Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, Maelstrom, Land Pavilion After 9pm Update, Soarin’ Merch – Epcot 5/12/12

by josh on May 13, 2012

The June operating schedule update should come out tomorrow or this Friday.  At that time, December’s schedule should also be released.

Heading out to Epcot on Saturday May 12th for dinner at Akershus in the Norway Pavilion and to check on the current status of the Land Pavilion operating through 10pm.

Unfortunately, the settings on my camera were wrong, so all of the pictures are going to look like this.  Just kidding.  But this one certainly does.  This is the current state of the Test Track Pavilion refurbishment!  What you can’t see is that the front of Test Track is clear of debris.

It’s 6:06pm and we have a bit of a wait for Spaceship Earth.  It’s not nearly as bad as it might look on initial inspection because the right side is completely empty and the extended portion only goes up about half way.  You can sort of see up at the top left that the queue up there is also empty.  You’re looking at about a five minute actual wait.

You may notice that I am rocking blue nail polish today.  Lost a bet.  Deal with it.

Wait times at 6:09pm.  They’re about what we can expect with Test Track closed down.  Obviously the 70 minute wait at Soarin’ is longer than we’d like, but it’s the reality with only one attraction most people have on their “must ride” lists at the moment.  Everything else looks pretty nominal, including the 20 minute wait at Character Spot.  This website had Epcot as the “most recommended Park.”

Some of the 40th anniversary merchandise is going on sale.

Not a great job with the nail polish.

A couple oven mitts that we may or may not have seen before:

I feel like I wouldn’t really want to stick Minnie’s face on a hot pan.


A set of three cute kitchen towels.

His and hers aprons.

And more towels:

Might want to put them away before the neighbors show up.

In case you want Mother to never speak to you again, you could buy her one of these bears.

He is sort of cute.  I think the thing that hinders him is the fact that his face is sort of a “hidden Mickey.”  Makes him look sort of weird.

Over to Akershus for dinner.  It’s located on the right side of the Norway Pavilion across from Kringla Bakeri.

Lunch menu:

Dinner menu:

We’ll take a closer look at the dinner menu, including wine and drinks, in a moment.  The shadows were unforgiving outside the restaurant.  Currently, breakfast is $32.99/adults and $19.99/kids; Lunch is $35.99/adults and $21.99/kids; Dinner is $39.99/adults and $22.99/adults.

I really like Akershus, so much so that it’s listed as my “third best Epcot table service restaurant.”  It has a lot going for it.  First of all, the picture package is included in the cost of the meal.  For every four people in your party, you’ll receive a picture with Belle.  So if you have five people, that means you’ll come away with two pictures.  You can either bring home two copies of the same picture or two pictures each with different poses.  Just that picture would run you about $35 at most other buffets.  They do a nice job with them and present the pictures to you during the course of the meal.  If you don’t like it, you can request that another be taken.  Second, you get to meet Belle along with four other princesses.  For tonight’s dinner, we met Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, and Ariel.  They come to the table, snap pictures, take photographs, and mingle.  There are also princess parades scheduled throughout meal times so the kids can march around the restaurant with the princesses in tow.

For this particular meal, they had the characters set up nicely.  We got to meet each of the four mingling princesses within a span of about 15 minutes towards the end of the meal.  I prefer that to the sporadic appearances you might see at other buffets like Crystal Palace, where the characters seem to appear out of nowhere randomly throughout the meal.  The kids can watch the princesses as they greet other guests and you only have to clean/prep the kids the one time.  If the princesses pop up one every 15 minutes, you’re constantly getting the kids ready for the pictures, making sure everyone is back from the buffet, etc.  A handler came by to make sure all princesses had visited.  When we told her we were missing Snow White, she got her over within a matter of a few minutes.  Finally, the meal includes the cold buffet and a plated entree.  So while you wait for the characters and entree, you can load up on shrimp, cheese, meat, fish, and so on.  We’ll take a look at the options next.  Dessert is also a nice selection of three different items served family style.

A nice simple backstory behind this one.  No mention of seatbelt specialists, General Motors, or singing a cappella on your break outside of Test Track.

Akershus probably isn’t going to win any awards based solely on theming.

But it’s neat enough with the lighting and paintings.  This is the dining area to the left of the cold buffet.  You can see people lined up for shrimp in the back right of the picture.

You’ll take your picture with Belle first.  Remember that she doesn’t visit the tables, so this is it.  Another very special thank you to Steven Milz and family for inviting me along.  I imagine it would be awkward for me to sit by myself at a princess buffet.  I’ve never done it, but I feel like it would be pretty weird.

We were seated in the main dining area, which isn’t much more than an arm’s length away from the buffet.

Looking up, we have nice wood details and very fortress-y chandeliers.

The full menu.  Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports3/akerdinner.jpg.

And individually:

I would imagine there isn’t a ton of wine coming out of Norway.  The shot of aquavit is probably the most authentic thing on the menu.

The cold bar is pictured below.  All of the items are duplicated on both sides except for the fish-y items in the middle.  The right side is almost always less crowded because fewer tables are over there.

(The “Brown Cheese”)

The fruit is in the top left.  It should be full of assorted melon.

Not a great shot of the shrimp salad here, obviously.  We’ll take a look at it on my plate (half eaten, of course).  It’s one of the best items at the buffet.

Also about to be replenished.

It’s a nice variety of items that may be slightly “out there” along with a lot of items that most people should enjoy.  That’s one of the nice things about an Epcot buffet like this one or the one over in Germany.  You might find that you like peppered mackerel, glassmeister herring, or gjetost.  And if not, there’s plenty of shrimp, salad, rolls, roast beef, fruit, turkey, cheese, and salami to fill even the biggest appetite.

I tried some of each:

I enjoyed just about everything.  It’s all certainly worth trying.  I wish the shrimp weren’t “peel and eat,” but you know why they do it instead of your prototypical cocktail shrimp.  The shrimp salad, peppered mackerel, glassmeister herring, and goat cheese were all interesting items that I wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to try.  The “regular” meats and cheeses are all fine too.  About what you would expect.

Service was very good.  Just note that they’ll probably try to sell you a $6.50 bottle of water if you ask for glasses of water along with the included soft drinks.  Our table was amused that the server had been there for eight months and didn’t know what Living with the Land or Journey into Imagination with Figment were.  I’m not sure if that information is available online for her to look at or not.

Here we have the princesses parading around with the kids:

I used it as an opportunity to take buffet pictures, which is one of the my least favorite things to do.  Luckily, there aren’t as many items as there are at say, Boma, which takes 20 minutes to photograph and everyone in line thinks I’m an annoying loser.  Which is accurate, but I like to downplay it, you know?

If Akershus struggles in one area, it’s the entrees, which are never particularly good.  This is the Pork Tenderloin.  It was just fine, but certainly nothing out of this world.  The pork was a little on the tough side and there’s no way anything is cooked to order.

The Meatballs, which I would guess are the most popular item.  These are about what you would expect as well if you’ve ever had the similar dish at Ikea.  There’s a little spice there and the lingonberry sauce is a nice complement.

The Kids Meatballs served with corn and mashed potatoes.  A large portion.

The kids cheese ravioli.  The sauce looks a little onion-y if I were eight years old again.  I always made mom order the sauce on the side because you just never know!

For dessert, they bring the kids cookies.

And the dessert, served “family style” with the chocolate mousse on the left, rice cream in the middle, and the puff pastry on the right.  You’re going to be pretty hard pressed to be hungry after all of the food that came before it, but all three of the desserts are good too.  The mousse has a rich, decadent chocolate flavor.  The rice cream is light and cold.  The puff pastry was as flaky as one might hope for.  Not a ton of flavor from the pastry itself, but it accompanied the fruit and mousse well.  Save a touch of room if you can.  They’ll bring more.

A punchable HDR picture.

One last look at the dining room.

Overall, I recommend Akershus for what it is.  If you’re looking specifically for the best appetizers/entrees/drinks in terms of quality and presentation, then you’ll probably want to take a look elsewhere.  On the other hand, all of the food is at a minimum, good.  There’s a ton of it and it’s varied enough that you should be able to find a lot of food that you enjoy, even if you fall into the “picky” side of the spectrum.  Service is usually excellent.  We never waited for soft drink refills or plates to be cleared.  Unlike Biergarten, where our plates mysteriously vanished if we blinked incorrectly, the server always asked first.  Consider the fact that the photo package is included in the price, unlike most other meals.  You also get great character interaction from four of the major princesses.  It may be a nice alternative to the more expensive Cinderella’s Royal Table over at Magic Kingdom, especially if reservations are full over there.  I left completely satisfied.

We’ll pop in Maelstrom to complete the FULL MEAL DEAL that was started a few weeks ago.  That included a look at Kringla Bakeri, the Stave Church, and the various shops.  Part 1Part 2Part 3.  Standby lines at Maelstrom have seemed longer because it isn’t offering FASTPASS at the moment.  You may remember that there’s a refurbishment wall around the waterfall outside the attraction.  Even if the line is out the door, the actual wait is only going to be about 15 minutes.  This was around 10.

The map at the back of the queue explains some of Norway’s accomplishments over the years:

Not sure why they seem to focus on 20th century “history.”  That, and no mention of populating the entire country with babes.  That seems worth pointing out.

As I’ve mentioned before, Maelstrom is one of my favorite attractions and I love the video at the end.  By far some of the funniest five minutes ever recorded.

The eye!

Not sure if it starts out well or not.  I can’t really imagine rolling through the ocean on a viking boat with no lower deck!

A good helping of trolls.

And polar bears, not something you might equate with Norway.

This peeping troll is going to send you down a short drop.   It isn’t much more intense than Pirates of the Caribbean.

HDR oil rig!

Always a pleasure pulling into port.

Sadly, they usually stop running the video around 8:15pm.  We just missed it!

I’m not sure when they’ll reopen the FASTPASS machines.  Soon, hopefully.

Popping in to check on crowds inside the Land Pavilion from 9pm to 10pm.  It’s 8:56pm here, so we’ve got about five minutes until IllumiNations starts.  I’ll stick around for the “stampede” that comes this way after IllumiNations ends.

In the opposite direction towards Living with the Land, it doesn’t look like anyone is actually headed to any of these attractions.

Living with the Land is running completely empty boats.

At 9:05am, the posted wait for Soarin’ is 10 minutes.  That’s accurate if you include the time it takes to walk to and watch the preshow video.  There’s no one in line.

Big crowds.

As I mentioned last time, Living with the Land is really neat in the dark once you make it out to the greenhouses with no natural light coming in.

Do you see what it says?

It’s 9:23pm and this is the stampede rolling in from IllumiNations.

Soarin’ merchandise outside the attraction while we’re here:

Those pins are a little goofy, but I like that Mickey logo!

So it’s 9:31pm.  Everyone from IllumiNations should be here by now.

The posted wait is still 10 minutes.

I think I see somebody up there walking.

I can definitely make out three people.

But that’s it.  They were still flying half full flights.

The scene inside looking across at Soarin’.

Maybe three people headed up at 9:36pm.

So yeah, the Land Pavilion continues to operate until 10pm basically with no warning or announcement.  If you’re visiting Epcot and are able to stay through 10pm, you definitely want to head over after 9pm.  You could ride Living with the Land once and Soarin’ at least twice between 9pm and 10pm.

The Character Spot is the only attraction that advertises it’s running until 10pm.

There’s one group in line.

The Art of Disney Store and Mouse Gear also continue operating until at least 10pm.

The Monorail was still a bit backed up at 9:45pm.  I didn’t make it onto the one that’s parked now, but got on the next one.  Unless you’re among the first people out of World Showcase after IllumiNations ends and head quickly to the Monorail, I recommend hanging back until around 9:40pm.  It’s either stand here in a long line or enjoy the World Showcase at night or shop a little bit.  The backup for the trams won’t be as bad though and the waits at the buses aren’t usually too long either because Disney knows what to expect.  They can’t do much about upping capacity on the Monorail though.  Finally, remember that Disney is still shutting the Monorail down one hour after regular Park close, or 10pm in most scenarios.  Buses are available to the Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian Resorts at that time.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

vinotinto May 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

They’ve been including the pictures since at least Oct 2009. We do Akershus every time we go to WDW. Purely by coincidence, my DH wore the same shirt the first two times we went (in 2009 and 2010). After that, he has requested that we go every trip. Now we are up to 4 pics with Belle and my DH in the same shirt. Needless to say, we are booked for our October trip, and yes, the shirt will be packed. That’s how family traditions begin.


KJay May 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Akershus is one of my faves! Your pics make the buffet look hilariously unappetizing. Your plates looked pretty good though :)


keri May 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Ew, palmetto bugs swarming the fish tanks at night in Living With the Land? Grossssssss.

Seriously, that must be one of the creepiest things ever, with the red lights. I try to ignore that the things exist, it makes my life much easier, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to ride Living with the Land the same way again.


Stephanie May 15, 2012 at 11:44 am

I love Malestrom, but that mural on the wall when you’re boarding – the boy with the fish – that always creeps me out a little.
Great post, as usual, Josh!


Steph May 16, 2012 at 7:17 am

@Keri – It was pretty creepy. I was paranoid for the rest of the ride, just waiting for one another one to show up. Eew. Living with the Land will never be the same for me either.


Katie May 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Love the Soarin’ merchandise! Also, when we went through that part of Living with the Land, it was a hidden Mickey. I guess they like to change things up!


Marina May 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

We were at WDW from May 2nd-12th and rode Soarin 3 times, always after 9pm, something I would have never known about if it wasn’t for this website.

My mum was impressed with all the little extras I knew about, like watching Wishes from the beach at Poly and going to Epcot and skipping the fireworks(we watched another night) only to ride Soarin and Living with the Land.
I have a great picture that says ’1 minute until next departure’ at Soarin :)

Thank you Josh, everything you write here made our trip so much more enjoyable, especially skipping EMH was the best advice ever.


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