in cupcake form. Did they succeed? Well, sort of.

First, let’s talk about the base, which is a chocolate cupcake. Pretty typical taste-wise. It’s very moist, which is an added bonus. A lot of commercially made cupcakes aren’t.  Next, you’ll find a banana mousse filling, the highlight of this dessert. And then there’s the topping, a bland tasting peanut putter frosting topped with candied bacon

Oh, bacon you say? Yes, bacon. Sadly, the bacon doesn’t really make up for the bland peanut butter frosting, although it did add a nice salty crunch. Overall, what I liked most about this cupcake was the banana filling, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it.

I think food is an important part of your visit. I love how Disney servers are some of the best I’ve encountered and I love that Disney has really tried to make their food stand out over the past decade. At this point, Disney isn’t serving good “theme park food.” They’re serving food that’s good anywhere.   And for some of my clients, using their dollar (or dining credit) wisely is an important part of their trip budget, so if I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, I don’t. This cupcake sort of falls into that gray category: Interesting to try, kind of kitschy fun, but not really worth the money. Unless you’re blowing dessert credits as part of a quick-service meal, I’d probably skip it. There are too many places to spend your hard-earned money on better food.

Final thoughts? I’d give it a solid 5 out of 10.  Not great, not awful. Just sort of in the middle.

 

Spicy and Spicy Chicken Waffle at Sleepy Hollow.

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Looking for a tasty sandwich in the Magic Kingdom? The sweet and spicy chicken waffle at Sleepy Hollow at the Magic Kingdom is not exactly a sandwich, but it’s pretty close. And what it’s lacking in its sandwich-ness (yes, that’s a real word), it makes up for in taste.

Located in Liberty Square just over the bridge from the hub, you probably know Sleepy Hollow as a great place to get ice cream sandwiches made with huge chocolate chip cookies or funnel cakes, but you can also get this delicious waffle sandwich. It’s topped with fresh arugula and a creamy coleslaw, but the real star is of course the big hunk of breaded and fried chicken  breast doused with a sweet, Asian inspired sauce.  It’s got some heat, say a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, but it’s quickly offset by the sweetness.    The waffle was cooked to order and tasted delicious as well.

This is my new go-to snack in the Magic Kingdom. It’s big enough for lunch for one person or as a quick snack for two when you’re dining reservation is a few hours away and you need to fuel up.  And at under $10 for it and a drink, it’s a bargain, as far as theme park treats go.  Try it your next time in the park and let me know what you think.

Let’s Talk about Free Dining for September.

This time of year, you can’t read a Disney message board without seeing rumors about free dining being released for September. There are even “free dining prognosticators” who are minor celebrities on these boards, people who seem to know when it’s coming out long before anyone else. Whether they have an inside edge or they’re just good at utilizing past data and making predictions, these posters are great at whipping their fellow posters into a frenzy. And you know what? Some of them get it right.  Right now, the vibes, as it were, are really good for free dining. Of course there’s been no real indication from Disney yet. Here’s why I think the rumors are true.

1. September is a slow month. Even adding an extra week to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival won’t bring in enough guests to counter that. 

2.  Historically, Disney has offered free dining in September for the last decade.

3.  In the last two years, Disney has added two new resorts, Art of Animation and the Disney Vacation Club Villas at the Grand Floridian. This translates to roughly 11,000 pillows that need heads on them every night without also bringing a corresponding number of guests from off property to hotels to on property.  In fact, the number of guests traveling to Orlando each year remains fairly static.  The real goal is to get those off site guests on property–and Disney does that pretty well with promotions like free dining.

4.  Free dining keeps lesser known Disney restaurants running during slow times, ensuring that the staff stays trained and gainfully employed–which includes making tips. 

And here’s the big one:

5.  Competition from Universal Orlando. In the last few years, theme park fans have been the beneficiaries of the competition between Disney and Universal: Universal opens up Harry Potter, Disney opens up the Fantasyland Expansion. And back and forth with minor attractions since then. Disney, of course, is set to debut the much-anticipated (you don’t know the half of it) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in just a few weeks (perhaps even days), but Universal is opening up an entirely new section of  Harry Potter.

Now, for me, Universal will never beat Disney. The theming isn’t the same and the resorts aren’t as nice (and they’re all pretty uniformly expensive). Really, it just misses that certain something that Disney delivers time and time again. But I’m a diehard Disney fan so I’m quite biased. However, even I can see the allure of heading over to Universal. This new Harry Potter addition is going to be quite impressive.

Given that more theme park dollars are going to be lured over the Universal, Disney is going to have to make staying on property more attraction. And they’re going to do that by offering free dining.

Let me just say this: No one really knows if free dining is coming out for September. That’s my nice way of adding the caveat “please don’t come yelling at me if it’s not offered!”  But I would be really surprised if it didn’t happen, so get ready!  If you’re one of the many who are waiting for free dining, my suggestion is that  you jump on it the first day it’s offered. Last year, the pickings were awfully slim, especially for resorts like Port Orleans, although this was a bigger issue for the October thru December time frame than December.

Good luck!

Want a quote when free dining comes out? I’m only doing holds for free dining this time since the first day is so busy and rooms go quickly. A hold doesn’t commit you to anything, it just ensures that you get your room. For a hold I need the following information:

Everyone’s names plus the kids’ ages
Your travel dates
Resort choice(s)
Type of tickets

We can change everything later as we work out the details, but this at least gets you started with a guaranteed spot. Feel free to contact me prior to the release so I can have all your paperwork ready to go, then I’ll just email you the confirmation on the day of.  Just use the quote request form on the right or email me at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com or call 919-889-5281. As always, most clients qualify for a Disney tote and gift card.


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