Disney Planning: Dining Reservations

This past Sunday was a significant landmark in the Disney trip planning cycle ... 180 days to our arrival in Orlando.

As all experienced Disney planners know, reservations for Disney restaurants can be made 180 prior to the reservation date.* So, on Sunday, I dutifully logged on to the Disney dining reservation site and made our first-night reservation.

When we first arrive in Orlando, we don't usually visit a Disney park on the first day. After traveling, checking in to the hotel, getting settled ... most of the day is burned and we don't want to waste a park ticket day. But we do like to have dinner on Disney property in order to sort of break into the Disney spirit. This dinner is followed by a ride around the entire monorail system, both the Magic Kingdom loop and the Epcot loop. I'd hoped to get us a table at the Hoop De Doo Revue (HDDR) at the Fort Wilderness campground, near the Magic Kingdom. I figured we'd ride the boat over to the Magic Kingdom and hop on the monorail from there.

But ... the best laid plans, etc, etc. No reservations were available. I didn't think that the HDDR was a wake-up-first-thing-in-the-morning-and-start-hitting-refresh-twnety-minutes-before-reservtaions-open sort of meal.** Some online message board research revealed that many people were having trouble with August HDDR reservations and the prevailing thought is that it's shutting down for refurbishment. Bummer.

I admit I was more disappointed than I had any right to be. I even went through a brief moment of "Here we go ... all my planning is for naught" self-pity.

Then I regrouped and made a reservation at the Wilderness Lodge's Whispering Canyon Cafe. Then I rethought things once again, and decided a new experience is always preferable to a repeated experience (we'd eaten dinner at the WCC in 2006), so I made a new reservation at Ohana in the Polynesian Resort, instead.

And I'm happy with it. We'll be right at a monorail resort and we can ride around to our heart's content before getting to bed nice and early in anticipation of an early start at the Animal Kingdom the next morning.

I've already booked reservations at Boma, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, for dinner the next day and Raglan Road, in Downtown Disney, for dinner the following night.

Hopefully things continue to run smoothly, planning-wise, from here on out.


*This is for Disney guests staying off Disney property. Disney resort guests have 180+10 days for reservations.

**Prior to the online reservation system, I used just this sort of technique on the dining phone line to score a coveted first sitting of the day reservation for breakfast in Cinderella Castle.


New Product Review: Dole Shakers

I coupon. I love browsing matchups between weekly specials and coupons and saving tons of money. I also love trying new products and figure if the financial investment is minimal then it's worth the risk of a new product. And, although I don't really do product reviews in my blog, this disaster could not go unremarked.

This time the couponing/bargain-shopping gamble most certainly did NOT pay off.

I present to you: Dole Fruit Smoothie Shakers.

Lose the blender ... simply add juice, shake vigorously and enjoy. Right? Simple, tasty and remotely healthy. Right?


I followed the directions (add juice until one reaches the "fill zone," shake for 30-45 seconds, open and enjoy) and when I re-opened the lid I was greeted by a fresh, pleasing aroma and a satisfying pile of foamy goodness at the top of the canister.

I took a sip ... yummy. A few more swallows ... hhhmmmmmm, unpleasant bit of pulp** here and there, but nothing too bad.

I put the canister down to take a breath. Joe and Emily were watching me expectantly. I commented on the pulp. Joe gave a knowing look, "Wait 'til you get to the bottom." Again, I figured I shouldn't waste the money I'd spent and that I could just power through. I mean, how bad could it be?

It could be very, very bad. That's what. After a few more seconds of sipping, the pulpy sludge began to accumulate along my upper lip. I opened my mouth wider to accommodate swallowing the goop in one big*** gulp. The resulting sensation in my throat triggered a violent gag reflex.

My eyes watering, I dumped the rest of the nasty concoction down the kitchen drain.

Eeew. SOOO wrong despite tasting quite good.

I wrote to Dole's customer service department. The berries reconstitute really very poorly and most certainly do not form anything that should be described with the adjective "smooth," as in smoothie.

Bleah. Avoid at all costs.


* To be fair, I was duly warned. "Try one of the smoothie thingies," Joe said, "Watch out, though, they're nasty." I figured he must have done it wrong. I was wrong. He did it right. Dole did it wrong.

** Again, to be fair, I'm not a fan of pulp. We buy pulp-free OJ, too. The flakes of fruity matter always make me think I'm swallowing little caterpillar legs. (good luck shaking that image the next time you drink some freshly-squeezed juice!) I could never handle a Survivor-esque eat gross creepy, crawly things contest.

***I initially typoed "bug" here. Freudian?