We all have our own pet peeves and among the many that I have, my disdain for the Fantasmic! Dinner Package holds a special place. With the cuts in Fantasmic! shows that have occurred since January of 2008, the Fantasmic! Dinner Package has gained a lot of popularity from guests frustrated by the underwhelming schedule of shows that we must choose from now. One of the primary reasons that this site exists is to help others better plan their next trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios and if you haven't heard, let me be the first to tell you that you absolutely, positively do not need the Fantasmic! Dinner Package. On the surface it seems like a good deal but in reality, you will find the package is not good and unnecessary.
Let's start with where you sit if you get the package. Those who opt for the package, will get the entire Witch section of the Fantasmic! ampitheater reserved for them. Sounds good until you look where the seats are. The Witch section is on the far end of the theater and this is a problem for two reasons. Obviously being in the far end section means you are seeing the show on an angle. To make things worse, during the princess part of the show, the music you hear will not correspond to the princess float you are seeing. So while the Beauty and the Beast float is going by, you’ll hear the music to The Little Mermaid. The nail in the coffin for this section is the fact you can see backstage, which for me, ruins the show if I'm seeing things being set up before they are to come on stage.
The biggest misconception about the dinner package is that you get to see Fantasmic! without waiting a long time. The truth is you still have to show up to your seats at least 30 minutes before the start of the show or you will lose your seats. The reality of that time frame is you will likely show up earlier than 30 minutes to ensure you aren't late...that's human nature. So let's assume you show up 35-40 minutes prior to the show. You're still waiting more than a half hour and have those bad seats I mentioned earlier. Let's now assume you skipped the package and got seats on your own. Generally speaking, you should arrive 45-60 minutes before the show time these days to grab a seat and that may seem like a lot, keep in mind, it's just 10-25 minutes more than you would have to wait with the package and you will likely get better seats.
If you book the Fantasmic! Dinner Package, you are limited to eating dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano, and Hollywood and Vine. That's it. Those aren't bad restaurants by any means, but perhaps you'd prefer not to spend a lot of money at a sit down meal or would rather eat at the 50's Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater Restaurant? Or maybe even have dinner somewhere else at Walt Disney World? The dinner package locks you into one of those restaurants and you're stuck with it.
The good news is you can still see Fantasmic!, even with the cutback in shows to just a few days per week. If there is more than one showing per night, always see the last show of the night as it will be far less crowded and easiest to get a seat for. You get more time in the park to enjoy other attractions and you will have less competition to see Fantasmic! when that second or third showing comes around. Give yourself about a half hour and you'll be fine.
For some, seeing the second or third show isn't an option due to having young children, being tired, having other obligations, or some other reason and you can still see the show. First and foremost, give yourself time. As I mentioned earlier, you'll need to arrive about 45-60 minutes before show time to grab a seat. I'd opt for closer to 60 minutes just to be safe. Remember, you'd still have to arrive at least 30 minutes before hand for the package but now you can eat dinner wherever you like and you'll have better seats.
The bottom line is don't blindly assume the package is the way to go. Like most things at Walt Disney World, if you do a little bit of planning, you'll end up with a superior trip. Understand the negatives that come with the package before you commit to them and weigh them for yourself. Personally, I find the seating to be a deal killer in itself, let alone the other issues that come along with it.
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