An October 2005 trip
to Orlando by C.Kowalczik
Quote: One of the most memorable experiences you can have while visiting Disney World is the time you can spend with your favorite character, but where is the best opportunity to “bump” into them? Disney simplified this opportunity by bringing the characters to you in twelve different dining experiences.
Now meeting your favorite Disney character is as easy as sitting down for a meal. The Disney Character Dining Experiences are a fantastic way to meet the characters, snap a few pictures, get an autograph and enjoy a great meal all at the same time.
There are twelve different Character Dining Experiences throughout Disney’s Theme Parks and Resorts. Each experience has a host of characters and offers a wide diversity of menu options.
Although we have tried a few of the different locations I would have to say that my family is partial to the Crystal Palace, a Character Experience with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eyeore, located inside the Magic Kingdom. Every year that we visit the parks we also include a lunch with my wife’s first love, Winnie the Pooh.
We have also found Chef Mickey’s to be a fantastic opportunity to have breakfast with Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Pluto, Chip and Dale. We visited the Contemporary Resort and Chef Mickey’s on our most recent trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and the kids wont stop talking about it. It is a definite must see for any Mickey fan.
All of the experiences accept advanced seating reservations and it is highly recommended that you do so as far as 90-Days in advance. Why 90-Days, you ask? Believe it or not, some of the experiences will be booked solid, even if you call 90-Days in advance, first thing in the morning. Disney will start accepting advance seating reservations that far out, so to ensure that you get a seat for the experience you want, I recommend contacting a Travel Planner or Disney (1-407-WDW-DINE) well in advance.
If you booked an experience inside the parks, then make certain you are in the same park that day and you are all set. Even if you are not in the same park, don’t worry. Disney offers up to four different methods of transportation to get you where you want to be. You can take the Monorail, Bus, Water Taxi or simply walk to your restaurant.
You can also utilize Disney Transportation for meals that are planned in the different Disney Resorts or you can drive yourself to the selected venue. I found that when staying off property, it is easier to drive yourself to the Disney Resort for dinner reservations, rather than relying on Disney Transportation. This will ensure that you arrive on time, and lessens the time it will take to commute.
Restaurant | "Gulliver’s Grill"
When we plan our Character Experiences, we usually do so around what our children are interested in. However after reading through the different Character Dining Experiences that were available, I chose Gulliver’s Grill for myself based on the menu options.
We made our advance reservation for seven o’clock on Saturday October 15, 2005. Although we could have parked in the visitors section of Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and walked to the Swan, we opted to pay the $8.52 for guest parking and drove directly to the hotel. As you gaze upon the picturesque surroundings of the hotel you become enchanted by the size and beauty of it all. When you entered the lobby it was nothing short of spectacular with the glamour and poise that you expect from Disney.
The hotel was so big that we had to ask for directions to the restaurant and as you approach the podium you magically enter the classic tale of “Gulliver’s Travels”. After being seated we were greeted by one of most hospitable servers in the restaurant industry, Tom Snyder. Having been a culinary student and working in the industry for many years, this is a compliment that I do not hand out regularly. Everything from Tom’s initial greeting and the presentation of the wine, to the clearing of the table was (to quote Chef Ramsey) “Spot on”.
After being given the option of either the a la carte menu or the buffet, I of course opted for the Old South Buffet ($26.95). My wife on the other hand chose the Fettuccini Alfredo ($16.95) and we paired our meal with a bottle of Jekel Riesling ($32.00), following Tom’s suggestion.
The buffet offered choices of prime rib, catfish, chicken and ribs presented with side dishes of stuffing, collard greens, red bliss potatoes, barbeque baked-beans and more. My compliments to Chef Russell Neidig with only one suggestion; use less salt in the collard greens and stuffing.
I nearly forgot to mention what my son would consider the best part of this meal; during our two-hour feast we had the pleasure of being greeted by both Goofy and Pluto on several occasions. The characters took the time to give individual attention to both of my children, as well as sign their autograph books and pose for photos.
In conclusion, if you are searching for a dining experience where elegance and charm meets the magical characters of Disney, then look no further than Gulliver’s Grill. If you should happen to have the opportunity of enhancing your experience of being served by Tom Snyder, then you will understand why this has become one of my most favorite Disney Dining Experiences.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2005
1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830
+1 407 934 3000
Restaurant | "Princess Storybook Dining at Restaurant Akershus"
When D -90 finally came I called Disney at eight o’clock in the morning and requested the Once Upon a Time Breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table, only to be told that it was already sold out. Having done my own research I knew that the other Princess experience was the Princess Storybook Dining at Restaurant Akershus. Even so far in advance there was only two reservations available, so we booked the 1:10 pm reservation on Tuesday October 18, 2005.
Located inside EPCOT’s World Showcase the restaurant Akershus is built as a replica of a Norwegian castle. As it is with the rest of the World Showcase, you feel as though you were in Norway as you approach the restaurant podium. Approximately ten-minutes after we left our name a Norwegian native stood in the doorway and announced that “the Akershus welcomes Royal family Kowalczik”. This was a nice beginning to an otherwise disappointing experience.
We are escorted inside the restaurant and invited to take a family photo with Ariel that would be processed and would later be brought to the table for purchase ($29.95). After the photo, we were shown to our table and introduced to our server, Eilin. Unfortunately it was more than obvious that she was “acting” friendly, you could even say she put it on a bit thick. She explained to us how the lunch buffet menu, took our drink order and invited us to help ourselves to the Taste of Norway, which was nothing more than a salad bar.
Actually getting to the salad bar was another story. As soon as Eilin left the table, we saw Princess Aurora just two tables away. As we scrambled to get the autograph book and the camera ready, she was at our table and Belle was at the first table. This pattern continued with Jasmine and then Mulan. Each of the four princesses quickly signed the autograph books and rushed a quick photo. In all honesty, our one and a half year-old took off her sneakers and Mulan refused to take a photo with her unless her shoes were on. In all, we saw all of the princesses in a matter of ten minutes and didn’t see them again for the two hours we were there.
In conclusion, the food was mediocre at best and with the rush of the princesses I felt this to be nothing more than a waste of $71.00 and plan on contacting Disney with a letter outlining my disappointment.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 26, 2005
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Epcot Center: Norway Pavilio
Restaurant | "Chef Mickey's "
On the morning of October 17, 2005, we got the kids up a little early so we could have breakfast with Mickey. The restaurant is located inside the Contemporary Resort on the fourth floor. When we arrived there was only one other family in front of us, but the restaurant was already packed with people. While we waited for our table a Disney photographer took a family photo of us and directed us to the line in which we could meet Goofy. Goofy was the only character who was not visiting the tables, instead he stayed in the center of the restaurant so you could visit him.
We knew this was going to be a great experience when we walked past a handful of characters and saw that our table was right next to a window that overlooked the Magic Kingdom. Chip was the first character to join us at the table and he was more than happy to spend a couple minutes with the kids before posing for a couple photos and signing their autograph books. No sooner did Chip leave the table and Minnie surprised us with a visit. This was our daughter’s first trip to Disney and she has never met Minnie before and seeing her face light up as Minnie approached the table was priceless.
We dined on a bountiful breakfast buffet ($17.99 for Adults, $9.99 for Children ages 3-9) of three different omelets, bacon, sausage, hash, pancakes and waffles in the shape of Mickey himself. While we ate our breakfast Pluto, Mickey and Dale visited our table and what made their visits memorable, was the attention that they showed the kids rather than just signing their books and walking away.
We left Chef Mickey’s at 8:58 am with our belly’s full and having seen each character at least twice. Other than a great meal and a superb character experience, the one thing that convinced me this was the place to have breakfast, was the line to get in: that now had more than thirty people waiting in it.
Chef Mickey's Restaurant
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Restaurant | "Crystal Palace- Magic Kingdom"
The Crystal Palace is located in the Magic Kingdom at the very end of Main Street USA. The restaurant was built to replicate a nineteenth century building in Regent’s Park, London. Each and every day the building comes alive with the smells of American fare and culinary delights that are prepared fresh daily in the “On Stage Kitchen”, while offering each visitor an opportunity to meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore.
This restaurant is quite affordable considering that it is all you can eat with the cost of unlimited Non-alcoholic Beverages and Dessert included. There are three separate dining experiences offering three menu options inspired by the different seasons:
Other than the extremely affordable price, we return to the Crystal Palace every year to see all our friends from the Hundred Acre Woods. While we were eating our meal we were visited first by Tigger, who made a great effort to charm our children as he signed their autograph book and posed for photos. Soon after Tigger left the table we were visited by Eeyore and Piglet, who showed the same high level of concern to spread the Disney magic. Last but not least there was Pooh, my wife’s first love. I often struggle with a bit of jealousy as she springs out of her seat to be the first to greet Pooh with a big hug and to pose for yet another photo. While the four characters roam the restaurant while you eat, every half-hour there is a mini parade (more like a conga line) that is led by Tigger inside the restaurant that your children will be more than happy to join in.
Along with the wonderful fanfare provided by Pooh and his friends, the Crystal Palace offered a fantastic buffet of roast beef and barbeque chicken. There was a wonderful smorgasbord of fresh fruits and salads, as well as a complete offering of children’s favorites.
Although there are twelve different Character Dining Experiences you can chose from, I can not express in writing how much we value our experiences with our friends of the Hundred Acre Woods.
Crystal Palace Restaurant
Disney World Magic Kingdom
Orlando, Florida 32830
East Haven, Connecticut