What’s officially called “Tiana’s Riverboat Party – Ice Cream Social & Viewing Party” debuted on November 29th, 2016 and your resident character enthusiast and “all-around swell guy” departed his cave deep in the mountains very early in the morning to attend the first event.
The Party, which is now part of a smorgasbord of upcharge events that Disney is calling its “Enchanting Extras Collection” will run you $49 per adult and $29 per child ages 9 and under. At this time, the blogger tax is not in effect though no discounts are offered and advance payment is required. As usual, there is still a 1-day cancellation policy that means as long as you cancel the day before, your money will be refunded. Spoiler: At the conclusion of this review, I’m guessing there are going to be a number of calls made.
The “Enchanting Extra” is offered every day, currently including dates when Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade will be offered from December 23rd through the 31st. Unlike the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party, availability for this one is wide open with every date that I checked showing availability. They were also offering space to those that walked up and asked what was going on. The Party otherwise closes the Riverboat to regular guests from 1:20pm to 4pm. “Yes hello, it’s 50 bucks to ride the Riverboat now.”
Check-in for the event begins 45 minutes before Parade time, which is usually 2:15pm.
Once the cast member checks your name against the list (if you’re like me and have to use an alias, remember to double check which one you’re using), you’ll be on your way into the ice cream line.
You might arrive in line, which winds down to the left of Riverboat Landing where you would ordinarily board Liberty Square Riverboat, about ten minutes before they start checking in guests. There is not a big rush, but there are few tables and you’ll have your choice if you’re among the first in line.
There are three Edy’s ice cream flavors and one sorbet available, each of which is already scooped into an individual bowl and served out of an industrial refrigerator set to 33 degrees. Also note the three desserts that are coming up next.
This station is where you’ll pick up a trio of desserts along with a tray to carry your treasures.
On the left is the Chocolate Cookie Sandwich, which is topped with a chocolate frog. An ode to Harry Potter perhaps. I thought the soft, crumbly cookie had a bit of holiday spice to it with the sugar crystals on top. In the middle is a Yellow Sponge Cupcake topped with green buttercream frosting. The base had the appropriate sponginess and tasted like it had just come out of the oven with a nice sweet buttercream frosting on top. The Creamed Filled [sic?] Tart decorated with buttercream Icing was not particularly tart, but had a nice lemon-y flavor inside of a cute little crust.
Overall, there wasn’t a great variety of options, but as we’ll get to in a moment, the space is quite cramped and there really isn’t room for a larger spread where people can pick and choose from among many more options.
You might remember that this was the spread for the Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party at Hollywood Studios. That one is only $19 more and in addition to way more food, also includes alcohol. The Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! version even includes unlimited beer and wine, in addition to several cocktails.
Here at Magic Kingdom, your drink choices are cans of Diet Coke, Coca Cola Classic, Sprite, and Dasani.
Typically, seeing “drink” after the name of something that is obviously a drink is an indication that none of the ingredients that you would expect are present. And that’s exactly what we get with this “lemonade drink,” which is water, aspartame, and tartrazine. It’s quite sweet and artificial tasting.
Back to the ice cream, for most people the best part of the food service is the toppings bar.
Here, you can pile the gummy worms high and add whatever other accoutrements seem fitting. The toppings are colorful and of grocery store quality.
Here’s the setup.
During the first 30 minutes of the event, the dock area is quite cramped, despite not a lot of people being in attendance. At least during the first Party, guests weren’t allowed onto the Riverboat until around 2:45pm and there were only about seven high top tables set up to accommodate what was probably about 50 people. Everyone will have an opportunity to spread out come boarding time and if you feel rushed through your first ice cream topping experience, just wait a few minutes for everyone to pass. Like most buffet-style dessert parties, the goodies area will be wide open after the first 15 minutes and the regret starts setting in.
Naveen does not ordinarily meet guests anymore now that Tiana has moved to Princess Fairytale Hall, so this is the only opportunity to see the two characters together outside of the Halloween/Christmas Parties.
The first of two opportunities to meet the pair is located on the dock prior to boarding. Waits should be under five minutes and both characters are particularly charming – happy to pose for a “quick picture for the internet” or take a few moments to make a child feel special.
Part of the speed is that the characters don’t sign autographs, instead cast distribute these cards.
So your first 30-45 minutes of the Riverboat Party will be spent on the crowded dock, enjoying ice cream and other treats with the opportunity to meet the characters in a designated area if you wish.
Up next is the “Parade Viewing” portion of the event on the Riverboat as guests can board at their leisure.
Here you will be presented with your second snack opportunity at the old bar area inside the Riverboat.
It’s a nice setup with a variety of ice cream novelties, snacks, and beverages.
The popcorn is your typical Disney style, gussied up in this precious packaging and offering the familiar salty and buttery taste of Pop Secret™.
A colorful candy popcorn is also available – this tasted like sweet kettle corn though it was a little light on the sugar and a little heavy on the oil – still fun with the purple and green kernels and the bow on top of the bag.
Having been on the 3pm Liberty Square Riverboat a number of times during the afternoon Parade, I was interested in how Disney was going to make viewing work. This picture is actually from the beginning of this month and you can see the first float rolling through Frontierland as the boat veers off towards Big Thunder Mountain. Or at least you could if the trees weren’t there and the boat was closer to shore.
And the answer to the question is that Disney really doesn’t. This is a panorama of the full viewing area from the top deck from what is the best possible view towards the back.
The further you get to the front, the more trees you’re going to see. Once you pick up your snacks head up here to the red underlined area if you do attend.
I “joked” via Twitter that the Riverboat viewing felt like everyone else had paid to see the Parade and since we hadn’t, they stuck us way out on a barge.
This is basically what the eye sees from the boat – even if there weren’t a variety of trees blocking the view, we’d still be an awfully far distance away from the action with no ability to interact with any of the characters or performers.
Zooming in along with a few more pictures:
The “VIP Parade Viewing,” which I feel like is an integral part of the marketing and what the Party is supposed to offer, is easily the weakest part of the event. This is absolutely not the way most guests will want to experience the Parade for the first time. It would make a lot more sense to tape off a dedicated viewing area in Liberty Square. Guests could enjoy their treats from the boat dock from 2:15pm to 2:50pm, at which point Disney would walk attendees to their VIP Parade Viewing. Then guests could return to the Riverboat after the Parade for the ride around with Tiana. But nobody asks me these things.
I laughed when Tom posted this picture of the boat out on the water from his vantage point on the ground. Just like we can’t see him, he can’t see us.
So I wouldn’t book the Riverboat Party specifically for the Parade view unless for some reason you want or need to see it from further away. The audio up there is also garbage so you can’t really hear the music either. Honestly, I can’t really see the event continuing with this as the view and I’m not sure if anybody actually watched it from the boat before slapping a $49 price tag on it. Children were literally crying around us over the frustration of seeing Mickey so far away. I can’t comment on whether I joined them.
Editor comment: He absolutely did.
At the conclusion of the Parade, Tiana and Naveen return to the Riverboat to take a cruise around the Rivers of America. They first lead a quick lap/parade around the lower level.
The characters are then again static at the front of the boat offering a second meet and greet. Waits were again typically under five minutes – longer at the start and just one or two groups in line at the end. Be in line by the time the boat takes its last turn towards the dock to be sure there’s enough time to get to the front.
There’s one last opportunity for snacks – Sprite, Coca Cola, Diet Coke, Water, Popcorn, Apple Slices, and Pretzels. Cast were also distributing snacks throughout the Parade – I must have been offered snacks and drinks four or five times over the course of 15 minutes. “No, I just want to be able to see the Parade!”
ENOUGH!!!! IS IT WORTH IT OR NOT?????
For $49/adult and $29/child you get:
- Two Meet and Greets with Tiana and Naveen – Naveen does not ordinarily meet and Tiana is usually indoors at Princess Fairytale Hall.
- Unlimited sundaes, ice cream treats, the desserts offered, cans of soda/12-ounce Dasani bottles, snacks, and lemonade drink.
- An objectively poor view of the afternoon parade, usually Festival of Fantasy.
- A ride around on the Riverboat with virtually nobody else around.
If Tiana and Naveen are your favorite characters then there may be some marginal value here in two relatively intimate meet and greets with unique backgrounds, in addition to the other amenities offered. But with such a poor view of the Parade, it’s hard to recommend the Party to most visitors. Festival of Fantasy is not terribly difficult to see as long as you’re willing to find spots 20 to 30 minutes before it steps off in Frontierland. The area in front of Main Street Confectionery is ordinarily wide open at 3pm and the view would be considerably better than from the Riverboat. Add a soda/water and the treat of your choice from there, Main Street Bakery, or elsewhere, and you’d have a superior parade experience for about eight bucks a person. Cast members were actively encouraging guests to take snacks “for the road,” but you’d have to stuff your pockets pretty full of water bottles to approach break even.
If you’re concerned about seeing the Parade, Disney offers reserved viewing along with a fixed price 3-course meal at Tony’s Town Square for less money:
Tony’s doesn’t come highly recommended, but this is $4 cheaper/adult and $12/less expensive for kids and includes a full meal – you could order the $15 calamari, $34 steak, and $8 dessert and actually come out “ahead.”
And the viewing area in the Hub is among the best with the characters coming straight towards you.
So no, I am going to say that for 99% of people, Tiana’s Riverboat Party is not a good value in its current state. If the “VIP Parade View” is improved, then the value would increase. But the dessert spread is still limited compared to similar offerings for other events – Wishes Dessert Party has about 30 different selections, for example, including ice cream. And the initial holding area at the Dock is cramped and mildly uncomfortable.
You can’t, however, attribute the same dollar value to every individual for the meet and greets. You could make a decent argument that the drinks and unlimited snacks are worth $20. That’s a little high, but if you’re trying to rationalize the cost, I’ll allow it. That would put the Tiana/Naveen interaction at $15 on the dock and $15 on the boat multiplied by however many people are in your party. Over the course of a $4,000 vacation, this may be where you want to splurge – sign the bill and forget it. It’s what Walt wanted.