Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Disney Dining Plan Recap

After crunching some numbers and deciding what restaurants we wanted to eat at, my husband decided that it would be worth the extra ten minutes required to call and add the Disney Dining Plan to our vacation (it ended up being more than ten minutes but it was still worth it). For the standard DDP, it costs $63.70 per night, and includes one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack, per night, as well as a refillable resort mug for your entire stay.

I can think of two reasons to get the DDP over just paying for meals as you go: 1) It's just convenient. If you like to plan things out and know exactly how much you want to spend on something like food, it's great to have your meals pre-planned and pre-paid (you still have to do the planning, DDP does not come with any special perks in the advanced dining reservation system). 2) If you plan your meals out, you might actually save some money. As you can imagine, I was all for the first reason, and K did all the legwork to make sure we took advantage of the second reason.

If you are a numbers person, here is how our two night stay broke down for me:
Amount Paid: $127.40
Table Service 1: $40
Table Service 2: $45
Quick Service 1: $24
Quick Service 2: $21
Snack 1: $5.75
Snack 2: $7
Refillable Mug: many, many refills

Now, to break it down even more:
Table Service 1: Cape May Cafe Buffet dinner at the Beach Club Resort
The first night we arrived, we had reservations for dinner at the Cape May Cafe, which is inside the Beach Club Resort. We took the bus from our resort to Hollywood Studios, then the ferry from there to the Beach Club. After gawking at the lovely exterior for a few minutes, we checked in with the hostess stand and were told it would be a few minutes for a table. Since we were quite a few minutes late, I was pretty happy they didn't have us wait for the rest of the night! We gawked some more around the lobby, and K scouted out the pin book situation. Seriously, I love the Beach Club, it's exactly what I want my vacation home to look like.

The Cape May Cafe is a lovely themed buffet, decorated with pastel seaside decorations like giant beach umbrellas. They also host a character breakfast buffet with Mickey and friends in old-timey beach clothes, which I think would be lots of fun! There are no characters at dinner, BUT there is a ton of fresh seafood. There's the usual bread, salad, and sides such as mashed potato and soups, but the main draw is the steamed crab legs, shrimp, and potatoes and corn on the cob. There's also a strip loin carving station, and mac n cheese and chicken nuggets for kids. 

As you may have seen from some of my other posts, K loves crab legs, and he can eat a lot of them. I tried to get him to smile for a picture, but he was too busy eating. He also enjoyed the fact that you can get POG juice here!

I really love that Disney buffets have "kid" desserts, like cookies and brownies, as well as fancy grown up desserts, like Boston Creme Pie tarts and flourless chocolate cake. This dinner is definitely worth the $40 one would normally pay for this dinner, so very much worth using a DDP credit for it. 

Table Service 2: Cinderella's Happily Ever Dinner buffet at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian
Our second night there we got reservations at 1900 Park Fare. Of course everyone wants to eat at Cinderella's Table, and though I haven't done that yet, I would say this is a very close second choice! Not only do you get the standard buffet offerings - fish, strip loin, chicken, and all of the usual sides - but Cinderella and Prince Charming and friends join you for dinner! The night we were there they also had the Fairy Godmother and Lady Tremaine. Every 45 minutes or so, each character was announced and made their way around to each table, then finished with a little dance and inviting kids to join them for a waltz. 
I love Lady Tremaine, she is such a hoot! She sat down with us for a few minutes, signed our autograph book, apologized for Cinderella being such an attention whore (no, she didn't use those words), and reminded my sister to always marry for money! K and I were wearing our medals from the race, but she wasn't that impressed, since she got all of her jewels without messing up her hair. 
One of the signature things at 1900 Park Fare is their strawberry soup, which we let Lilly try:

As a side note, my sister is gluten and lactose intolerant, and at both buffets, the chef came to the table and walked her through to let her know her options. They also created some special dishes, and special desserts, which were brought to the table. 

We used both of our quick service credits on Monday, our last day on vacation.
Quick Service 1: Be Our Guest breakfast at Magic Kingdom. This is one hard reservation to get, but K kept checking for last minute cancellations, and lo and behold, we got one for 8:05 on Monday morning! This meant we would get into the Magic Kingdom before rope drop! Be Our Guest is gorgeous, and has three rooms: the main ballroom, the West Wing, and another room that has the gorgeous "music box" Belle and Beast in the center. The attention to detail is stunning, and Be Our Guest is one of my favorite Disney songs, so I definitely enjoyed hearing it played over and over. 
Breakfast is $24, and has a lot of options, but unfortunately, my go to breakfasts of waffles or french toast are not offered - maybe they're just not fancy enough. Instead, I got basically a cronut, filled with creme and topped with amazing fresh fruit. Each meal also comes with a drink and a pastry basket; we managed to stretch our meal out by bringing a baggie to bring the pastries for later, and refilled our resort mugs before we left (not actually permitted, but if you pour a drink from your self-serve cup into your mug, it's a little more discrete). 
Of course we also ordered the Grey Stuff, a delicious chocolate cupcake with grey frosting.

Quick Service 2:  Backlot Express lunch at Hollywood Studios. For lunch that day, I used my last QS credit at Backlot Express, near the Star Tours ride. There are lots of benefits to choosing this place for lunch: you can score an outdoor table and watch the Jedi Academy show every half hour, most of the food is now Star Wars themed, and the drinks are also self serve, so plenty of opportunity for refills! I got the Dark Side chicken and waffles, a soft drink, and BB-8 cupcake, which was lemon cake with a really fluffy frosting. Usually the cupcake is about $6 on it's own, so I was actually surprised it was a meal dessert! We definitely took advantage of the self-serve soda fountain to rehydrate, and also refilled our resort mugs with lemonade. 

Snack 1: Epcot Festival snack. I'll do a whole other post on how lovely the Epcot Garden and Flower Festival was, but for now, let's just say I used one of my snack credits for one of the lovely seasonal snacks available. You also have the option of converting one QS meal into three additional snacks, which I hear is a pretty good idea during any Epcot festival! Other good ideas are for classics like a Dole Whip (available either during an Epcot festival, at Magic Kingdom, or at the Polynesian). 

Snack 2: Starbucks (OK, Trolley Cafe) at Hollywood Studios. Anytime I can get "free" Starbucks, I know how to maximize that. Whenever I have a free drink on my card, I usually get a 5 shot venti caramel macchiatto. Since ANY drink at any Starbucks is a snack credit on the DDP, I knew what I would be getting. Yes, I did get a venti iced CM with an extra shot and extra caramel, worth $6.91. And then I sat in the shade and watched Captain Phasma and stormtroopers march around. 

Refillable Mug: I normally don't drink too much pop during a Disney trip, because it's expensive and I prefer to get my caffeine through espresso. However, having the refillable mug for the entire stay definitely upped my pop intake, water intake, and kept me generally happier and more hydrated, which is key during a race weekend or any time in hot weather! You can fill up your mug at any resort food hall, which have open soda fountains, so we carried ours with us and filled up at the Boardwalk Inn (there's a refill station right on the Boardwalk) and Hurricane Hanna's at the Yacht Club, which are both a short walk from the back entrance to Epcot. Since we had dinner at the Grand Floridian, we also popped over to refill on hot chocolate for the ride back to Pop Century. 
Now, you're really not encouraged to do this, but there are a few counter service restaurants in the park that have self-serve soda fountains. Whenever we ate at one (like Backlot Express), we also took advantage of the free refills to top off our mugs while in the parks. Some people find it a hassle to carry them around when you're in the park, but I would have a water bottle anyway, so this works just as well.

Overall, I think the DDP is a pretty good opportunity to help me plan out a day at Disney and prevent sticker shock once I'm in the parks. Sometimes Disney also offers "free dining" with a resort stay, so that's something I would definitely recommend taking advantage of!

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