Disney World Free Dining 2014 Dates

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Walt Disney World has not yet announced 2014 free dining dates for the general public, but we have reason to believe that Free Dining may be offered to Disney Visa credit card holders beginning on May 1 for arrival dates the entire month of September, with the possibility of some blockout dates. The general public would then be able to book Free Dining packages approximately 3-4 days later. Given that the bounceback offer covered the entire month of September 2014 (and last few days of August–which also might be included in this promo), we aren’t too surprised by the earlier than normal start-date. However, we would expect a later end-date, which likely means that this is going to be the “Late Summer 2014″ Free Dining offer, with a “Early Winter 2014″ covering dates in October through December 2014 to be announced at a later time.

If you will be traveling during these dates, we highly recommend making Advance Dining Reservations now, before the promotion is announced and everyone gobbles up the good ADRs. You also might want to start preparing September travel dates that might work and be ready to call (or have your travel agent call) bright and early on the morning the promotion is released to book it. Some popular/low capacity resorts (like Port Orleans French Quarter and Art of Animation, if it’s even offered for these resorts) book up fast.

It is important to remember at this point that these dates are purely rumor at this point–nothing has been confirmed by Disney. However, by looking at dates from past years, we can get an idea of when the discount will likely be offered, as the dates are typically substantially similar (minus differences in blockout dates) each year. Walt Disney World last ran its “Free Dining” promotion for Fall & Winter 2013 guests with arrival dates most nights between September 29, 2013 and December 22,  2013. At present, there are no 2014 Free Dining dates for the general public, although it is expected that dates will be announced in late spring 2014. When the promotion is offered, Value Resort guests receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan during the promotion, and all other guests receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. 

See below for block out dates and details for the previous Fall/Winter 2013 Free Disney Dining Plan promotion. Barring a substantial change in strategy, expect similar dates for 2014. (more…)

Boma Review

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Boma – Flavors of Africa is a buffet in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World. This review features photos and thoughts about dinner at Boma. The menu at Boma features a wide variety of American and African cuisine, and features both adventurous cuisine and more conventional options, making it one of the most diverse buffets at Walt Disney World. Arguably the best buffet at Walt Disney World, participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. While it’s not a great use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan, it isn’t a bad option either.

We’ve dined at Boma for dinner on a few different occasions, and each time have been really full. It’s certainly not the cheapest buffet on property, but we think it’s the best due to its huge range of high quality options, especially the soups, meats, and desserts (especially those delicious zebra domes pictured above). It’s not a character buffet, so if that matters to you but you still want the kids of foods found at Boma, we recommend lunch at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom (the park) instead. In terms of cuisine, it’s like Boma-lite.

Boma is located on the lower level of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, adjacent to Jiko – The Cooking Place (one of our favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World) and The Mara (one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World). With this hard-hitting trio plus the often-overlooked Sanaa in Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village, Animal Kingdom Lodge has arguably the best dining of any resort hotel at Walt Disney World. Only the Grand Floridian really gives it a run for its money. (more…)

2014 Disney Dining Plan Costs, Info & Tips

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Disney World’s 2014 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. (Note: Disney Dining Plan prices for 2014 increased again in March 2014, so if you find lower prices listed on another site, they’re no longer accurate.) 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.

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 (including hotel and park tickets). This is known as the “Free Dining” promotion, and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. This promotion is not always offered, but you can see whether there are currently any dates for free dining by clicking here. 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). 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. For most people, Free Dining is the best discount offered by Walt Disney World. Whether Free Dining is best 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…)

Blue Bayou Restaurant Review

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Blue Bayou is a restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris (Blue Lagoon there). This Blue Bayou review covers the Tokyo Disneyland version of the restaurant. Design-wise, this version of the restaurant is very similar to Disneyland’s Blue Bayou, although cuisine-wise, they’re substantially different.

Due to its location adjacent to Pirates of the Caribbean with boats of guests on the attraction floating past the waterfront restaurant, Blue Bayou Restaurant has become a quintessential Disney experience. Even those who have never been to the parks know that there is a restaurant “in” Pirates of the Caribbean, and want to eat there. The proximity to the attraction and the ambiance of the restaurant are unquestionably the big draw, with the food often taking a backseat to the experience of the restaurant.

This is certainly the case in Disneyland, where Blue Bayou has decent to good food, but comes up short as compared to its less-expensive counterpart, Cafe Orleans. In Tokyo Disneyland, the dynamic is different, as Cafe Orleans is an excellent counter service restaurant for crepes, with no other table service restaurants in the New Orleans Square sub-land of Adventureland.

Tokyo Disneyland guests get the best of both worlds, as the its Blue Bayou has the same great ambiance as Disneyland’s, and it also serves very good food at reasonable (given the location) prices. (more…)

Animator’s Palate Review

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Animator’s Palate is a restaurant on the Disney Cruise Line ships that’s more like a dinner show. It is part of the standard, rotational dining, and is arguably the highlight of the cruise for many guests. We dined at Animator’s Palate on the Disney Magic; it was our last rotational restaurant. Animator’s Palate is the Disney animation-centric restaurant aboard each ship on the Disney Cruise Line that uses some clever Imagineering to put on one seriously cool (dare we say “magical”) show. The menu purports to be “Pacific Rim,” but it more or less seemed like standard, American cuisine.

Even if you’ve never stepped off of dry land, if you’re a Disney fan, chances are you’ve heard of Animator’s Palate. It’s the cool restaurant that is touted as changing from black and white to color during the course of the meal. If you said “huh?” as you read that last sentence because you’re actually not familiar with Animator’s Palate, you may not want to read any further.

Reviewing Animator’s Palate is a bit tricky. Although it has been featured in approximately 1,534 Travel Channel specials by this point, so most people at least understand the premise, I’ve seen just about all of these specials, and even I didn’t know how the full show played out. So in that regard, I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone else.

It’s also challenging to review Animator’s Palate because our experience with the meal itself was radically different than it was with the dinner show. We’ve heard many people praise Animator’s Palate for its cuisine, but we were much (much!) more impressed with Palo, and even our dinner at Lumiere’s was significantly better. By contrast, I will freely admit that I got goosebumps from Animator’s Palate at the climax of the show. I can’t imagine that being as special of a moment the second time around, but we would still promptly return to Animator’s Palate even if they were serving dog food. (more…)