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Where to Eat: The IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party at Epcot

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Published: May 26, 2014 at 10:15 AM

For the last couple of years, I have tried in vain to book a dessert party at Walt Disney World. This year though, I was able to not only book a dessert party at the Magic Kingdom for our trip in November, I was able to book the new IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party at Epcot for our trip last week. I had very high expectations for this event. I have heard so many positive reviews of the party at the Magic Kingdom that I just knew with the fabulous food that Epcot's World Showcase produces that this event would knock my socks off. Let's just say, it wasn't what I anticipated.

Inside Odyssey

The IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party is held in the Odyssey. An hour before IllumiNations begins, one can check in at the outside podium. You will be given a fireworks sticker and allowed to enter in. When we walked in, there were three tables in the middle of the foyer. One had sparkling wines, while two others contained fruits and desserts. Against two walls were coffee, water, and lemonade. There was an open ice cream cart near the doors leading into the main room. Inside, the room was softly lit with candles on black covered tables and blue tinted lighting. There were two hot cooking stations that had the most delectable aromas wafting through the air. Since we were in the foyer, we explored the options available here.

Dessert buffet

Wine bar

Now first off, I expected to see not only unique desserts, I expected to see each country along the World Showcase represented here. I did not. Both tables were loaded with the same items. There were shortbread cookies from the United Kingdom, baklava from Morocco, tiramisu from Italy, and Chocolate Grand Mariner from France. There were fresh fruits such as strawberries, grapes and pineapple spears. And that's it. ?

Dessert plates

Where were the other countries? After all, Epcot hosts two wonderful dining events each year: Food and Wine Festival and the Flower and Garden Festival. I know that they have tons of recipes at their fingertips that would make this experience a must do for every foodie.

The ice cream cart, which seemed to me like an afterthought, contained Mickey Mouse bars, Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches, and fruit bars.

Ice cream freezer

Inside the main room where apparently where all the inspiration had been placed. The two hot stations were creating fresh hot doughnuts and churros. That's right. Fresh. Hot. Doughnuts. And. Churros. You can even order these a la mode. I preferred mine plain.

Hot donut now!

I experienced the doughnut along with all the other items, while Chuck did the churros and others. He ate his churro so fast that I was unable to get a proper picture. He claimed though that it was delicious. My doughnut was my favorite of all the desserts. I am a sucker for hot doughnuts as it is and this was without a doubt perfect. My sons though, were extremely dissatisfied with the selection. My youngest was hoping for more cookies and some brownies. My eldest stuck with the ice cream, though he did not really want it. He too wanted more cookies to try.

Mickey bar, and MagicBand!

Now, once you are here, you can leave if you want and rejoin the group before Illuminations begins, or even come back for more desserts. Your fireworks sticker is all you need to join the group in the selected seating. We were unable to watch the IllumiNations display due to my youngest becoming ill and needing some medicine that was back in our room. For $49 per adult and $29 per child, this is not worth the money. I expected so much more from this. Until this party offers a more varied and unique display of desserts, I would stick with using this money towards purchasing the desserts you love and scouting out a spot on your own. You will most likely save money doing this.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on May 26, 2014 at 12:06 PM
Good article and its too bad you didn't like it, but I am still a little lost what you were expecting.

Then again, you (and I :)) probably have too high of expectations.

I will write a bigger article, but I think you would have enjoyed the EPCOT after dark. The problem is that you would have to ditch the kiddies!

From Tony Duda on May 26, 2014 at 12:14 PM
The first weekend of the Epcot ISDP, it was held outside between the two gift shops. I didn't know it moved inside the Odyssey. However, the early reviews I read described the underwhelming nature of the refreshments just as you described. The early reviewers didn't think it was worth it and you didn't think it was worth it. Also, being inside totally removes the "I'm special" feeling one gets when looked at by passers-by. And isn't that the real reason everyone gladly over pays for a Disney experience?
From Robert Niles on May 26, 2014 at 1:42 PM
I was thinking that this would be event where you could enjoy the desserts as you were watching the show, in a reserved viewing/dining area next to the World Showcase Lagoon. Yeah, the see-and-be-seen element is part of this, as is connecting the dessert experience to the show. Holding it in that tired old Odyssey space really diminishes the value.
From 68.188.218.180 on May 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM
From all the sites I've seen, the epcot dessert party was making people stand the whole time without seats. They would have tall tables and not even enough for everyone. They couldnt put chairs down because the floors were sloped. I did read a couple post on disboards that said when it was going to rain they moved it to odyssey center. Is it always going to be held in the odyssey now? That was one of the major drawbacks to why we were not going to get a reservation and stick with tomorrowland terrace because of having no chairs.

Thanks for the review, its another bad review im afraid of and we will not do this party with my family. I really hope disney listens and changes this up because they have another great idea its just the implementation is just not disney level. I think Amanda said it right when they should include all the countries from the showcase and it would be worth the value. Id rather drop the alcohol and get better desserts but they want to differentiate it from wishes.

From Amanda Jenkins on May 26, 2014 at 4:19 PM
Anthony, I can't wait to see your article about the after hours! I was expecting it to be a miniature version of Food and Wine, dessert style.  We do have high expectations ;).

I also thought it would be outside. It was nice to have a seat, yet I would have preferred looking out over the water. I'm hoping that it is just going through a trial and error stage and will be what we have come to expect from Epcot's reputation concerning food.

From 173.170.103.20 on May 26, 2014 at 4:29 PM
I really enjoy reading Amanda's articles about Disney's dining events. In the recent series of articles, I've noticed none of the places featured had an affordable menu for a normal family. They are all "splurges," meaning that Disney is charging premium prices for these events. And, yet, none of the food offerings look like a great value for the prices paid. The food featured in this article, for example, is ho-hum ordinary fare you'd find at a million different places. If Disney wants to charge $49 per adult for a fancy dessert event, why aren't they offering spectacular creations we simply can't find anywhere else?

On another site, a fine blogger/journalist has noted Disney has "declined by degrees," offering subtly lesser experiences each year to its patrons. Because most patrons don't visit Disney frequently, most don't notice the chipped paint here, or the burned out light bulb there. And they certainly don't care that Disney hasn't refreshed its attraction line-up in many moons -- enough to justify the steady rise in admission prices each year. I consider Disney a premium product. And I feel cheated when Disney charges big prices and fails to deliver a quality experience.

Brian

From Robert Niles on May 26, 2014 at 4:33 PM
I'm a bit mistrustful of all-you-can-consume deals that involve alcohol. I assume that the establishment has factored in "x" value of drinking and "y" value of eating into its price. But if I, as a non-drinker, am drinking zero, I need some pretty valuable "y" in the food to get my money's worth. Yet whenever "free" booze is on the table, the quality and value of the food always seems to lag, in my experience. This seems like another example of that.
From 98.17.119.139 on May 26, 2014 at 7:37 PM
Maybe this article title should start with Where Not to Eat instead.
From Anon Mouse on May 26, 2014 at 9:54 PM
Seems like a ripoff. For those prices, they should offer tables at your seats. The ice cream freezer is most tacky. Why couldn't they be offered on a plate and decorated.
From Melanie Howe on May 27, 2014 at 5:21 AM
Eh, Robert, I don't even think this meets the criteria of a decent "all you can drink" event either. A table full of sparkling wine does not a good open bar make. Now, if it was a table full of the awesome crushed grape/vodka concoction I tried at a special event at the Land once, that would be another story :-).

And I think that ties back to exactly what Amanda and others have said -- there is such a great wealth of different foods available throughout Epcot, and so many nice places for a special fireworks viewing location, that this whole event sounds like just a hastily assembled, bilk the tourist event. Disney can do much better for that amount of money. Though, I will say, the freshly made doughnuts is pure genius :-)

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