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Category: Disney Restaurants

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. 

Blaze Pizza Opens in Disney Springs

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Looking for an inexpensive, quick-service alternative to burgers and fries? Last week the Disney Springs branch of the beloved Blaze Pizza chain opened and did not disappoint. Advertising “Blazing hot oven + dedicated pizzasmith + 180 seconds = fast-fire’d, perfectly crisp perfection,” Blaze Pizza allows the guest to pick from a huge variety of crusts, sauces, cheeses and meat and veggie toppings. The whole process takes around seven minutes from start to finish, with three of those minutes, 180 seconds, taking place in the oven.

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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?

 

Quick Bites: Red Velvet Cupcake from Starring Rolls.

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You can debate the dubious merits of red velvet cake all day long: I mean, is it even a flavor?  Probably not. At its best, it’s a moist, vaguely-chocolate cake colored a rich red and topped–and this is the where it starts getting good– with a thick slab of cream cheese frosting.  Even if your grandmother didn’t make red velvet cake for you, even if you only just discovered it while watching Steel Magnolias late one night on television, there’s a certain undeniably nostalgic quality to red velvet cake that makes it appealing, recalling shiny diners with display cases full of baked goods you’re really not supposed to eat now that you’re a proper grownup.

You’ll find the best red velvet anywhere on property in Hollywood Studios, right inside the Starring Rolls Bakery. Conveniently, it’s in cupcake form, so it travels well, or you could just go ahead and take a seat at one of the many outdoor tables you’ll find outside.  Big enough to share, it’s a bargain at $5 or one snack credit. In addition to a delicious cream cheese frosting that avoids that bland taste that so many commercial cream cheese frostings have, it’s got a thick cheesecake center. It’s also topped with nuts and little bits of chocolate.

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Go ahead: Indulge your retro side.  Just make sure you do it by around 2:00 o’clock. These beauties, and everything else in Starring Rolls, tend to sell out by early afternoon.

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.

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge

The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge opened last fall in Hollywood Studios and since then, it’s become a popular location to meet up for drinks and snacks. Located right outside the restaurant, the lounge is a cozy spot with just about a dozen tables.  At present, you can’t make dining reservations for this location, but it’s open all day so if it’s crowded when you get there, go on a ride or take in a show and then try again later.  Kids are welcome, of course, but the menu is very grown-up and drinks are served. It’s more of a “bar” than a restaurant, so little ones might be bored.

We arrived at opening and had our pick of the tables.  Service was a bit inattentive to start, but picked up later; nothing we could really complain about. In general, I find that most Disney servers are top notch, and while our server wasn’t the best, she was still perfectly good at her job.

Since we weren’t super hungry, we split two entrees among the three of us.  The menu falls somewhere between a tapas-style menu and full entrees.  Think sliders and cheese plates, but more upscale. For example, the tacos on the menu are not your ordinary tacos, but rather are made with duck confit.  You can also get the Brown Derby’s famous Cobb salad, desserts, and specialty drinks.  We settled on the Derby Sliders and the Artisanal Cheeses and Charcuterie Board for Two

The burgers came in two flavors, a more traditional burger with bacon, mustard aoli, cognac-mustard aioli, smoked gouda cheese, and avocado and another topped with house-made chorizo chipotle mayo, manchego cheese, pickles and crispy onions. I absolutely loved the first burger, with toppings that complimented each other beautifully. There was simply nothing I would change, right down to the brioche bun. The chorizo topped burger, on the other hand, was a bit overpowering and tasted more like a really great sloppy Joe. Honestly, I think that was more a matter of personal taste–to me, a bit of chorizo goes a long way. Others may well love this burger. Even so, I thought both were terrific and I would get them again.

The cheese and charcuterie board came with assorted soft and hard cheeses, as well as salami and a clever little pot of chicken “faux gras” which was absolutely delicious.  Another winner, I would order this again as well.

Hollywood Studios is a park with some really great table-service restaurants, but it’s quick-service locations are lacking. The Brown Derby Lounge fills a much needed space somewhere in between, with sophisticated bites, comfortable seats, and great people watching.  I’m so pleased that Disney made such good use of this small space. It’s bound to become a favorite meeting place in the park.