Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Disney Speak - Disney Dining Plan

With the Disney Speak series I will continue to translate and explain the language of Walt Disney World.  It is ok if you don't know the ins and outs of everything Disney, because I do.  Today we will tackle the Disney Dining Plan.
The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is a great way to add your meals onto your Disney vacation package.  It is a nice way to prepay for your food while at the world.  What do you get when you use the DDP? How does the DDP work?  How do I get it?  Let's find out!

Lots of snack choices that can work with the Dining Plan.
To purchase the DDP you have to meet certain requirements. You must be staying at a Walt Disney World resort. You must either purchase a park ticket with your resort stay, have an annual pass, or be staying on DVC points.  The number on nights you stay determines the numbers of days you get the DDP for. So, if you book a 4 night stay you get 4 days worth of meals. You book 7 nights you get 7 sets of meals. It has absolutely nothing to do with how many days are on your park ticket.  You also must buy the DDP for everyone on the resort reservation. You can not just get it for half the people in the room or not get it for little Susie because she is a light eater. Everyone must get it. 

Your table is waiting at 50's Prim Time Cafe.
The number of meals that you get with with the DDP are 1 table service credit, 1 quick service, and 1 snack credit per day.  You also get 1 refillable mug for the length of your stay.  

The Refillable mug.  It only works at your resort, not in the parks.
The system works like a credit or voucher system. The credits are tracked by using your Magic Band. You do not have use your credits in any special order or time frame, just use them by midnight the night you check out. If you want to eat all your meals on one day you can.

Your credit can get you high end food.

Let's look at what constitutes a table service meal. Any meal where you sit at a "table" and a server brings you everything or a buffet.  Your credit includes an entree, dessert, and one non-alcoholic beverage or one full buffet.  All of the character meals are considered table service meals. Most of these meals require an "ADR" (advanced dining reservation).  Most meals are a very straight forward one credit. However, there are several meals that requires two of your credits. Some examples of 2 credit meals are Cinderella's Royal Table, Hoop Dee Doo, and California Grill.  

Any day that starts with Mickey Waffles is a good day.
Want unlimited mickey waffles, just book an ADR at a breakfast buffet. When you are looking at what meals to book you want to think about bang for your buck. Breakfast is often much cheaper then dinner. If you want to maximize the value of the DDP you want to use most of your Table Service credits for dinner. 

Why wait in line to meet someone, when you could eat.
Another great way to maximize credits and time is to do character meals. First off, character meals are expensive but they are very enjoyable. You kill two birds with one stone. You get to eat and meet mickey at the same time. 

Some meals offer exclusive characters.  Doc McStuffins is only available to meet at a meal.  There are also special outfits at many of the meals as well.  Want to meet Farmer Mickey or Hawaiian Mickey?  Just use a table service credit.

Princess, Princess, and more Princesses there are many opportunities to eat with royalty.  It is difficult to meet 4 different princess in an hour.  That makes the value of a character meal worth much more then just the food.  

Do you think you have to dine with someone that is furry?  Absolutely not.  Many of the the best uses of a dining credit does not involve a character.  There are many options that involve great themes and different cultures.  Lots of great culinary adventures await your palate it you allow yourself to get way from the buffets and burgers and explore.

Our favorite quick service in the Magic Kingdom.

Lets focus on the Quick Service credit now.  On the regular DDP you get one Quick Service credit a day.  This credit includes an entree, dessert, and one drink.  There are numerous options for the Quick service or as some people will call it "counter" service locations.  

Here at Sunshine Seasons their lots of options.  Our favorite in Epcot.

The kids meal will come with an entree, two sides, and a drink.  Most the time they make it look like the sides are predetermined, but you can ask and substitute french fries or a cookie.  We often get grapes and cookies.  

Free Ice Water at Disney!
You may think there are too many drinks on this table, that's because we always order a glass of ice water with our meal.  Ice water is free anywhere there is fountain drinks.  

Doug loves to use his snack credit for these (or Dole Whip)
It's SNACK TIME!!!!  You get one snack credit a day.  This might be the most confusing credit to use.  There are more options then you can count.  Basically you just need to look for the DDP snack credit logo.  Any menu item you see the logo next to you can get with your snack credit.  There are many items that can cost 5 to 6 dollars.

Popcorn and Mickey Bars!  Yes your credit can get you the traditional Disney snack.  Many people have the problem of left over credits at the end of their trip and end up in the shops getting little novelties with them.  Try to use them to get some thing good to maximize the value of the credit.

This location in the Magic Kingdom is great example of how you can get some things but not others.  You can get a funnel cake for $5.99 but you can't get the Waffle for $4.99.  It really doesn't make much sense.  This is also a good menu to show how you can get more bang for your buck.  That funnel cake or Ice cream Cookie Sandwich is a great use but a bottle of water would be a poor use.  In other words pay out of pocket for the drink and use the credit fro the Liberty Swirl Slush.  

It is fun to let the kids pick something from the big case of snacks!

After getting back from the parks a stop off in the food court is a great source of snacks.

Yes this $5 cupcake is a snack credit.  It can be found at the Contempo Cafe in the Contemporary Resort.  It is a red velvet cupcake with a cheese cake core!  

We will end with a 2 year old attempting to eat a Mickey Bar in the Florida heat.

What else do you need to know.  When you use your table service credit you will have to pay the tip.  If you have a party of 6 or more an 18% will automatically be added.  This is one thing you need to plan for when you budget.  There are a couple that the tip is covered by the dining credit, they are Cinderella's Royal table, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, Mickey's Backyard BBQ, and the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.   Appetizers are not included with the Table Service credit.  Drinks include soft drinks, coffee, and tea for the most part.  There are up charge type drinks that have glowing ice cubes and things of that nature.  Alcohol is also not included.  If you want something that is not include you simply have to pay out of pocket.  

There are several different levels of the DDP.  We just discussed the The Disney Dining Plan, but there is the Quick Service, Deluxe, Premium, and Platinum Dining plans.

Quick Service you get 2 Quick Service meals a day, one snack a day, and one refillable mug. (mug is only good at your resort)

Deluxe you get 3 meal credits(can be used on table or quick) and two snacks per day, and one refillable mug.  (mug is only good at your resort)

Premium you get 3 meal credits(can be used on table or quick) and two snacks per day, and one refillable mug.  (mug is only good at your resort)  You also receive unlimited selected recreation(i.e.miniature golf or watercraft rentals)

Platinum you get 3 meal credits(can be used on table or quick) and two snacks per day, and one refillable mug.  (mug is only good at your resort)  You also receive unlimited selected recreation(i.e.miniature golf or watercraft rentals).  Also unlimited admission to select theme park tours, admission to the children's activity centers, spa treatments, and much more.

On the Premium and Platinum plans every meal is only one credit.  So, if you wanted to eat 3 table service meals a day you could.

Is it worth it?  That is the big question and the answer depends on how your family eats.  When touring the Disney Parks it is nice to sit down once a day and relax while you eat.  I think that makes the regular DDP the most appealing to my family.  Some families can eat three buffets in a day which would make the Deluxe plan fit better.  The main thing is picking the right plan for you.

The other important thing is picking the right meals.  If you plan on doing a character meal a day then getting the dining plan is a good move.  The meals that you need to book 180 days in advance tend to be the ones that get you the best value for your credits.  

For a list of some of our dining reviews look HERE!

Bon Appetit 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meal Time Monday - Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Do you like to dine with royalty?  Of course you do and there is no better place then at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, located in Epcot.  This meal is a combo family style/buffet for breakfast and off a menu for lunch and dinner.  

Your meal starts with with a picture with Belle.  There is a Photopass Photographer there to capture the magic.

If you book a 8:00am breakfast you get into the park early and can enjoy a few pictures with no one else around.  It is quite a hike all the way back to the Norway pavilion in the World Showcase.  Make sure you keep the walk in mind when planning your arrival time.  It can take a good 10 to 15 minuets to walk from the front gate to Norway.  

A look at the food.  The plate in the middle of the table is what comes for the family style part of breakfast.  It has eggs, bacon, sausage, and an egg bake.  You can ask for  a refill because it is all you can eat.  The food on our plates is from the buffet.  Lots of fruits and pastries to choose from.  Breakfast is American food but lunch and dinner is Norwegian inspired.

When you travel with a 1 and almost 3 year old they both ate for free that day.  Buffets and Family style is great when you have someone under 3 with you, even if Alden ate the menu.  

A little older but the plate does not look much different.  

Clair at the age of one. This bagel kept her entertained for a while.

Now for the real reason we are here, the PRINCESSES.  You never know who you will get.  They will not guarantee you certain ones.  Aurora(Sleeping Beauty) made it to our table first.  

Then we got a visit from a mermaid.  These were the types of pictures that we learned from.  You need to get up to take the pictures so you don't have a plate of half eaten food in them.

Look we are getting smarter by the time Snow White stopped by.

Mulan made Alden giggle.  

Clair on the other hand at the age of one was terrified of the princess.  You never know how little kids will react.  If only you could hear the screams coming from such a small person.

Cindy, Sam, Clair, and a bagel.

Samantha has always liked Snow White and loved meeting her while wearing her dress.  In about 2010 the wearing costumes to Disney parks trend was just starting to take off.  In 2015 almost every little girl at a meal like this is dressed up.  In 2008 we can not find a single dress in the back grounds of our pictures.  

Lastly Aerial stopped by.  This might be the best picture of Clair with a princess.

They have a little princess parade around the dinning rooms.  Smiles from all the little princesses.  

Out front we got a picture with the Girls working from Norway.  We always try to have the kids interact with the Castmembers from around the world.  

We have only eaten breakfast at Akershus because we are just not brave enough to have a Norwegian-inspired meal for lunch or dinner.  At lunch and Dinner you get an appetizer and a choice of entrees and dessert.  

This meal is one of the best uses of a Disney Dining Plan table services credit because it is an expensive meal.

It is One Credit on the Disney Dining Plan.  An ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) is required and should be booked well in advance.  180 days is recommend if you want to have your choice of times.  The 8:00am tends to fill up first.  People like to do this because you can be done eating right about the time the park opens.  However by the time you walk back to Sorin' or Test Track lines would already be formed.  

You can see the whole menu HERE.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is located in Epcot and a park ticket is required for entry.  

Over all we really enjoy this meal.  It is a great alternative to Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom.  You get to meet many princess and it is only one Credit.  For the younger kids it is nice to mix into your afternoon/evening at Epcot.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Disney FYI - Filming in a Disney Park

Ever wonder how they film some of the Disney commercials in the park?  Well they rope stuff off and just do it as guests are walking past.  On our trip in September of 2014 they filmed in several locations around the Magic Kingdom.  It was only slightly inconvenient when they were moving from location to location.  They kid thought it was really cool to see all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into filming. It was a super slow time at the Magic Kingdom so it really had little impact.  However, we know TV production does not really care much about how busy the park is.  in 2014 spring break they filmed "The Middle" for several days.  That filming would have been more of an inconvenience then just this little commercial.

They were filming a little on the stage across from Pirates. You can see just how much space and stuff it involves.  The cast members do a good job of making people move away and not watch or take pictures to close.  You could see how it could be an inconvenience on a busy day.

Another angle of the action.

Here is the commercial.  We saw it about a month later while watching TV.  
One of my pet peeves about Disney commercials is when you do something in the commercial that you can not do at the parks.  Like meet Jake in the Magic kingdom in the middle of grass, he is only available to meet at Hollywood Studios.  It is fun to see it on TV and say hey we saw that.

Can you spot Ryan Seacrest?  He hosted the 2010 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade.
The taping of the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade usually happens in early December.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Trip Report 2013 - #7 - Magic Kingdom Rope Drop, Cinderellas Royal Table, Epcot, Extended Family!

Our plan for the day!
We could share the calendar.
 So, it was the night before we had a party of 11 to coordinate on the"My Disney Experience" app and all our Fastpass+ disappeared.  So Doug headed down to the lobby of the Art of Animation to see if they had a computer he could use instead of the app.  Turns out they don't.  So, he pleaded to the concierge for help after waiting in line for awhile.  The lady that helped him eventually got it all straightened out plus she added a few extras to our day.  She gave us 3 addition passes to use at Epcot that night.  The whole Fastpass+ thing was still new and the snags were nowhere near out of the system, but at least we were ready for tomorrow!

Waiting for the monorail to head from the TTC over to the park.  We are prepared for a long day.  Doug's family only had one day park tickets before we hit the open seas, and the kids all had things they "HAD" to show them.  It is funny when the kids are talking about showing Uncle Greg Splash Mt. or Grandpa the Jungle Cruise, because they can't wrap their heads around that they had been there before.  It was just not with them.  Doug's Parents and Brother's last visit was 1998 and Debbie's was 1993, so there was lots of new and exciting things to see and do.  However, everything the kids wanted to "show" them has been there awhile.

When you are early the only monorail running is the resort line, so you get to stop and let people go spend their day eating breakfast.

Uncle Greg and John were already at the Magic Kingdom gates when we arrived.  They took the bus from Coronado Springs to the Magic Kingdom.  The bus is almost always faster to the magic kingdom then driving.  The kids spotted Greg while we were going through bag check.  They were a "little" excited to see him!

Sam with her hair all done up posing with a Mickey Scanner.

In this picture we have added Mike(Debbie's Husband), Debbie (Doug's Sister), Sandy (Doug's Mother), and Baby Lila(Debbie and Mikes 3 month old)

The rest of the crew slowly trickled in.  We gave them strict orders to be early and it payed off we had our spot at the rope and were ready.  

Here we have Jim(Doug's Dad) in the Hawaiian shirt, Greg(Doug's Brother) in front, and John(Greg's Partner).
We made our way to secondary rope drop waiting to get into Tomorrowland.  This is the main group minus me because I am taking the Picture.  Doug was heading to get Thunder Fastpasses and Sandy was taking Lila to Little Mermaid to wait for the rest of the group.  We had quite the plan to start the day to try to accommodate different speeds and thrill levels.

Walked right on to space and were just about the first ones on!

Then we headed over to Buzz Lightyear.  Where we met back up with Doug.  We also regrouped with Mike and Clair who had skipped space and did buzz once.  Here is Greg and Alden taking aim.

I think Debbie had given up trying to score.  

Alden had lots of fun riding with Uncle Greg.  This is at the end where Alden is most concerned with scores.

Sam and I ready for a spin with John.

John took a ton of great pictures.  We never get a picture like this because Doug can't ride the tea cups so it was neat to see lots of pictures of us that we just can't take our selves.  

Baby Lila taking in The Adventures of the Little Mermaid.

Half the group did Mermaid and Half did Tomorrowland Speedway.

Sam is along ways from getting a drivers license.

The Speed way group waiting for the Mermaid group before heading to the wilderness.

Time to make a splash.

Sam is in the back row with Greg but you can see her because she ducked down into his lap.  After the wash cycle we went through the dry cycle on Big Thunder Mt.

Back at the Rapunzel bathrooms we meet back up with our non splash group.  Doug's Mom and Sister hung out there and feed the baby.  It really is a good place to find a bench.  They also have outlets to charge your phone.

I think Alden was wearing out his welcome.

Does it look like they were setting sail on the happiest cruise to ever sail?

Your singing the song in your head right now, it's ok you can admit it.

We were on our way to get some waffles for a light lunch and Greg got a little side tracked.
We love Sleepy Hallow for a lighter meal.  The Waffles are great and filling.  They have breakfast and lunch ones to choose from.  We were there before the lunch ones were available, but they have Nuttela and Fruit all day long! It just is not much fun when the weather is hot.  We tend to frequent it between November to April.

At this point the plan had some wiggle room.  At this point in the day we had done 8 attractions and you could tell we needed to stay off our feet for a little longer so we let Debbie pick and we went to Hall of Presidents.  I think the kids liked it.  Doug took a very solid 20 min nap.  

The brave soles before entering the Haunted Mansion.

Even though we had been Magic Banding it for a week now It was new to everyone else.  Sandy giving Clair a hand getting Mickey to Mickey.

We had time for a Pun or Too.  Had a great skipper for the Jungle Cruise.

Back side of water, isn't it lovely.

Cool picture of Alden and Greg on Big Thunder.  

After Thunder we met back up at Monster Inc Laugh Floor, every one loved it.  John had to get up and dance.  He had lots of moves.  It was an attraction that Doug told them it was one of his new favorite attractions.  He was not sure anyone believed him how interactive it was, but I think the technology managed to even make Jim laugh a time or two.

After Laughing we crossed back to Pirates, but we lots a few members along the way.  

It was time to get ready for our 4:00 dinner at Cinderellas Royal Table but we managed to catch the 3:00 parade first.  We said good bye to the parade because we knew it would be the last time we watched it before they would change it over.  We really are not a parade family and the kids seemed board about half way through.  I'm glad they are updating the parade.

All dressed up for dinner!

Our princesses.

When you eat at Cinderella's Royal Table you get pictures with Cindy before you head to  your table.  We got one of the whole group and one of Grandma and Grandpa with all the grand kids.

Snow White was the first to great us at our table.

Aura was next to come by, she always looks so well rested. 

We were a little ways into the meal when Jasmin said Hi.

And we rounded things out with our mermaid friend Aerial.

This is a meal that brings out the princess in everyone.

Sam and Clair's tiara made the rounds.

Never though I would see my father in law being this goofy but Disney brings out the kid in everyone.

Greg and John got a picture with Snow White, because as John said "she was the original princess".

Enjoying Desert. 
The meal pre paid and you get to order from a pre set menu.  There is really no way to go wrong with the food choices here.
If you want to see more about the meal you can see a post just on the meal Here.

On our way out of the park we got a picture with all the Christmas decorations.  

On the Monorail hopping to Epcot.

Our first Stop was Character Spot.  

It is safe to say Alden has the most energy of the group.

The whole group with Minnie

Lila meeting the big cheese for the first time.

Coordinating our plan from a bench turned into a photo op.  

We headed to Journey Into Imagination.  Sandy, Mike, and Lila just kinda hung out.

Now it was time to take flight with soarin'

Greg was excited to fly over the golden state.  Sandy hung out with Lila for this one.

After our flight we lost a few more.  Sandy, Debbie, Mike, and Lila headed back to the hotel.  We had worn them out. They did a good job keeping up, but with only one day we wanted to pack as much in as we could.

Now back across the park to Test Track.  Jim and Clair made a very nice purple car.

Sam, Alden, and Greg made some sort of crazy thing with 4 wheels and a motor.

I can't remember which car won.  I just know we all had fun.  

Now it was time to head back to the hotel to get some sleep before we head out to Port Canaveral tomorrow.