We head out to Epcot to try the new IllumiNations Dining Package at the Rose & Crown Dining Room.
The Dining Package is currently available to book up to 180 days in advance with somewhat limited availability depending on the time of year that you’re looking to attend.
Here’s the long list of details:
There are a few key points here. First, the Dining Package is $85 per adult and $35 per child ages three to nine. Importantly, that price includes tax and gratuity. Pre-payment is required, but you can cancel up to 48 hours before the event and receive a full refund. If you think there’s a chance that you’d like to book the Package, I would do so now as availability will only become slimmer.
Check-in officially begins at 8pm, but in practice, you can check in much earlier than that. We arrived at 7:35pm to see how the process would go and first stopped at the regular check-in desk outside of the restaurant, where we were told to proceed down here to the left of the patio to check in with this cast member here. We were then handed a printout with our reservation and table assignment and proceeded to wait in the holding area. Note that there are several tables in this area that are available for anyone to sit. Their view is going to end up being better than ours and my guess is that they’ll be holding their spots for the next 90+ minutes. So if you’d like a similar view than the Dining Package without necessarily spending big money, you could come down here around 7pm and camp out. $85 would buy you a Fish & Chips from the Yorkshire quick service along with six beers.
The event takes place on the outdoor patio with reserved tables that run the length of the lower level.
It might be slightly cramped out here, but with your backs to those dining around you, it “feels” like an intimate experience.
For future reference, we were seated just about in the middle of the patio with the above view of the show.
The above, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included. I’ve added the normal a la carte prices in red.
As is typical of these events, those that drink a little heavier will extract the most “value” with each drink coming in around $10.
Here with a Guinness.
My favorite, the Black & Tan – Half Bass and Half Guinness.
If you’re not much of a beer person, they have the Cider & Black, which is Strongbow Cider with a shot of Black Currant Juice.
The Currant lends a pretty pink color, in addition to adding a slightly tart element.
The wine is a healthier pour than it probably appears in the picture with the “Parker Station Pinot Noir – displays enticing cherry, plum, and strawberry flavors with a hint of spice, clove, and herbs.” The retail price is $16 on a bottle that Disney serves for $45.
In my experience, it’s easier to drink a lot of wine with a meal than a lot of beer. Each Imperial Pint comes in at a full 20 ounces and is served in a heavy, frosted glass. It’s the perfect pour, but I doubt most people are going to be able to put back more than two along with three courses of food.
Exactly one cocktail is available in the exclusive “Sparkling Duchess – Prosecco and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur topped with a splash of ginger ale garnished with Boba Pearls and fresh mint.”
While these are potentially aimed at the ladies, it’s a smart recipe that balances the effervescent body of the sweet Prosecco against the earthier, floral elements of the St. Germain. There really is just a splash of Ginger Ale involved, adding more sugar and helping to thin out the beverage and make it all the more drinkable. There’s a little bit of a cool herbal note from the mint on top. The Boba Pearls went largely unconsumed, but they add a playful touch and a fun little pop to the bottom of the glass. Despite the fact that the tip was already included, service was excellent and we always had another drink on the way.
It’s a nice bonus that the kids can order a drink that comes in the souvenir Character Cup with Clip-on Light with their meal. Disney could just as easily serve them milk in a small throwaway paper cup.
If you have the mind to, you can pretty easily order two to five drinks over the course of the evening. I managed three Pub Blends, while others in our party ordered as many as five Duchesses. What a life.
For adults, dinner includes choice of appetizer and entree from a limited prix fixe menu. The Pudding Platter is served for dessert. Kids have their choice of app, entree, and dessert. Out of pocket, the most expensive adult meal you could put together would be $49, plus $4 for a non-alcoholic beverage, for a total of $53. The most expensive Kids’ meal is $14, plus the $8 souvenir beverage, for a total of $22. With tax and 18% tip, those meals come out to $65.98 and $27.39, respectively. For adults, that’s about $19 less than the Dining Package price, while kids pay about eight more dollars for the Package. Of course, the value goes down from there if you select some of the less expensive options. Adults who drink can make up some or all of that cost with their beverage selections. I ordered the three Pub Blends ($9.75 x 3), the Cheese ($14), Corned Beef ($24), and Pudding Platter ($8), for a total of $75.25. With tax and 18% tip, my meal would have cost $93.68 or $8.68 more than what I paid for the Dining Package. That’s how you do it.
Three appetizers comprise the list of starters.
The $8 “Crock of Potato Leek Soup” is served hot, thick, and delicious with a pleasant, creamy potato-y consistency backed up by the leeks. This is probably a much more attractive option in January and February than it will be come June and July.
$12 ordinarily buys you exactly one “Scotch Egg – Golden-fried Hard-boiled Cage-free Egg wrapped in Sausage with Mustard Sauce.” A gastropub staple, these deep-fried, crispy, eggs are encased in a thin layer of mild sausage for an interesting mixture of flavors and textures. I really hate the idea of dropping twelve bucks on one egg, as this is the ordinary appetizer portion, but hey, “it’s included.”
The portion size is larger than it probably appears in the picture – that’s an ordinary bowl full of long crackers in back and the “United Kingdom Cheese Platter A selection of Traditional British Cheeses with Accompaniments” is substantially longer. On the left is Cotswold, a variation of Double Gloucester with Onions and Chives mixed in. It’s dense and firm with a tangy, sweet flavor backed up by butter. It’s paired with a mix of sour, pickled cauliflower. While it wasn’t to my tastes, Erin and others at our table loved it. It’s certainly an interesting mix of flavors with the herbs, tang, and vinegar.
Irish Shamrock Cheddar topped with sweet onions is next. The intense sharpness of the dense, creamy cheese shows through.
Last is the Irish Porter, another semi-hard, creamy cheese, here with toasted almonds, cranberries, and a fruity berry sauce. A dish with a considerable number of largely-flavorless crackers is served alongside it. Overall, I thought the accompaniments were a little heavy-handed, but you can push the toppings off to the side if you’re not feeling it. My suggestion would be to order one to share with the table as it’s a lot of cheese.
Four entrees are offered.
I’m not entirely sure why the whole menu isn’t available, but we do miss out on the most expensive item in the Guinness-braised Beef Short Ribs, which is a relatively recent addition. But a couple of the less expensive options also aren’t available. My estimation is that dishes that can be quickly prepared or do best sitting under a warmer are what’s offered, considering they’re trying to serve 15+ tables at the exact same time. You’d think that the Savory Vegetable Crumble would be on the menu for the vegetarians, but both the Bangers and Mash and Fish and Chips can be made vegan.
The $23 “Fish and Chips – ‘Rose & Crown’s Signature Dish’ Beer-battered and served with House-made Tartar Sauce” is a very good, very comforting dish with a huge piece of crispy, juicy fried fish accompanied by a ton of meaty steak fries. Outside at Yorkshire Fish, you’ll receive two smaller pieces of fried fish that are probably easier to eat. It was a bit difficult to pick up and support this monstrosity and about half way through, we resigned ourselves to a fork and knife. While the fish is about $11 more than what’s served outside, the portion is considerably larger and the House-made Tartar Sauce destroys what’s served in those little, impossible-to-open packets.
The Chips are perfect – thick, crispy, and hot with an irresistible amount of salt.
The $21 “Bangers and Mash – Traditional English Sausage with Colcannon Potatoes, Roasted Mushrooms, Caramelized Onion Jam, and Red Wine Demi” is a personal favorite – the sausages are surprisingly flavorful, tender, and spicy, served with roasted mushrooms and a rich red wine sauce over the creamy, luscious mashed potatoes. It was also served piping hot, which is a rarity these days. While it’s technically the least expensive entree offered, I wouldn’t let that deter you from making it your selection. Rose & Crown has always done these two signature dishes very well – the rest of the menu is typically a gamble.
Next up is the $27 “Pan-roasted Scottish Salmon – Fresh Kale, Red and Green Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Shallot and White Beans with a Root Vegetable Bubble and Squeak on a White Bean-smoked Bacon Sauce. ” The fish is nice and flaky with a light crispiness around the outside – we thought it was salty and over-seasoned, but some of that was cut by the refreshing, cold, crunchy salad that accompanies it. The Bubble and Squeak, which is a fried mound of vegetables, provided a nice textural contrast to the softer fish and added quite a bit of heft to the meal, along with what basically amounts to a power salad. This is a good choice for someone looking for a meal that’s potentially on the lighter side of things. For me, this probably comes in last on my list, but that may come down to the fact that I prefer pub classics.
Finally, we have the “Corned Beef and Cabbage – Traditional Irish Braised Corned Beef with Steamed Cabbage, Carrots, and Red Potatoes served with Stone Ground Mustard Sauce.” It might not look like it, but there’s a ton of tender, meaty corned beef here smothered in a deliciously tangy mustard sauce. The Frisée helps cut some of the intensely salty flavor of the beef alongside a heaping pile of roasted sweet potato hash.
From the back, you can see more of the corned beef hiding underneath the lettuce along with a couple of hearty red potatoes that probably could have used some more salt on their own. That might have been overkill though. It was incredibly filling, particularly after the cheese starter and I appreciated that the beef wasn’t too fatty.
A beer with dinner, here with the beautiful Half & Half.
And a Golden – Half Harp and Half Bass.
A word on timing. Our entrees were served shortly before IllumiNations started, which seemed like a bit of a bummer to either eat during the show or wait for the food to cool more. Fortunately, IllumiNations does offer that spinning globe interlude that’s probably long enough to eat all three courses in succession. We were also seated at a table with an umbrella, which was put down about 15 minutes before the show started. That made it difficult to converse with our table mates, which, when you’re dining with Tom Corless, may not be such a bad thing. But it was a little bit annoying to have to careen my head around to make fun of him every now and again for about 40 minutes of the meal, particularly when it’s during the show and the main course. We also may have taken a little longer than most to get through our appetizers and drinks with the whole photography thing, but I didn’t see anyone with dessert during IllumiNations, which is how I would want the meal to be timed if I was setting up the itinerary myself. If they had started at 7:30pm, dessert could easily be served around 8:45pm, which seems like it would be perfect.
While the bottom level is reserved for Dining Package guests, the upper level is still open to regular diners and if you do manage to pull a 7:30pm or 8pm reservation, you may luck into sitting out here just as you could before the Dining Package took over the lower level.
We were disappointed with our view. There’s a tall hedge in the way.
Which makes it difficult to see what’s happening on the water.
It also “felt” like we were a good distance from the action, perhaps in part due to the barrier.
IllumiNations is not a difficult show to see these days.
And while the event is billed as a way to say goodbye to IllumiNations, we thought the view was considerably worse than dozens of other viewing locations.
If you’re serious about the show, I recommend using FastPass+. With more than a thousand experiences offered every night, it’s common to see cancellations made throughout the day, making it relatively easy to acquire FP+ as a late afternoon or evening pickup, after first using FP+ at Soarin’, Test Track, Frozen Ever After, or other priorities. Of course, if you don’t want to risk it, you can book in advance.
The Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party, which I review here, also offers a much better view, in addition to a private ride on Frozen Ever After following the show. The Dessert Party is also less expensive than the Rose & Crown Dining Package.
Here’s the view from the second level balcony. You can see over the hedge, but the roof obscures some of the fireworks bursts.
During the show, these umbrellas will be put down, making the view the best of both words from the center balcony seats on the upper level.
Personally, I didn’t mind that a couple of tables potentially enjoyed better views than we did, despite paying a premium to guarantee our view. There’s maybe a 5% chance that you’d luck into one of these prime tables. If you want to try, I’d make a reservation around 7:45pm, show up at 7:30pm, and put in the request at check-in. But there’s still a good chance that you’ll be seated inside or elsewhere on the upper balcony.
The “Pudding Platter – A trio of Rose & Crown’s favorites featuring Sticky Toffee Pudding, English Trifle, and Chocolate Nougat Bar” is a lot of fun, particularly with the chocolate Spaceship Earth topper on the Trifle. All three desserts are delicious and it’s a nice way to complete the meal.
Overall, the Rose & Crown Dining Package would not be my choice for a great way to send off IllumiNations due to a lackluster view. Sitting at a table, there’s also much less energy than you’ll “feel” seeing the show with a few hundred other people in close proximity. On the other hand, if you come hungry and looking to enjoy a few drinks with dinner, you can get your money’s worth. We had a fabulous time enjoying unlimited drinks and a full meal knowing that everything was already paid for. On a cool evening, the setting on the water is incredibly pleasant. It was also nice relaxing and eating dessert while the Park was clearing out around us. By the time we left around 9:45pm, there were only a handful of other guests around, making for a much easier exit than joining thousands of others headed to the buses.
While I would book the Dining Package again, it wouldn’t be for IllumiNations. Curiously, Disney uses the above image to advertise the event along with the promise of “incredible views.” It’s a picture taken from a private party next door, which seems a bit like false advertising. That view is far superior as there’s nothing blocking the view of the globe…spinning endlessly…forever…at least through the end of summer 2019.
We’ll see what’s next.