By TourGuideMiKE, better known to his parents as Michael J. Hewell
Disney provides the Fantasmic Dinner Package for their guests who don’t mind dining at a table service restaurant for dinner and then having reserved seating for the show. ‘Disney’ says it doesn’t really cost anything extra, but does it? Should you ‘invest’ in this package? Let’s find out the real truth!
Are you really busy right now?
I can answer this article’s title question for you very easily and with confidence:
An excellent question landed in our inbox recently, and we thought it deserved some serious attention. Here it is:
Yes — almost always!
There you go — you can move on now with the rest of your vacation planning. But if you’re one of those people who needs to know the ‘why’ behind ALL answers, I have categorized my reasons for you below. (And don’t feel bad about wanting to know more – I’m the same way!)
The Waiting Reason
As you’ll soon discover, you can break even, come out ‘a little‘ ahead, or come out ‘a little‘ behind when paying for the Fantasmic Dinner Package. However, don’t tell Disney, but I’d gladly pay at least $10 extra to not have to stand in that horrendous line that forms each evening for Fantasmic.
Guests arrive up to an hour before the gates are opened to the theater — depending on the travel season, sit in the theater for another hour, and then require another 20 minutes or more to actually exit. Do you have better things to do on vacation?
It’s not always a ‘black & white’ decision though …
If you are going to Walt Disney World during a less-crowded time, you can often get great seats inside the theater without this package as long as you arrive at least 65 min. early — and I mean all the way up the VERY long walkway staring at the seating sections by that time, so perhaps we should think ’70’ minutes. You could even arrive as late as 55 min. or so and still be seated — albeit at the far end of the theater, the furthest from the exit. It’s during these less-crowded times, however, that I always consider *potentially* spending more for this package’s reserved seating sections — if only for the convenience factor!
More than one Fantasmic?
Disney provides two or even sometimes three Fantasmics on the same night during the busiest travel seasons of the year. If that’s true during your vacation dates, know that not only is the package only available for the first showing, it’s never needed for the second or third. Just arrive about 25 to 30 min. early for the later shows and you’re all set! (Use the package for the first showing should you need an early morning the next day though!)
The Package Experience
You arrive at Oscar’s, a 1940’s style gas station at the park’s entrance that also rents strollers and wheelchairs, at about 40 to 45 minutes before show time. Although you’re not seated in the middle – we allow those seats for those who wait up to 2 hours for them – your seats that are in the 2nd section from the right provide an excellent view. And please follow my advice about sitting in the back 1/3 of the rows!
Theater design note: The theater seating’s view of the stage is divided into thirds. There are giant poles that make this obvious, and once the show begins, you’ll see there are even three ‘sets’ of the show when the screen portions are being used. The package seats are in the far right third as you face the stage. When the show is over, you simply turn around and exit. The main exit avenue is directly behind you, so you’re one of the first guests out of the theater!
Now really, doesn’t this sound nicer? And it doesn’t cost you a thing … Sometimes …
The Financial Reason
Disney ‘says’ these packages do not cost their guests anything extra, but is that really true – even in the fine print?
Well, yes (enthusiastically said) and no (quietly said with a cautionary tone).
If you’re going to eat a full meal for dinner, you will definitely get your money’s worth! When I add up the menu prices, I can even come out ahead at Mama’s and the Brown Derby.
Aaaah … but what exactly IS a ‘full meal for dinner?’ In this case it’s an appetizer, main entree, and dessert. Drinks are not included except at the H&V buffet, but the dinner package often covers the cost of the rest.
I’m a hearty guy with a hearty appetite. It’s rare that I can eat all three of these food servings at a Disney restaurant. If you eat less than what you’re paying for, though, that’s your decision, right?
And I try not to write any ‘gender generalities‘ in the AVP because of a feminist professor who enlightened me repeatedly in college, but I must state one here: Most women do not eat all three of these courses either. Their appetites tend to be less when compared to men.
In order to get our money’s worth, I make sure we don’t eat too much at lunch. For example, if we go to the Sci-Fi Restaurant for lunch because it’s such a fun place, I ensure that we either share entrees or only order some appetizers and then a ‘neat’ dessert.
Get your money’s worth!
Because of the timing of Fantasmic, and having to arrive early for the seats, most of these Fantasmic Dinner Packages are offered between 4 and 4:45 p.m., if not earlier. If you’re visiting during a busier time when the shows are later in the evening, the dinner times will, thankfully, be a little later also, but the latest available even then is around 5:45 p.m. Plan ahead – go hungry!
Will you be on the Magic Your Way Plus Dining package?
You can use your Table Service credits for this package too! The Hollywood and Vine and Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano “cost” one credit per guest, and the Hollywood Brown Derby, considered a Signature Dining location, costs two. If it’s between the first two, the choice is easy — pick Mama Melrose! You get the middle-priced restaurant for the same number of credits as the lowest-tier Hollywood and Vine.
If you are not on the Dining Plan, let’s briefly review how the three restaurant tiers price out when you consider what you’re being charged vs. what you can eat. I realized AFTER I published their menus that you may be better off with the much less expensive Hollywood and Vine if you have light eaters in your party! Let’s have a look:
Tier 1: Hollywood and Vine
Price w/o tax & 15-20% gratuity: $23.99 per adult; $11.99 per child
Cost Analysis: The Hollywood and Vine serves a dinner buffet, so you always have your choice of eating what you like. They have an extensive variety of choices including appetizers, salads, main entrees, and desserts for everyone. The regular ‘non-package’ price is $23.99 for adults and $11.99 for children. After staring at these numbers for a number of minutes, I realized through thoughtful, careful analysis that this package does not cost you anything.
Tier 2: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
Price: $28.99 per adult; $10.99 per child
Cost Analysis: Let’s look at the prices of the current menu at Mama Melrose’s and consider what you can order:
Flatbread: Approximately $11 divided by a family of 4 = $2.75 each
Family-style salad: This is not on the regular menu, but they charge about $4 each for regular salads per guest.
Entrees: $15 to $21, depending on what you’d like to order.
Dessert: The Tiramisu is usually $5 each
All four courses before the 15-20% gratuity and tax (because the package does not include them either): $26.75 to $32.75
Tier 3: The Hollywood Brown Derby
Price: $36.99 per adult / $10.99 per child
Cost Analysis: The Hollywood Brown Derby is the most expensive restaurant at the Disney-MGM Studios, and is, therefore, the most expensive Fantasmic Dinner package. Let’s again compare their menu choices vs. what you pay with the package:
Appetizer: I selected the Lobster Bisque because its price of $6 is in the middle of all their offerings. That, and, well, it’s really good! (I always order it.)
Entrees: $17 to $27, which is quite a range isn’t it?
Desserts: They average around $5.50 each
All four courses before the 15-20% gratuity and tax (because the package does not include them either): $28.50 to $38.50
That the Hollywood and Vine offers a great value and is the least expensive package is a given. (And it comes out wa-a-ay ahead when you consider that drinks ARE included with its tier because they come with the buffet anyway.) The other two table service restaurants require a little more thought…
If you have a majority of ‘we really love good food‘ guests in your party, you can certainly get your money’s worth. Even if there are a couple of light eaters, you have the opportunity to at least break even on the total ‘imaginary‘ bill IF you enjoy the most expensive menu choices.
There’s nothing above that would keep me from reserving the Fantasmic Dinner Package. As I stated at the top, I’d gladly pay an extra $10 during a peak travel season to not have to wait in a really long line and then be herded to seats I may not want. So … if you have light eaters in your party … how much extra would you pay? I say, “Go for it! You’re on vacation!”
The text above is excerpted, with permission, from the TourGuideMiKE Automated Vacation Planner™. For the complete scoop on Walt Disney World with day-to-day itinerary and park touring advice, detailed Sample Park Tours, and so much more, visit http://www.tourguidemike.com. Our TheMouseForLess readers receive a $3 discount off the price by using code A82E8-2AH.
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