Thursday, January 26, 2012

Disney Dining for Fun

I often find myself in the middle of the same conversation about Disney restaurants. Both clients & friends will often ask my opinion on certain Disney restaurants and it can be tricky to give an honest opinion without stepping on anybodies toes. Because like everything in life-one man's truffle is another man's fungi. By that I mean, what I might find marvelous-another person might have little more than a crinkled nose & funny face for. So it is important to explain the why you like or dislike something. I try to always, in all my reviews, go beyond the vague territory of "it's so good" or "it was terrible!". I try to give as many descriptions as possible, such as "had a robust cilantro flavor", so you can then take that information and apply it to your own personal taste palette & dining style.

This brings me to the meat of my post-style. I've come to the conclusion that in giving descriptions & reviews of various Disney World restaurants, I have to start acknowledging a very unique style of restaurants at Disney. Experience dining locations. By that I mean restaurants where it becomes less about the actual food & more about the dining experience. Not to say that these locations can't offer some really great dining options, but they can often simply be a place you go to experience characters, atmosphere or talented staff, rather than amazing food. Some Disney restaurants are designed to delight & entertain your taste buds-and some can only accomplish providing adequate (and sometimes not even that) food to fill the time in between the scheduled entertainment.

Does this make them bad? Not necessarily. Should you skip them when making your Advance Dinner Reservations? Not at all. But it does do you good to not set your expectations for the food too high. You go because it's one of those places you don't want to miss the experience, but once you get past that initiation, you might never find your taste buds leading you back.

So for these restaurants I will be approaching the reviews slightly different than the style I use for Signatures. I will still talk about the decor, menu, and value. Also I will still give the best mode of transportation & travel path and do mini food reviews of individual dishes. But instead of reviewing the service, I will replace that with entertainment factor and describe what kind of entertainment you can expect when you dine there. Hopefully this will help give a better idea of what to expect from experience based restaurants.

Dreaming of Disney Free Dining in 2012

So I'm sitting here in dreary, cold New York watching it snizzle (snow+drizzle) and thinking that I really need to figure out when we're going to Disney next. This got me thinking about the different times we like to travel. Usually we plan travel in the Spring & Fall and have been fortunate enough to have taken advantage of Disney's Free Dining Promotions in the past. And that was it-my mind was sent off racing. I began to muse about this year and when and IF Disney will release a general public code for Free Dining in 2012. 

Now let me stop right here and say in big letters-THIS IS PURE SPECULATION ON MY PART. This is in no way confirmation that Free Dining is coming. This is merely my own personal musings on the subject. I could be WAY off base. And being a travel agent in no way earns me any inside information from Disney-lol I wish! So with that said, let's talk about some Free Dining predictions.

Let's start with do I think we will see Free Dining released for dates beyond the current promotion that ended back in December? Yes, I think we will. Why? Well here's my highly unscientific reasons for making that statement:

1) There have already been reports of Free Dining PIN codes for certain date starting in March and extending into June. I always take this as a good sign. While it doesn't mean that a general public code is on the horizon, it makes me hopeful.

2) Our friends in the UK have been given the offer. For select dates in Jan-Feb, May-Jun, Aug-Nov 2012. Usually when our friends across the pond get a deal, we Yanks get thrown a bone too.

3) The Bounceback offer flyers are in the rooms & it seems the dates will be mid-August to the end of September. Always a good sign too.

4) And lastly, this might sound a bit odd, but I think that the new Art of Animation suites are part of it. They are being categorized as "Value" resorts. But they can be a bit pricey, depending on the stay. In my mind, it makes a lot of sense to list those suites as Values so that when Free Dining is released, Disney only has to give the Quick Service Dining Plan verses the Plus plan, per person. I know-it's a stretch, but in the world of Disney it makes sense. One thing I know about Disney is that Disney has a reason for everything they do.It just makes sense to offer a lower cost dining plan for rooms that will hold more guests. 

Now as to when-that's tricky. Used to be late March, all of us Free Dining hopefuls would start watching the message boards for some word that Free Dining would be released in early April for travel in the "low season" of late August into early October, when many kids are back in school. Then Disney started changing things up. Extending Free Dining & releasing dates that extend throughout the year. Also where it used to be, one Free Dining promo would pretty much end before they released another one, they've changed that too. SO when? My guess is soon. I would not be at all surprised if we saw discounts released as early as February-March. 

So there it is-my HIGHLY speculative, extremely self-indulgent and influenced guess on Free Dining. So who's with me? Are you dreaming of happily making those Advance Dining Reservations too? Maybe we can start a support group ;)