7 Nights Deluxe Dining March 2009 [Complete]
Cast of characters
Your humble correspondent, age 38, making his third trip to WDW, first time staying on property and using the dining plan in any form. DW (age none of your business) is fellow DIS member DRS_Are_Best. The "critters", collectively, are DS3 (just shy of 4) and the twins DD2 and DS2.
Most sit-down places were crowded affairs for us, because with the two toddlers, the restaurants typically "cheated" by seating the five of us at a table for four. Notable exceptions to this: Boatwright's, Sci-Fi Dine In, and Tusker House. This was compounded by the fact that DS2 and DD2 have to have "open" zones around them if we don't want to find things making their way to ground level in short order.
For us, breaking up the day into early breakfast, sit down lunch, and dinner to end the day worked very well. This probably wouldn't have been an ideal itinerary with older kids or with just adults, but with younger kids, having the built in midday break worked very well in general.
Chef Mickey's (B)
Columbia Harbor House (L)
Wolfgang Puck Cafe (D)
Hollywood & Vine (B)
Mama Melrose (L)
Sci-Fi Dine In (D)
Crystal Palace (B)
Liberty Tree Tavern (L)
Kona Cafe (D)
Coral Reef (L)
Rose & Crown (D)
Cinderella's Royal Table (B)
Cosmic Ray's (L)
Tony's Town Square (D)
Tusker House (B)
Yak & Yeti [CS] (L)
Hoop De Doo Revue (D)
Crystal Palace (L)
For the 3 of us actually on plan, we received 42 snack credits. That's a lot, considering how much we were eating at meals. We weren't shy about using them when we felt like having something, including a light breakfast on our last day, but still wound up with nine to use at Goofy's Candy Store on the way out of town. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Best use of snack credits: Dole Whip floats ("Pineapple Floats") from Aloha Isle -- I now understand the rave reviews these get. Very refreshing when you are getting warm and tired! DS3 was happy to get popcorn a few times, and loved his Itsakadoosie pop.
Unlike basic dining, DxDP credits do not seem to distinguish adult and child entitlements. For 7 nights, we simply had 63 credits (21 each). We made sure to use them properly because we didn't want to abuse the plan or find ourselves in trouble, but this is a potentially abusable loophole for families with kids 3-9.
Despite ordering milk for the twins at each TS meal, which was over and above the plan entitlements, we were only charged for the extra milk once -- at Wolfgang Puck Cafe. I expected "free" milk at the buffets, but was surprised that so many of the true TS places didn't charge us.
Boatwright's, Sunday Dinner
We were running a bit early, so we decided to check in 25 minutes earlier than our ADR, and were seated almost immediately.
We ordered smoothies for our plan beverages -- I got the tropical and DW chose the berry. On the whole, I liked the berry one better -- the tropical was nice, but really, really could have used an ounce or two of rum. As a "virgin" drink, it was a bit bland. Little did I know this was a sign of things to come.
My appetizer was the crab soup. As with my drink, it was OK, but not anything to write home about. The prime rib was none too large, and used a somewhat more "done" interpretation of medium-rare than I use. Also, it was again something that was just "there" with no particular character. The potatoes were good, though needed some salt. I ordered the chocolate cake for dessert -- again, fine, but not stellar.
DW fared somewhat better. Her appetizer was the crab and crawfish cake, and she liked it. The filet entree was uninspired, and her dessert (forgot the specifics) was nothing special either.
The critters shared a chicken nuggets meal with fruit cup and fries. Well, that is to say that DS2 scarfed up most of the nuggets, DD2 had all of the grapes, and DS3 filled up on bread. Still, everyone seemed happy, so that worked fine.
Service was, I originally thought, slow. As the week wore on, I became more used to the "relaxed" service pace, It wasn't particularly friendly, though.
Good start :)
Chef Mickey's, Monday Breakfast
With a 7:45 ADR, we actually parked at the TTC and took the resort monorail over to the Contemporary -- this was a major highlight for the week as DS3 got to ride up-front on a nearly-empty train. (We spent the rest of the week trying to explain to him that getting to ride up front isn't something he should expect to do every time!)
We checked in pretty much on-time, and were taken for pictures pretty much right away. As would be the case for most of the week, the pictures weren't particularly good, as neither DD2 nor DS2 are good about standing still, looking at the camera, or doing anything close to smiling. It's just that age...
As for the food... it's a breakfast buffet, what can you really expect? The food was fresh, hot (or cold) as appropriate, and enough variety that everyone got something they liked.
But really, Chef Mickey's is about the characters, and here they are quite good. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto all came around, signed autographs, posed for pictures, and interacted with the kids (even us older kids).
Service was fine... drinks were replenished quickly though empty plates did stack up from time to time.
Count me in! Sounds like a great line up
Great start! I'm in!
Columbia Harbor House, Monday Lunch
It was hot, it was crowded, and the twins fell asleep before lunch, but at different times. We needed a break (and especially a drink!) and headed over to CHH for what was supposed to be a quick lunch.
Since DD2 was asleep, and we hoped the boys would fall asleep, I only got meals for myself and DW. The lines were long and slow moving, but eventually I managed to place an order for the Fish & Chicken basket for myself and the Lighthouse Sandwich (hummus) for DW. I also grabbed one milk (OOP) figuring that one of the boys would be awake. Well, both boys were awake, so DS2 got the milk and DS3 had to stick to water for a little while (DS2 doesn't take water easily, so he got the milk)
I found the fish to be quite good, but the chicken was pretty much the same nuggets we'd see at other places throughout the week. DW loved her sandwich and thought the apple crisp was OK. For a pre-packaged dessert, the chocolate cake wasn't bad, in my opinion. DS3 shared a bite and agreed. ;)
For a CS meal, this wasn't bad. Maybe not a huge "value" on the meal plan, but I'd come back here again. The lines were an issue for each of the CS meals for the week, and made me thankful of the number of TS lunches we had booked in order to get "down time" during the mid-day and before naps.
When DS2 woke, I got a hot dog meal (with apple slices) from Casey's and a milk for the twins to share, plus a chocolate milk OOP for DS3. DD2 had most of the hot dog, DS3 had most of the apples, and DS2 stuck with milk.
Wolfgang Puck Cafe, Monday Dinner
Fleeing the crowds and heat in the afternoon, we spent a little time at the resort pool before catching the boat launch to Downtown Disney. Cutting it close to ADR time (a recurring theme all week) by the time we take the second launch from Marketplace to West Side, we check in for our ADR almost exactly on time, and get seated only a minute or two later.
The only negative to this meal was the flatbread in the bread basket -- just really not very flavorful at all. The other bread was fine.
Service was quick and attentive, with good recommendations provided.
I went with iced tea (with a hint of mango), the crab cakes appetizer, meatloaf for an entree, and the key lime tart for dessert. All receive high marks from me -- the crab cakes were excellent (I could have had a second plate instead of an entree and been happy enough!), the meatloaf was flavorful and moist, and the tart was rich and just the right mix of sour and sweet. I was going in expecting to order the rosemary chicken, but felt like the meatloaf at the last minute.
DW had a diet Coke (as usual), spinach and artichoke dip, the chef's sushi plate, and a chocolate lava cake for dessert. Again, no complaints at all -- she lapped up the dip, was in sushi heaven (she did leave a couple of pieces uneaten, but that was mostly to save room for dessert), and wallowed in chocolate.
DS3 had the cheese pizza, DD2 stuck with the fruit cup, and DS2 had milk and some nibbles out of our packs (Cheerios and goldfish).
We walked back over to the resort boat launch so that we could shop and help digest the big (and tasty!) meal.
Hollywood & Vine, Tuesday Breakfast
Up bright and early again for an early breakfast... we actually managed to check in a little early, but were seated a little after ADR time.
I know H&V gets a lot of bad reviews, but we've eaten there twice before (the only TS restaurant we went to on this trip that we'd even been to before) for dinner, and thought it was OK. Plus, this is breakfast (you have to work to screw it up) and a character meal -- and DS3 is a huge Little Einsteins fan.
The service was efficient, and our waitress even helped us out in surprising DS3 (this was the only character meal we kept "secret" from him). Plates did seem to pile up once in a while, but this was more due to the space issues than service speed. (Why, in a half-empty restaurant, did they place us at such a small table?)
Food was fine, and it was here that we discovered that DS2 loves blueberry muffins. The others like them too, but DS2 will eat two or three by himself if allowed. Again, character breakfasts really aren't about food so much, and you can't ask for better interaction with the characters. They came around twice plus the group activities.
The only drawback in our case was that we were there longer than we had planned, and missed rope drop. By the time I got to TSMM, I had to wait 20-25 minutes for 1 PM fast passes!
Mama Melrose, Tuesday Lunch
In a case of things finally starting to work according to plan, we were able to see Muppets 3-D and meet Lightning McQueen and Mater in time to make our ADR at Mama Melrose. We checked in about 5 minutes early and had a 5-10 minute wait to be seated.
By this time, we learned to order water in addition to our drinks to keep ahead of the wait staff, as we tended to put away a lot of liquid after walking around the parks all day. With that in mind, we never had to sit around waiting for a refill -- there was always either (or both of) water or tea/diet Coke available.
We went with the Calamari (for 2) and a pair of flatbread pizzas. DS3 had the cheese pizza and apple slices while DD2 went once again for the fruit cup. DS2, not particularly liking bread in any form (sans blueberry muffin, apparently) stuck with cereal and goldfish from my pack.
The food was good, but not great. We decided to split a dessert rather than getting two, and went with a chocolate lava-type cake.
Service was fine, with little to mention on either side of average.
Love, love, love the Key Lime Pie at Wolfgang Puck :thumbsup2
Sci-Fi Dine In, Tuesday Dinner
Checked in a few minutes early for our ADR, and were seated in about 5 minutes. I was very impressed by the decor when I entered the main dining area. Very, very cool.
And then, things went downhill in a hurry.
Mind you, there were some positives. We were seated at a large enough table, for a change. We got decent milkshakes as our drinks (even DS3). The onion rings were good.
But... service was screwy. Our waitress was slow and often inattentive. Drinks waited a long time between refills. She did manage to fill our special request to have just grapes instead of the full fruit cup for the kids (by now, we'd cottoned on to the fact that DD2 only wanted the grapes, and the rest was being wasted). But we were brought three kids meals instead of one, and that caused some confusion until the check was altered, but by then we had three plates of everything.
On to the food... as I mentioned, milkshakes all around (DS3 had strawberry, DW oreo, and vanilla for yours truly) and an order (for 2) of onion rings. Despite this, our waitress informed us that we could still get another appetizer, so, even skeptical as we were, we ordered the chili as well. Shouldn't have bothered. We weren't charged extra for it, and got what we paid for. Boring. The onion rings were the highlight of the meal.
Main courses (ribs for me, chicken pasta for DW) were bland, at best. Even dessert (cheesecake for me, I don't recall what DW had) was just "blah".
The final negative came when paying the check. All of the DDP stuff went fine, but our waitress never came back to provide a slip to sign for the tip -- we eventually paid cash (and less than 18%) and walked out in frustration.
Crystal Palace, Wednesday Breakfast
Another day, another pre-open character breakfast. Running a little late, we don't manage to check in (after waiting in line to do so) until 8:17 for an 8:10 ADR. So much for being done in time for rope drop!
As always, character breakfast buffets aren't really about the fo... oh, wait... check that. The food here was excellent, and I'd go back again just for the puffed french toast. (While I was looking forward to the breakfast lasagne, I found it was actually overpowering when I got around to trying it... of course, it could have been that I was stuffed with french toast by then, and just couldn't handle another bite!)
Good food, good service, and an excellent interaction with the characters. Very nice breakfast, and we'll do this as long as the kids don't start making faces when Pooh and company are mentioned. And maybe we'll still do it even then.
Liberty Tree Tavern, Wednesday Lunch
For the first time all week, we really weren't all that hungry heading into a meal. Crystal Palace was a little too good, maybe? :confused3
But, it was time to grin and bear it. We arrived pretty much on-time and had a 5-minute wait for our table. Diet Coke, iced tea, and milks all around as usual. DS3 insisted on pizza and apple slices again, and seeing fewer better alternatives, we let him. DD2 once again got a bowl of grapes, and DS2 stuck with the goodies in my pack.
DW and I split the tavern fried cheese (for 2), and both enjoyed it. We ordered sandwiches -- roast beef for DW and a bacon cheeseburger for myself. These weren't as good.. passable, but rather "blah" (and the roast beef was nowhere near rare enough).
Being somewhat full, we were going to skip dessert, but were talked into (not that it took much talking) getting it to go -- we took the toffee cake and the triple chocolate brownie, both without the ice cream, of course. We did have them later in the afternoon, along with a dole whip float; if the toffee cake was that good then, imagine how it would have been fresh and with the appropriate ala mode! The brownie was good, too, but the toffee cake stole the show.
Service was good, when it was there. There were long periods of inattentiveness followed by solid, knowledgeable, and efficient bursts of good service.
great reviews so far...can't wait to hear more
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