Theme Park Insider

Where to Eat: Dinner at the Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table

November 11, 2014, 8:10 AM · Dining at Walt Disney World spans the spectrum of culinary exploration. From simple snack carts to counter service restaurants to themed table service restaurants to high-end food experiences, Walt Disney World has something for just about every taste. Guests who are looking for a fine dining experience have a number of different options, including many excellent restaurants in Epcot and at the on-site deluxe resorts. However, the top of the heap is Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort. The AAA 5-diamond award-winning restaurant helmed by Chef Scott Hunnel (Chef De Cuisine) is one of the most honored restaurants in the southeast, and provides guests the option of three different experiences.

Guests making reservations in the main dining room are treated to a 7-course (depending upon season) prix-fixe menu. The restaurant offers two seatings in the main dining room each night with reservations typically available a few months in advance. Guests with reservations in the Queen Victoria Room are served a 10-course (again, can vary by season) prix-fixe menu in a smaller (only 4 tables), more-secluded dining room with many of the dishes finished tableside by plentiful and attentive staff. Reservations in the Queen Victoria Room can be a little tougher to come by, but can typically be had 4-6 months in advance. However, the crème de la crème of dining experiences at V&A’s and probably just about anywhere in the state of Florida, is the famed Chef’s Table - limited to a single party (up to eight people) 5 nights a week. Because of the nature of the Chef’s Table experience, reservations for this unique dining adventure can be extremely difficult to secure. I have attempted to reserve the experience every time we’ve visited Walt Disney World over the past 10 years, and had been unsuccessful... until our most recent trip. (If the table is already reserved, guests wanting the Chef’s Table experience have the option of being placed on a waiting list or reserving the Queen Victoria Room.)

My wife and I enjoy fine dining experiences from time to time, and like to reserve at least one nice dinner when we travel to Walt Disney World. On an earlier trip, we dined at the Flying Fish Chef’s Counter at the Boardwalk Resort, and because we frequently visit during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, we have booked various festival dinners and events like The Party for the Senses. However, Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table had always been on our foodie bucket list, and on our most recent trip we finally had secured the ever elusive reservation.

After 6 months of anticipation, our Chef’s Table experience began as we entered the lobby of the Grand Floridian Hotel. The elegant ivory-hued atrium exuded exclusivity as we made our way to the second floor.

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Victoria and Albert’s is rather unassuming from the outside, as the dining room of Citrico’s will draw your eye more than the frosted glass door to Disney’s culinary pinnacle.

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Guests approaching the door are immediately greeted by a host, who verifies the reservation. After a short wait, we were led back to the Chef’s Table, which is located near the back of the restaurant and through the kitchen. After being seated, our main server Andrew explained to us how the night would go, and that we would be visited by the Chef Aimee (head chef for the evening) before the meal and periodically throughout. Since there is only one reservation allowed per day, Chef’s Table guests are allowed to dine at their own pace, and have a server dedicated to them with additional staff pitching in where needed. We were then presented with our menu for the evening, and the additional choices to supplement the already impressive lineup, which included a wine pairing. We then had an opportunity to meet with Chef Aimee, who walked us through the menu and made sure we were happy with the dishes that were to be prepared. Finally, we toasted the evening with a glass of champagne and prepared for the amazing epicurean adventure that was about to begin.

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Our first course of the evening was an Amuse-Bouche of Maine lobster topped with Siberian Osetra caviar. The dish was served in a small jar to be enjoyed properly with a mother of pearl spoon. The sweet lobster paired extremely well with the not-too salty caviar that clearly indicated the luxuriousness of the meal.

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The second course was a very delicately plated jumbo lump crab with cucumber gelee. This dish was almost too beautiful to eat, with edible flowers and micro greens. The soft, subtle flavors were in stark contrast to the previous course and subsequent courses, but paired perfectly with the bright sauvignon blanc which accompanied it. Just one look at this dish clearly demonstrated the level of detail, skill, and talent from the chefs working in this amazing kitchen.

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The third course was a show within a show as the hot "smoked Niman Ranch lamb with Fuji apple and curry dressing" was brought to the table under a clear dome filled with a thick cloud of smoke. The domes were then lifted to reveal the sumptuous and flavorful lamb within. The smoke flavor was very pronounced, and was strong enough to carry over the powerful curry dressing. The lamb was so tender and succulent that it melted in your mouth, leaving a pleasant aftertaste of smoke and spice, like a fine whiskey. In speaking with Chef Aimee, she had noted that Chef Hunnel had been presenting this dish in a cold smoked variation earlier in the year.

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Our next course was one of the highlights of the meal, fennel crusted diver scallop in a salt bowl. I simply love scallops, and this one was the best I have ever tasted with an amazing beurre blanc and mandarin orange accompaniment. The sauce was so incredible that I would have licked the plate clean if I wasn't minding my manners. Chef Aimee noted that while service in Victoria and Albert's only typically runs from 5:00 PM to about 10:00 PM, work for each day's dishes begins at 7:00 AM with the saucier typically arriving at 11:00 AM.

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When we reviewed the menu prior to the meal, our next course gave me pause. I am not a fan of poached eggs, and don't normally eat anything with runny egg yolks. However, in the spirit of the culinary adventure I did not raise any concerns with the staff about the fifth course, which featured a poached chicken egg in ravioli with corn foam. Boy, was I glad I didn't have the chef substitute this course. I've seen dishes like this cooked on TV many times, and understand the prowess needed to properly execute it, but was always turned off by the yolk spilling across the plate. The variation that was served to us was perfectly prepared, and the sweet, creamy yolk combined with the salty corn foam and bacon, was a pleasant surprise.

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The next dish again demonstrated the luxuriousness of ingredients Victoria and Albert's has access to and the level of skill of their chefs. The Marcho Farms veal served with crispy sweetbreads was a delight, and was matched by an impressive pea and chanterelle mushroom side topped with generous shavings of black truffle (and by generous, I mean big thick slices). Chef Aimee pointed out that one of the walls in the Chef's Table area was adorned with a truffle spade. This dish again presented an ingredient I had never had before, but the sweetbreads were quite good, especially when eaten together with the veal and reduction. The fattiness paired perfectly with the lean, tender veal and savory sauce. I love umami flavor profiles, and the pea and mushroom side was Nirvana for that part of my palate.

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The final savory dish of the evening was a Wagyu rib eye served with a potato sphere. Since we were eating at a slower pace than those in the dining room, we had seen the potato spheres being prepared earlier in the evening trying to figure out what they were. Our initial guess was croquettes or doughnuts. However, what looks like a simple lump of mashed potatoes rolled into a ball and deep fried was anything but simple or pedestrian. The fluffy potato inside was nothing what I would expect from what it looked like, and in the very center, there was a piece of oxtail that was like the gooey center of an éclair. I can only imagine the number of iterations it took for the staff to perfect this relatively simple looking side, and that's before you even examine the rest of this plate. The Wagyu beef was presented as both a prime rib slice and short rib portion, and served with an oxtail reduction that was like liquid gold. I had asked earlier in the meal what stocks were being prepared in two large pots close to where we were sitting. In fact it was this oxtail reduction that was slowing stewing in those pots, and probably what was creating such a tantalizing aroma in the kitchen throughout our meal. Chef Aimee mentioned that it takes about 9 days to create the sauce, and that it takes 12 quarts of stock to make 2 quarts of this mesmerizing reduction.

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After working through 7 incredible savory dishes it was now time for a cheese course, which would serve as the bridge to the desserts. Our cheese plate included Flagship Reserve, Comte St. Antoine, Wyngaard Chevre Affine, and Rogue River Blue. The plate also included some raw honey, a thin slice of fruit cake, a poached pear, and an apricot reduction. All of the cheeses were excellent, particularly the strong, salty blue at the end.

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While we enjoyed the cheese, the staff prepared our coffee and tea, which were brewed through a rather unique process. Victoria and Albert's uses Cona brewers, which put on quite a show utilizing vapor pressure and temperature differential to pass the water through the coffee or tea without the use of filters or screens. The end result is a cup of coffee that is as strong as an espresso without having that burnt taste caused by passing high-pressure steam through finely ground coffee.

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Our first dessert of the evening was a pear quark mousse. This dish was artistry on a plate with a caramel sugar "drop" that must have taken some serious skill to create. The mousse and its graham base contrasted well texturally with the slightly crispy poached pear.

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Our final official course of the evening was a Peruvian chocolate timbale with roasted white chocolate gelato. The timbale was appropriately topped with 24-karat gold flakes, again demonstrating the extravagance of the meal. The dark chocolate was excellent, and the gelato was well executed. This dish was a chocoholic's dream, and the soft chocolate "dots" were the sweet yin to the savory yang of the oxtail reduction.

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Little did we know that there was still more to come, as Andrew brought out a board full of confections for us to select. Truffles, bon bons, chocolates, and candies created by the Grand Floridian's master chocolatier lined the board, and humbly my wife and I were perfectly content to choose just one or two. However, Andrew insisted on giving us more with us each trying 4 of the sweet delights.

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Sadly, after nearly 4 hours, our meal was complete. In addition to the 10 courses, wine, coffee/tea, and confections, we were also served a "bread progression", which featured three different breads and butters spaced out through the savory courses of the meal.

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Ladies dining at Victoria and Albert's are presented with a rose, and diners receive copies of their menus. At a cost of $250 per person plus optional wine pairings, luxury add-ons, and gratuity, dining at Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table (or the Queen Victoria Room, which charges the same price) is a once in a great while type of experience. After all, if you were to eat like this every day, these amazing dishes and culinary works of art would cease to be special. However, for the diner intensely into food, and or in search of the ultimate special occasion meal, this is the place. Not only are guests bathed in luxury and impeccable service, but they have the opportunity to see behind the kitchen door and observe how these amazing masters hone their craft. Chef Aimee was a warm and gracious host, and the time she spent talking to us about her work and the sometimes overlooked precision and attention to detail was wonderful. We had an incredible experience dining at Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table, and look forward to the chance to do it again in another 10 years or so, if we can get a reservation.

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Replies (48)

November 11, 2014 at 8:20 AM · Victoria & Albert's is on my bucket list, too, yet this is a first time I've read a course-by-course review. It looks amazing, and I'm glad you finally were able to enjoy it. Thanks for the report.
November 11, 2014 at 8:58 AM · This review was absolutely delicious.
November 11, 2014 at 9:55 AM · Thank you very much for pulling back the curtain at V&A's in such a personal way.

I am not a souvenir shopper. I want to spend my money on sampling amazing food that I can't get everyday or everywhere. Like so many people now, I want to remember these meals with a photograph. Your photos were great, but it got me thinking. I wonder why a place such as V&A's hasn't thought to offer a photo package of your meal. Disney is SO plugged in to taking photos of every other experience at their resorts. Prior to service, each plate could be photographed in a light box providing perfect exposure and focus. Fine dining rooms are often too dark for really sharp photos, and I'd never dare to use a flash in such a place...perhaps in the kitchen as you are the only diners in that space.
The last bit of your story mentioned "Luxury Add-ons" Was photography mentioned?
Thanks again for a terrific report.

November 11, 2014 at 9:57 AM · I was fortunate enough to eat in the main dining room at V&A for my 1-year wedding anniversary in February of 2009. Even the menu is custom-made, having your name and/or event on the front. I've misplaced any photos I took from the meal, as well as the menu, but it was simply divine. I doubt very much that I'll be able to repeat that experience, but seeing how the coffee was made was mind-blowing. I felt like it was alchemy or sorcery with a flask. It took a few minutes before the action started, but it was the most memorable cup of coffee I have ever had. I also can't help but recall the harp player giving his beautiful rendition of NSync's "It's Gonna Be Me".

What an awesome review, Russell. It brought back memories, for sure!

November 11, 2014 at 2:15 PM · Photography is not something that is added--no Photopass/Memory Maker person lurking over your shoulder or in the already cramped kitchen. The servers are all very gracious and willing to take photos of guests during the experience. Andrew said we could take as many pictures as we wanted, but asked that we refrain from taking video inside the kitchen (he said we could video the lamb presentation, but I didn't have time to switch over before the dome was removed). I have over 50 shots from our meal including many of the chefs working in the kitchen that are not presented here.

The Chef's Table has far better lighting for photography than the main dining room and Queen Victoria room. I use Nikon DSLRs for most of my park photography, and would have ramped up the ISO to avoid using the flash in those darker spaces. I don't know how the other diners and staff would react to a shutterbug flashing constantly, but our society has begun to accept the idea of snapping pictures by the boatload with our smart phones. The manners regarding picture taking in restaurants is continuously evolving.

Earlier this year my wife and I celebrated our anniversary at Table 21, which is Brian Voltagio's (of Top Chef fame) chef's table, and I was the only one of the 10 guests at the table that was taking photos of every course (all 21 of them). The light was pretty dim, but I was able to capture decent images without needing a flash. So it was not really an issue, and I did not notice any glares from the other guests for snapping dozens of pictures.

The luxury add-ons at Victoria and Albert's included an extra, more exclusive caviar, an additional fish course, and exchanging the Waygu beef for Kobe beef, which comes with the certificate of the cow that you are consuming, along with the wine pairing. In order to make sure we could drive back to our hotel, we ended up sharing a single wine pairing, which was presented as full servings of alternating paired wines throughout the meal.

You can actually get that coffee experience at home. It's a bit pricey, but you can purchase the Cona brewer from Amazon. Because of the ventilation in the kitchen and at the Chef's Table, my first brew had to be discarded and redone. It's a very exacting process that does not always succeed. I'll stick with my drip machine and cappuccino machine for home use.

November 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM · I had the pleasure of dining in the main dining room two years ago celebrating my brothers 60th birthday. It was, and still is the best dining experience I have ever had. Being allergic to shell fish :(, they customized the menu around that. Wonderful service, great wine from New Zealand, and the pumpkin bread we got to take back to our room made for an excellent breakfast. A once in a lifetime treat.
November 11, 2014 at 1:36 PM · We are going on Dec 23rd for our 25th anniversary!
November 11, 2014 at 4:33 PM · Nice job Russell...

IF you don't mind- what was the final cost and do you have to dress up?
Thx...

November 11, 2014 at 5:07 PM · Yes there is a dress code. I have heard that it is at least 300 a person. I personally would never spend that much for dinner. No food is worth that much. I went to a Spago's in Maui, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, during our honeymoon and thought the 150 price for the 2 of us was acceptable for the occasion but much more than that is crazy.
November 11, 2014 at 7:13 PM · Victoria and Albert's has a dress code. Men are required to wear jackets (surprisingly ties are optional), and if you show up without one, the restaurant will make you wear one of theirs. Shorts and most jeans are not allowed either.

Our final cost was over $700, which included the $250 each for the dinner, $105 for the wine pairing that we split, taxes and tip. The price is high, but consider that the other Disney signature dining experiences (California Grill, Citrico's, Flying Fish, Artist Point, Yachtsman, etc...) where you're forced to order a la carte, you could easily get well over $150/person if you order an appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert. Add a bottle of wine to that, and it's not hard to get over $500 for a dinner for 2 at those restaurants. Also consider that a few days before we dined, V&A's hosted a special EPCOT Food and Wine Festival dinner at the Chef's Table that was priced at $500/person, and other F&W Festival dinners were priced over $200 per person.

Some may be totally unwilling to pay that much money for one meal, and I completely understand that. Exclusive experiences at famous restaurants are just really expensive, and if that's what you're interested in, you'll pay whatever it costs. There are restaurants all around the country (New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and LA) where an experience comparable to what we received at V&A's would cost well over $1,000 for 2.

November 11, 2014 at 9:45 PM · June of 2004, my wife and I ate there in the main dining area for our wedding anniversary. If I recall, at that time it was just over $100 per person. It was a very good experience. If the right situation came up, I would eat there again.
November 11, 2014 at 11:10 PM · I certainly don't go to WDW for some hoity toity overpriced meal. Just sayin'.
November 12, 2014 at 7:12 AM · Thanks Russell for the price info...

I am sure it is more than worth it for a 7 course meal... I went to one like this years ago in Vegas.... It was in Caesars Palace, we had a Wine person that would come by, fill up your glass whenever you wanted... It was not as expensive as your recent meal but it was 10 years ago....

I believe this is part of vacation/budget planning... If it is something you want to do and you can afford it, by all means why not splurge for a great meal....

Heck, we went to Benihana's Japanese steakhouse for 4 of us and it was close to $200 if you include the tip and that is with no booze....

November 12, 2014 at 7:49 AM · Excellent review. I will be going to WDW next September and am planning to do this. Any tips on scoring the reservation?
November 12, 2014 at 8:32 AM · "I certainly don't go to WDW for some hoity toity overpriced meal. Just sayin'."

What's great about Victoria & Albert's is that since it's in the Grand Floridian, you don't need to burn a park admission to dine there, and the restaurant even picks up the tab if you want to have your car valet parked. Consider that if you wanted to eat a nice dinner in EPCOT at LaCellier or Monsieur Paul, you're going to spend close to $100 per person without wine for a 3 or 4-course meal, and then you have to pay another $60-$95 just to get to those restaurants through the EPCOT gate. That's a huge flaw we've found with many of the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival dinners (like Party for the Senses) that require guests to use a park admission just to get to the event.

To be honest, many of the table service restaurants at WDW are a bit overpriced (by about 10-20% compared to even some of the more expensive regions of the country), and that extends to many of the off-site restaurants as well (including the chains). Look at the price of single entrees compared to one of your local "good" restaurants, and you'll see the differential. You simply have to chalk it up to the price of dining out while on vacation in a high-demand tourist market. However, unlike most of the WDW table service restaurants, the Victoria & Albert's experience is one-of-a-kind, and if you don't live in a big foodie city, you may not even have access to the quality of ingredients or skillful chefs that V&A's possesses. We live near Washington, DC, which has experienced a bit of a food renaissance in the past 10-15 years (a lot of that has to do with local chefs appearing on TV shows like Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen, Chopped, and the like), and the prices for meals have steadily increased with the notoriety. It's become hard to dine out at one of the more well known places in DC without spending a few hundred dollars, and that's a standard dining room experience.

To provide a bit of context for everyone, below are some prices for meals at restaurants that are comparable to the V&A's experience...

French Laundry in Napa Valley, CA - $295 for 8 course Prix Fixe
Craft Steak in NYC - $135 for 7 course tasting menu
Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA - $195-$210 (varies by night) for a 7 course progression

If you're into food, the price for V&A's is in line with other similar experiences.

November 12, 2014 at 8:49 AM · It used to be that V&A guests had to call the restaurant (different number than the old 407-WDW-DINE) starting at 9 AM. However, V&A's (including the Chef's Table experience) has been integrated into WDW's new online system and MyMagic+, with dining reservations opening at 6 AM 180 days in advance (the phones at V&As, which you can still use to make reservations, still don't open until 9 AM). However, guests who have booked onsite hotel rooms and/or vacation packages through WDW can book reservations for the first 10 days of their trip beginning 180 days in advance of their check-in day, which essentially means that if you are staying onsite and have a reservation, you can book up to 190 days in advance.

When there is only 1 reservation each day 5 days a week, those extra 10 days make a huge difference. So my suggestion to you Chris would be to have your onsite hotel booked by the end of this year, and go online and verify that the reservation is linked to your MyMagic+ account. Then, when you're 180 days out of your check-in day, go into the dining reservation system before 6 AM and click on Victoria & Albert's. Once in there, continue to refresh the screen until the dates of your trip become available. Then start clicking to find a date that has an open reservation. There's still a lot of luck in it, but booking your hotel early to get those extra 10 days of reservations (assuming you're staying for 10 days or longer, if not, you only have access to the dates of your hotel reservation) is what makes the biggest difference.

November 12, 2014 at 9:27 AM · No I completely agree. If it is within your budget and it is something that makes your trip enjoyable you should do it. This is what makes it special and exclusive, not everyone is going to do it. I was just saying I never would on a trip to WDW even if I had the budget. But I am sure I spend or would be willing to spend money on things others wouldn't as well.
November 12, 2014 at 9:38 AM · A four hour meal is quite a commitment, but every hour is worth it. Do you still feel hungry afterwards? Did you swipe a few extra souvenirs?

I do agree table service restaurants are overpriced at Disney World, which is why I recommend the Disney Dining Plan. No need to scrutinize your bill if you just pre-pay it. Maybe get the deluxe plan and combine 2 credits for signature dining.

November 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM · Just think of it this way..... Yes it is a lot of money but if you think how much you spend throughout the year on Lotto and scratch tickets, that would more then pay for this fantastic meal\adventure.

We spend about $10 per week on Powerball and Mega Millions tickets.. Plus every once in a while we grab a $10 or $20 scratch ticket....


I was thinking if we do this meal, maybe I would not want to get rid of said food by holding it all in for a while... hahhahahaha...
I other words one would not want to crap for several days to get their monies worth....

November 12, 2014 at 10:50 AM · You're absolutely right David. Some people buy t-shirts or pins or collectibles when at WDW. Some people spend hundreds of dollars a night to stay at a deluxe resort. To each their own. The only souvenirs we got on this trip was a pair of Goofy ears for our son, so to us, this meal, and the exclusivity of it, was our souvenir for this trip. Some people don't even know about this experience (there are very few published reviews of the Chef's Table), and if not for Samantha Brown's Hidden WDW show I saw on Travel Channel ages ago, I would have never known about it either.

We were pretty full afterwards, but not "engorged". The pacing of the meal really helped, because there's no way I would have been able to eat all of that food in an hour or two. There really wasn't anything to "swipe". We were given personalized copies of the menu and my wife received a rose following the meal, and our table was cleared before we settled the check. I didn't feel the need to ask for anything more from the gracious and attentive staff.

I also recommend the DDP (not QS Plan though), but only to those who know how to use it and get full value. There are too many ways to lose money on the deal, but those that plan well and stick to their plan can save a lot of money if you like to enjoy table service and/or character meals. If you don't like to plan things out or aren't willing to sit down for an hour or 2 each day to eat (and perhaps take extra time to travel to restaurants outside of the theme parks), the DDP could lose you money.

November 12, 2014 at 10:59 AM · People don't just buy the DDP and foolishly lose money. They can only lose money if they don't claim all their credits, but there is enough wiggle room to realize the full value of the DDP without using all their credits. Otherwise, people won't buy it.

Anyways, I just don't see the point of arguing that losing money can potentially happen. It is besides the point. A vacation is where they should dine without worry about bills and this gives them the opportunity to do so.

If you're a foodie, I recommend the Deluxe Dining Plan because you can combine 2 credits and dine at the Signature restaurants like the Brown Derby and Cinderella's Royal Table. I did combine 2 credits once with the regular Dining Plan. Doing it 2 times and more will impact the rest of your trip so the Deluxe Dining Plan is a better value for such situations.

November 12, 2014 at 1:13 PM · "People don't just buy the DDP and foolishly lose money."

Yes they do, because they're not keeping track of their costs. I've read many stories of guests that not only leave unused credits on the table but foolishly use TS-eligible credits on CS meals, and spend even more money out of pocket for add ons like soups, appetizers, and fancy non-alcoholic drinks.

Most people buy the DDP because they don't want to worry about coming home to a huge credit card bill, not necessarily because they want to save money. Many people use the DDP so their trip is more akin to a beach resort (think Sandals or Beaches) or a cruise where guests don't have to take out their wallet aside from gratuities and alcohol. However, many who purchase the DDP don't use it to maximum value, and Disney has continuously decreased the value of it while increasing its cost. Years ago, what is now known as the Deluxe Dining Plan was much closer to the standard DDP with guests getting 2 CS credits, 1 TS credit and 2 snacks for every night on the plan.

The Deluxe DDP is really pricey (over $100 per night-increasing during peak seasons---Disney is really sneaky about the cost of the DDP, and doesn't list the price separately or itemize it on a reservation), and while you can combine 2 credits to dine at the "Signature" restaurants, the value can be a bit of a wash if not used smartly. For example:

The Deluxe DDP includes 3 meals (can be used for either TS or CS) and 2 snacks.

Let's say you have breakfast at your resort's CS eatery ($12-15) using one meal credit. You then decide to use your 2 snack credits to tide you over to dinner for popcorn and a churro (@$10). Then you pair your 2 remaining meal credits for a Signature dinner, I'll use California Grill for example. Even if you get the most expensive appetizer, entree, and dessert on the menu, that dinner would cost @$85 if paying out of pocket. So you've spent over $100 up front for $110 worth of food, and that was assuming you felt like eating the most expensive items on the menu during you signature meal and at breakfast. However, if you switch that counter service meal to a breakfast character meal like Chef Mickey's (typically cost @$35), then you're ahead.

Certainly there are ways to make the DDP work to your advantage like using credits at character meals that can cost over $50/person during lunch and dinner. However, it's just as easy to either fall into the trap of not using all of your credits (the mass of guests in the resort convenience stores on Sunday morning grabbing sodas, candy, and popcorn to use the last of their snack credits says it all) or simply not feel like eating a heavy dessert after every meal and end up wasting food. I understand the point that it's vacation, but a Disney vacation can already be astronomically expensive to some people, and Disney promotes the DDP as a way for guests to save money. They fail to note the pratfalls that could leave guests spending more money than they would have if they had not purchased the DDP, especially since food at WDW is already being priced at a premium whether they're on the DDP or not. For those that have no problem planning ahead to maximize value, or just want to have the luxury of getting the meals included as part of their vacation, the DDP is perfect for them.

If you're a foodie, you're much better off seeking the special Chef's Counter/Table experiences (just about every signature restaurant has one) which are not covered under the DDP or visiting during the EPCOT F&W Festival or Flower and Garden Show where special events and meals beyond the standard fare are offered. There are some Signature restaurants that have some unique dishes, but if you're on the DDP, you're naturally going to be inclined to chose the most expensive entree, which is typically a steak. Most foodies would probably get frustrated with the DDP, especially if they were doing the math along the way.

BTW, the 2 Signature restaurants you mentioned (Brown Derby and CRT) are 2 of the worst values on the DDP with both maxing out at @$70 and costing 2 TS credits. You can use a single TS credit at Akershus (which includes meeting Cinderella (and Belle, and Ariel, and Snow White, and Aurora) and a complementary photo just like CRT) for @$50 value or at Coral Reef for @$60 value.

In the end, it's all about how you use the plan, which is why I would not recommend it to someone who is not willing to at least come up with a rough plan (and make ADRs) for their trip. I wouldn't recommend the Quick Serve DDP to anyone unless you cannot eat a meal without a dessert. If someone is buying the standard or deluxe DDP without ADRs, and is just planning on winging it when they get to WDW, they're throwing their money away. There can be great value in buying the DDP, but it all comes down to how you use it. Perhaps I shouldn't complain, because it's those that lose money on the DDP offset those of us that try to extract maximum value out of the DDP that has caused Disney to continue to increase the price and reduce the benefits of the plan.

November 12, 2014 at 12:40 PM · ^Brian's ending comment hahahahaha

I loved this review and the photos were well done! I felt like I was reading a poshy food blog (minus the "hints of this/that full-bodied finish yadda yadda" part... And then to realize this is from a theme park??? Wow!

While I also love exploring the food scene and treating myself to the art of food, I don't think the Chef's Table is within my realm yet but I really enjoyed this read. It's nice to see these other angles in the theme park industry.

November 12, 2014 at 1:28 PM · I agree, Pyra-Danny V. The review was very well done and it is nice to see other angles in the theme park industry. As a foodie and a theme park enthusiast, I don't think it gets much better than having a truly exceptional food experience one night and then screaming my head off riding the Tower of Terror the next night. While V&A's isn't exactly within my realm yet either...it is definitely on my bucket list after reading this post.

**PS: Wow, Russel your DDP comment is like blog post on it's own! There is some good information in there!

November 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM · Jessi:

There are websites out there that have pages of discussion about the DDP, and we're pretty well versed on it. In fact, the time of year we typically travel to WDW (October/November) is usually when they offer free dining to resort guests, so on our most recent trip, we were on the DDP.

I did write a piece a few years ago about the DDP, and it's still pretty accurate based on the current setup...
http://www.themeparkinsider.com/news/response.cfm?ID=945507604

The intimate details are in a comment down the page.

November 12, 2014 at 2:36 PM · "So you've spent over $100 up front for $110 worth of food."

(edited) You're ahead by $10. That's $10.

As for ordering other stuff like soups and drinks, this is the case when ordering additional is Disney's profit center. I would not regard it as a "loss" for guests to spend more freely on their vacation.

Some perspective on what you said about Cinderella's Royal Table at 2 table service credits costing $70, thus $35 for each credit. A daily adult price for DDP is around $58 per day (that's what I paid on my trip in May 2014). Subtracting quick service lunch (average $16), snack (average $4), resort cup ($2 daily) = $36. So I probably lost $1 by using my credits this way, but maybe not. Therefore, a rule of thumb is spend more than $36 for dinner and you're ahead. Easily done.

You didn't say it, but the main reason to NOT buy the dining plan is if you're really stingy and don't want the beverages and desserts to go with every single meal (except breakfast). Then your food costs is barebones and you can save lots of money. You also don't plan on eating a big meal every single day.

Another major savings not eating breakfast at the restaurants. Just have some breads and fruits at your room to tide you over for lunch. Most people aren't big breakfast eaters anyways. Most Disney resorts and DVC have refrigerators. Use Garden Grocer to order food items in advance of your trip.

November 12, 2014 at 2:50 PM · I absolutely agree with you Anon, which is why I would only recommend paying for the DDP to those who are willing to plan ahead (make ADRs) and can keep track of where they're using their credits. You can absolutely get good value out of the DDP plan when used smartly. I'm not saying that people are losing their pants when purchasing the DDP, simply that they're giving Disney more money than they have to, and that's on top of their slightly overpriced (compared to off-site restaurants, but reasonably priced by theme park standards) food. Unless the convenience of paying up front is that important, why would you pay $1,100 for $1,000 worth of food if you were just paying as you ate? I enjoy Disney as much as the next person, but I'm not going to fork over $100 to them for nothing. Disney will extract every dollar out of your wallet if you're not careful, and the DDP is another tool for them to use.

There are horror stories out there of guests who buy the DDP up front thinking that they've found the greatest secret in WDW. They see all of the great food they can get, and maybe they even plan out a few meals and make some ADRs. However, they get there and start using it only to learn that the value that they receive from the DDP is less than what they prepaid or have more food than they could possibly eat. Some guests don't understand the difference between CS and TS credits and make more ADRs than their family has TS credits (forcing an uncomfortable situation when the bill is presented). Others don't know about the Signature restaurant 2TS rule (this was a huge problem when LeCellier changed its policy during dinner, but not during lunch), while others don't even know what they're entitled to get for a given credit (people still get medium drinks with CS credits when you're allowed to get large and don't get anything with their breakfast platter). Again, we're not talking about thousands, but tens and hundreds of dollars that could have represented another day in the parks, being able to buy Memory Maker, or a souvenir, or a Dole Whip. To some people every penny counts, and prepaying for something and receiving less than your prepaid value in return is a big deal.

Purchasing the DDP is a bit like playing the stock market, except you're in control of the outcome. You pay money up front, but then it's up to you to make that money work for you. If you're fine just breaking even or losing a few bucks here or there for the sake of "convenience", more power to you. I think most people, especially those on tighter budgets, want to stretch their dollar as far as possible, and while the DDP can allow you to do that, it does take a bit of work on your end to extract maximum value.

The biggest issue I have with the DDP is how nebulous they are about its cost. You cannot go to their website to figure out how much is costs, even on a seasonal basis. You have to make a reservation, and then add it, and the cost is just lumped in with your reservation. It's hard to know if you're getting good value for something if you don't know exactly how much it costs. The same thing happens on the purchase end. Guests on the DDP are presented with a receipt with no dollar values on it, so it can be difficult to determine what the actual value of the credit was (TS is a little easier since guests are presented a standard bill before using their credit). The whole system is designed to cloud the true value of the plan.

November 12, 2014 at 3:02 PM · ""So you've spent over $100 up front for $110 worth of food."

(edited) You're ahead by $10. That's $10.

Not really...I stated "over" $100, because the current cost of the Deluxe DDP varies. Recent quotes have pegged it at anywhere from $106 to $120 depending upon what days you've reserved. This goes back to the whole issue with Disney hiding the costs. If Disney touts the DDP as a way for families to save money, why don't they come out and say how much it costs, and why don't they tell families how much they saved on the dining plan after their vacation (like a grocery store receipt)? They don't even provide mock meals up front to demonstrate to guests how they could save money. Other theme parks explain to guests how they can save money on various dining plans, yet the DDP is shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

November 12, 2014 at 4:49 PM · "This goes back to the whole issue with Disney hiding the costs"

No, this is your misunderstanding of economics. You're hung up on the list cost of food expenses. Your cost (that Disney charges for food) is irrelevant in a DDP because you already pre-paid. You're merely getting back what you paid for. Whatever Disney charges outside of the DDP is an individual charge to that customer at that time. Once you're on the DDP, the retail pricing flies out the window. You now have an inclusive plan.

The DDP helps to determine at any point how many people will eat at the park as a baseline. With the money at hand, they can adjust the food costs much more easily than what they charge the customers (the retail prices don't change for at least a year after they are set). They will make money off you regardless. If you seen the restaurant rescue shows in cable television, you will know that profitable restaurants charge accordingly to their expenses (food expenses should be 30% of retail pricing) so they would most definitely take into account the DDP as well as their retail customers.

This is no different than Annual Passes where whatever you pre-paid for admission is what Disney can immediately book as revenue less costs.

What if the restaurant randomly has bills ranging from $35 to $55 per person on a DDP? Does this mean Disney's food costs are 30% of the retail pricing ranging from $10.5 to $16.50? Not really because you must first subtract for drinks ($4), which is first food cost that has the BIGGEST margin. The next food cost with good margins is dessert ($6). I will guess the drinks cost 25 cents per serving and dessert cost $1 per serving. Then maybe the entrees are 30% of prices. I estimate the food costs range from $8.75 to $14.75. Whatever the labor costs isn't much with volume (and customers pay gratuity) and the building costs are negligible.

With the range of $8.75 to $14.75 for food costs, you can see the DDP pre-paid pricing makes these food costs irrelevant. They still book an overall profit.

"If Disney touts the DDP as a way for families to save money"

I think this is marketing. You make it sound like it is a mystery. That isn't so. You did the math yourself and were quite proud to play the system. Some were able to save, but on a vacation that's purely discretionary is a contradiction. Let's just say Disney can help you save as long as you stick to the plan and order everything you're entitled to.

DDP is sold as convenience and to ensure people eat in Disney restaurants. It is a success.

Here is the exact wording the the flyer.

"Welcome to the Disney Dining Plan,
which offers a convenient and affordable way to enjoy snacks and
meals throughout the Walt Disney World® Resort, including many
located in the Downtown Disney ® Area. That means lots of great
dining opportunities for you and your family. This brochure outlines the
details of what is included and how to use the Disney Dining Plan."

November 12, 2014 at 4:59 PM · "Purchasing the DDP is a bit like playing the stock market"

No, it's more like a casino where Disney already rigged the odds. The odds are the price of the DDP as the average price of an average meal. You play your chips. Can you win or lose? Disney still wins. You get some enjoyment. You leave happy, unless you're the spoiler who tells the happy guest that they didn't play the game right.

I read in another web site that touts "maximizing value". Well, yes and no. Certainly go for it if you already want the expensive steak, but that's not the best item on the menu.

November 12, 2014 at 8:12 PM · You should be a CSR for Disney, because you make excellent arguments for the DDP, but they're just not based in financial reality.

"This is no different than Annual Passes where whatever you pre-paid for admission is what Disney can immediately book as revenue less costs."

I completely agree here as both APs and the DDP place the onus on the purchaser to recoup the initial investment. If you purchase an AP and only visit a couple of times, you wasted your money, and probably should have just bought individual day tickets. Similarly with the DDP, if you find yourself not using all of your credits or selecting the lower priced items on the menus, you probably should have chosen to forgo the DDP and pay for meals out of pocket. It all comes down to how the customer chooses to use the product. The biggest difference between APs and the DDP is that the later is far more complicated to calculate the true value because the cost is hidden from the customer at the time of purchase. When you buy an AP, you typically know right up front how many days you need to visit in order to validate the purchase of the pass, just like Robert did in a post a few weeks ago. The DDP has a lot more variables, and many choices that affect the overall financial value of the purchase, which is why there are dissertations on the subject.

"Certainly go for it if you already want the expensive steak, but that's not the best item on the menu."

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. The fact of the matter is you already paid for a steak if you want it, or at the very least the median priced entrée, before ever stepping foot in the restaurant if you're using the DDP. You're cheating yourself by getting the cheapest item on the menu, and probably should not have gotten the DDP if you knew that ahead of time. Indeed the cheapest item might be the best item, but by using the DDP as your method of purchase for that item, you're artificial inflating the price of your meal.

November 13, 2014 at 1:32 AM · The food looks great, and it is something we could afford, but a cheeseburger on the Porch of Indecision (Margaritaville) with live entertainment is more up our alley. I am always in "beach mode" when it comes to my clothing, and the idea of dressing up to go to dinner just doesn't fly with me.

Great review and description of the various dishes, however.

November 13, 2014 at 7:42 AM · I'm trying maximize my chances to get the reservation. I booked a 10 day stay starting 3 days before my actual trip. The deposit is the same either way and you can change your reservation with no penalty well inside the 180 day window of booking the ADR. Once I (hopefully) have the reservation, I plan on just changing my trip back to the 7 days I plan on being there. I'm hoping this gives me a slight edge.
November 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM · "The biggest difference between APs and the DDP is that the later is far more complicated to calculate the true value because the cost is hidden from the customer at the time of purchase."

How would you know the cost to Disney for the APs? You don't know the cost to run the parks. Only Disney knows how much it is. You can easily do a easy review at going to Disney's Annual Reports. It is always about an average margin cost. On average, Disney makes (blank) percentage profit. For example, in the fourth quarter 2014, income was $687 million on $4.0 billion revenue for parks and resorts. This is 17% margin. I won't do the math for other expenses or income that can add or subtract from this margin.

Whatever the DDP benefit or non-benefit comparison to paying with cash, it is irrelevant because Disney prices the DDP to breakeven with what they expect the customer to pay if paying by cash. It is quite funny to see you argue that the customer loses when the plan is priced out, it evens out.

Another thing is we often hear about how customers easily abuse Fastpass+, Disability Access, and the Reservations system. So many uber customers figure out how they can take advantage of the system, yet they know nothing about how DDP works. All contradiction here.

"You're cheating yourself by getting the cheapest item on the menu"

Let's re-frame your argument. Disney's list prices is just an illusion. If one person in your party orders the chicken and the other orders the steak, you're at the average for the DDP. If both order the steak, will you have steak again tomorrow or will you try something else like the salmon? It is evident that you'll order what you want and the DDP is just about the value you paid for.

Use up all your credits so he DDP breaks even. I would love to know if a signficant number don't claim their credits, then it will be Disney's gain.

"Sometimes yes and sometimes no." See above. It explains itself.

November 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM · "How would you know the cost to Disney for the APs?"

You've got this completely backwards and upside down. Why does it matter to the consumer how much it costs Disney for an AP or the DDP? The fact of the matter is that it doesn't. The only thing that matters to the consumer is how much the product costs to them up front versus how much it would have cost for alternatives. Consumers purchasing APs compare the price of an AP to the price of single or mult-day admissions. Consumers purchasing the DDP should compare the price of the plan (a rather convoluted process, but can be done) versus the price they think it would cost them for individual meals during their trip if they were paying cash.

It's actually rather simple. For a person considering an AP, they ask themselves how many times they predict they will visit the park in a given year and use that number to determine the per-visit cost of the AP. If that number is higher than a per day price of a single or multi-day admission, than the AP is a poor value to that person. For the person considering the DDP, they should look at the menus of the restaurants that they would like to eat at throughout their trip and pick the items they would most likely eat. Once you've added all those meals up, you compare it to the total cost of the DDP. If that number is equal to or less than the cost of the DDP, than you're probably better off paying for meals as you go with cash. If it's higher, you might want to consider the DDP. The cost of these products to Disney or how much Disney stands to gain or lose from them has no bearing on the consumer's cost-benefit analysis.

I don't care if Disney loses $1 billion on the DDP, if it doesn't cost less than it would have for me to eat meals in the park paying with cash, then I'm not going to buy it. If it does end up costing less, then it's up to me to make sure that I make decisions and choices to follow through with the predicted cost-benefit. It's like buying a gym membership, Netflix, or many other subscription based services. You pay an up front fee for a service of indeterminate value, but that value can increase or decrease depending upon how you use it. If you have a Netflix subscription and only watch 1 movie a month, that's a pretty high per-movie price to you, but if you watch 10 movies a month, you've increased the value of the subscription a full order of magnitude.

November 13, 2014 at 12:28 PM · How did I get it backwards? You asked the question. You said "the later is far more complicated to calculate the true value because the cost is hidden from the customer at the time of purchase." So I proceeded to talk about the true cost. Now you object.

It is simple. Just use all the DDP credits. Forget every other concern about how to strategically order the highest priced entrees to maximize value. This is no different than using the AP as much as possible.

Give it up. Doing the math for DDP is not necessary. I've done it due to my own curiosity and I realized its benefit. It is a wash, meaning... on average you will break even. If you don't, you're on vacation. You're fiddling over a few dollars for a vacation that costs thousands.

November 13, 2014 at 12:34 PM · "It is evident that you'll order what you want and the DDP is just about the value you paid for."

That is false. The value of the DDP is the cost of the plan versus what it would have cost paying for the same meals with cash. Certainly you cannot look at it on a meal by meal basis, but over the duration of a trip, the listed price of items when added up should exceed the up front cost of the plan. Guests can increase or decrease that differential depending upon choices they make during their trip. As you point out, a guest can order the least expensive entree for lunch, but then order the most expensive entree at dinner, or one member of the family can order the inexpensive chicken while another orders the expensive steak, and still come out ahead. However, if you make the decision to continuously choose the least expensive items on the menu, eat at the least expensive restaurants, and/or are unable to consume all of the food you are served, the realized value of the DDP to the consumer will decline.

I'm merely pointing out that the DDP is not for everyone, and your simplistic approach to the system could result in guests spending more money than they could have to eat during their WDW vacation. I don't think there's anyone who reads this website that is interested in paying more than they have to for food in a theme park.

November 13, 2014 at 12:48 PM · "How did I get it backwards? You asked the question. You said "the later is far more complicated to calculate the true value because the cost is hidden from the customer at the time of purchase." So I proceeded to talk about the true cost. Now you object."

No, I'm saying that the price of the DDP can be difficult to ascertain. There is nowhere on the Disney website that lists the cost of any of the DDPs. In fact, the price varies based on the time of year and can even change depending upon what resort you're staying at. Even on your final invoice, the DDP is listed as a separate line item, but there's no accompanying price on that line. Everything is rolled up into the total. A customer trying to figure out the per night cost of the DDP has to go all the way through the reservation process to determine what the product costs. That is probably done deliberately so that the customer has a hard time determining whether purchasing the DDP was a good, average, or poor value compared to paying cash.

"On average you will break even. If you don't, you're on vacation. You're fiddling over a few dollars for a vacation that costs thousands."

Breaking even is a loss when you have to pay that money 2 months in advance. As I noted before, a few dollars here or there could mean an extra souvenir, a special treat, or even an extra day. You make it sound like if you're on vacation the numbers following the dollar signs don't matter. To many people those numbers do matter, and there are many many families across this country that dig deep to take their kids on a Disney Vacation. If they can save $10 here or there, that's a huge deal to them, even if they're laying out thousands of dollars for their trip. Vacation or not, most people are not looking to throw their money away, and while the DDP can be a money saver to some, to others it can be a loss. I'm simply advocating that guests go through the pros and cons of the system, and make sure they plan out their meals (make ADRs) before committing to the DDP. I don't want anyone to not want to go back to WDW because they feel that they got swindled by the DDP.

November 13, 2014 at 1:14 PM · "Certainly you cannot look at it on a meal by meal basis, but over the duration of a trip, the listed price of items when added up should exceed the up front cost of the plan."

This is false. Most customers will end up above or below the plan, but not by much. Disney prices its plans properly. If Disney knows that it's DDP is structurally to its disadvantage, they will increase prices to match list prices. Similarly, if it knows customers are not taking full advantage of its plans, it will decrease prices to gain customers. As far as I know, they priced their DDP appropriately. DDP prices are known if you call their customer service representative. If you have an resort reservation, it isn't hard to find out.

"Even on your final invoice, the DDP is listed as a separate line item, but there's no accompanying price on that line."

Huh? Did you even use DDP? The first check is an itemized billing. Only after you see the actual price do you pay with DDP. You can ask for the itemized billing or take a photo of it. The final bill shows that you paid by DDP and it omits the pricing as that is irrelvant. It shows the credits used.

Okay, go ahead and save that $10. Goodness.

"I don't want anyone to not want to go back to WDW because they feel that they got swindled by the DDP."

I guess you should not ask if they felt swindled as that is 'leading the witness'.

I think your theory about pre-paying DDP and not having money for souvenirs is backwards. Once a customer feels that their food expenses are covered, they are more free to consider other expenses without feeling nickeled and dimed. The whole paying with cash thing is rather unsavory. Disney is a whole other world with how expensive their meals are.

Finally, paying months in advance avoids any list price increases... just so you know.

November 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM · "Huh? Did you even use DDP? The first check is an itemized billing. Only after you see the actual price do you pay with DDP. You can ask for the itemized billing or take a photo of it. The final bill shows that you paid by DDP and it omits the pricing as that is irrelvant. It shows the credits used."

This is true, but once again, you completely misunderstood what I was talking about.

I was detailing the difficulty it is for guests to determine how much the DDP costs when they make their vacation reservation. There is nowhere on the Disney website that lists the price of the DDP (there's not even a table that lists it on a seasonal basis). The prices are all hidden from the customer until it's time to add it to a reservation. In order to figure out what the price of the DDP, a guest must go through the reservation process where the DDP option is presented as an add-on. Only there can you see what the DDP costs, and even then it's presented as a lump add-on for the entire family, not as a per day or per person charge. Once you've selected it, that cost is rolled into your vacation total, hidden once again from the consumer. When the guest receives their final vacation invoice (not the receipt for their meals, I don't know how you misinterpreted that), the DDP (if purchased) is shown, but not separately itemized. If you don't remember that add-on price from the selection screen when you booked, it can be exceedingly difficult to figure out what you paid to add the DDP to your vacation. If you're not paying attention during the booking process, you may have no idea what you're paying for the DDP, or the per night rate for your hotel, or the per day price you're paying for your theme park tickets. It's a very complicated process that Disney seems to like, because it means the guest is blind to the individual prices of their vacation. They just want people to look at the bottom line so it cannot be compared to competitors.

"Similarly, if it knows customers are not taking full advantage of its plans, it will decrease prices to gain customers."

That will be a cold day in you know where when Disney actually decreases the price of something. I've been watching the price of the DDP for nearly a decade, and it's never once gone down, and the flexibility and value of the plan compared to paying cash has continued to decrease during that time. If it is indeed a "wash" and costs the same as paying as you dine with cash, why in the world do you buy it, and pay for it 2 months before using it? I don't understand why you are so adamant about promoting a system that you yourself admitted to losing money (yes, just a dollar, but it's still a loss). Why oh why??? Remind me to never let you be my accountant, I'd be flat broke in a few years.

November 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM · "I think your theory about pre-paying DDP and not having money for souvenirs is backwards. Once a customer feels that their food expenses are covered, they are more free to consider other expenses without feeling nickeled and dimed. The whole paying with cash thing is rather unsavory."

I can see this line of thinking where a guest has a pre-paid budget that's already accounted for with incidentals built in, but there are many people who look to travel on a shoestring budget, and they feel that they can control their spending better when they pay as they go.

I saw very few people paying with actual "cash" last month at WDW. Most people were tapping their Magic Bands to charge things to their room, and on prior trips they were using their Keys to the Kingdom. There's very little unsavory about using hard cash, and nothing unsavory about tapping a card or wristband to charge to a room. A majority of people use credit cards for most of their purchases anyway, so there's really nothing "unsavory" about that.

November 13, 2014 at 1:44 PM · "Finally, paying months in advance avoids any list price increases... just so you know."

And this is contrary to how you explained how Disney prices the DDP. If the cost of the DDP is constantly adjusting to how people use the plan, than paying months in advance is only a hedge against the price of the DDP, not the list prices of menu items. In fact, most menu item prices are surprisingly stable with a number of items that we ate on our most recent trip the exact prices they were 2 years ago. However, the price of the DDP has increased about 10-15% over that same 2 years. Sure, menu item prices may increase, but purchasing the DDP should not be viewed as a way to protect against individual menu price increases.

November 13, 2014 at 2:04 PM · Yes, everything at WDW is overpriced. But souvenirs and counter service doesn't cost almost as much as a round trip flight to Orlando. Even if I was a millionaire, there's no way I would squander hundreds of dollars on one meal.
November 13, 2014 at 2:41 PM · "I was detailing the difficulty it is for guests to determine how much the DDP costs when they make their vacation reservation."

I misunderstood that because this isn't true for everyone. Some may make reservations online. Some might use a travel agent. Some may order hotel and DDP ala carte. I exchanged my timeshare for a DVC. I added-on DDP with the customer service representative since I could not do it online. She told me exactly how much it costed.

The on-line add-on can be evaluated on its own. Just divide the total DDP cost with the number of days. It doesn't matter how it cost per person. If your daily costs line up with the daily DDP cost, you'll know if you overpaid. As a rule, children is around 31% of the adult price. This can certainly change. I paid $58 for adults and $18 for children back in May 2014.

I don't think Disney is intentionally trying to obfuscate their pricing. They are just trying to make reservations easier. If you want more details, talk to a live person. Anyways, it's not an issue of competitors because Disney is the only one that can get away with its pricing.

"If it is indeed a "wash" and costs the same as paying as you dine with cash, why in the world do you buy it, and pay for it 2 months before using it?"

Did you ever consider DDP to be a service? I do prefer to pay with credits than with cash for food. The fact that DDP is a wash make it imperative to stay with DDP for you will never go overbudget. It might make your accountant happy ;) Paying with cash ensures that I may very well pick the cheapest item on the menu. Now I can consider all entrees plus dessert.

Certainly, charging to your room with your MagicBand is a good idea. Makes cash invisible. That's why Disney executives are excited by it and I can imagine MagicBands are already paid for.

In previous vacations, I easily charged over $1000 for food and souvenirs. Knowing my budget for food takes away a big unknown. Even you're flumoxed by it all. Knowing DDP is a wash, will you feel better knowing that YES, you can get the steak and feel rewarded.

"And this is contrary to how you explained how Disney prices the DDP. If the cost of the DDP is constantly adjusting to how people use the plan, than paying months in advance is only a hedge against the price of the DDP, not the list prices of menu items."

Huh? Why not both? If you already bought the DDP in advance, your DDP price is locked it, which spares you from any list price increases that may/could happen since you pay with credits. It is well known that buying early locks you into the prices you paid. This doesn't insulate the cash buyer from price increases.

"In fact, most menu item prices are surprisingly stable with a number of items that we ate on our most recent trip the exact prices they were 2 years ago. However, the price of the DDP has increased about 10-15% over that same 2 years."

Both can't be true.

"purchasing the DDP should not be viewed as a way to protect against individual menu price increases."

Not the primary decision. I didn't buy my DDP until near the cutoff at around 7 days before the trip. But if you pre-paid your vacation and it includes DDP, would you feel better?

November 14, 2014 at 8:22 AM · "I don't think Disney is intentionally trying to obfuscate their pricing. They are just trying to make reservations easier."

I think there are a lot of people that would challenge that. The Disney booking engine (which is identical whether you call over the phone or book online) is even more complicated (in terms of back end algorithms) than airline booking engines. Prices change dramatically in a matter of hours, and calling over the phone doesn't provide any further detail than booking online. If you didn't know, when you call to make a new reservation, the person on the other end of the line is looking at the same screens that you would be seeing if you were booking online at home. The only difference is that the CSR can sometimes more easily compare different options and perform that comparison faster, and knows all of the booking policies backwards and forwards to help you get the best deal. I would surmise that most WDW visitors are booking online these days with a decreasing percentage booking over the phone, and an even smaller percentage using a travel agent (mostly foreign visitors these days). The entire MyMagic+ system is geared towards guests booking online.

"Both can't be true."

Tell that to Disney...A Bacon Cheeseburger at Pecos Bill's was $10.79 on the menu just couple of weeks ago, which was the exact same menu price it was in October 2012. The DDP has gone from @$52/adult in 2012 to @$60/adult today. So yes, it is true that menu prices can be stable while Disney adjusts the price of the DDP. As you said yourself, the DDP is priced based upon how people use the plan, while the menu prices of specific items are driven by the cost of ingredients and overhead.

Let's just leave it at this...The DDP can be a highly advantageous purchase to some WDW visitors, and can be a huge money saver for those willing to make optimal use of the plan. It can also be a convenience to some who don't want the variable of dining costs hanging over their vacation. However, just like any other theme park dining plan, the DDP may provide more food than some guests may be willing to eat (making it a poor value), and may not be a good choice for those who are averse or unwilling to make advanced dining reservations or planning out some meals ahead of time.

November 14, 2014 at 12:42 PM · While I was aware of the chef table I would not have considered it until I read your review. It would be an extravagant luxury for me but now I understand the overall value (beyond the cost) of it.
November 14, 2014 at 6:06 PM · Great article and photos of a fantastic experience. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to be your guests!
November 14, 2014 at 11:55 PM · great article sounds fun for special day

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