We’ve visited Disney a few times during the pandemic. We’ve seen the parks be nearly empty (which was amazing) and honestly too full to be comfortable during a pandemic (we left).
For Christmas Eve, I wanted to do something special for dinner so when a rare reservation for The Crystal Palace at 4:50 showed up I grabbed it. “How exciting!” I thought “The new family meal experience!”
We’d eaten at Crystal Palace twice before. Both times were on the Disney Dining Plan and both times were disappointing. Crystal Palace is normally a buffet. Most buffets at Disney are great and I expected Crystal Palace to be no different. I was wrong. The food was often cold, old, or not particularly flavorful. The service was terrible.
Then there was waiting for characters. The first time we ended up waiting over an hour and a half after we finished eating because we’d been accidentally skipped in rotation. Having your 1 1/2 year old watch other kids interacting and playing with Tigger and being left out is a terribly unfortunate experience. He didn’t cry, but he was disappointed. I understand actors get tired and need breaks, so I wrote it off to just bad luck.
We gave it a second chance, hoping the first was a fluke. We had a nearly identical experience. That time we were seated just after the characters passed by our table area, so again no visit. The experience was terrible overall, especially for the price and what we’d usually come to expect from Disney.
I didn’t get it, because every other experience we had while dining during those visits were amazing. The characters fawned over Bug. The food was good, or at least satisfactory. Why was Crystal Palace – a gorgeous setting with Winnie the Pooh characters – falling short?
Here was the chance of improvement! Maybe this new family style meal would be amazing! I couldn’t wait to give it another chance.
We were seated right away. It wasn’t the greatest view, but not everyone can have window seats. It worked. Soda pop was included – yay!
First on the Menu:
Homestyle Buttermilk and Cheddar Bacon Biscuits
Crispy Fried Chicken
Family Style Dessert Platter
Again, no choice on this one and it wasn’t quite as described. These are presented fairly well and are kind of cute, but the taste isn’t as good as the desserts found elsewhere in the kingdom. There was a little bag of donuts (the fritters) with dipping sauce, a cupcake with a mousse of some type on top, a brownie with frosting, and the square thing I think was supposed to be the banana cream pie. The fritters were the best part. The cupcake was a little disappointing even though it was cute.
The desserts and appetizers are pre-prepped and sit in the old buffet area of the restaurants for the servers to grab and take to tables.
The menu wasn’t horribly full, but not as empty as some of the restaurants are keeping with the social distancing measures.
Now, the biggest redeeming factor of the meal is that it’s only $39 per adult and $23 per child, which is super cheap compared to most sit-down dining in the Magic Kingdom. The food isn’t bad, it just isn’t great either. I think it’s a vast improvement over what’s normally offered at The Crystal Palace because it actually arrives hot. We’d probably eat there again just because the value (for the Magic Kingdom) is pretty good.
There are no characters, but the theming is still Winnie the Pooh and Friendship Day. It’s a great way to see inside the restaurant at a reduced rate.