We’ve had a chance to see World of Color at Disney California Adventure twice using Disney’s World of Color Dinner Packages with Preferred Viewing. The following are mini trip reports comparing the two restaurants that offer these packages: Ariel’s Grotto and Wine Country Trattoria. Note that reserved viewing for World of Color is also offered by Carthay Circle, but there is not set menu; you must order one entree and either a dessert or an appetizer per person.
Wine Country Trattoria – 6/12/10
I thought I’d do a quick write-up of our experience with the Preferred Viewing Dining Package being offered for World of Color. It feels a little unfair, since we went on Day 2 and they seem to be changing things daily, but here’s what our experience was…
We made a reservation for Wine Country Trattoria at 4pm—the very first seating—because initially the dining cast members were saying that even if you had a reservation and paid for the set meal, you might not get tickets to the WOC preferred viewing area if walk-up diners before you ordered off the set menu and qualified for tickets too. (I don’t think this is still the case—at dinner last night we heard them tell a pair of walk-ups that only people with a WOC dining package reservation could order off the WOC menu and get the tickets.)
We picked Wine Country Trattoria even though it was more expensive than Ariels’ Grotto because, back in the day, the upstairs restaurant was the park’s one fine dining location and quite good. However, we found last night that now both upstairs and downstairs are devoted to the same aggressively mediocre fare.
A few days after we made our reservation, we got a call from Disney Dining saying they’d overbooked and were moving us to 4:10pm. Not sure how that worked out for them, since we showed up at 3:55pm, checked in and were seated right away (although the kitchen resets between 3:30 and 4:00, so if you try to check in earlier, they smirk at you and tell you to come back closer to 4:00).
The menu had already changed from what we were told we’d be getting when we made our reservation. They dropped the mixed appetizer plate in favor of a pile of greens with a few crumbs of gorgonzola on it. What they didn’t drop was the price of the meal, and when you consider that Ariel’s still offers a full appetizer platter and is cheaper, it kinda stinks.
The other thing they did which just makes me laugh is change “New York Steak” on the menu to simply “New York” to cover their patooties so they can change the cut of meat as needed. What I got resembled cheap Las Vegas buffet prime rib.
The worst part was dessert, which consisted of two tiny coffee-flavored chocolate cakes, some fruit doused in balsamic vinegar, and two nasty panna cotta “shots” covered in a layer of bitter limoncello liqueur.
At the end of dinner they brought us our tickets with the bill. When I called the dining line to make another dining reservation (this time for Ariel’s) I was told that a 15% gratuity would automatically be added to our bill—but it wasn’t last night. We used our Premium APs to get 15% off, but with the tip we still spent more than $80 on a meal that tasted no better than what you’d get at the French Market counter-service restaurant in Disneyland.
The tickets we got for the 9pm show said to arrive at Paradise Park between 7:30pm and 8:30pm and that “early and late arrivals will not be accommodated.” Disney really doesn’t want people lining up hours ahead of time, but these are Disney fans we’re talking about here…
So, at about 6:30pm there were a couple hundred people milling around this spot pretending not to be lining up for World of Color:
A little before 7pm they put up barricades across the walkway, from the bridge to the future home of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, with two breaks in them. They said they were going to let us line up at the entrances to each colored area and we’d be there another 15 or 20 minutes before they let us into the park.
Two problems: 1) The Preferred Viewing dining tickets do not have a color on them! 2) The colored lights people have been reporting were not turned on (or simply not visible) so you had no idea where to go even if you did know your color.
I had heard from the message boards that Preferred Viewing put us in the blue area, but nobody told us this. And do NOT ask where “dining” is without using the term “preferred” because they will send you to line up for the bridge viewing area! I had been at the front of the barricades, but by the time I had asked 5 different CMs where the preferred viewing area was and decided 3 out of 5 must mean “blue” was the right answer, I was at the back of a big crowd lined up for the blue section.
Preferred Dining ticket holders are in the round center section. (Note: They now call this the GREEN section, but there is no color given on your ticket.)
Hope that helps… The entrance to this section is halfway between the bridge and the Golden Zephyr. We all crammed in there for another 20 minutes until they began to let us into the park. So basically, don’t wait til 7:30pm to show up if you want your pick of spots. I’d say get there by 7:15pm at the latest. If you don’t care where you are within the viewing area, then 7:30pm is OK.
The first CM we came to took our tickets, so when we got to the CM directing people toward the Preferred Viewing area, we had no way to prove we were supposed to be there. Fortunately, he took our word for it. Don’t give up your tickets to the first CM you see!
There were actually two Preferred Viewing areas when we were there, and eventually they started referring to them as “wet” and “dry”… If you see the circular patio in this shot, that’s “wet” and the staircase and terrace behind it is “dry.”
We chose to stand at the top of the stairs in the “dry” section so that no one standing in front of us could block our view. It is pretty much dead center and a good spot if you want to see the full scope of the show, but I think next time we’ll just wear ponchos and get as close as we can so we can be figuratively AND literally immersed in the show.
OK, I didn’t want to put in any spoilers, but here’s one shot to show you how centered World of Color is when you’re in the Preferred Viewing Section.
Ariel’s Grotto – 6/19/10
OK, so it has been a week since our dud of a meal at Wine Country Trattoria and first viewing of World of Color. We went back and tried again this Saturday, but this time we ate at Ariel’s Grotto. We also noticed some changes to the WOC viewing process and tweaks to the areas, so I’ll give the full report.
When we called last week to reserve the WOC package at Ariel’s, the earliest time we could get was 5:20 pm and only if we ate on the patio. (They will tell you the patio is covered, but a good deal of it is in the sun at that hour.) We were also told that a gratuity would be automatically added to the bill. Neither of these things happened.
When we checked in at 5:15, we were asked whether we wanted to sit inside or outside (inside!) and given a pager. Five minutes later they took us downstairs.
At dinner, Ariel’s only serves World of Color packages, so you don’t have to ask for the special menu. We also didn’t get the idea that we might not have show tickets waiting for us at the end of our meal (something the dining CMs were originally scaring all of us with when packages first went on sale).
Our biggest complaint about doing the WOC package at Wine Country Trattoria besides the lackluster food was the reduced menu that cost more. Ariel’s is the exact opposite—if there are only 2 of you, they actually give you too much food! We got the same size tower o’ appetizers and trough o’ desserts they were giving parties of 4 people!
Our service was harried and slow, with long gaps. For some reason all of our waitress’ other tables were on the opposite side of the restaurant. If we hadn’t been in a hurry to go not line up for the show, I would have been pretty grumpy about the timing of the dishes. We started with bread and no drinks for about 5 more minutes. Then our entrees were delivered about 90 seconds after the ginormous Tower o’ Appetizers showed up, yet they were already cold. At the end we had to wait 10 minutes to get our credit card and final bill back.
However, I would still pick Ariel’s over Wine Country Trattoria any day. The food is Olive Garden quality, but at least there’s more food, a better variety to choose from, and what you get is pretty much what you expect. Plus you pay about 10 bucks less than you would at WCT when all is said and done. There’s something about WCT’s overreaching and under-delivering that just rubs me the wrong way!
For those who’ve wondered whether one can dine on the patio at Ariel’s and watch the first show, the answer from Disney is no: The patio is closed at 7:30 and all meals until the last service (8:30pm) are inside. In practice, we did see diners on the patio right up until the first show started (and then we just didn’t care anymore). However, they were way at the back (probably to avoid the spray), and their viewing angle on the show is off to the side and interrupted by the roof line:
It’s too bad they couldn’t make this work when they shoe-horned the show into the lagoon. Originally they’d talked about doing dining packages on Ariel’s patio, which would have been fabulous.
On our way out, we checked out the bar upstairs. As of April 2013, they no longer have a $10 cover or a 1-drink minimum for those who want to watch the show from the bar. Here’s the viewing angle:
After dinner, Patrick went to ride Mickey’s Fun Wheel to get some arial shots of Paradise Park for me, and I went over to the area where everyone was pretending not to be in line for the show. I sussed out where the entrances were for each of the different colors. They were slightly different—now they have a dedicated entrance just for Preferred Dining Package holders instead of lumping them in with Blue FASTPASS holders.
The CMs kept shouting “Folks, we are not lining up for the show yet! Come back in an hour!” Well, this was at 6:30pm, and at 7:03pm, they let us in. So don’t listen to ’em!
Here’s all of us pretending not to line up after the barricades were installed, around 6:60pm. There were a lot more of us than last week.
At 7:00pm, they made a small gap in the barricades and the crowd surged forward. I was first to the Preferred Dining Entrance! The area was delineated differently this time—the stairs we’d stood on last time were no longer part of Preferred Dining and now go to Blue FPs. The big circular area and the whole area in front up to the fence is for Preferred Dining. I made a beeline for the fence.
Last week this had been referred to as a “wet” zone, so we brought our ponchos. Maybe it was the wind, but we got no wetter than we had last week.
Another difference: The very front center section, in the splash zone, is now YELLOW FP, not Blue. The Blue Section is still a good view, but not dead center. For some reason, they didn’t let people in the Yellow section in until 15 or 20 minutes later, and it never really filled up til right near show time.
THE best map is by the DISBoard member HydroGuy:
We liked our view from this area MUCH better than last time. Although you had to turn your head a little bit to take in what was going on in either end, the view in front was centered and you could see all the effects on the water. I can tell why they removed the section we were in last time from the Preferred Viewing area.
During the pre-show, Mike Wazowski ended up stationed right in front of us, and I nearly got clocked every time he swung his arms!
The View of the Show
After the show…
A few shots of Glowfest