Disney World adds fee to Prime Dining Reservations

Planning to visit Walt Disney World in the next 6 months? You might want to make you dining reservations today. As of October 26th Disney will roll out an adjustment to their restaurant reservation policy by adding cancellation fees for certain popular restaurants. At the time of booking, Guests will have to leave a credit card to hold the reservation. There will be a $10 per person charge if the reservation is not canceled at least one day in advance.

Rumors of Disney wanting this change have been circulating for at least a year. But they needed to upgrade their technology to make it work. The new policy helps solve one of Disney’s big problems, locations end up with empty tables and walk-up guests being turned away because reservations have booked the restaurant to its capacity.

Disney forces this situation with its Disney Dining Plan, often offered as a ‘free’ incentive to get guests to stay at the resort during low-season. In order to ‘maximize’ the value of this plan, guests feel like they have to eat at sit-down restaurants much more frequently than they normally would on vacation. They’re also forced to make these reservations way in advance (sometimes 190 days) just to hold a seat at the popular restaurants on the off chance they’re even in the park that day. That practice should be curtailed a bit.

Of course, savvy travel planners will quickly figure out there is a gap in this policy big enough to drive a food delivery truck through. But it might deter the casual Disney traveler from just making a ton of reservations. It also means last minute reservations will start to open up again, which will make locals (like me) much happier. I’m also hoping that some of these restaurants will start taking walk-ups again.

The list of restaurants is:

• 1900 Park Fare
• Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
• Artist Point
• California Grill
• Cape May Café
• Chef Mickey’s
• Cítricos
• The Crystal Palace
• Flying Fish Café
• The Garden Grill
• Hollywood & Vine
• Jiko – The Cooking Place
• Le Cellier Steakhouse
• Narcoossee’s
• ‘Ohana
• Tusker House Restaurant
• The Hollywood Brown Derby
• Yachtsman Steakhouse
• Victoria & Albert’s (cancellation policy is $25/per person)

Pre-paid dining locations will continue to charge the full amount if the reservation is not cancelled at least a day in advance. Those locations are:

• Cinderella’s Royal Table
• Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
• Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
• Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Reservations can be cancelled at any table-service restaurant podium, any resort front desk, concierge or guest relations, online at DisneyWorld.com/Dining or by calling the dining cancellation number 407-WDW-CNCL.

I’m not a big fan of having to make reservations to get a table anywhere on Disney property. I’d rather just go out and have fun, then dine where I happen to be at around 6pm. I can’t do that with the current DDP/Reservation combination. So if this policy is a step toward a more free vacation style, I’m all for it.

Of course, what really is going to happen, is that the Jones party of 4 from Topeka plans their big Disney vacation that they take once every 3 years and now feels more forced into a plan than ever before. If they get stuck on a ride, their car breaks down off property, or some other unexpected event delays them, they’ll be charged $40 by Disney for missing their reservation. It’s going to take all the spontaneity and serendipity out of the vacation, force everyone to become perfect planners, and, in my opinion, remove an element of fun from Walt Disney World. When a Disney vacation becomes less fun families like the Jones’ will be less likely to drop thousands of dollars and return.

What do you think about the change? Will it affect how you make reservations for dining at Disney World?

(via LaughingPlace.com)

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22 Responses to Disney World adds fee to Prime Dining Reservations

  1. Steven says:

    Had these (and other?) restaurants changed from Priority-Seating Requests to real Reservations at some point?

  2. I’ve been saying they need to do something like this for awhile. I know we’re guilty of making extra reservations and forgetting to cancel them.

    But, I think they need some flexibility.

    For example, my next trip I’m staying at Bay Lake & have Chef Mickey’s booked for the night of arrival since it is essentially at my hotel. I’ll make it with up to a 45 minute delay on my plane. But what if I have more? We flew down in February once and got hit by a snow storm. Our scheduled 3p arrival – Detroit-Chicago-Orlando ended up being an 11:30p arrival Detroit (deicing equip broke, sit on plane for 2 hrs) – Chicago-Philadelphia-Orlando. I would have booked a 7p reservation without even thinking about it being a problem.

    Or on my last trip, my daughter woke up sick our last morning so we missed our scheduled breakfast. Was I supposed to drag a vomiting child to breakfast to save $30? Or the day we had a 9a and a 10a breakfast reservation and ended up needing to change rooms that morning because the people next to us had a party from 1a-4a and again before 6a (two calls to hotel security, it took from 3:30a to 4:10a for them to come). We barely made our 10a reservation by the time we dealt with the front desk and moved rooms.

    I’d like to see one grace cancellation tied to a hotel confirmation number. Or at least some flexibility if you call them the same day with a sick child, transportation issue, etc.

  3. Andrea from Big Blue Momma says:

    As one who has always planned her trips around dining (even before DDP because food is important, yo), this won’t change much for me. I know many who abuse the ADRs and I’m glad to see an attempt to change that. We had an issue on our last trip where we had one table service credit remaining and struggled to find somewhere to use it. It was horrible. I’ll be interested to see how this affects things in the future.

  4. Rich says:

    This is not a new fee. We got back 3 weeks ago, and had made 2 signature dining reservations probably 30-40 days prior to our trip and we needed the credit card to book it, and there was a $25 dollar no-show fee. The difference is now, it’s per person.
    It does not bother me, I’ve also heard of people who make several reservations per day to have ‘something available’ when they finally decide what to eat. If it cuts down on that, and allows me to have better selections….then fine.

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  6. Peggy says:

    I like the new Dining cancellation number if it makes it easier for gst to cancel reservations more easily..It will be interesting to see how effective that is!

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  8. BK31 says:

    As someone who hasn’t ever made reservations this is somewhat of good news to me. We have a special needs child that can have good behavior days, and horribly bad behavior days. We’ve never made a reservation because we never know how well he’ll behave any given day, especially on a vacation when he’s out of his norm comfort zone and exposed to tons of different stimuli. As a rule we have to go with the flow on our vacations and always be flexible. It’s actually helped me enjoy the parks much, much more and have a more relaxing vacation, but we do miss the dining. We’ve wanted to dine in many of these places, but never have since we never really have a good idea on how he’ll behave until the day of. We had annual passes a year ago and he reacted different to the parks each time we went. If there are more short notice and standby tables available because people will actually call in their cancellation it would totally help us out. It also just reaffirms the fact we won’t make a reservation because of the cancellation fee.

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  11. Sara says:

    Good. Whether you are on vacation or not, you should only make reservations for meals you actually plan on going to. If you don’t want to be that strict of a planner, then don’t buy the meal plan and/or don’t plan on a lot of table-service dining. If table-service dining is an important part of your vacation experience, put some effort into planning your itinerary. It’s really not that hard – I make my reservations for the places I want to eat, then the first night I’m there we sit down with the schedule of hours/events/etc for the week and figure out what parks we’re doing what days to work with what we have planned. Most people that book extra reservations are probably families with kids trying to have the best of both worlds (fancy dining without committing to a schedule) and it’s rude. You can have a perfectly lovely disney vacation eating at Cosmic Ray’s and Sunshine Seasons- that’s how my family did it when I was a kid and I never knew I was missing anything.

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  14. Love it. My husband requested a less “planned” Disney vacation when we return early next year. This type of policy means we may have a chance to walk-in to a quality sit down meal without having to rush to eat at a certain time.

  15. Mark says:

    It’s easy for me to say I am ok with this change. My family books MONTHS in advance and usually plan our meals and days based around extra magic hours and other factors. Granted it does take some of the spontaneity out of the experience, but we schedule time for that too ;).

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