DVC Prices Officially Going Up – January 18, 2017

DVC Prices are officially going up on January 18, 2017 two days before the presidential inauguration. Interesting timing, don't you think? I just a got a message from my sales manager that I should buy more points before the price rises substantially from $171.00 per point to $176.00 per point. Holy cats!

List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Two (2): Hollywood & Vine – Fantasmic

2nd Place: Hollywood & Vine

Lord love me a buffet! Seriously, the thing about Disney Dining for me is: I happen to have numerous dietary restrictions, namely Dairy, Gluten, Egg and Soy. Therefore, chefs speak with me on a regular basis. Taking the number two spot is Hollywood & Vine. Why? The chefs talk to me and give me NUMEROUS options all while my children can happily crash the buffet without having to wait for mom to AGAIN talk to the chef and then WAIT for their food to show up. Nope! They get food right away - lots of beautiful, varied and delectable options while I get to converse with the chef about the options that are available to me! This is a huge win for anyone who suffers from food allergies but also has children that despite their patience, just want to eat on their Disney trip and get back out to explore and have more fun!

This restaurant has a bit of a 1950's vibe and is sister-hallwayed (I made up that word...isn't it great?) with 50's Prime Time Café, so there's some blend over between the two restaurants since they share a bathroom in that sister-hallway.

Hollywood and Vine often has character guests at lunch and dinner. I have seen Jedi Mickey Star Wars, Disney Jr. characters, Minnie's Holiday dine at Christmas, Spring and Summer and there always other characters to enjoy and have pictures taken with as well including but not limited to: Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Jake and more! The meal characters depend on the time of year and the time of day.

Look for the Hollywood and Vine: Fantasmic offering while browsing through restaurant dining options at My Disney Experience. Or you can call 1-407-WDW-DINE and ask for the Fantasmic package. Fantasmic is a show put on at Hollywood Studios at night and is a spectacular extravaganza of all things Disney, Magic, Villains, Fireworks, Pyrotechnics, Heroes, Mickey, boat rides and more! This package is offered at Hollywood and Vine, Mama Melrose's and Hollywood Brown Derby. While I have eaten at both Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose's; I cannot recommend either. I especially cannot recommend Hollywood Brown Derby. Too expensive, food often of sub-standard taste by all accounts and by people I have dined with of all ages. All have agreed that Hollywood and Vine is the best of the three options specifically owing to the buffet as well as the Character Dining experience! Scroll down for some pictures of Hollywood and Vine and the Fantasmic show from a 2015 trip I took with the kiddos.

Hopefully I can update this post with recent pictures of characters at Hollywood and Vine! We have been at least a dozen times. That's how convinced we are of its awesomeness.

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Entrance from side of Hollywood & Vine Buffet and Character Meal Restaurant at Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World.

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Allergy-Free Brownie and Dairy-Free Ice Cream - a simple dream come true. Hollywood & Vine chefs prepare allergy -free desserts in house! The brownie is moist on the inside and just firm enough on the outside to withstand the creamy dairy-free goodness that sits atop.

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Example receipt. Do NOT forget to bring extra money for tips - MAN do those ever add up meal over meal!

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Specialty VIP Viewing Section for all guests who have eaten a "Fantasmic" meal earlier in the day. You receive a voucher at the end of your meal to gain entrance into the VIP viewing section of the nighttime show "Fantasmic". Do NOT lose that voucher! Depending on when you eat; you are very likely to still be stuffed from your meal. Disney feeds you well!

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The Mickey Section is the VIP section that you sit in when you arrive at Fantasmic utilizing your voucher that you received at your meal earlier in the day.

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While waiting for Fantasmic to start, my son showcases BOLT which he drew earlier in the day with an Animation specialist in the Animation courtyard. Sadly, this no longer exists inside the Disney Parks. The free drawing seminars have been replaced with Star Wars Launch Bay and character meet-and-greets. If you ask me, it was a FLOP SWAP. I just don't know why they get rid of great things when they could easily just expand to include them all. I never once saw an Animator's session that wasn't filled-to-capacity attended.

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The Hollywood & Vine entrance lit up in neon lights at night. Sorry so blurry!

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The Fantastic show begins!

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The Fantasmic show continues.

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Characters on neon-lit boats during Fantasmic performance.

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Fantasmic characters on boats sequence. Famtasmic is only shown at night. Typically there are two showings nightly.

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Numerous water displays with fountains, blasts and projections of light at Disney imagery on and over water. Fantasmic has quite an appeal!

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Showboat Sequence with many Disney characters towards the finale.

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 2

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 3

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 4

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 5

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Goodnight and Goodbye to Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World! You'll leave stuffed, entertained and fun-filled. You'll also have a little room to "spread your wings" at the end of the night as the park guests clear out and head "home" for the evening.

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Tram ride back to the parking lot with the son. Struggling to keep our eyes open or awkwardly keeping them open, we've had a tiring but food, fun and excitement-filled day.

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Outside the main entrance to Hollywood Studios. Sometimes there is a Photopass photographer here and sometimes there isn't. It's a better photo during the day.

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Baby girl celebrating her birthday at Hollywood Studios ! Looks like she still might have a little gas left in the tank! Nevertheless, it's bedtime and we can get back at it tomorrow!

List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Three (3): Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Our number three restaurant is a BIG upset owing to the fact that looking around the grand old internet, Tony's Town Square Restaurant seems to score averagely across the board. Trip Advisor scores Tony's (as I'll simply call it from now on) at #328 of 2,930 Restaurants in Orlando. Also, on the star-system it seems to score and average of 3.5/5 stars. Why so high for us? Well dig in, my friends!

3rd Place: Tony's Town Square Restaurant

We LOVED Tony's mostly owing to the fact that we were famished but also because the food was delicious, the prices were reasonable, the presentation was lovely, the server was attentive and the ambiance was superb!

The wait was excessive and the drawback is that there was (and continues to be) limited space in the lobby. Hence, my kiddos camped out on the ground, up against a wall and next to the bathrooms.20150401_133558 Apart from this waiting scenario, the food was absolutely tremendous. I can still taste the tangy balsamic vinaigrette dressing that accompanied the incredible iceberg lettuce wedge salad with sugar glazed and coated pecans as garnish.

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What a feast for the senses. The presentation was fantastic, the food plentiful and filling as well as incredibly tasty. Additionally, I appreciate the "allergy" sticks. It's a clear marker to all at the table whose food is whose, especially when duplicates of anything are ordered. What more could you ask for? Ambience, you say?

We thought the ambiance was perfectly in keeping with the Lady and the Tramp theme.20150401_140531

Especially nice was the booth. Having eaten at Tony's on more than one occasion now, I can say that the best seats in the house are the booths next to the wall if dining within the restaurant20150401_140511 (because they are relatively private and rather quiet) or the bright and airy terrace seating with wrought-iron tables in white which gives a sense of alfresco dining albeit enclosed within glass so as to see Main Street U.S.A. and the flagpole surround easily.

Have you eaten at Tony's? Do you agree with this review? Write me a note in the comments section and I'll delightfully respond to you!

As they say, "Have a magical day!"

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Check Please!

List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Four (4): Rainforest Café

Disney Dining is the thing in my family. Of the great debate: Dining First or Park First? We choose Dining first and structure our vacations around dining. We ate at numerous restaurants during our week-long tenure at Disney World in 2015 and ate out on the Deluxe Dining Plan. It has informed our dining decision making at Disney enormously on every trip since, of which there are soon-to-be three new Disney vacations (Summer 2015 for a month, Spring 2016 over Easter and upcoming Mid Summer 2016).

In 2015, I was unaware of how much things cost and whether I was getting a good deal or not. I have since become aware of my first-time Disney naivete and acquired much more Disney acumen since last Spring. Therefore, I've been sharing our list of the TOP 12 Disney Restaurants but in reverse order. This is our Worst-to-Best List, counting down to number one.

4th place: Rainforest Café

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The Rainforest Café comes in at #4 for our family due to the outstanding theming and the even better FOOD! Good lord, we left this place stuffed! I think we had trouble walking for about two hours while the food had time to properly digest. Also, there's a *hidden* entrance to Animal Kingdom after eating at this restaurant. At the time, I did not know this. I was initially flabbergasted when I had to use my magic band to enter the park! I thought..., "Wait. Didn't I already do that? This doesn't look anything like the entrance!" And so I then proceeded to ask my question out loud and was met with answer: "It's the secret, hidden, awesome, magical entrance to Animal Kingdom through the exit from the Rainforest Café!" Aha! Obviously. 😉

Both my children and I agree that the food here was really outstanding. Since this first experience, I've had a chance to dine at Rainforest Café again, and once again, it did not disappoint. We feel very firm in our conviction that Rainforest Café hold a solid #4 spot on our list of worst-to-best dining experiences. Pros and cons are as follows:

Pros: Theming, quality of entrees, fun hidden entrance to park.

Cons: If you miss a breakfast reservation, even if you are only ten minutes late, you will not be served breakfast - even if you are not in the mood for lunch. Also, limited dessert options for those with food allergies. The sorbet was the *only* thing I could have, whether I wanted it or not.

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If there is one thing that Disney has a LOT of it's DINING and GIFT SHOPS. This is the dual-sided entrance to Rainforest Café. One side = Restaurant, other side = Gift Shop.

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I love elephants. Owls and elephants, actually. In any case, Rainforest Café is a delight to your sense of majesty in nature's creations. All throughout the restaurant you will find creatures of the Amazon and African Savannah. It's beautiful.

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Waiting without shades in the shade of the "Amazon Rainforest".

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Waiting with shades in the shade of the "Amazon Rainforest". Much cooler, bruh. Much cooler.

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You don't even need central incisors to eat at the Rainforest Café!

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Amazing "coral reef" pillar aquariums serve as a gateway between restaurant and gift shop.

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The menu does not change just because you are at Disney. If you've been to one Rainforest Café, you will have had a similar experience. Disney just happens to have two Rainforest Cafés. The other is in Disney Springs.

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A bird's-eye view of the Rainforest Café main dining section.

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Numerous aquariums abound in the Rainforest Café.

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This monument encourages us to "Save the Rainforest". It would be nice if they offered up ideas as to "how" next to the monument! Just a thought.

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Aquariums all over the place!

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There are many ledges to go around and have your picture taken throughout the restaurant. Only problem is the lighting isn't so great, so you'll want to use one of the fancy, expensive cameras -- not just your smartphone, like I did!

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The "animals" come alive through some type of animatronics. Every ten minutes or so, you'll hear the sounds of the Rainforest and this "gorilla" will start to roar. Also, misting fans will go off to give the illusion of a Rainforest "lightly wet" experience.

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Even the stools are something to see! Here each stool appears to be the hind end of some African animal, right next to another aquarium bar this time!

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I love the cups at Rainforest Café! They are souvenir cups so they do cost extra but they light up! Ooooooh, aaaaaaaah! We've since brought them home and I have to say: HAND WASH ONLY. My previous cups bit the dust and have brown stains where the battery box is. Somebody put them in the dishwasher!

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Fancy light-up rainbow cup, costs extra, but it's a lot of fun and a great souvenir. You'll need a tall cabinet space for all the collectible cups and mugs you can get at Disney!

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Of course, daughter had to get a frog cup. It's cool, right? There were different "heads" to choose from as I recall. Only caveat? They really don't fit anywhere in my cabinets at home. The "head-lid" is so awkwardly sized.

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Carb craving? Hungry at all? You will leave stuffed. Look at the MOUND of food piled on this kid's plate!

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This meal was STUNNING. I believe it was inspired by the flavors of Persia (as if I knew something about the flavors of a land that no longer exists as named). Nevertheless, you need WORDS! Succulent, mouth-watering, oozing with goodness and flavor. It turns out that absolutely NOTHING was wrong with the main entrée. It was perfection on a plate. Well presented and incredibly tasty.

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Just look at these perfect kebabs! Really. They were perfect. Perfect seasoning, lovely vegetables and the rice was cooked just right.

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I took so many pictures of this meal. Why? Because it was downright AMAZING. My kids food was good too but my entrée was off the charts.

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Look at this so-called "slice" of cake. I think it is bigger than my son's head. With the Deluxe Dining Plan you are entitled to an appetizer, entrée and dessert: all included in your one credit meal. Quite a deal, really.

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Alas, I can usually and often only have fruit-based desserts at Disney due to my gluten, egg, dairy and soy free dietary restrictions. Nevertheless, the presentation of these sorbets makes my mouth water now just looking at them a year later!

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Unbeknownst to us, we would travel down a path away from this fountain and find ourselves at *the magical, secret, hidden entrance* to Animal Kingdom!

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The final bill came to $106.09 for the food alone. I was charged $24.48 for the collectible cups. In terms of the Deluxe dining plan? I came out AHEAD $1.99. Not too bad. This was closer to hitting the mark.

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List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring 2015, Number Five (5): Raglan Road

Disney Dining is the thing in my family. Of the great debate: Dining First or Park First? We choose Dining first and structure our vacations around dining. We ate at numerous restaurants during our week-long tenure at Disney World in 2015 and ate out on the Deluxe Dining Plan. It has informed our dining decision making at Disney enormously on every trip since, of which there are soon-to-be three new Disney vacations (Summer 2015 for a month, Spring 2016 over Easter and upcoming Mid Summer 2016).

In 2015, I was unaware of how much things cost and whether I was getting a good deal or not. I have since become aware of my first-time Disney naivete and acquired much more Disney acumen since last Spring. Therefore, I've been sharing our list of the TOP 12 Disney Restaurants but in reverse order. This is our Worst-to-Best List, counting down to number one.

5th place: RaglanRaglanRoad5thPlace Road

Raglan Road was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, we were rushed to get there since Raglan Road is at Downtown Disney, now called Disney Springs. Basically, If you are in the parks earlier in the day, you need to budget a minimum of one hour travel time to get out of any one park and into another. At least, you'll want to budget a healthy amount so as not be so stressed and running the equivalent of a half-marathon to make dining reservations and lose a possibly better table. What I have found is that Disney, in general, will always seek to accommodate you; only you'll likely lose out to a worse spot for having been late. In our case, we were between twenty to forty minutes late for Raglan Road. In other words, a lot.

We were seated at one of those high chair tables. You know, the ones where your legs dangle and you are reminded oddly of being on the toilet when you were a toddler and you just wished you could be bigger? I don't really like those tables. But, seeing as I was *really* late, I was not about to complain. (I'm not really a complainer anyway - in person, that is -- give me an anonymous forum like a blog post and watch me tear it up!) 😉

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Chillin' in the dimly-lit Raglan Road at Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) Spring 2015.

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Coloring something late at night in-between sets at Raglan Road, Irish Pub at Downtown Disney.

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Sipping something cool with tired eyes after a long day at Raglan Road.

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Not a very good use of Deluxe Disney Dining Credits. This was my first trip with a Dining Plan and I have learned a lot since. Taking a loss on Raglan Road! Total loss approximately $34.32.

The great thing about Raglan Road was the service. In fact, the server sat down with me and covered my food allergies. He assured me that the chef would accommodate me and that they would be able to fry all their pub goodies in gluten, dairy, egg and soy free ingredients. I thought, "It can't be true!" But, it was true. And more importantly, it was delicious! I had the gluten and dairy free fish platter with gluten and dairy free onion rings and they were outstanding. Large, juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside with just the right amount of seasoning.

The kids had fried pub goodies as well and raved! They were tired and hungry, for sure, but for them to rave or get excited over any food? They ranked Raglan Road VERY high (and this isn't necessarily a kids' place! I mean you can certainly bring your kids here and they are welcome but as you look around, you'll see mostly adults for as far as the eye can see!) For the kids, Raglan Road ranked above many other kid dining favorites such as Crystal Palace and the *ridiculously* coveted Cinderella's Royal Table.

My one big mistake at Raglan Road (besides arriving late and getting less than stellar seating was the fact that I chose to pay my bill with Deluxe Dining Credits. As you can see on the bill, I had 12 Deluxe Credits remaining after Raglan Road. What I didn't know at the time was the value of a dining credit. For anyone over ten, one dining credit equals approximately $37.00.  I spent $76.68 at Raglan Road so I came away with a loss for having dined there to the tune of $34.32. I'll do better at some other restaurants so we'll see if I'll break even.

One more thing! The live dancing is really great. They are truly professionals. After you've seen one too many dance recitals, you'll be oddly amazed that people can actually dance this well in real life - it's really above and beyond the best kid dancer at the Spring Recital, I gotta say.

Here's a little video of that dancing I was talking about. It's not the best video, mostly due to the fact that I was located in the wayyyyyy back of the restaurant. But hey, that was our fault for being late. Moral of the story? Plan, prepare and get there on time!

Raglan Road Dancers

Worst to Best: List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Six (6): Crystal Palace

I'd like to think I'm a bit of an expert on Disney (even though I'm probably not or else they would be paying me) because of the now four trips I have taken to Disney, three of which were in the past year. Sum total, I have spent close to $26,000 and counting. Yes, you read that right. $26,000 and counting. I have yet another trip scheduled and I'm still working on paying off my last Disney debt. I have spent at least 6 weeks on Disney property already which amounts to about a month and half out of the year. Fractionally speaking, that's about 1/11th of my whole year or 11.5% of my year at Disney. Some discount credit cards only offer 2% in cash or rewards. Some discounts offer 10% off and it's considered a "good deal". I have spent 11.5% of my year at Disney so far so I think I have a "good deal" of knowledge to share. To start, I've been considering my trip to Disney over Spring Break of 2015 with my kiddos.

We ate at numerous restaurants during our week-long tenure at Disney World and ate out on the Deluxe Dining Plan. At the time, I was unaware of how much things cost and whether I was getting a good deal or not. I have since become aware of my first-time Disney naivete and acquired much more Disney acumen since last Spring. However, my taste buds and preferences as well as that of my children, have not been overhauled or gone through any type of metamorphosis, so I've been sharing our list of the TOP 12 Disney Restaurants but in reverse order. This is our Worst-to-Best List, counting down to number one. Next on the list...

6th place: The Crystal Palace

Do you love Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and/or Piglet? Then this is the restaurant for you! You get to meet each of these soft, furry and lovable characters at The Crystal Palace. It's white, airy, glass-laden and it is always serving plentiful buffets to the two sides of the restaurant. It's enclosed in a dome like structure at the end of Main Street U.S.A. but facing Cinderella's Castle. Our overall family score average for The Crystal Palace is 88%. Individually, I rated The Crystal Palace 92%, my son gave it 94% and the daughter scored it at 80%. The question as to "why" is answered in five bullet points next to and below the pictures of our experience at the restaurant.

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  1. 1. Our reservation was for 8:50 pm. We didn't actually get in until after 9:00 pm and at the same time, the fireworks shows and nighttime extravaganzas were happening right in front of our eyes. In fact, we were reluctant to go in because we thought we would miss the shows over the castle. Fact is, you can sort of see the fireworks shows through the large windowed front of the restaurant. However, with that much glass and the interior illumination, the lights cast a reflection on the glass. There is also a rather substantial glare while sitting on the inside of the restaurant. Therefore, Gustavo, our attentive and observant server, suggested we go back outside on the balcony to view the nighttime shows and simply come back in when we were ready. We asked if we would miss the characters (because Crystal Palace is character dining with Pooh and Friends!) but he said, "No, because they will all come around again." My only other concern was missing the meal but Gustavo informed us that, "It's an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet" and it's constantly being "reloaded with new food" so we would be fine to watch the show only that if we were hungry we might want to get started. Well, we were hungry but we didn't want to miss the show, so out onto the balcony we went.
  2. When we did come back in to The Crystal Palace, it was already around 9:30 pm and honestly with the kids, that is far too late to be eating dinner. Since this was our first "Stay-at-Disney" experience, there was plenty of "noobish" behavior, plans, lack of plans, reservations, timing, fast-passes for rides that nobody needs a fast pass for and more. Honestly, the list of rookie moves I made on my first trip to Disney with the kiddos is outstanding. Eating at the Crystal Palace at 9:30 pm is my fault. I am that noob Mom that made those plans. I hadn't put in any pre-planning probably because I wasn't aware that I needed to pre-plan. When we finally got to eat, we were famished! Naturally, that is when the characters started arriving.
  3. Every few minutes we would stand up, stop eating, and attempt to take the many pictures you see posted here. Frankly, it was annoying but completely my fault for making such a late night reservation. We overdid it every single day of our vacation and this day and night were no exception. The thing is though, the characters cannot speak. I didn't know that. Since this was our first character dining experience ever (we had reservations for The Crystal Palace on the first night of our trip) and I didn't get any photos of myself with the characters because a.) the characters don't speak to tell nooby moms like myself that they should get a picture of themselves taken too and b.) the characters can't take pictures because of their furry mitts! After this experience, I will wise up a little bit and start including myself in the photos as well as taking pictures of the receipts because, well, that is interesting to me. I also will take pictures of the food at other restaurants but here you're just going to have to "take my word" (literally) for it.
  4. The food was very good in my opinion and I especially love having variety in my life. My food life can be very boring especially since I have a milk allergy as well as dairy, gluten, egg and soy intolerances. I have numerous Pinterest boards dedicated exclusively to gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo eating. The wonderful news about Disney, is that there is a special request section under Disney Dining Reservations that enables you to alert the restaurant to your special dining concerns. This is, quite honestly, a "godsend" for me. I have come to love buffets since I can create my own novel and varied plates for consumption. I also learned at The Crystal Palace and beyond at other restaurants, that a Disney Chef of the restaurant will personally come out to your table, discuss your concerns and even give you a tour of the buffet bar telling you precisely what you can and cannot have. It is the most wondrous thing to have the Chef greet you and personally give you a tour of the food. I was most impressed with this "Disney Detail" in particular.
  5. My son was also a big fan of the buffet food from The Crystal Palace since he gave it the highest score of the night and 94%. My daughter, however, gave it a rather low score of 80% owing mostly to the time of night and not necessarily to the taste. Have you ever gotten to that point where you were hungry, then starving and then suddenly, not hungry anymore? I am fairly certain that is where my daughter ended up eating at 9:40 at night: "not-hungry-anymore land". I don't think that even if the food was 10/10 stars or cooked by a Michelin chef, that my daughter would have given The Crystal Palace a higher score. It was just too late to eat dinner. Again, that's my fault and not Disney's. Lesson learned.

In the final analysis of 14 total table service restaurants visited during the Spring Break 2015 trip, the one-credit Crystal Palace ranks on the higher side of our dining experiences and ought to be considered by you if you love Pooh and Friends, the color white and buffets. At the Crystal Palace, you'll get all three.

Worst to Best: List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Seven (7): Tusker House

I've now been to Disney World four (4) separate times. The last time I went, I HONESTLY spent one month and a small fortune. Twenty thousand dollars and counting. Yes, you read that right. $20,000.00. Let's just say that for the life of me, "money burns a hole in my pocket". I am *that* ridiculous of a spender. This is NOT the blog where I tell you how I paid off $52,000 in three months or the frugal ways in which I save a buck. No sireebob. I am a spender and I am STILL paying for it. Not to mention that I have *added* to my Disney trips with my next upcoming adventure happening in March 2016. This post is a recount of Disney Trip #2, Spring Break 2015 with my kiddos in tow. We judged and ranked e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and I'll be happy to write you back.

From twelve (12) to one (1), I give you the Worst to Best experiences as journaled and photographed by me and my kiddos during our Spring Break Trip 2015.

7th place: Tusker House Restaurant

Our overall family rating of Tusker House Restaurant, located at Disney's Animal Kingdom in "Africa" land, is 78%. Individually, my daughter ranked Tusker House 61%. The son gave Tusker House a 78% and my score was a 96%. What can I say? I love me some buffets!

Tusker House is an all-you-can-eat buffet and has wonderful options inspired by african and asian cuisine. Predominantly, the food at Tusker House takes on an American-African hybrid fusion, as buffets go. Here are three reasons (you decide if they are compelling) that we chose to rate Tusker House as we did. Scroll through the pictures and read the detailed synopses.

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Safari Mickey and the Whole Gang at Tusker House Restaurant in Animal Kingdom.

1. The food we ate was really quite good. Some of the lower scores had more to do with our seating and location that with the food itself. I can tell you that we were seated at the far, far, far and away back of the restaurant, in a corner. It was quite an adventurous voyage to walk the entire length of the restaurant past many empty tables along the way. I understand they probably had a rotation but too far is too far.

2. The characters took quite a while to come to us because they have a PARADE in the middle of the restaurant! It's actually quite fun. I really like the "safari-themed" characters and especially wish that I could have seen Minnie! Regardless, you'll get to see the quintessential Mickey, glorious Goofy, Attitude-in-Action Donald and ever FABULOUS Daisy Duck!

3. They either need to up the air-conditioning or get air-conditioning. We couldn't tell if they had it or not, but in "Africa" even in the spring, it's HOT! Orlando's hot too, which is, as I'm sure we know, where we are actually located. All I can say is that we were quite a bit overheated in the restaurant. Maybe the air-conditioning wasn't reaching us well, considering that we were seated in the back. I bet that's it.

In the final analysis, Tusker House Restaurant sits squarely in the middle of our many-restaurant outings. Not bad, not exceptional - decent. Truly decent. I would say worth it.

Worst to Best: List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Eight (8): Pinocchio Village Haus and Be Our Guest Restaurant (tied)

I've now been to Disney World four (4) separate times. The last time I went, I HONESTLY spent one month and a small fortune. Twenty thousand dollars and counting. Yes, you read that right. $20,000.00. Let's just say that for the life of me, "money burns a hole in my pocket". I am *that* ridiculous of a spender. This is NOT the blog where I tell you how I paid off $52,000 in three months or the frugal ways in which I save a buck. No sireebob. I am a spender and I am STILL paying for it. Not to mention that I have *added* to my Disney trips with my next upcoming adventure happening in March 2016. This post is a recount of Disney Trip #2, Spring Break 2015 with my kiddos in tow. We judged and ranked e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and I'll be happy to write you back.

From twelve (12) to one (1), I give you the Worst to Best experiences as journaled and photographed by me and my kiddos during our Spring Break Trip 2015.

8th place: Pinocchio Village Haus tied with Be Our Guest Restaurant
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This post will review two restaurants. Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant is located in Magic Kingdom and so is Be Our Guest Restaurant. The key difference is that Pinocchio Village Haus is quick-service (much like fast food) and Be Our Guest Restaurant is a table service (or a sit-down and stay a while restaurant).

Both restaurants scored an average overall score of 76%.

My daughter ranked Pinocchio Haus 86%, my son ranked it 58% and I gave it a score of 85%.

Be Our Guest Restaurant was given a score of 62% from the daughter, 69% from the son and a 98% by yours, truly.

But why these aforementioned scores, you may ask? Well, at the end of the day, it boils down to the fact that Pinocchio Haus is in-fact a "fast-food style" place. It is, in fact, the only "quick service restaurant" that we ever went to on the Disney deluxe dining plan. Under no circumstances would the dollar values of the meals equate to even approximately what the cost per meal is on the Disney dining plan. Every meal an "adult" (which is 10 years and older for Disney - we call it a "Disney adult") buys needs to be valued at AT LEAST $37.00 to even break even for what you plaid in advance for the plan. Thing is, when do you even think to spend $37 per person on a trip to McDonald's or Burger King? You don't. You also shouldn't waste your dining credit on quick service restaurants at Disney, like I did.

Here are three facts about our dining experience at Pinocchio Haus:

  1. You will very likely have to wait in a very long, crowded and noisy line since no advance reservations are required nor possible. In our case, we spent twenty minutes in line waiting to order and be served. Essentially you first wait to be asked what you'd like. Then, you are corralled like hungry animals to wait in a second line for your food. Eventually you are served your food and then you will likely have to wait to find a place to sit down like we did. We finally found a table by the employee's only entrance/exit.
  2. The food is standard style fast-food, albeit slightly larger portion sizes. One thing Disney does is give you enough food. Often, they'll give you too much! I can promise that on a table service dining plan, you will eat - eat - and eat some more! You will be JUST FINE and not hungry. Pinocchio Haus gave me a bit of problems with my tummy and GI tract, since I have a dairy allergy as well as gluten, egg and soy intolerances. There is absolutely nothing, to my knowledge, on the Pinocchio Haus menu that caters to the food allergy-prone. If you have food allergies or intolerances, like I do, you will want to avoid this restaurant.
  3. You want fries? You'll get fries. At Pinocchio Haus, as well as with German food in general, you'll get potatoes! Meat and potatoes. My son had a meatball sub sandwich. He thought it was exceptionally average. Hence, his above score of 58%. He treats mediocrity as he should with average value scores. My daughter had chicken strips. Ahhhhhhhhhhh....chicken strips. The classic kids' meal standard fare. Dare I say, at what place CAN'T you get chicken strips on a kids' menu with fries? Well, that's what she got. She must have been hungry at the time, because she gave Pinocchio Haus a 62%. I think it's hard to invent quick-service chicken strip delicacies. On the bright side, the chicken strips *did* have discernible chicken within. This is a plus. I had chicken nuggets. I liked them, but they have gluten and probably some dairy. Needless to say, I was in the toilet and unable to move properly for about two hours after the meal, which is just about right considering my problems with food intolerances. I liked the way it tasted though! It was 85% on taste for me!

Be Our Guest Restaurant is such a talked-about place, that I felt I had to get a reservation there! If it's any indication to you that it tied with Pinocchio Haus - it ought to inform you that at the very least, there were some haters in the bunch and I will say - it wasn't me! I actually adore Be Our Guest Restaurant because at the time of my reservation, I was allowed to select my special needs when setting up my dining reservation.

My daughter gave Be Our Guest Restaurant a score of 62%, my son gave it a 69% and I gave it a 98%. Needless to say, I love it! There were outstanding and novel options for me as a Disney guest with a food allergy and other intolerances. My kids, however, were very unimpressed. Before I explain the reason for these scores, some pictures!

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Outside Belle's Castle where Be Our Guest Restaurant is located.

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Son and Daughter entering into the main entrance of Be Our Guest Restaurant.

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Mosaic of Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et La Bête) at the exit of the restaurant.

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Perusing the menu, given to you *before* you enter into the lobby where you place your order with an attendant.

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Be Our Guest Breakfast Menu. The breakfast dining experience had just opened up during the Spring Break 2015 trip. It was only two weeks new upon our arrival.

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The ordering lobby of Be Our Guest Restaurant.

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Daughter with the kids' menu and entrance to the seating area of the restaurant.

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Knights in shining armor, standing guard in the entrance hall.

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Chandeliers upon the frescoed ceiling. They are grandiose.

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At a table in the main dining room. It is a seat yourself restaurant; however, servers will come to you and deliver your food and help with any concerns.

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Ordering lobby.

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Breakfast bar behind the tables on the wall.

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Breakfast pastries, syrup, fruit and a "Croque Monsieur".

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Son with the "Croque Madame".

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An allergy-free strawberry and charcuterie board.

 

Here are the top five reasons we rated Be Our Guest Restaurant the way we did:

  1. My son had a croque monsieur. He hated it. Truth be told, he probably ate about 1/10 of the entire breakfast sandwich. It was honestly way too sophisticated for his taste. I thought I had trained him up properly with a discerning palette. Unfortunately, my eating Indian food while pregnant and introducing him to as many new foods as possible while he was still a baby did not amount to him eating a deconstructed open-faced "Croque " at Be Our Guest Restaurant. Should I ever get him to return, we will certainly try something else.
  2. The daughter had some French toast sticks with fruit. She liked them fine, but they were not anything star-studded or overwhelmingly awesome for her. At best, she explained that they were slightly above average. That is to say, she could have gotten some pre-packaged  Eggo french toast sticks and popped them in the toaster oven, added some powdered sugar and put some maple syrup on top. She feels she would have achieved the same result. By contrast to the adult menu, the kids' menu often seemed like pre-packaged foods any mom or dad could buy at the grocery store and pop in their microwave at home. What a shame.
  3. For me, I rated Be Our Guest Breakfast a 98%. It was the first and *only* time my whole trip that a waiter brought out a tray (a TRAY!) of pastries, all of which had just been baked that morning in a dedicated gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, vegan bakery. They said they were from Babycakes Bakery in Downtown Disney (since I went there, both names have changed to Erin McKenna's from Babycakes in now named Disney Springs, which used to be called Downtown Disney). These pastries were OUT OF THIS WORLD AWESOME. I don't think I've ever had better pastries in my whole life and in a word, they were "phenomenal". I also had a charcuterie plate, and I left full and complete as if I'd experienced a slice of heaven. Too bad my kidlings didn't feel the same.
  4. The atmosphere was very nice, à la château renaissance, if you like that look! The only thing I would change is to be seated by a hostess rather than finding a table ourselves. It just felt a little "quick-service style" and I think the classy atmosphere required a little more classy seating style. But hey, it's a little complaint.
  5. The prices were OK. The great news is that Be Our Guest Restaurant is a one credit restaurant. For anyone that cares, this is a biggie. Although, it is hard to spend over $37 dollars on breakfast and therefore does slightly under hit the mark. The Croque Madame cost $24, so a loss of $13 on the meal; the assorted meats plate, or charcuterie board cost $24 dollars as well, which is also a $13 dollar loss and the kids french toast cost $14, which earned us back approximately $4.00, since the value of each kids' meal is $10.85 on the Disney deluxe dining plan for kiddos under 10 years of age. Here is a link to the MENU online at Be Our Guest Restaurant.

In the end, both Pinocchio Village Haus and Be Our Guest Restaurant hit middle-of-the-road averages for my family. Over time and by eating at other restaurants, I will try to make back my money by eating decadent and top-of-the-haute-cuisine-pyramid lunches and dinners.

Worst to Best: List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Nine (9): The Hollywood Brown Derby

I've now been to Disney World four (4) separate times. The last time I went, I HONESTLY spent one month and a small fortune. Twenty thousand dollars and counting. Yes, you read that right. $20,000.00. Let's just say that for the life of me, "money burns a hole in my pocket". I am *that* ridiculous of a spender. This is NOT the blog where I tell you how I paid off $52,000 in three months or the frugal ways in which I save a buck. No sireebob. I am a spender and I am STILL paying for it. Not to mention that I have *added* to my Disney trips with my next upcoming adventure happening in March 2016. This post is a recount of Disney Trip #2, Spring Break 2015 with my kiddos in tow. We judged and ranked e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and I'll be happy to write you back.

From twelve (12) to one (1), I give you the Worst to Best experiences as journaled and photographed by me and my kiddos during our Spring Break Trip 2015.

9th place: The Hollywood Brown Derby

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Outside the Hollywood Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios on a busy day

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Inside the Hollywood Brown Derby Reception Desk and Waiting Area

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An allergy menu: Milk and Egg Allergy at Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant

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Cover Art on the flip side of the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant Menu

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The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park is another two credit restaurant. For this reason, I actually lost money on the deal. Before I went to the restaurant, I had no idea that it would cost two credits. For those that research incessantly, and spend months planning a trip as a full time job, this may have been a known fact to them. To me it was not. I also didn't really know how much each meal cost. For that reason, you may call me naive. At least at the time of the trip and dining experiences, I certainly was naive. I have since come out of "ignorance woods" and I now approach Disney Trips with much more planning and acumen.

The very unscientific breakdown of our dining experience at The Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant is an average score overall of 62%, an overall ranking of nine (9) on our countdown of Disney Deluxe Dining Experiences on Spring Break 2015. My daughter ranked THBD 50% and she had the fish meal pictured above. It was middle-of-the-road for her in terms of taste compared to numerous other occasions wherein she has eaten breaded fish. Her fish was not markedly different from previous home-based fish dining options. My son gave THBD a rating of 65% and I gave it a rating of 72%. As you can see, my kids are much pickier and way more judgmental than me! According to my son, The Hollywood Brown Derby was too crowded, too expensive and the food took too long to arrive. As a result, we ended up getting a fast pass makeup pass, since we missed our window due to the VERY long wait both to be seated and to be served.

I like how a good number of the restaurants place cute little sticks in each off the meals with an "allergy" denotation on them. I think it makes the meal look a little fancy for we allergy folk. My main allergy is dairy but I also have intolerances to gluten, egg and soy. So, each of the meals presented, that I will eat on my Disney Trip will all be Dairy, Gluten, Egg and Soy FREE - from the appetizers on down to the desserts!

For my meal, I had the confit of duck plate. I was only slightly above average. It was certainly nothing to write home about. My son had the steak filet. It has a nice butter sauce. Other that that, our meals were mostly unremarkable, which is sad.  As it stands, the two credit restaurants at Disney seem to pride themselves on being top-quality dining experiences, but in our family's experience, the two-credit restaurants typically score among the lowest on our surveys. They just don't live up to the expectations or the money spent.

Worst to Best: List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Ten (10): Monsieur Paul

I've now been to Disney World four (4) separate times. The last time I went, I HONESTLY spent one month and a small fortune. Twenty thousand dollars and counting. Yes, you read that right. $20,000.00. Let's just say that for the life of me, "money burns a hole in my pocket". I am *that* ridiculous of a spender. This is NOT the blog where I tell you how I paid off $52,000 in three months or the frugal ways in which I save a buck. No sireebob. I am a spender and I am STILL paying for it. Not to mention that I have *added* to my Disney trips with my next upcoming adventure happening in March 2016. This post is a recount of Disney Trip #2, Spring Break 2015 with my kiddos in tow. We judged and ranked e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and I'll be happy to write you back.

From twelve (12) to one (1), I give you the Worst to Best experiences as journaled and photographed by me and my kiddos during our Spring Break Trip 2015.

10th place: Monsieur Paul

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Waiting for our entrées at Monsieur Paul's

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Be like the French! Drink sparkling fancy water like Perrier! It's better from a glass bottle. Très sophistiqué!

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Selfie Time at Monsieur Paul's

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Lovely water in a turquoise-tinted glass at Monsieur Paul's. Very classy!

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Frothy soup appetizer at Monsieur Paul's, Disney World, EPCOT, French Pavilion

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Appetizer of Tartare at Monsieur Paul's

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Biscuit and Greens at Monsieur Paul's

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Un peu de beurre avec le pain, s'il vous plaît! Chez Monsieur Paul

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Le plat principal chez Monsieur Paul

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Le plat principal avec la soupe de l'oignon chez Monsieur Paul

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Plat principal de steak avec des asperges chez Monsieur Paul

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Un peu de "Ratatouille" chez Monsieur Paul

 

Outside the Entrance to Monsieur Paul's Restaurant. Moi, j'ai pensé que c'était assez bon comme restaurant!

Outside the Entrance to Monsieur Paul's Restaurant. Moi, j'ai pensé que c'était assez bon comme restaurant!

Monsieur Paul's comes in at 60% average total overall. Son gave it a 60%, Daughter gave it a 40% and I generously gave it an 80%. Monsieur Paul's is located in the France Pavilion at EPCOT.Here are some key reasons why we scored Monsieur Paul's Restaurant at an average total of 60% between the 12 year-old son, 9 year-old daughter and 39 year-old momma.

  1. By fault of my own, I booked Monsieur Paul's as a late night reservation that unfortunately ended up overlapping with EPCOT'S Illuminations of Earth Nighttime Spectacular. I had set to begin our reservation at 7:45pm. We were seated at the back of the restaurant nowhere near a window. As a result, my kids and I missed the entire show which we were genuinely bummed about. We subsequently ended up lamenting our decision to eat late night at Monsieur Paul's.
  2. On the bright side, I had the occasion to speak nothing but French to the wait staff and chef, that was positively delightful and formidable! It is one reason that I scored Monsieur Paul's higher than my children.
  3. My children were annoyed with the length of time the whole meal experience took. By night's end, we had spent over two hours at Monsieur Paul's. Possibly three hours. I think we were the *only* people in the park after we left the restaurant. On the bright side, we took many photos sans seas of people and that was very cool. My daughter had the opportunity to do cartwheels, flip flops and back handsprings throughout the open spaces of the park.
  4. The food was by and large, OK. In retrospect, as I look at the pictures and think back to the experience, I am not salivating at the thought of a return trip because Monsieur Paul's is a two credit restaurant.  
  5. I believe that to compensate for the pull of two credits from the Disney Deluxe Dining Program, they lengthen the time for all guests so as to make you think you are "getting what you paid for". In the end, it was a "lightly cool" experience predominantly owing to the fact that it was fun to speak only French. Ça c'était une experience très positive!
  6. The Dining Plan types accepted at Monsieur Paul's include: (see below large Monsieur Paul awning photo below):
    Dining Plan Type
    2016 Entitlements Required
    Dinner
    Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan N/A
    Disney Dining Plan 2
    Disney Deluxe Dining Plan 2
    Disney Premium Plan 1
    Disney Platinum Plan 1

    Frankly, I never even had the occasion to purchase a Disney Premium Plan. I honestly don't even know how much that would cost. Regardless, I find it odd that so many restaurants seem to be going the way of two credits. Almost as a regularity, our scores for our dining experiences rate two credit restaurants at the bottom of our lists. There will be ONE exception! (Wait for future posts to unfurl!) Unfortunately, Monsieur Paul is NOT that one.