by Daisy Diva
Disney offers several different Dining Plan options that you can add to your vacation package. And honestly, the whole dining plan scene can be a little confusing. What exactly is included? What’s the difference between table service and counter service? What is a Dining Plan “credit”? Well, I am here to hopefully answer all of your questions and provide some clarification. I will begin by explaining some of the terminology used with the dining plans. Then I will give you a breakdown of what is included with each plan, answer some frequently asked questions regarding the Dining Plan, and give some advice for making the most of your dining plan.
Within Disney World there are basically two different kinds of restaurants: table service and counter service (also known as quick service). Table service restaurants are “sit down” restaurants as I usually call them. They typically require (or at least accept) reservations, and their service style varies from buffet to family style (all-you-care-to-eat big bowls or plates of food brought to the table) or menu. All character meals are at table service restaurants. All deluxe and moderate resorts have table service restaurants, as do all four theme parks and Downtown Disney (newly Disney Springs). Many of the dining plans include one or more table service credits. A table service credit includes an appetizer (for Deluxe Plan users only), an entrée, a dessert (for lunch and dinner), and a non-alcoholic drink OR one full buffet. Examples of Table-Service restaurants are Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Crystal Palace and Be Our Guest (dinner only) at the Magic Kingdom, and Rainforest Café at Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney).
Some Table-Service restaurants are subcategorized as Signature Restaurants. Signature Restaurants would be consider “fine dining” options and offer a much higher quality of food and service. Signature restaurants have a dress code, and, depending on which dining plan you have, will require two Table-Service credits per person. There are nine Signature Restaurants:
- Jiko-The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Flying Fish Café at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas
- California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
- Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
- Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort
- Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot
- The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studio
While it is not considered a Signature Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom also requires two Table-Service credit to dine there.
Another subcategory of Table-Service Restaurant is Dinner Shows. There are three dinner shows offered at Walt Disney World, and each of them also requires two Table-Service credits. The dinner shows are:
- Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
- Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
- Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (seasonal) at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
In the Disney Dining Plan World, the terms Quick-Service and Counter-Service are used pretty interchangeably, and they basically mean a fast food type of restaurant. Most Quick-Service restaurants offer pretty standard fast food fare—hot dogs, pizza, burgers, wraps, salads, fries, and the like. Usually, patrons order at a kiosk with a cast member, pick up their food at a counter and then carry it to a separate eating area either within the restaurant or right outside. All Walt Disney World resorts have Quick-Service restaurants, as do all four theme parks, both water parks, and Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). All of the dining plans include Quick-Service credits. A Quick-Service credit includes an entrée, a dessert (for lunch and dinner) and a non-alcoholic drink. Examples of Quick-Service restaurants are Pinocchio Village Haus at the Magic Kingdom, Pizza Planet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Lottawatta Lodge at Blizzard Beach, The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contempo Café at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and any of the food courts at the Value Resorts.
Each dining plan also includes at least one snack credit per day. If you check the Disney website, their list of snacks is a bit incomplete, and to be quite honest, doesn’t sound too appealing. At least not to me. Here is what Disney has to say about snack credits.
- Frozen Ice Cream Novelty, Popsicle or Fruit Bar
- Popcorn Scoop (single-serving box)
- 12 oz. Coffee, Hot Chocolate or Hot Tea
- Single-serving Prepackaged Milk or Juice
- Single Piece of Whole Fruit
- Single-serving Bag of Snacks
- 20 oz. Bottle of Coca-Cola®, Sprite® or 20 oz. Dasani® Water
- 20 oz. Fountain Soft Drink
Yeah, not too thrilling, I know. This is not at all a full list of available snack items; I have used snack credits for ice cream cookie sandwiches, enormous cupcakes, packaged iced cookies (great for bringing the Disney magic home), egg rolls, and my precious sweet cream cheese pretzel. Many snack items can be purchased at Quick-Service restaurants, but there are also kiosks and food carts that mostly just serve snack credit items, such as Cheshire Café at the Magic Kingdom, Block and Hans kiosk at Epcot, Sleepy Hollow at the Magic Kingdom, and Harambe Fruit Market at Animal Kingdom.
Each dining plan also includes a Rapid Fill Resort refillable drink mug per person. We love our mugs; they are a really fun souvenir, and we use ours often during our resort stays and once we come home. They are made of a pretty durable insulated plastic, have several Disney characters on them, come in a variety of colors so each member of your party can tell which mug is theirs, and they have a lid with a straw hole for easy travel use. However, they are not exactly an all-you-can-drink deal. Each mug has an RFID chip in it and can only be used for unlimited refills at Disney resorts. That means you can’t carry your refillable mug into the parks and get all the free Diet Coke you can drink. You can certainly take your mug into the parks and fill it up with water from the water fountain, but you can’t get free refills all over the park—just the resorts. And no, you can’t bring it back to the resort and use it again during your next visit. It is only good for the duration of your vacation. Rapid Fill Resort refillable drink mugs are available for purchase for those we are not on the dining plan, and the out of pocket expense is $17.99 plus tax.
That pretty much covers the different types of credits and restaurants on the Dining Plan. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where I will delve into the five different Dining Plan options.
For help planning your Disney vacation, contact Patricia at All For Dreams Travel.