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Adventures by Disney

Disney Dining: Doing It Your Way

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Step right over to the buffet where Ahnalira will take us on a culinary odyessy through the wonderful restaurants at Walt Disney world. Learn how to plan delightful custom meals that meet your dietary needs during your next Disney vacation.

An adventure at Disney World is filled with sensory delights. Sights and sounds and smells. Stories and songs and thrills that delight the mind and enthuse the spirit. The world of Disney takes the adventurer into many lands of enjoyment, including the sensation of taste. The culinary adventure at Disney World is a theme park in its own right.

The “Dining Theme Park” is unique in itssence of geographical boundaries. It exists throughout the World and beyond, and has a range of offerings designed to please a variety of styles and palates. The dining experience at Walt Disney World can be a centerpiece in the adventure or it can be an enhancement to touring. Either way, joyful possibilities abound.

Getting What You Want

Therein lies the key to a successful tour through the “Dining Theme Park.” Of course, in order to get what you want, it is essential to know what you want. Disney offers everything from quick counter-service foods to dining events that last for several hours. Decide first of all, how much of your Disney-time will go to dining. Be sure to include travel time (if you intend to leave parks or travel between resorts to sample restaurants) and wait time (for priority seating reservations, which average 15 minutes). Counter-service restaurants can often be more spontaneous and faster (remember, though, there may be long lines to the counter). Dinner shows will require the most planning and prearranging of all. 

Also, factor in cost. Nothing is more fun than having a culinary creation of wonderful tastes and enjoyable presentations when the cost is pre-understood and accepted. Nothing is less fun than getting the check and feeling nervous or upset about the cost.

Once you have a basic idea of how much time (and money) you will spend in the “Dining Theme Park,” the selection process begins. For some it may be as simple as saying, "We'll eat when we're hungry at the closest place to where ever we are." For others, establishing an itinerary, reading restaurant reviews, and factoring the times and costs may be the next step to ensuring you get what you want. Actually, this part of the process can be just as much fun as the actual dining experience. It helps to have a playful attitude while gathering the data. For example, read restaurant reviews aloud to your travel companions and have everyone keep a score to help in the decision making.

If your group decides on popular sit-down restaurants, consider making an advanced dining reservation to ensure your table. Some prefer to let the whimsey of the moment carry them, and simply walk in without reservations. The time of year will determines the importance of this particular choice. For Character Meals, especially, reserved seating can be of value. Of course, remember that if you call for advanced reservations and are told none is available, you can always 'walk up' for a table and get one sooner or later. (A number of tables are alloted for walk-ins, and many advanced reservations do not show up at all). There is always a way to get what you want.

Special Meal Requests

The Disney chefs have gone to great lengths to upgrade the availability of low-fat and fresh foods. Throughout every park, fresh fruit and bottled water are now available. Carts and counter service alike offer lowfat options, and salads are now as commonplace on the menu as burgers. In an effort to acknowledge the wide variety of dietary preferences, vegetarian choices are more and more available.
For guests who have specific dietary preferences or requirements, Disney prides itself on providing accommodations for special meal requests at all sit-down restaurants on Walt Disney World property. However, as in all large organizational structures, the intention sometimes gets diluted by the time it reaches the line staff. Here are some techniques for ordering the special foods you want:
  1. When you make your advanced dining reservation, let the reservationist know you want special diet accommodations. Ask them to make a note on the reservation, then ask for the phone number of the restaurant so you can contact them directly.
  2. Call the restaurant a week before your reservation, and offer to fax them a list of your dietary requests. Be very specific. Say what you want included as well as excluded. If they can make it for you, they will.
  3. If you want backup support, call the administrative office for each park and ask to speak to someone who deals with special meal accommodations. They will contact the restaurant, as well.
  4. If you are staying on the Concierge Level of any resort, they will do all of the legwork for you, as well as provide special selections for you on the daily buffet.
  5. Disregard all information that tells you Guest Services will make these calls for you. They may, but in my experience they do it grudgingly. It's simpler and feels better (imho) to do it yourself or stay on the concierge level.
  6. If you interact with a staff person who seems bewildered by your requests or attempts to convince you to call someone else, take a deep breath. Ask them to read the guidelines over the phone to you before being cycled into that famous loop of "I'm not sure how to do this -- it must be somebody else's job."
  7. Appreciation always makes these arrangements go more smoothly. Express it as often as possible.

Dining Celebrations

If you are celebrating a special event at the "World," special meals can be arranged using the same techniques. Guest Services will happily arrange for special room treats or presents, as well. If you are celebrating in a more informal style, be sure and let the hotel reservation desk and the restaurants where you are eating know of your special occasion. Disney loves to help people celebrate.
treat picture treat picture
May your dining adventures at Disney World be as much fun as Splash Mountain, as inspiring as Horizons, as magical as Tinkerbell's flight, as entertaining as Muppets 3-D, and as awesome as the Tree of Life.
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