It has not been a fun week for Disneyana fans who enjoy putting on the feed bag.
First came word out of Anaheim that because some portly passengers have been causing "The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed" (i.e. Disneyland's "it's a small world" attraction) to regularly run aground, the Imagineers are now being forced to fix this Fantasyland favorite.
Then came the news out of Orlando that -- as of January 1st -- an 18% gratuity will automatically be added to the bill of anyone who uses their Disney Dining Experience card while they're eating out at that resort. And given that the only real incentive for signing up for the DDE program is that their membership card then supposedly gets you a 20% discount at most sit-down restaurants at WDW ... Well, as you might imagine, people who are expecting to get a 20% discount on dinner aren't all that thrilled to find an 18% gratuity automatically tacked onto their tab.
But let's face it, folks. The two problems that I've just described will only impact a relatively small group of guests. By that I mean: California's morbidly obese as well as those Central Florida residents who are signed up for the Disney Dining Experience program. As for the rest of us ... Our visits to these theme parks will remain unchanged.
Unless -- of course -- you want to take into account that "holiday premium" that Mickey will soon be quietly tacking onto your dinner tab. Should you decide to dine at any of Disney World's all-you-can-eat restaurants next week.
I'm serious, folks. Starting this Sunday, November 18 and then stretching all the way through 'til Saturday, November 24th, WDW is bumping up the price of buffet-style dining at on-property eateries like the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom and Boma over at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge by at least $4.00 per-person.
"What's the deal with this new 'holiday premium' ?," you ask. Well, to be honest, this sort of thing has been going on at other popular tourist destinations for decades now. In that -- at the height of the busy season -- restaurants will typically raise their prices. So that they can then make the maximum amount of money off of that huge seasonal influx of people.
And Disney ... For years now, they've been resisting the "holiday premium" idea. Mostly out of concern that some WDW guests might then accuse them of seasonal price gouging. Of deliberately taking advantage of those tourists who have no choice but to visit their resorts & theme parks during the busiest times of year.
But now ... Well, you've got the Walt Disney Company spending over $2 billion to overhaul California Adventure as well as build that new resort in Hawaii. And the money to pay for these pricey new projects has to come from somewhere.
Now what's really angering some Disneyana fans is how sneaky the Mouse has been about the way it rolled out this "holiday premium" price hike. Take -- for example -- what would happen if you were to call WDW's reservation hotline and then arrange to eat at Chef Mickey's over at the Contemporary on November 24th. They'd then tell you that the per-person cost for dining on that date at that restaurant would be $32.99.
Mind you, what Disney's reservation agents won't tell you that -- were you to shift this dinner reservation over to November 25th -- the price of your meal at Chef Mickey's would then drop to $28.99 per-person. Which is why Mouse House managers hope that most Disney World visitors don't ever learn about this day-to-day change in price.
FYI The week around Thanksgiving isn't the only time of year that Mickey plans on instituting "holiday premium" pricing at its on-property buffets. Starting on December 16th and then extending straight through 'til January 5th, 2008, Disney will also be ratcheting up prices for Christmas & New Years. And let's not forget about Easter, when the price of all-you-can-eat dining will hop up to "holiday premium" levels between March 16th and the 29th.
Mind you, the Mouse doesn't really get greedy 'til the 2008 Memorial Day weekend. Starting on May 25th and then stretching all the way through to July 5th, Disney has designated that entire six-week-long stretch as a "holiday premium" period. Meaning that WDW will be raising the per-person price on all on-property buffets right up until the Fourth of July weekend.
Why For? Because (To borrow the punchline of that hoary old joke about why male dogs licks themselves you-know-where) they can.
Seriously, folks. The folks who handle Food & Beverage at that resort know that the weeks that I just listed are typically the ones where the largest number of tourists come on down to Disney World. And once these folks get on-property ... Well, they're got to eat sometime. So why not take advantage of those huge seasonal crowds by tacking a "holiday premium" onto the price of dining at one of WDW's all-you-eat eateries?
But what do you folks think? Is it really okay for the Walt Disney Company to raise the money that it needs for refurb / expansion projects by then making WDW guests pay "holiday premium" prices whenever they want to dine at one of that resort's buffets during the busiest times of year? Or have you grown tired of Mickey always finding brand-new ways to get his three-fingered hands into your wallet?
So, just to clarify, this is only buffet style places?
I'm heading down with a friend from Jan 2-Jan 8, and I'd hate to pay extra cash for every meal.
I'm opposed to buffets. Nothing says "quality eating establishment" like a sneeze-gaurd.
Maybe it should be looked at as a perk for visiting and dining during the non peak seasons?
Heh. I'd pay the extra four bucks if the food experience rocked, but since a lot of those buffets have been going downhill in quality for the last few years (Boma being the biggest disappointment...) I'll go elsewhere.
Thanks for the heads up, Jim!
*sigh*. That means that a dinner for four would be 132.00 plus tax instead of 112.00 plus tax? Wow. But in the broad scope of things, if you can afford to pay for the former, you can pay the latter. I have worked in restaurants for my whole adult life, and prices go in one direction. The reality is that people on vacation care less than people not on vacation. Unfortunately, Disney could get away with charging even more. Two years ago I was on vacation in Hawaii and paid 25 dollars, per person, per day for a buffett breakfast at the hotel, and 30 dollars per person per day for lunch. I could have gone off-site (and did several times) but you end up paying for the convenience of NOT going off-site. One additional point, Disney charges less for better food then Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and most other regional park chains. Much less and for much better food. My wife and I visit parks all the time and you pay less to get into a Cedar Point, but EVERYTHING else is much more expensive than Disney, and much lower quality. Disney, Universal, and Busch are in a class by themselves. Bottom line is that I would pay it.
"*sigh*. That means that a dinner for four would be 132.00 plus tax instead of 112.00 plus tax?"
Actually, it would be $128, but you've got the concept right.
Anyway ... Disney has thus far resisted looking like they were gouging guests, huh? That's a new one on me. But I digress. So last quarter, where Disney World turned a record $600 million profit, wasn't good enough for them, I guess.
These dining changes are brutal. And Jim actually left out the worst one which is the gutting of the Disney Dining Plan. They lowered the price per day by $1 (whoopee!), but they cut out the appetizer that used to be included AND the tip is no longer included. So they lowered your cost by $1 and then raised your out-of-pocket costs by $30 or $40.
But it's supply and demand, I guess. Theme park attendance is at an all time high, so they can gouge if they wanna gouge.
I'm no fan of the buffet style joints at Disney, but this is absurd. They are turning many of the sit-down dining spots into "Character Buffets," and it's completely limiting the the amount of places that you can eat. The prices at the buffets are already absurd and highly profitable for the company.
It to me is symbolic of what has been happening in the US the last several years. Household income has gone down over the past five years, but companies like Disney just keep jacking up the prices. There is going to be a tipping point, it's all economically absurd.
Great! Now I'll have to eat even more to get my money's worth! I'd better start shopping for larger pants right now!
Pickstar... you forgot to mention the absurd EXTREME Disney Dining Plan! Which includes everything the original plan included plus a refillable mug and the option to use table service all the time (in place of counter service). Oh... and it's only 69.99 per adult as opposed to 37.99.
FYI: Disneyland has officially denied that it's refurbing "Small World" due to the size of guests: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21713571/
yeah.. I just called the WDW Dining hotline. Dinner at the Crystal Palace is gonna cost me $32.99!
According to AllEarsNet though, the regular price is $27.99. That's a $5 premium.
Right now the Disney Dining Plan seems just about worth it..
Seems we're moving towards Disney's Gastronomical Express - i.e., the only way to afford dining at Disney parks will be to include it as part of your hotel / ticket / dining plan package, essentially agreeing to sleep every night and eat every meal at a WDW establishment.
It's a seller's market. We just made our reservations for WDW at the end of January 2008, and were told Epcot's LeCellier is booked through 8:50PM on our arrival night, 11 weeks from now. And that's in the dead of Value Season!
I suppose one could argue that if it wasn't for the buffet's et al, then there would not be the neet to 'supersize' the ride.
Just to clarify - Jim said the Disney Dining Experience was adding a 18% gratuity, not the Disney Dining plan, although it may be adding it as well.
I'm turned off by Disney's constant price increases and quality decreases. I could tell a big difference in the number of offerings at several buffets, Cape May Cafe in particular. They have really decreased the different items available on that dinner buffet from previous year.
Disney is pricing themselves out of reach for the average American family. But the average American family will still go, even if they have to pay for it with plastic - no wonder our country is in so much debt!
The added 18% gratuity using the DDE is regardless of party size. Usually it was added for parties of 8 or more. Now it's 1-infinity.