Thursday, April 30, 2009

disney dining reservations - another visitor dismayed by 90 days

From Reader Ben:

We're currently planning our summer trip to WDW for this year. We booked
a room at the Yacht Club (mostly for its proximity to Epcot), but were
later offered a much less expensive room at the Swan. We have kept the
Yacht Club reservation for now in case the rate goes down (in this
climate, one never knows what deal might appear), since we don't have to
cancel it until July 4th. This will become important in a moment.

Anyway, last week I started mulling over what restaurants we might want
to eat at, seeing as the 90 day reservation limit was approaching. On
our last big trip in 2007 I made the reservations a full 180 days in
advance, back when the limit was as such. I don't do so because I seek
to control and pre-plan every aspect of our visit (quite the opposite)-
but because I know it will be a hassle to get a table without a
reservation and that furthermore the best reservations (or, in some
cases, all reservations) get booked up quickly, especially now that the
booking window is halved.

So today I called up with my list of restaurants and times- 89 days in
advance of our arrival. After going through the extensive automated menu
system, I was finally granted a live cast member. First I was asked for
my hotel confirmation number, which I assumed was merely so that the
reservations could be synced in the system to our hotel reservation, or
if we had the Disney Dining Plan, that, and so forth.

In fact, however, there was more to it than that. It seems that under
the new system (which, the cast member informed me, has only been in
place for two weeks), Disney Resort guests can make reservations 90 days
plus 10 days in advance. This means that one can call up 90 days in
advance of your stay and then make reservations for your entire visit.

I, however, was staying at the Walt Disney World Swan, and this, I was
told, did not count as a "Disney" resort as such. While Swan and Dolphin
guests are usually bestowed most of the perks of Disney owned resorts,
such as the ability to enjoy Extra Magic Hours, this was not one of
them. As a result, I could only make reservations for the first and
second days of my 10 day trip, which fell in the 90 day window.

The idea that I would have to call back every day and make the
reservations one at a time was a tad annoying, but not so much an issue.
The bigger problem was that resort guests (who, I would assume. make up
the vast majority of those who make such reservations far in advance)
would have a 10 day jump on me, and there was as such a much greater
chance those choice reservations would be unavailable by the time my
booking window rolled around.

It occurred to me at this point, however, that I still had my Yacht Club
reservation. Using the confirmation number of that, I was able to make
the rest of my reservations.

I suppose the most obvious interpretation of this is that it is yet
another reason to stay at a Disney resort- a fair perk they can offer
and another layer of the "Destination Disney" program. Between the
shorter reservation window and the 10 day head-start for resort guests
in the know (this fact, after all, was not listed on the WDW website as
far as I could find, only the 90 day window), this means it will be even
more difficult to get dining reservations, especially for those cases
where restaurants overlook fireworks such as the California Grill, and
for the Fantasmic! dinner package. It is easy to foresee, as well, that
those enterprising souls who make their reservations as early as
possible will start calling 100 days in advance and making their
reservations one day at a time, so that many reservations will be
snapped up even once the publicized 90 day window rolls around. Thus it
will go from a convenience of being able to make all of one's
reservations at once to a further inconvenience.

While I can't blame Disney for the rule, or call it unfair, other than
the fact that it doesn't seem well publicized, it is definitely another
step in a bad direction for the average WDW guest trying to get a table
at a restaurant.