Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is the Walt Disney World Dining Plan ‘Worth’ it?


 
 

As in all things, value is in the eye of the beholder, but I recently returned from a Walt Disney World vacation and used the Dining Plan, so the following are my experiences and thoughts.

First, it’s important to know that there are several different dining plans to choose from and each provide their benefits per NIGHT of your vacation. So if you are staying five nights, then you would get 5 of each of the options, even if you happen to visit the parks more or less than the five days. It’s also important to know that everyone in your room must be on the package. No just paying for 1 and then splitting all the meals allowed.

All plans also include a refillable resort mug. This mug is only good at resorts, and is good from the food courts for everything in the beverage area, such as coffee, hot chocolate, sodas and tea.  You cannot refill these mugs at any of the parks. They are imbedded with a chip to make the self-serve fountain drinks work. You can also purchase the mug outside of the dining plan, for a variety of time frames. Being able to use it for the length of stay will set you back $17.99. If you’re a big soda drinker, this can be a benefit, but the idea of filling the mug, taking it to the parks and then lugging around an empty mug until you return to a resort, seemed like more hassle than it was worth. Therefore, I found no value in the mug.

The three basic plans include: Quick Service Plan, Disney Dining Plan, and Deluxe Dining Plan. They break down as follows:

Quick Service per person per night of stay: 2 Quick Service meals, plus 1 snack. Meals include a basic beverage, entrée and dessert (except for breakfast, which doesn’t include a dessert).  Cost for 2015 per night of stay is: $41.99 per adult and $16.03 per child.
Disney Dining Plan per person per night of stay:  1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service meal, plus 1 snack. Meals include a basic beverage, entrée and dessert (except for breakfast, which doesn’t include a dessert).  Cost for 2015 per night of stay is: $60.04 per adult and $19.23 per child. (be aware that some higher end eateries such as character dining, require 2 Table Service credits per
meal). 
 

Deluxe Dining Plan: per person per night of stay: 3 meals, plus 2 snacks. Meals include a basic beverage, appetizer, entrée and dessert (except for breakfast, which doesn’t include an appetizer or dessert) Cost for 2015 per night of stay is: $109.53 per adult and $29.86 per child.

 

So the question is…how much do you eat and would having a Dining Plan increase what you’d eat since you ‘have’ to fully utilize the plan to get your money’s worth?
I visited Walt Disney World under the Play, Stay & Dine promotion. Because of this I got the adult Disney Dining Plan for the cost of a child. I stayed six nights, so for my meal plan I paid $115.38. A true bargain. Had I paid the regular adult price it would have been $360.24. Keep these figures in mind as I break down my dining experiences.
 

My Table Service meals had me experiencing Boatwright’s at Port Orleans twice, (I had planned on Raglan Road, but inclement weather in Downtown Disney changed that. Boatwright’s is a new favorite.), Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom, Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and The Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios (which counted for 2 Table Service Meals). At each of these locations I got a beverage such as coffee or a smoothie, an entrée and a dessert. Please note that the dining plan does NOT include Gratuities. I tipped over 20% at each Table Service meal, so take the cost of tips into your calculations if you wouldn’t eat at Table Service locations if not on the plan.

 

Totals: My total charges for Table Service Restaurants came to  $174.00, for Counter Service $99.00 and for snacks $28.00, totaling $301.00, and if you add in the value of the mug, $319.00. So, getting the plan for the price I paid was terrific in terms of cost compared to value received, but had I paid the full price of $360.24, I would have come out behind. Granted, I could have had another meal had I not eaten at the Brown Derby and had I ordered the most expensive menu item, but I ordered what I wanted at each meal and didn’t try to max out each meal in terms of price.

 

The big bonus is the feeling of your vacation being close to all-inclusive, with almost everything prepaid. It was lovely to just wave that Magic Band and not worry about the cost of the meal.

The big negative for me was that I ate far more than I normally would since I didn’t want to ‘waste’ the plan. On a normal vacation, I tend to have a snack or two to fill in, have a kid’s meal instead of an adult size meal, rarely order desserts and only occasionally eat at a Table Service location.  

 

What camp do you fall into? Many things in life don’t come down to dollars and cents, but on perception and convenience. For myself, I’d certainly do the Dining Plan at a discount, but I wouldn’t find it a good fit for myself at full price. Many families feel the complete opposite.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Walt Disney World Be Our Guest Grey Stuff ~ My Take~ Recipe

 
What is that Grey Stuff and can I make it to impress family and friends?

If you read my Be Our Guest review (handy link here http://magicfeathermemories.blogspot.com/2015/03/be-our-guest-restaurant-review-walt.html ) you know that my biggest gripe was the rock hard texture of the brownie base for the Grey Stuff mousse. Not on my watch!
I searched for the recipe and since it is one of those closely guarded Disney secrets, checked out many knock offs. In general, they all agree that the 'stuff' is an Oreo cookie mousse. With some tweaking, here is what I came up with.
The Grey Stuff
1 (3.4 ounce) pkg instant French Vanilla pudding mix (after all, Miss, this is France)
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
15 regular Oreos (not Double Stuffed or any crazy flavors. It's getting hard to find the original)
1 ( 8 ounce tub whipped topping)
3 tablespoons instant Chocolate pudding mix
Sugar pearls and crystal sugar sprinkles
brownie rectangles
Mix French Vanilla pudding mix and evaporated milk in a large bowl, and put in refrigerator for 5 minutes to set.

Process Oreos until they are fine crumbs... think Oreo sand.
Mix the pulverized Oreos into the French Vanilla pudding mix. The mixture is close to black.
Fold in the whipped topping. Close.
Add the 3 tablespoons instant chocolate pudding mix. As close to grey as you can probably get. Chill at least an hour.
Pipe onto brownie and add bling. Or skip the brownie and just pipe into a dish. Yes, it's delicious! And best of all, easy.

Their version and mine. Mine wins on brownie, theirs wins on mousse height. I could have easily added more height...the mousse pipes quite well. And yes, theirs looks more elegant as well (but that awful brownie brick takes away many points).
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Be Our Guest Restaurant Review ~ Walt Disney World

 
The stunning Be Our Guest restaurant, located in Fantasyland at Walt Disney World in Florida, is high on the list of must do's for many. Is the angst in trying to get a coveted reservation worth it?

The Imagineers went above and beyond in the theming of this area. Even before you cross the bridge to the magnificent entryway, you are transported through time and place as you're greeted by gargoyles and lions with a view of the Beast's castle top in the distance.



There are several dining rooms, each with different mood and theme. The largest of these is the ballroom with gold and chandeliers aplenty to set the tone.
Décor is upscale and the menu offers a wide variety of innovative choices that seemed to me to be priced lower than I expected.
I chose the braised pork with a cauliflower puree. Service was quick and efficient and food was served quickly and was proper temperature. The flavors of all components melded well and the dinner was delicious.

The dessert cart is brought around and we tried several offerings but of course had to include The Grey Stuff in our choices.
I believe there is a way to get just the mousse portion, but we chose as offered, which was the mousse atop a dense brownie. The Grey Stuff itself was very tasty (stay tuned to my blog as I will attempt to recreate it), but we found the brownie very hard and nearly impossible to cut. The base of this dessert needs to be changed, or served fresher.
This is not a character meal. Don't expect Belle and the Beast to come strolling. The Beast does do greetings in the library at times, but that is not a given, so don't go with that intent.
Take time to peek in the other rooms a bit while you're there. This is a beautifully done dining experience that lives up to its hype and is sure to become a beloved tradition for every visit to Walt Disney World.