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The unnecessary dinner package

A pet peeve of mine has become anyone who recommends the Fantasmic! Dinner Package as a good option because in my opinion, it’s really not worth it.  In general, I like the dinner packages Disney offers such as the Candlelight Dinner Package at Epcot, which is essential to getting a seat for a showing of Candlelight because of the long lines that can develop and having that peace of mind really helps.  However, the Fantasmic! Dinner Package really doesn’t make me feel like it’s worth it and I’ll clue you in as to why it’s really not a great deal.

To begin with, the Fantasmic! Dinner Package is only available at the Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s and Hollywood & Vine restaurants, omitting the Sci-Fi Dine-In and 50’s Primetime.  While it’s no secret that there’s no love lost by not eating at the Sci-Fi, I don’t understand why these two restaurants aren’t part of the package.  I suspect it has to do with capacity but more on that later.  To eat at the Hollywood Brown Derby on the Fantasmic! Dinner Package as of April 1, 2007, will run you $43.99 for an adult ($11.99 for kids) and tax and gratuity on top of that.  That is an expensive dinner and the Brown Derby does have a limited menu.  The best value is Hollywood & Vine which runs for $23.99 per adult (which is the regular price for the buffet even if you were not on the Fantasmic! Dinner Package) and that offers a buffet.  Hollwood and Vine aside, when it comes to these Dinner Packages, typically you need to order the more expensive items on the menu to get your moneys worth, which isn’t always possible. In addition, if you’ve got the invaluable Disney Dining Experience card, you can’t use it on the Fantasmic! Dinner Package.

By far the biggest and greatest complaint I have regarding the Fantasmic! Dinner Package is the seating you get.  You must arrive 30-45 minutes before show time to get your reserved seat, however, the seat you get is in the Witch section of the theater, which for those who do not know, is at the extreme end of the right side of the theater.  This has two major flaws. First, during the princess scene of Fantasmic!, the music you hear does not line up with what you see in front of you.  So while the Beauty and the Beast float is going by, you’ll hear the music to The Little Mermaid.  Second, by sitting over there, you’ll have a glimpse of what is going on backstage and will see floats before they arrive on the moat and that is distracting and takes away from the experience of the show.

Another problem is by getting the Fantasmic! Dinner Package, you get a special little entrance near the front of the park to the theater which saves you a great deal of walking and delivers you right to your especially reserved section.  But when the show ends, you have to move with the massive crowd out the main exit so no advantage there.

The real question is what are you really saving? You still need to show up at least 30 minutes before Fantasmic! starts, so it’s not like you can walk in 5 minutes before show time and get a seat.  And if you show up closer to the 45 minute time frame, you will find much better seats in the unreserved section of the theater.  And during slower times of the year, the reserved section makes little sense because you will definitely be able to get good seats on your own.  Because you still have to show up early and wait a considerable amount of time in your seats, it’s not a great value at all.

So you may be asking what the solution is.  Easy: Eat wherever you like for dinner (and order as little or as much food as you need), and depending on the time of year arrive 30-40 minutes before show time during slow season and 60-75 minutes before show time during the peak season (See a recent article about when to go to Fantasmic).  Now if those times seem like a long time to wait for the show, keep in mind if you were on the Fantasmic! Dinner Package, you would still need to show up 30-45 minutes beforehand so even during peak season, it’s only about 30 more minutes or so of waiting and after a long day in the park, who wouldn’t enjoy some time to just sit and rest?  Also, be sure to keep in mind that if there is more than one showing of Fantasmic! the night you’re at the Studios, always see the last show of the night. The Fantasmic! Dinner Package isn't so much terrible as it is unnecessary and with a little planning, you can have more flexibility and a better experience.

Agree with what I said? Disagree? Have a story to share sparked by this column? Share your own idea by posting a comment below.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 by