Teddy Roosevelt Lounge Review

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Teddy Roosevelt Lounge is a bar in Tokyo DisneySea aboard the S.S. Columbia. Let that sink in for a moment. A bar in Japan. Honoring an American President. On a classic American ocean liner. It’s pretty crazy. Teddy Roosevelt is the quintessential American badass, and it’s fitting to see him honored with a bar. If he lived in today’s internet age, I have scant doubt that people would write “Teddy Roosevelt Facts” instead of wasting time with Chuck Norris, Jack Bauer, and Liam Neeson. Except with Teddy Roosevelt, they’d all be true. This lounge treats him as such, regaling guests with some epic Teddy Roosevelt legends/fables.

Setting aside the specific details of the lounge for a moment, its beauty and ambiance would be quite impressive even without the homages to Teddy Roosevelt. The woods in the lounge are rich and abound with trim and texture, the booths are all incredibly upholstered, there are overstuffed leather couches encircling a fireplace and under a beautiful ceiling mural, and the light fixtures are all beautiful. In a word, this lounge is lavish. It is an elegant and classy place to relax.

Beyond that, the level of specific detail pertaining to Teddy Roosevelt is astounding. This is one thing that continues to impress–and perplex–me about Tokyo Disney Resort. From the authenticity and quality of Jazz Era Flapper costumes worn by entertainers to the depth of a bar celebrating a US President with whom most guests are probably unfamiliar (no knock on the Japanese–I haven’t the slightest knowledge of Hideki Tojo), it’s a bit shocking. While it is perplexing since much of this is likely lost on Japanese guests, it makes sense given that the parks are largely designed by Americans and the ownership of the Tokyo parks provides Imagineers with healthier budgets than their American counterparts.

As great as this is, my big question is: “why isn’t this lounge in a US park?” When it comes to quality like this, I sometimes feel like the US parks get slighted. In some cases, rather than going for elaborate and authentic, the cheaper and easier route is taken in the US. We get the boxes on wheels of the Move It! Shake It! street party instead of detailed and period-appropriate floats, among other examples. These shortcuts by Disney are then vindicated by some fans, who don’t stress over the little things so long as ‘kids love it.’ (I’ve got news for people who say that: kids love anything, so that isn’t exactly a resounding seal of approval.)

I realize Disney Parks aren’t hotbeds for intellectuals, but sometimes it seems the US parks condescend, treating guests as if they just finished a marathon of ‘Duck Dynasty.’ People will largely comport with the standards and quality presented to them, so instead of setting the bar low, maybe Disney could try to aspire for more. But I’m heading off on a tangent that really is better reserved for another post, or is idle barroom philosophy better reserved for conversations with friends sitting at the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge. ;)

Let’s move on to the topic at hand and take a look at what makes this lounge so special… (more…)

Landscape of Flavors Review

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Landscape of Flavors is the counter service food court at Art of Animation Resort in Walt Disney World. This review covers the lunch/dinner menus, and includes photos from a few of our meals at the restaurant. Art of Animation participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit counter service meal, and unlike most counter service restaurants, it does accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount! It is an okay use of a counter service credit, but doesn’t make our List of the Best Counter Service Restaurants on the Disney Dining Plan since it doesn’t offer tremendous bang for your credit.

Landscape of Flavors is an interesting restaurant in the “landscape” of Walt Disney World dining. When it first opened a few years ago, it was lauded, with tremendous praise heaped on it for raising the bar of “food court” dining at Walt Disney World, particularly at the Value Resorts, where other food courts (particularly at the All Stars) served food so suspect that it might require an asterisk next to food. Landscape of Flavors not only offered variety and customizability, but also some unique options on par with things you might find at The Mara or Pepper Market.

At the time, and at a Value Resort, this was fairly unprecedented. Pop Century across the bridge had a decent food court, but Landscape of Flavors rivaled the best counter service options (or even exceeded) at Deluxe Resorts. Since its opening, the other Value Resorts have been in the process of re-doing their food courts and expanding the menus, thus closing the gap a bit between Landscape of Flavors and “the rest” of the Value Resorts. Last year, we actually had a good meal at the End Zone Food Court at All Star Sports. ALL STAR SPORTS! A few years ago, if dared to eat at All Star Sports or like a sidewalk in Tomorrowland, I might have chosen the latter.

Suffice to say, Value Resort food quality is improving across the board, with Landscape of Flavors being the first and best example of the improvement. Many of these food courts are still not on par with nicer resorts at Walt Disney World, but it’s good to see improvement rather than regression.

As for our meals at Landscape of Flavors? Let’s dig in… (more…)

Bistrot Chez Remy Review

Bistrot Chez Rémy is a new table service restaurant in the Streets of Paris Ratatouille mini-land at the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris known as La Place de Rémy. Serving traditional French cuisine, this is modeled after the restaurant that Remy opens in the Disney-Pixar film Ratatouille, and the premise of the restaurant is that guests shrink down to the size of rats and are served in a larger than life environment where champagne corks, silverware, jam jar lids, and other “kitchen stuff” are all integrated into the restaurant.

I haven’t reviewed many restaurants from Disneyland Resort Paris, but those I have reviewed haven’t been exactly favorable. On our first visit to Paris, after a few disappointing and overpriced meals, we opted to eat most of our remaining meals in the Disney Village at Earl of Sandwich. I might have done the same thing this time around but for the fact that this was a popular new restaurant, so I thought things might be different. Plus, it looked sort of cool, and anything that could redeem the maligned Walt Disney Studios Park in my eyes was probably a good thing.

I’m glad I gave it a try, because it ended up being a bright spot in terms of Disneyland Resort Paris dining. Before we get to the meal itself, let’s take a look at the decor… (more…)

2015 Disney Dining Plan Costs, Info & Tips

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Disney World’s 2015 standard Disney Dining Plan costs $60.64/night. Disney’s cheapest meal plan (besides “Free Dining” which is available for these dates) is the Quick Service Plan, which includes 2 counter service meals per day and a snack for $41.99/night. The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan costs $109.53/night for significantly more. We’ll get to what each version of the Disney Dining Plan includes and whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth the money below. First, some basics.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan offered at Walt Disney World so guests can budget their dining costs in advance and (potentially) save money. The various plans provide guests with a set number of credits that may be redeemed for snacks, counter service (Disney-speak for fast food) meals, table service meals, or signature dining (Disney-speak for fine dining) meals. These credits are stored on the guest’s MagicBand or Key to the World room key, with the receipt provided after redeeming the credits indicating how many credits remain.

Walt Disney World guests purchasing a vacation package with a room and tickets through Disney are eligible to buy the 2015 Disney Dining Plan. This means that if you want the Disney Dining Plan, you cannot save money by staying off-site or by purchasing discount Walt Disney World tickets through a Disney-authorized ticket seller. Disney Vacation Club members staying on points are also eligible to add-on the Disney Dining Plan, without the purchase of park tickets through Disney (as many of them either have Annual Passes or prefer purchasing discounted tickets through authorized third parties).

The credits don’t have a set dollar value–for example, a table service credit may be redeemed at an inexpensive restaurant for a water, sandwich, and ice cream dessert that would normally cost $23 total, or it can be redeemed at a nicer restaurant for a smoothie, swordfish steak, and Copetta Sotto Bosco that would normally cost $51 total. (These are actual examples from Walt Disney World restaurants, demonstrating the big difference in value a credit may have depending upon at which restaurant and for which menu items it’s redeemed). A lot of information exists about the Disney Dining Plan, with most focusing on how to best utilize these credits so you get better value out of the credits. In fact, our most popular articles concerning the Disney Dining Plan are our Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Table Service Credit Value, Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Counter Service Credit Value, and Tips for Maximizing Snack Credit Value. Frequent users of the Disney Dining Plan become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the Dining Plan, but some advance planning, first-time visitors to Walt Disney World can also make the most of the Dining Plan.

From time to time, the Disney Dining Plan is offered for free to Walt Disney World guests who purchase a vacation package (this is not offered to Disney Vacation Club members staying on points). This is known as the “Free Dining” promotion, and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. Remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If “Free Dining” is available, you forfeit another discount that might be available (for example, a percentage off discount on the hotel room and the ability to purchase discount Disney tickets). Compare the “Free” Dining Plan to other discounts. With “Free Dining,” you pay rack rate for the hotel room and full price for a minimum number of tickets. Whether Free Dining is the best Walt Disney World discount available (read our 2015 Walt Disney World Discount Comparison post for more details) for you depends upon party size and resort tier (it’s less likely to be a good deal for smaller parties staying in Deluxe Resorts), so do the math and compare the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion to other available discounts–if there are other available discounts. (more…)

Christmas at Trader Sam’s

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It’s a Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou at Trader Sam’s this time of year! Since I never pass up an excuse opportunity to visit my second favorite Disney bar in the world, we headed to Trader Sam’s recently to test out its Christmas menu.

I won’t rehash my love for Trader Sam’s here–you can read my Trader Sam’s Backstory & Details and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar Review posts for the reasons why this is one of our top stops at Disneyland Resort. Suffice to say, I’m really excited for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto to open at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World so everyone who has yet to experience it at Disneyland Hotel can understand why this place is so special. I just hope the Walt Disney World location is as special as the Disneyland Resort one.

We didn’t make it out to Trader Sam’s during our last Christmas trip to Disneyland, which I assume upset the Tiki Gods, so we were committed not to make that same mistake again this year. It came as no surprise that not only were there special drinks for Christmas, but the tiki bar had also been decorated for the holidays. If this were anywhere else, it would probably seem like cheap and thoughtless Christmas decor thrown into the bar. However, it’s the perfect kitschy Christmas, and the decorations fit perfectly in Trader Sam’s.

Let’s take a look at the Trader Sam’s Christmas decorations and drinks… (more…)

Biergarten Review

Biergarten is a buffet restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase Germany at Walt Disney World that is set in the middle of a Bavarian Village celebrating Oktoberfest year round. Biergarten serves authentic German cuisine for lunch and dinner (menu). At the center of the village is a stage where costumed musicians perform traditional Oktoberfest entertainment and where guests can get up and fun fun on the dance floor. Biergarten is a 1-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan, and also accepts Tables in Wonderland. As a buffet, it’s priced slightly below average for a table service restaurant, making it a good option if you’re paying out of pocket, but a poor option for maximizing your value on the Disney Dining Plan.

Biergarten is an interesting restaurant. The exterior is somewhat understated, with only the painted name of the restaurant above a small archway at the back of Epcot’s Germany pavilion. However, once you step inside, you’re inundated by the sounds of the traditional oompah music, other entertainment, and a Bavarian Village setting (outside, no less!). The seating is communal, which may not appeal to all patrons, but was fine by us. The other guests at our table chatted with us throughout the meal and we had a good time. If you’re looking for a romantic meal or are shy, this may not be the best dining option for you.

This review covers two visits to Biergarten, the most recent of which occurred in Fall 2014, after which this review was updated/basically re-written… (more…)