Saturday, November 29, 2014

Confused about the "Be Our Guest" restaurant at Disney's Magic Kingdom?

I recently moved back to central Florida after a 25 year absence. While I was raised near Walt Disney World and went often as a child, after I moved out west as an adult, my visits were few and far between. Fortunately for this Disney-Junkie, I had a lot of friends in Anaheim, CA, so I could go to Disneyland and California Adventure to get my fix. So, after we got moved in and settled, I was ready for a trip to the Magic Kingdom. Especially because I hadn't been there since the updates to Fantasyland. When May 2014 rolled around, I grabbed a couple of friends and headed down to WDW. 

One of the things I really wanted to do was eat at the "Be Our Guest" restaurant at Beast's Castle. It is literally like walking into the movie "Beauty and the Beast": the ballroom, the West Wing, the library, the halls... everything done to the littlest detail. When we got to the park, we bee-lined it for the restaurant, and got there about 10am. We actually had a little time to pop our heads inside and take a photo in front of the stain-glassed window. The restaurant opens at 10:30am, so we actually went to Ariel's Grotto next door, and made it back to the line just before they started letting people in. I loved it! You go into the library where they have computers and you order your food. I had the quiche and we all had a cupcake with the "gray stuff" that's delicious (lyrics from the song - yup! That's really what it's called). 

Once you complete your order and pay, your order is magically transferred into a glowing red rose. Take that rose to your table and the staff will know where to deliver your food. We sat in the main ballroom, next to a window that had snow falling in it. That was cool, but if you time it right, you can try to get a table in the forbidden West Wing. You'll find the shredded portrait of Beast in human form, as well as the magical rose floating under it's glass dome. Definitely the best room. My friends and I really enjoyed the experience.

(The Forbidden West Wing)

Now...flash forward to November 14, 2014. For whatever reason, in 6 months between my visits, Disney went stupid about this restaurant. I had just bought my annual pass and I had three friends in town from my form hometown just outside of Las Vegas. They had never been to the Magic Kingdom (shocking, I know!) so I met them down there and we headed in. I had been telling them all about the feast at "Be Our Guest" because if this was the only time they were going to go there, it was an experience I didn't want them to miss. As with my previous visit, we went straight to the restaurant. We got there a little bit after they opened, but there was no lines for FastPass or standby. I thought maybe it was temporarily closed, but there were four cast members standing at the end of the bridge that leads to the restaurant. I approached one and asked what was happening. He said, "The restaurant is at capacity so we can't let anyone else in".  And this is where the problems started.

(Main Ballroom)

First of all, there were people coming out of the dining room as we were standing there, so the "at capacity" thing didn't make sense. Next I asked why there were no lines; there were just random gatherings of people mulling around the bridge where the cast members were. They said they don't do the lines anymore (which was why I couldn't get us a FastPass on my 'My Disney Experience' won't let you), but if we wanted to hang around or check back, that was our option, which was apparently why all these people were hanging out. Honestly, if they had called out that they had an available table, I fear for the safety of anyone in the vicinity because these people would have stampeded! I asked the employee why this tactic was better than the previously organized Standby and FastPass lines, and he couldn't give me a reason. There was also a person taking dinner reservations, but if the Disney website is to be believed, you'd have to book it months ahead of time. 

We decided we didn't want to waste a lot of time waiting there, especially because the park was closing early that day due to the special Christmas event.  While we were walking around the park, we came across some cast members working at the FastPass kiosks in Frontierland. I went up and asked one what was going on at "Be Our Guest" and the mess it was without the lines. Now THAT cast member told me that, "You can't get into the restaurant unless you are staying at one of the WDW resorts with a reservation booked far in advance, or if you have a special email invitation that is just sent out randomly to guests via email". HOW STUPID. So if you're just a guest who has spent hundreds of dollars to go to the park, you still can't get in. Honestly, if they're going to make it an exclusive thing (such as the famous Club 33 at Disneyland), then it should have been built somewhere else not taking up space in the park. And, more importantly, why didn't the cast members at the "Be Our Guest" entrance just tell people this, instead of letting people loiter around when there are other places in the park they'd rather be?  

Needless to say, when I got home, I wrote Disney an email about this. They did have a wonderful person (Holly) call me back, and she said it was a trial thing, but really wasn't sure it would stay that way or go back to normal. Fast forward three weeks, and my mom and I are planning to park-hop for a couple of days. We have room reservations at one of the Disney resorts. So...let's try this again. Now that I'm staying at the park, there should be no problem getting reservations. Uh, not so fast. If you use the Disney Experience app on your Android or Iphone, "Be Our Guest" doesn't work, so don't even bother trying to make a reservation or FastPass through that route. I called the dinner reservation phone number from the Disney website and the girl that answered said dinner reservations were being made 180 days in advance (Keep that in mind if you're planning a trip and know your dates. Living in FL, we have the option of getting up one morning, saying, "Let's go to Disney," and we're there an hour later, so we don't plan that far ahead.). This girl also said that she didn't make lunch reservations and didn't know how to do that. Out went another email to Holly, who, once again, saved us. I'm passing this help on to you... this is the only way to make reservations for "Be Our Guest" and the website is not published anywhere that I saw on the Disney website. If you make reservations with this particular restaurant, it will not show up on your Disney Experience App as dining reservations or FastPass. It will only show your booking on the website below. I was assured by Holly that this is not a problem and that the hosts at the bridge will have our names when we get there. Wish us luck!

You will go to the following website and follow the instructions:

Hopefully, this will save you time and frustration. I do highly recommend going if you can, at least once. It was a fun experience for me and that's why I go to such lengths to get the reservations.

On an additional note, I recommend you stop at Gaston's Tavern, which is just around the corner from Beast's castle. It looks just like it does in the movies (everything decorated with antlers) and a fountain in front displays Gaston's form at it's best (or at least, in HIS opinion). You really have to try a LeFou's Brew (non-alcoholic) at least once! Yum! And if you happen to be a fan of Gaston, I've found that he is the most consistently available character in the park. By that I mean every time I have walked past there, Gaston is there in person for photo ops and autographs. You'll find him between the fountain and the restrooms near Gaston's Tavern.  He's a lot of fun, too, so stop by and let him flirt with you a bit or compare muscles with the males in the line.

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