We’ll head out to Epcot to squeeze one more day out of the holiday festivities. The website hesitates to discuss theme park security, but it’s worth pointing out that there is now the chance that you’ll be asked to walk through a metal detector and bag check is more thorough than it has been over the last few years. All toy guns, including bubble guns, have been removed from the Parks. Guests over the age of 14 are no longer allowed to “dress in costume,” among other general rules, which can be read over here. Like most things theme park related, enforcement is inconsistent, which can lead to frustration as something that was allowed one day may not be the next.
Hopefully you caught the wait times posts that cover the very busy Christmas holiday.
Spaceship Earth waits did not quite hit 100 minutes on New Year’s eve, instead finding itself capped at a measly 95 minutes. I’m assuming the wait times sign can physically display triple digits. The ride never saw a 100+ minute wait in 2015, though there’s always October of next year. The second-highest displayed wait time of 2015 was 75 minutes on March 31st and April 8th. It hit 70 minutes on February 15th and March 17th. 65 minutes on January 1st, November 24th, and December 29th. Here at 3:20pm on December 19th, the wait is “just” 30 minutes.
Hopefully you also caught the post covering the new BAYMAX Meet and Greet across from the old and current Character Spot Meet and Greet with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.
Something about magnets in the monorails forcing all cameras into the ready position.
In Canada Cart Watch news, La Fin Du Monde is now the only available Unibroue on draft. It’s still one of the best beers you’ll find in World Showcase, though the Innis & Gunn in the UK and Einstok in Norway are well above average. If you’re Du Monde’d out, the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is an excellent choice.
As a reminder, you can use the links from the “restaurants” category on the dropdown menus above to access past restaurant reviews and read over a brief synopsis of what each offers, including current menus and discounts.
Restaurant Marrakesh, Morocco’s original table service restaurant, is otherwise located in the back of the Pavilion behind the Aladdin Meet and Greet. Its relatively obscure location and the perception that the menu “is a little out there,” makes it one of the easiest restaurants to walk up to without a reservation. Though you always want a reservation as soon as you know you want to dine at any restaurant.
The dinner menu:
I usually recommend Marrakesh for lunch, when most of the same entrees as dinner are served for about $10 less. For example, the Shish Kebab, which would run you $29.99 at dinner, is $18.95 for lunch. The only difference is hummus is served on the side instead of yellow rice. There’s a 3-course chicken kebab lunch available for $19.99. Considering a shawarma platter and baklava at Tangierine Cafe would run you about the same amount, you may want to opt for Marrakesh’s superior service and ample air-conditioning.
One of Marrakesh’s weaknesses is its cocktail game, though it does offer relatively inexpensive wine.
We were using the Candlelight Processional Dining Package, which can present some value if you choose one of the less expensive options and order some of the more expensive items. The meal includes almost any non-alcoholic beverage, appetizer, entree, and dessert. Here’s pricing from this past year. Pricing will probably be a dollar or two more expensive next year:
So Marrakesh is $55/person. If you were to order the $3 Moroccan Mint Tea, $9 Beef Brewat Rolls, $29 Lamb Shank, and $8 Bastilla, you’d be at $49, making the reserved seat at Candlelight and the reserved IllumiNations viewing spot in Germany basically running you an extra $6. Our server also let us know that any of the appetizers for two could be ordered.
You could probably go either way on Marrakesh’s atmosphere. On one hand, the center of the restaurant is ornate with its pillars, tile mosaics, and chandeliers. Lighting from the chandeliers overhead is dim, in turn setting a more intimate mood. On the other hand, the further away you get, the barer the windowless restaurant seems to be.
Of course, the belly dancer accompanied by traditional Moroccan music helps liven up the scene. Now that the dancer and Mo’Rockin’ don’t appear on the outdoor stage, this is your one opportunity to see them.
I ordered the $42 Taste of Morocco – Marrakesh Feast, which starts with this unattractive bowl of Harira Soup: A hearty soup with Tomatoes, Eggs, Lentils, and Beef and a Beef Brewat Roll: Layers of thin Pastry stuffed with seasoned minced Beef, fried and sprinkled with Cinnamon. The soup, which is probably similar to a split pea soup in its texture, doesn’t have a pronounced taste, instead relying on the subtle flavors from the lentils, onions, tomatoes, and a bit of saffron. Overall, I thought it was a little too bland, but it is otherwise a large serving and a filling start to the meal. The Beef Brewat Roll tastes sort of like dessert with all the cinnamon and powdered sugar, but it’s also stuffed with minced ground beef, onion, coriander, and a bit of ginger and saffron. It’s certainly unique and a little different. The sampler plate here offers an opportunity to try items without committing to a larger portion of either.
Lisa ordered the $14 Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread for Two – Mixture of Cheese and Kalamata Olives served with Tabouleh, Red Pepper Sauce, and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. There’s about half as much cheese involved as the last time we ordered it back in 2014, which actually works better with the portion of bread. While probably not particularly authentic, this dish works well with the creamy cheese spiced up just a little with the red pepper sauce and the balsamic adding an acidic bite. Overall, this is a good value pretty much any way you look at it. Disney would charge you $4 for each cheese/bread combo if it were a Food and Wine item, not that I’m trying to give them any ideas here.
The Moroccan bread isn’t great in my opinion – kind of dense with a stale quality to it, served with just thawed packets of butter. But it will hold you over if you don’t want to spring for one of the other appetizers.
Lisa returned to the Couscous with Chicken – The National Moroccan dish – Steamed Tiny Semolina Pasta with Steamed Vegetables. It’s a huge portion with a large half-chicken served on top of the couscous and vegetables and is on the messy side with the bones and skin. It will probably look sort of like it went through the war by the time you finish with it, but it’s spiced well and reliably juicy.
It’s not the easiest item to share, but the portion is probably large enough, particularly if you go with one of the shareable appetizers to start.
My Marrakesh Feast continued with the Marrakesh Mix Grill: Tenderloin of Beef Shish Kebab, Lamb Merguez Sausage, Marinated Chicken Kebab, served with fresh Herb-roasted Potatoes.
I’m apparently missing a good picture of the beef, which is located towards the back of the plate. The picture above is the full size entree portion.
The Mix Grill is a nice variety of what Marrakesh does best – you get chicken, beef, sausage, vegetables, and potatoes. It’s a ton of food and would be easier to share, particularly if one person enjoys the chicken while the other goes after the beef. I thought the potatoes were a bit goofy – they reminded me of the wedges they served at most grocery store delis, but they had a nice crispness to them, even if they resembled more of a french fry than something straight out of Morocco.
I always kind of feel like I’m trying to convince people to give Marrakesh a shot in these reviews. The flavors are a lot more familiar than you may be expecting – something like the Shish Kebab is steak on a skewer. The chicken here is flavored with some lemon, but is otherwise exactly like any other chicken breast entree you might order. Do yourself a favor and consider giving it a shot.
For dessert, Lisa went with the $8 Bastilla – Crispy leaves of Pastry topped with Vanilla Cream and sprinkled with Toasted Almonds, which sort of fell flat for us. It was extremely sweet with just some flat puff pastry underneath. It might have gone over better if either of us were still hungry…at all.
My dinner ended with “Assorted Moroccan Pastries,” which basically consists of two kinds of baklava served with almonds and a thin chocolate hazelnut sauce. We thought these were better than the Bastilla, offering fresh, chewy pastries with thin layers of dough and nuts. Very good.
Overall, I think the prices are high at dinner for the quality Marrakesh offers. $30 buys you two steak skewers, for example, and the quality isn’t as high as your standard Disney strip steak. I think you can rationalize more value out of the Candlelight Package as it’s one of the more inexpensive options should you be visiting between the Friday after Thanksgiving through December 30th. Consider Marrakesh for lunch. Tangierine Cafe next door is a good choice for dinner.
Ribab Fusion is the somewhat new act appearing in Morocco. I thought they had fantastic energy and the crowd really seemed to get into it, though I could do without the couple minutes of audience participation towards the end of their act. The 10-minute video above will give you an idea about what to expect. Their act has improved substantially since debuting.
You’ll find Morocco’s cultural exhibit through the doors on the left just inside the Pavilion. It’s a very pleasant space when there’s nobody else there, but it gets pretty annoying once somebody joins you as it’s very noisy with the small space and high ceilings. Here’s a taste of what’s inside:
World Showcase gives back what you put in and this is one of the better examples of that.
You may want to skip dessert at your restaurant or quick service of choice and instead visit L’Artisan des Glaces in France.
As a Disney lifestyle blogger, I have nothing but disdain for your average tourist. It was a brisk 60ish degrees when I arrived in France originally on my way to Marrakesh and I saw a family with ice cream and remarked to Lisa, “Check out these idiots eating ice cream in sub-zero temperatures.” About three hours later, with the temperature pushing 45 degrees, I picked up a cup for myself. Sorry tourists, I didn’t mean it.
Glaces offers an ever-expanding selection of options. The smart money is on the double, I think.
It might not look like much in the cup, but this is two large scoops of very dense, very fresh, very creamy ice cream with the cinnamon, caramelized apple, and crumble crunch on top. So decadent, but I would say that I’m not a big fan of chewing my ice cream, which is something you’ll run into if you order anything with nuts here. They are not the finely chopped peanuts(?) you receive with a $1 McDonalds ice cream sundae.
Anyway, L’artisan Des Glaces is a no brainer whether it’s 25 degrees or 125 degrees.
We showed up at Candlelight around 7:15pm for the 8:15pm show to a short line. By 7:45pm, the line would stretch back past Morocco.
Candlelight is otherwise my favorite show of the year. I uploaded the finale to Facebook here. Click HD in the lower right hand corner.
There’s a new-ish gallery in Japan called “Kawaii: Japan’s Cute Culture. This post includes 40 pictures of pretty much everything represented.
We’ll revisit Epcot after Soarin’ closes to check on wait times and make sure our theme park strategy works.