Construction is complete at the Transportation and Ticket Center’s charter bus lot.
If you’re coming from an off-site hotel, a Downtown Disney hotel on the shared bus system operated by Mears, or Shades of Green, you’ll be dropped off here. It’s also the drop-off/pick-up area if you’re transferring from Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom on Disney buses. Or from one of those theme parks to Magic Kingdom.
One potential problem is the lack of cover at the bus stops in the middle of the lot. The Downtown Disney and Shades of Green buses used to pick-up/drop-off closer to the Animal Kingdom bus stop where there was cover underneath the awning as well as tables with seats and umbrellas overhead. There is no shade or protection from the rain in the center lot. Thanks Obama.
Moving over to Hollywood Studios, the CIA is installing a surveillance center at the front of the park to keep a closer eye on guests’ thoughts and movements.
Kidding. I think. It’s probably an exciting new bench installation or something.
Monsters U. topiary is still prominently displayed in front of the Park. Disney has installed flags in front of the PhotoPass photographer to keep the riff-raff from walking up and getting in the middle of the frame of those waiting patiently.
The joy of arriving at the worst time of day – 10:30am.
Speaking of the CIA, Disney has installed new cameras above the Mickey Readers.
There are lenses inside the dome pointing in all directions. As Disney removes the last of the traditional turnstiles, there aren’t going to be any barriers in between the entrance and the park, other than a couple cast members that aren’t paid enough to tackle the Dark Side of Disney. Should some geniuses make a run for it, the cameras can identify the parties involved. Said jail breakers are dragged backstage where they are introduced to “The Dip” a la Roger Rabbit.
The cast member entrance has moved all the way to the right. Cast are being issued new RFID tickets themselves along with “reusable Guest Passes.” Currently, a cast member using their main gate pass can let a certain number of people into the parks a certain number of times throughout the year. Upon entering the park, the guest of each cast member receives a disposable park hopper ticket not unlike the tickets used by everyone else. According to the “rules,” the cast member is then expected to escort their guests around the park(s) for the duration of their visit. As you might expect, cast members often let strangers/their friends in and then leave to go to work or do something else. Beginning September 1st, cast members will be issued their reusable guest passes that they are expected to re-collect at the end of the day. This isn’t much of a problem assuming the cast member actually tours with their guests. But it makes it a little more difficult to let in strangers for $25/head. It also makes it a little more obvious to cast/lower level management who is using guest passes and whether or not their escort is nearby. And of course, those RFID passes are all trackable, so Disney can pull up the locations/behaviors of the guests of any cast member it chooses. While the cast member could simply recollect their reusable guest passes shortly after entering, it would result in the guests not being able to use FASTPASS+ or hop elsewhere.
The patio and lobby areas of Sid Cahuenga’s Counterfeit Signatures and Low-End Memorabilia at High-End Prices have been converted to MyMagic+ Hell. I mean Central.
Guests without cell phones or other means of accessing their MyMagic+ reservations can do so here. Assuming those reservations have not been magically deleted by the system and that the website is magically working and that the system isn’t magically down and magically everything else.
MyMagic+ Central is near the front of the Park for “guest convenience” and “guest recovery.” We’ll discuss a little more about how the current tests are going once we head over to Magic Kingdom. Considering the line is only a little bit out the door here at 10:30am, things must be going better than usual.
I’ll have a separate merchandise update. There isn’t a ton of new stuff.
It’s 10:40am with Rock ‘n Roller Coaster down due to a traffic jam.
Walking down toward Tower of Terror, the posted wait was actually 30 minutes. Not bad considering the headliner next door has been down since opening.
FASTPASS return times for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster were already out to 2:35pm – 3:35pm. According to the “official literature,” FASTPASS+ deals with attraction closures a little differently than the current system. If an attraction is down during the FASTPASS+ window, that FASTPASS+ experience is automatically canceled by MyMagic+ and a notice is sent to the user’s phone. The guest has the option of re-booking the experience later in the day, but only if experiences are still available for that attraction. Otherwise, the guest will have the opportunity to select an alternate experience. If it’s late in the day and no experiences are available, the guest will be able to select an additional experience for the following day. So if you have a reservation for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster for today at 10:45am – 11:45am and it’s down, you can pretty much forget about scheduling it later in the day as experiences won’t be available for popular attractions with limited capacities. Your available selections would include attractions like Muppet Vision 3D and Voyage of the Little Mermaid, which have higher capacities and lower demand.
Currently, if you had a FASTPASS for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and it was down during the return window, you could return later and use the expired FASTPASS. Assuming the attraction comes back online. That causes standby wait times to go up exponentially because FASTPASS users are admitted at a higher rate. But it does allow the FASTPASS user to use their pass with a relatively short wait.
Certain attractions are more prone to downtime than others. Test Track, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean are all prone to downtime, among others. But it doesn’t end there. Disney Jr. Live on Stage had its 9:30am show canceled due to “technical difficulties” on this particular morning, for example. It will be interesting to see if Disney amends the “rules” closer to the full launch of FASTPASS+.
Tower of Terror almost always looks neat. Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports9/tower.jpg.
Anaheim Produce remains your best choice for a 10am margarita.
The Citizens rolling down Sunset:
It’s apparently impossible to go into Rolls without pointing at everything at least once.
The Strawberry and Cream Cupcakes are still available. The Treasure Chest with Chocolate Cupcake is also available here, though it’s disappeared from most other locations. The Mike Cupcake is: “Yellow Cake, Bubble Gum Frosting, and White Chocolate.” I don’t know if that sounds good.
The Savory and Sweet plate, along with several others, are available up in the Fantasmic theater. You could do worse for $12.
I was trying to take a picture of The Great Movie Ride’s 45 minute queue when I got photobomed by Minnie. Vacation ruined. Someone should re-train her.
Sofia has replaced Handy Manny to the right of Disney Jr. Live on Stage in Animation Courtyard.
Sofia greets from 9:30am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm. If you’re skipping the Sunset Boulevard attractions and have interest in meeting her, you’ll probably want to head here right after doing Toy Story Mania and the Toy Story characters. Wait times have been in the 25 to 40 minute range from 10am – 1pm and 2:20pm – 4pm since she first arrived on scene last week. If you can’t visit early, plan to get in line 15 minutes before she’s scheduled to reappear in the afternoon. Note that Sofia comes with an “f” in her name. You run the risk of a forum genius like myself correcting you should you spell it “Sophia” LIKE A COMPLETE IDIOT. Add it to ‘Ohana instead of O’hana’s. Tinker Bell instead of Tinkerbell. Soarin’ instead of Soaring. There are so many opportunities to LET YOU KNOW THAT YOU KNOW NOTHING BECAUSE YOU SCREWED UP THE NAME OF A DISNEY WORLD THING.
Jake has a new background too I guess.
The joys of FASTPASS+ at Voyage of the Little Mermaid as this cast member marches back and forth with a sign advertising that you could get in line for the 11:40am show. It’s 11:00am.
The 30 to 40 minute line for Legend of Jack Sparrow has materialized, culminating in a wait that will stay 30 to 40 minutes until at least 9pm.
At 11:05am, FASTPASS return for Toy Story Mania was out to 6:55pm – 7:55pm with a 75 minute wait.
Brown Derby, which typically operates around 15% capacity at lunch, continues offering a slightly less expensive menu from 11:30am – 3pm. The Fettuccine is new and the Chicken Breast replaces last month’s Soft Shell Crab Sandwich. I’m not sure you can guarantee a lunch menu will be available (or what will be on it) months in advance, but a walk-up for lunch shouldn’t be a problem if something sounds good. And the Cobb Salad is actually less expensive than the chicken/rib plate at Fairfax Fare.
Getting out of Brown Derby with a $15 salad or $17 pasta or chicken plate seems reasonable. Above is the regular menu, which is available for lunch or dinner. A recent review is available in this post, along with a review of Mama Melrose.
But enough of that hoity toity nonsense. This is Disney World, not Macau.
“Where Famous Stars Dine.” This is not true. Except for today of course.
Breakfast and lunch are character meals, much like Tusker House over at Animal Kingdom. Dinner is sans characters but pricing is similar as they bust out the luxurious salisbury steak and meat surprise in lieu of a hug with the yellow panda bear. Actually, I think they add a “Carved Strip Loin” and “Roast Turkey” at dinner, along with a $3 price increase. More on food quality as we progress through the culinary dream that is the Disney character buffet.
Water is provided while you wait. Apparently adding some lemon slices “infuses” the water. Enjoy it because it’s all down hill from here.
Keith and family were nice enough to invite me to lunch. As we were seated, I smiled, knowing we had made the right choice based on the sheer number of people already enjoying their meals. How could this many people be wrong?
I was relieved when Keith’s son unveiled his collection of Jake the Pirate swords. I knew we were going to have to shank a few tourists if we wanted to get anywhere near the “assorted starches” Disney advertises on the menu.
Unlike most character buffets, where interaction is limited to 30-second tableside visits and the occasional parade around the dining room (giving mom and dad just enough time to exchange swear words about the bill), Hollywood & Vine invites youngsters to dance and play with the characters. These interludes occur every 20 minutes or so and last about five minutes.
Disney advertises H & V as a “Cafeteria to the Stars.” Their quotes, not mine. I am not sure what that means.
A mural that includes the Carthay Circle Theater adorns the wall, which is a nice reminder of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land out in California while WE GET NOTHING.
The restaurant is otherwise split into two halves.
Each with its own buffet side with a centralized dessert station.
Hollywood & Vine’s draw is the characters from Disney Jr. – Handy Manny, Jake, June, and Special Agent Oso.
While it may appear that this child is retreating from the yellow panda bear who looks like he’s either hungover or was on the wrong side of a fist fight last night, I can assure you that he’s having a great time.
Unlike Crystal Palace or Chef Mickey’s, where you’re lucky if each character gets to your table for 30 seconds over the course of your 45-minute meal, we saw each character four separate times.
Kids that like Disney Jr. have a ball here. I’ve never been to a character meal where the kids were having a better time. And I’ve been to all the character meals.
We were seated about two minutes after checking in at 11:15am. The restaurant did not fill up, but it was 60% full or thereabouts an hour later at 12:15pm. That resulted in a more relaxed atmosphere than most character meals, particularly Cinderella’s Royal Table, Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s, Akershus, and some of those other “more popular” buffets where they are trying to get as many people paying $56.99/head through as quickly as possible. I don’t think you’ll get the rush act here outside of Easter, Christmas, or the like. And even then.
The buffet has a fair variety. Boma it is not, but there should be plenty for everyone. Food quality is okay at best. Several items were good. Only a few were mostly inedible. I was making fun of it on Twitter because Hollywood & Vine has a poor reputation. But I didn’t really start a regimen of antibiotics three days prior in preparation and the pickle spear wasn’t the best thing I tried. Though it was a pretty close second. Still kidding. Sort of.
Here’s what’s available:
Assorted Bread and Rolls, Butter, Apple Butter
Okay I trust you can read this one.
And this one.
Chipotle Citrus Barbecue Chicken, Butter Corn
Sauteed Green Beans, Cream Corn Spoon Bread
BBQ Meatballs, Lobster and Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese with Multigrain Pasta
Garlic and Herb Crusted Slow Roasted Pork, Baked Chicken
Sweet Plantains, Assorted Starch
Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon, Multigrain Penne with Meat Sauce
Asiago Creamy Ranch Chicken Breast, Bean Cassoulet
Garlic Smashed Potatoes, Slow Cooked Ale Braised Beef
A miniature version of the quick service create-your-own-pasta with rotini, campanelle, vegetables, pesto, marinara, and probably like chicken, sausage, and shrimp.
For the kids in particular.
While this website remains moderately popular because of the crowd calendars, it’s really the pictures of buffet food that continue to drive traffic and increase $$$$. I’m not sure there’s much of a point in “reviewing” anything in particular. The plantains were weird. The BBQ meatball was pretty good. The lobster and shrimp macaroni and cheese was mostly macaroni, but wasn’t too fishy and there were little pieces of lobster and salad shrimp. Considering the main ingredients are probably heavy cream and heavy cream, I’m not sure there was much point in noting the “multi-grain” pasta. I’m not sure if a doctor has ever completed a bypass and said, “Well maybe if you had only consumed more multi-grains.” The chicken had some flavor. The salad had Ken’s Caesar on it. The udon noodles were kind of gummy and didn’t have a lot of flavor. The Asian stir-fry salad was cold and flavorless, which may have been a blessing in disguise. The Italian Sub Salad would have been better just as salami. The Ale Braised Beef could have been horse.
Taking pictures of buffet food at the buffet may be the most awkward thing I do for this website. There is really no reason why anyone would normally want to collect pictures of buffet food at the buffet. It’s my dream to obtain an AllEars.net shirt so people can be like, “Oh wow! The AllEars guy! We love that site!” But that will probably never happen.
The Creamy Asiago Chicken was pretty good – it’s an item that you could easily fill up on and probably isn’t contaminated with enough salmonella to kill anyone that doesn’t have a severe immune system deficiency. The rice was bland. The pork hiding in back didn’t have a lot of flavor. Disney’s menu advertises “Pastrami Rubbed Pork Loin.” I honestly don’t know why they don’t rub pastrami on more things. This particular “garlic and herb crusted pork” could have used a lot of pastrami.
The corn tasted like corn. The other corn tasted like corn. I figured the lobster mac and cheese was probably kind of expensive, so I got another spoonful of that to make sure I got my $32.99 worth. Some seven-year-old jerk must have picked all the lobster out of it though. The pasta was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever had the displeasure of having in my mouth. I don’t want to re-live the texture by describing it. The salmon wasn’t very fishy which was good. The potatoes were fine and the green beans were green-bean-y too.
I hope that helps.
The create your own pasta is an excellent choice, prepared fresh to your specifications. It’s also a heaping portion, so you may want to share. Or you may not want to try your luck with the rest of this stuff. The food will fill you up and there’s enough variety to satisfy most people, but this would not be my choice for dinner. Or my choice if I didn’t have someone in my party enthusiastic to meet the characters.
Pineapple and Apples and Strawberries dipped in chocolate and nuts, Key Lime Tarts, Coconut Macaroons, Banana Cream Puffs
Carrot Cake, No Sugar Added Cheesecake with Blueberries, Red Velvet Cake
7-Layer Bar, Strawberry Shortcake, Dried Mango, Oatmeal Cookies, Brownies, Marshmallows
I was going to say that you’d have to be on the wrong side of sanity to book Hollywood & Vine for dinner, until I remembered Mother booked it for us with the Fantasmic Dining Package about ten years ago now. And saying something like that would be mean. Anyway, my one big memory from that meal, other than how terrible it all was, was the toppings bar for the ice cream. Unfortunately, your two topping options are now cold fudge and strawberry topping. As if this vacation could get any worse.
When I was taking pictures of the dessert menu like a ninja (or more likely a creepy blogger), I was not paying much attention to what anything was. I took a bite of the blueberry thing and was like, “Wow that’s bad.” But it is sugar free. The seven layer bar could of used an eighth layer called good flavor. The marshmallow was good though and the dried mango was dried mango.
I’m too embarrassed to show all my other plates of dessert. But the chocolate covered fruit was delicious and they are constantly refreshing the supply.
Service was excellent – glasses refilled immediately, plates cleared immediately, drinks served immediately, etc. We were right next to the buffet and one of the service stations, so that helped. And our section was not busy. I’ve heard of lousy service here, but it really just depends on how busy they are. You can always ask them to bring you two Diet Cokes or a Diet Coke and an orange juice or something.
I really can’t imagine dropping $35 on lunch or $40 on dinner if you’re going for the food. You can dine at Brown Derby for that. But this is a memorable meal for the kids. It may very well be their favorite from the trip.
We’ll cross the lagoon to take a look at Magic Kingdom next.