It must have been the spoon full of sugar I’d put in my tea because when I looked up I was taking breakfast with Mary Poppins.
But then I was in Walt Disney World in Florida, a place where dreams come true.
Judging by the look on the faces of my fellow diners as we tucked into our meal alongside Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck and Miss Poppins, I’d say objective achieved.
That morning at the Cape May Cafe in Disney’s Beach Club Resort set the standard for what was to come.
I’d been to Disney before but this time was there to find out more about the dining offer across the parks and hotels.
To be honest, I’d heard about the Disney Dining Plan but never really understood it. After all, there are loads of places to eat on every park so why bother worrying about it before you go?
Part of the answer came later that day in the Magic Kingdom where, after a morning riding The Seven Dwarves Mine Train, battling the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion and taking endless pictures outside the iconic castle, it was time for lunch at Be Our Guest.
We’re in Beauty and the Beast territory here with the restaurant designed to recreate the Beast’s castle.
It’s jaw-droppingly good and the food simple and plentiful.
No visit to the Magic Kingdom would be complete without witnessing its night-time show of fireworks and projections played out against the backdrop of the castle.
Happily Ever After is new this year, an interweaving of stories, clips and music. It’s also lump-in-throat good.
Being a journalist I asked how much the fireworks cost. I was told, in true Disney style, you can’t put a price on happiness.
Neither can you put a price on a great lunch after a hard morning enjoying yourself Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot.
It’s a well-established ride that’s had an impressive reboot, a multi-passenger flight simulator which takes you on a thrilling aerial tour of the globe.
Back on firm ground, our party stopped off in Japan for something to eat in the guise of Teppan Edo. Here, food was prepared traditionally just inches away from diners on a tableside grill, our chef bringing drama and excitement courtesy of some sharp knives and sharper banter.
I’m not hugely familiar with Japanese food but this was spectacular.
Little wonder some of the best Japanese chefs in the world work here but, again, demand is high and it’s worth checking out the menu in advance to know what you’re spending – another advantage to being on the Disney Dining plan.
I’m not a big fan of big drops on rides, so what possessed me to go on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios I’ll never know.
Still, my stomach had settled just enough to enjoy dinner that evening at The Hollywood Brown Derby, a place awash with classic movie decor and serving staff who knew the menu inside out and were happy to chop and change dishes on request.
If shopping is your thing check out Disney Springs. The massive outdoor complex combines retail heaven with great bars, restaurants and entertainment.
We tried The Boathouse, a waterfront steak and seafood place with great wines (make sure you take ID) and a great atmosphere.
All the eateries here come under the Disney Dining Plan so it’s straightforward enough to book where and when you want to eat while keeping abreast of your ‘credits’ – that’s the system used in the plan to help you keep track as each eaterie attracts a certain number of credits depending on what it offers.
You can ‘save’ credits too – so if you fancy a top end restaurant one night you can save them up day to day. Just adjust your dining choice accordingly.Ideal for budgeting your holiday money in advance.
This year has seen a number of new rides and experiences introduced across Disney, but none more eagerly anticipated than Pandora – The World of Avatar.
A brand new ‘land’ created within the Animal Kingdom, the centre-piece is Flight of Passage, an augmented reality flight simulator.
This is as thrilling an experience as you’ll get at Disney, soaring over oceans, across plains and mountains and through forests.
It is utterly beautiful and, for my money, now the gold standard in theme park rides.
Earlier, we’d eaten at Boma – Flavours of Africa at the Animal Kingdom LodgeDisney hotels have excellent food options from buffet service to high end dining – our hotel for our stay, the Grand Floridian was outstanding.
Boma, though, was one of my favourites and made for a varied and interesting breakfast. Satu’lil Canteen meanwhile in The World of Avatar offered quick, efficient service and some great salads – perfect to load up on ahead of the park’s new after dark entertainment, Rivers of Light.
Soon enough it was time to come home – slightly heavier than when I left thanks to the fantastic food I’d tried.
Time to cut out that spoonful of sugar. Sorry Mary.
Disney Dining bookings for 2019
Britons booking a 2019 holiday to Walt Disney World in Florida can now get free dining for the duration of their stay, when booking with Attraction Tickets Direct. The offer provides savings of up to £2,072 for a family of four, on meals, drinks and snacks over a two-week holiday.
The offer launched in April and runs until late 2018, valid on 2019 bookings only. Bookings for a minimum of 5 nights in a Disney on-site hotel plus theme park tickets are eligible for the offer. The level of free dining is commensurate with the level of hotel booked, details as follows, with savings based on a family of four sharing one room, for 14 nights in value season:
- Value hotel – free breakfast per guest, per day, saving up to £532
- Moderate hotel – free Quick Service Dining Plan per guest, per day, saving up to £1512
- Deluxe hotel or villa – free Disney Dining Plan per guest, per day, saving up to £2,072
Call 0808 271 4453 or visit www.attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk for further information.