Before we even get started, I want to encourage around 75% of you to stop reading (#ReversePsychology). If you are eagerly anticipating taking your kids to Akershus to have a memorable character meal with the princesses, and are motivated more by the princess component than the food, all you probably need to know is that the character interactions here are great. It’ll be a fun experience for you and your kids.
If you have a pre-parking opening Advance Dining Reservation here and are excited to walk through an empty Future World and World Showcase and then getting in the front of the line for Frozen Ever After before the hordes of crowds–and those experiences also override the food–you also probably do not need to read any further.
Before that, let’s start with the positives. First up is early access to Epcot if you make a pre-park opening ADR. We cannot recommend this highly enough, and if you make a pre-park opening ADR–whether it’s 8:00, 8:15, 8:25, etc., you’ll be allowed to enter the park at around 7:45 a.m. This stroll through Future World and/or World Showcase as Epcot wakes up for the day is lovely, and a great opportunity for empty park photos.
As we noted in our Frozen Ever After Tips post (the beginning of the vlog above covers the stroll to Akershus), we recommend arriving to the turnstiles before 7:30 a.m. so that you’re among the first guests seated at the restaurant. For our meal, we arrived at Epcot’s International Gateway entrance just after 7:30 a.m. and were the 4th party in line.
We were in the park at 7:47 a.m., took a leisurely walk through World Showcase, arriving at Akershus by 8:01 a.m., and were seated at 8:06 a.m. Going this route, we were able to eat, meet everything princess, and be out of the restaurant in time to line-up before the main entrance guests for Frozen Ever After. (Fair warning: I think we got slightly lucky, and you may have to skip a princess or two if you go this route.)
Then there were the character interactions. They were exceptional–even for awkward adults like us who typically are not good with face characters–as the princesses went out of their way to personally “connect” and spend time with each guest. Obviously, every table adjacent to us was filled with kids, and we noticed a lot of time being taken for personal interactions.
This is something parents are going to cherish, and probably one of the reasons Akershus has fans. If you look at Chef Mickey’s reviews (or comments defending it in response to our review), you’ll notice a lot of this same sentiment.
There’s no denying that both restaurants typically offer really positive character interactions, and if that’s your priority, Akershus does well; hence my recommendation to skip the rest of this review.
The ambiance is a bit of a mixed bag. Strictly in terms of architecture and design, the interior is really interesting, and reminds me of classic EPCOT Center caliber detail. (I’m guessing it’s relatively unchanged since the Norway pavilion opened, which is a good thing.) The experience of dining inside a castle is always cool, albeit not as cool here as in Cinderella Castle.
The restaurant is modeled after the medieval Akershus Castle and Fortress in Oslo, Norway that was built to fortify and defend the city from Prince Hans Westergaard of the Southern Isles…or maybe Earl Alv Erlingsson of Sarpsborg. (Sorry! I have such a hard time keeping real history and make-believe history straight.)
The downside of Akershus’ ambiance is the restaurant is loud and hyper-active. There’s not much to dampen sound, and there’s a lot of sound. Then there’s the chaos of having a packed restaurant (the table density here seems higher than at most other character buffets) with princesses meeting guests as people head towards the buffet.
I consider this a ‘nature of the beast’ type of thing, as it’s something you’ll find at most of the character meals at Walt Disney World. I don’t really knock Akershus for any of this, save for the table spacing.
Now we get to the food. This works a bit differently than other character breakfasts in that hot items are brought to the table family style, and cold items are served on a buffet. The hot items include scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and potato casserole.
The good news there is that the potato casserole is ridiculously–addictively, even–awesome. I ate way too much of this. The bad news is that the other three hot items are passable at best. I think the scrambled eggs are actually made of egg here, but that’s about their only redeeming quality. These 3 are all standard Disney breakfast quality.
As far as the buffet goes, you have a few pastries, yogurt (and granola toppings), fruit, cheeses, smoked salmon, peppered mackerel, and sliced salami & turkey. That’s everything. Trying to maximize my value here, I focused on the smoked salmon, mackerel, and cheeses, all of which were moderately good.
Okay, so maybe this doesn’t sound too bad? “Ridiculously good” potato casserole, plus fish and cheese. Seems like a decent breakfast. I suppose you could look at it that way, but that’s a really generous assessment of a $50/person breakfast spread. If this were a free hot item continental breakfast served at a 3-star hotel, I would’ve been impressed by it. At Walt Disney World, I would’ve even been accepting of something in the $30s/person range, as a character surcharge is to be expected.
However, at a breakfast with this price point, the variety (or lack thereof) is tough to justify. And that’s even when you take the characters into account. If you compare the Akershus Breakfast Menu to nearby Cape May Cafe’s Breakfast Menu, you can see just how lacking Akershus is. (It’s also worth noting that Cape May Cafe is ~$10 less per person.)
From my perspective, the only way to reconcile the variety, quality, and price discrepancies between Akershus and Cape May Cafe is that you are payingto meet the princesses here. I know all character meals have some degree of markup for the meet & greet element, but outside of Akershus and Chef Mickey’s, I’ve never felt it was so blatant. At every other meal we’ve done, I’ve walked away feeling satisfied by the food alone. In those cases, the character component could have been absent, and I still would’ve enjoyed the dining experience.
At Akershus’ breakfast, that would not have been the case. I get it from a business perspective: princess dining is in high demand and low supply, so the food can be ‘phoned in’ and Akershus will still be booked solid because many parents are so eager for a chance to dine with princesses.
However, that doesn’t sit well with me as a guest. Recent upcharge events aside, Disney has always been good about experiences like this being “value-added” opportunities that did not feel like blatant surcharges for convenience. By contrast, this felt decidedly like paying for a princess meet & greet.
To each their own, and if that’s your prerogative, I totally understand. I just think it’s important to understand just how much of this meal cost you should ‘mentally allocate’ as being the cost of meeting the characters. Based on breakfast costs elsewhere at Walt Disney World (so we aren’t even comparing this to real world breakfasts), I would say a good $25/person (adults) of the cost is the price of meeting the princesses.
To me, that’s absurd. Obviously, reasonable minds may vary on that, though. You can meet Anna & Elsa with no more than a 10 minute wait next door, and meet others with a <20 minute wait at Magic Kingdom the first 3 hours of the day or last 2. In light of that, I have a tough time paying so much to meet princesses. (Of course, I’m also not a parent, so I lack that perspective.)
This is also why a qualitative assessment of Dining Plan credit uses is important. On paper, this is one of the “best” uses of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit. However, if you don’t care about meeting the princesses, the reality is that you’re trading a credit for a meal that’s far inferior to the ~$20 breakfast at Trail’s End. That makes Akershus’ breakfast a qualitatively poor use of a credit for those who do not ascribe a significant value to the princess component.
I know it’s all a matter of perspective, but it’s impossible for me to get past the food in tandem with the price. I take no issue with Disney charging premium prices for a premium product or experience, but that’s not what this is. The core product (the meal) is not a premium product, it’s a mediocre one. This amounts to a paid FastPass for meeting princesses, served with a mediocre breakfast.
Always the inveterate optimist, Sarah was looking at the upsides of Akershus throughout our meal. The ambiance was enjoyable, the character interactions were great, and there were a couple of solid food items. She even envisioned taking our kids here someday for a fun and convenient breakfast. Once she saw our bill, this optimism disappeared (disappear! disappear!) faster than 3 trolls casting a boat back (back!) over the falls.
Overall, whether all of this matters to you is going to be a personal decision. The convenience of meeting the princesses at breakfast might be “worth it” to you. Given the near-unanimous praise for the breakfast experience at Akershus, I know I’m in the minority here. So, I’m guessing most of you don’t care–and I can respect that. Just know what you’re getting yourself into here.
What do you think of Akershus? Do you think I’m off-base, and that the experience justifies the high prices? Where does it rank in terms of dining at Walt Disney World for you? Have any favorite foods here? Share your thoughts in the comments!