Well, I know it has been a while since we were at WDW earlier this year, but I thought it might be interesting to some of you if I did a review of our experience of the Deluxe Dining Plan. and what we thought of it.
Mr Debs and I had never done a Disney Dining Plan before. In fact, I had only ever stayed on Disney property the one time, the year before at POR, and consequently we hadnít really eaten in very many Disney restaurants. We had gone to Chef Mickeyís for breakfast, San Angel Inn, Yachtsmanís Steakhouse and V&A, as well as a few places at DTD, but most others had been offsite or CS. On my 5 previous visits I had visited many restaurants offsite, but only really mainly had counter service while in The World.
Now, I know that many people say that Disney Dining isnít as good as it was, and donít really rate it, but we felt we were missing out on a big chunk of the Disney experience by not doing it. Whenever we go on holiday meals are an important part of them for us Our holiday this year included the free DDP, and as we were discussing where we would like to eat it became apparent that there were more places than dining credits! The other thing we discussed was that we love to have a proper sit-down breakfast most days on holiday, and if we did that every day that would take care of all of our table service credits. One of the disappointing things about staying at the POR in 2010 was the CS breakfast; we felt we were wasting money by buying something that was purely functional and not great quality. Breakfast there became just a refuelling exercise and certainly wasnít full of Disney Magic, and we were going offsite to get a good breakfast most days. So this year, just a couple of weeks before we left, we asked how much it would cost to upgrade to the Deluxe Plan, and it was £540 for the two of us. We decided that it was worth it, and started on booking those ADRs!
That was an experience all on itís own. As I said, we had only ever booked two ADRs before, and I had always read so many things of having to book them 180 days out, or we wouldnít be able to get what we wanted, and have to graciously take what we were given. Now I know it is most likely due to the fact we were going in January and February, but the only ADR we couldnít get was at Le Cellier, and even then, the day before we left we managed to get a late lunch reservation for it.
We had always disliked the idea of the DDP and being unable to eat what we wanted, when we wanted, because the DDP had changed how people ate at Disney. We had always wondered how we would want to know what we wanted to eat on a particular day so far in advance of going there. So, we decided to think positively and approached this in the opposite way. In the same way weíd plan which parks to visit on each day based around variables like EMH, or parades, we decided to approach eating in the same way. Decide where we really wanted to eat, and arrange them around the plans we already had. We figured that with only a couple of exceptions we could cancel at short notice anyway without any problems if we changed our minds. And we also left some slots free for counter service, or for any other options that came up.
So, how did it work out for us? Well, for the first 4 days or so we felt that we had to make the most of it, and always ordered our desserts even if we were full! We would get them to go to eat later, and after a few days our room fridge was full of uneaten sweet goodies!! After that we were able to get out of the mindset of ordering it just because we had paid for it already!! This was despite the servers often looking at us as if we were out of our minds! ďBut itís in your dining plan!!! Take it for later!!!!Ē We started to think that we must be the only ones on any sort of dining plan who didnít wring every last cent out of itís value! Also, at Goods to Go, the CS place at our resort, OKW, there were two servers who insisted that if we were going to get our CS lunch or dinner with a DP credit then it was compulsory that we order dessert!!! If we didnít we had to pay out of pocket! So silly, but we gave up arguing and ended up ordering one anyway each time, and saving our Mickey Crispy Treats to take home for my niece and nephew. The other thing we quickly realised was that any desserts we ordered at a TS restaurant that we didnít eat were obviously added to the bill and we paid the 18 Ė 20% tip on those too, and in some of the restaurants this wasnít an insignificant amount, especially when added over the two weeks. It wasnít going to break the bank or anything, but it was worth taking into consideration.
We had a full sit down breakfast most days, and went to all of the character breakfasts we wanted to. This included CRT which we had never done as we thought it ridiculously expensive! But this way we did it and enjoyed it. We were able to experience every 2 credit restaurant, which was really wonderful. (The only one we didnít do this time was Yachtsmanís SH as we did it the previous year and had been hugely disappointed, but we think that was due to our early sitting, our dreadful table, and our disinterested server. However, we will most definitely be going next year and be insisting that Ricardo is our server! But I digress ).
We like to drink good wine with our meals, and maybe a cocktail beforehand, so of course as we were having sit down meals more often this cost us more money than it would have done previously, and again, there was the 20% tip on top of those drinks too. Not a problem, just something to be taken into account when budgeting. Also, because of drinking with our meals we used Disney transportation a lot more than we have in the past which was sometimes an issue, but didnít bother us anywhere near as much as we thought it would. A couple of times when the busses were late we asked at OKW reception if we could get a cab so we could make our reservations, and someone simply drove us to our restaurant which was lovely. The only time it was a big problem was coming back from Jikoís as AKL transport seems to be a bit spotty, and we were so very tired, so next time weíd get a cab home.
We found the snack credits a little hard to use as we didnít need many snacks inbetween all of that food! But we used them to have drinks, and small things like Dole Whips, fruit and ice cream . We found there were loads left over at the end of the holiday, and so used them to buy sweets to bring back as gifts, which we would have done anyway.
We usually had a full TS breakfast (with a couple of exceptions) and one full TS meal a day. The 3rd meal varied between a counter service or something light like a salad at a TS place.
Would we do it again? Well, we have booked with free dining for next year, and already upgraded to the Deluxe! We are already having fun planning where we want to eat We really found it added to our experience, especially as we know the parks so well and donít feel the need to be attacking them all the time. With our experience from last year we are sure weíll enjoy it even more. It added a whole new dimension for us, which was fun, and gave us the opportunity to have a look around resorts we had never visited previously. As we are staying at the Beach Club this time we have so many eating places on our doorstep too, which will make things easier.
We learned that because of the time difference in the first 4 days or so that we were getting up ridiculously early and were so very tired earlier than normal in the evenings, so this time we will make sure our breakfast reservations for those first days are for the earliest sittings, and that our main TS those days are for either the latest lunch or the earliest dinner so that we really do it justice. One of our regrets was that we went to Jiko for dinner on our second night at about 7:30pm, but because we were jetlagged we were almost falling asleep at the table! So no ADRs after 6pm those first few days.
I donít have any formal figuress now, but after a few days we totted up what we would have spent versus what the upgrade to Deluxe had cost and it really was more than good value, and well worth doing for us. I donít think we would pay for the Deluxe Dining Plan if we didnít already have the free DDP anyway, but weíd do that calculation if it ever came to it.
And that is the report of the two little piggies!!!