by Anura Guruge
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To begin with, Deanna who is always cost conscious, wanted to go with the ‘straight’ Dining Plan that gives you one (1) Quick-Service, one (1) snack and one (1) Table-Service meal a day. I took one look at that and said “No Way“! Devanee and I, as must be obvious in my case with one look at me, are BIG eaters. Teischan is perennially hungry, extremely fussy about what she eats and even then basically nibbles at her food so that she can claim that she is starving 20 minutes after she last ate.
So I insisted that we opt for the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan that gives you three (3) Meals, of any type (including Table-Service, Buffet and Character), and two (2) Snacks per day. I knew the cost would be well worth it. I was right on that count — though I might NOT, in future (assuming that we ever make it down there again), get a meal plan for an UNDER 10.
Food was plentiful, 90% of it very good.
You really couldn’t complain about the food provided, of course, you picked the right restaurants.
In general all were good, but two, the ‘Plaza Restaurant‘ at Magic Kingdom and the ‘Garden Grill‘ at Epcot,
were below par.
The ‘Cafe‘ at the Grand Floridian is World Class! Oh, La, La.
‘The Wave’ at the Contemporary is very, very nice;
we liked it so much we went twice — and though it was two days apart they remembered us!
The ‘1900 Park Fare‘ at the Grand Floridian is also very good and the ‘Coral Reef‘,
where we had a ‘window’ seat right next to the HUGE aquarium with sharks, squid,
tuna and humans was amazing.
‘The Whispering Canyon Cafe‘ at the Wilderness Lodge, where we stayed, is good and gives you plenty to eat
— though it is not in the same class as the restaurants at the Contemporary or the Grand Floridian.
We had lunch and dinner at the ‘Crystal Palace‘ in Magic Kingdom and it was OK. Decent.
Plenty to eat.
I think we had five buffets: 3 for breakfast, one lunch and one dinner. As with so much at Disney the buffets are standardized — i.e., the breakfast buffet at ‘The Wave’ and the ‘1900 Park Fare’ are identical. But, lets get to the ‘issue’. In general the Disney buffets are 1/2 the size of Vegas equivalents BUT cost twice as much.
So, YES, the bottom line, as ever, boils down to costs. Yes, with the Dining Plan the meal doesn’t cost you anything — since you already paid $xxxs upfront for the plan.
But here is the kicker.
Gratuities are NOT included, and Disney, quite correctly, spells that out for you,
upfront, numerous times.
Higher the cost of a meal, higher the gratuity.
That, alas, is an inescapable law of physics.
Some of our buffet meals came in at $140 — and that is WITHOUT any alcohol because I only had three drinks while I was there. So, that is $35, per head — which seems slightly fair for such fare at Disney.
But now the suggested 18% tip — which they kindly compute for you on the bill itself. $25.20. And that is the kicker.
We paid $35.10, $36.52, $29.48 … in tips. In total we paid over $250 in gratuities on the meals we had on the Deluxe Dining Plan in 4.5 days.
So, this is JUST a heads up.
I knew that the gratuities were extra. I just hadn’t given it much thought.
So what I am trying to do here is to make sure that YOU don’t choke the first time you see a Disney dining bill.
I recommend the Deluxe Dining Plan.
But, don’t get it for kids — i.e., kids under 10.
Kids over 10 are treated as adults.
Might be cheaper just to pay for the under-10 kids a la carte.
Hope this helps.
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