We just got back from 9 nights at WDW, staying at the Beach Club in which we had opted to take advantage of the dining plan. Upon our arrival, we were upgraded to the Concierge Level, which offers food from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Some things that we noticed about the dining plan:
1. Yes, it is a great value if you use all of the meals and snacks. But remember you have to wait in line at counter service locations, and then wait again at table service locations. Just because you have Priority Seating (an absolute must!) does not mean they sit you immediately upon your arrival. As we went during value season, the parks were closing earlier, and we were torn between using our DP or enjoying the parks.
2. There is no consistancy throughout the parks as far as what is included. At Mama Melroses, we were able to drink Perrier water as our non-alcoholic beverage, but not at Alfredo's. Some pastries such as those at Norway or France are able to be used as snacks or Dessert for quick service, while comparable items at the Beach Club quick service outlet, or Boardwalk Bakery were not available. In fact, it seems that each server/cashier, not the computer, determines what is included. This constant wondering what is available and what is not is taxing, and requires a long list of questions to each server/cashier as to what is included.
3. As a general rule, it seemed that Disney employees did not like the DP. At the Boardwalk Bakery, the cashier mumbled under her breath to a co-worker, as we walked out, that she hates the DP. However, some employees at tableservice locations were much more savvy. There is an 18% gratuity added to the final bill, so it is to the servers advantage to maximize the check as much as possible. Some were quite good at this and some were not. This worked against us at California Grill. Our server took our order and was never to be seen again. Over 3 hours for a three course meal! Seems as if some know that they get the gratuity regardless of the service. All in all, I felt as if the Disney employees felt that the Dining Plan was a nuisance, and that we were really second class citizens, at least to those paying cash.
4. The food at sit down restaurants is not that good. It is mass produced food, served hastily from steamtables. The only decent meal we had was at California Grill, but the service was so slow that it pretty much negated the food. Alfredo's in Italy was horrid! The Askerhaus was even worse! Morocco's restaurant was at least clean and beautiful, and the food was average. All would have cost our family of four over $100.00 each but for the dining plan. So, yes it is a good deal, but it was anything but extraordinary.
5. I know a lot of you think I am crazy for bashing WDW food, so let me try to redeem myself. Each restaurant, quick service and concierge level dessert we ate was delicious. Fresh, moist and well thought out. Three cheers for WDW pastry chefs!
6. Club or Concierge Level- This however, was a real bonus. Although we did not pay for it on this trip, we would opt for this service and drop the dining plan. The Concierge level offers food from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the offerings changing to suit the meal period. Wine and beer are served at 5 p.m. and cordials are served at 7 p.m. There are no rules regarding the taking of snacks/beverages with you to the park, to your room, or to the pool, as well as no limitations on the quantity of the items you take. Our kids preferred to eat here, rather than in the restaurants, and I must say I agreed. Do not do both the DP and club level!
I say go to WDW to enjoy NEMO the musical, Expedition Everest, Mission Space. Walk world showcase and enjoy the fireworks. That is what Disney does best. Do not go thinking you are going to have wonderful dining experiences.
And some other notes:
WDW Marathon really packs the crowds. We would go the Tuesday after the Marathon next time as the crowds really dwindled.
Beach Club Location is prime. We walked both to MGM and Epcot, and you can get to MK via Monorail through Epcot.