Let’s get this out of the way first: Is it really worth three HUNDRED dollars a pop to have breakfast in a Jungle Cruise show scene? Nope. And all the other guests we talked to were just as sheepish as we were—every single one said they’d justified it as an early Christmas/birthday/anniversary present. But was it pretty dang cool? Yep!
From September 21–December 2, Disney is offering the chance to eat on the set of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise ride before park opening, followed by a “private” ride. Like everyone else, my first thought was, “For $300, those Mickey waffles better be plated in GOLD!” I told Patrick about it with a smirk but was surprised when he got all excited and asked if we could go.
Me: “I said three HUNDRED dollars each, not THREE dollars each!”
Patrick: “PLEEAAAASE?! It’ll be my birthday present!”
Me: “Your birthday’s in June.”
Patrick: “It’ll be YOUR birthday present!”
Patrick: “It’ll be our early Christmas/birthday/anniversary present…?”
Me: [Graciously acknowledging that last year I got a whole trip to Walt Disney World and Wizarding World of Harry Potter as my birthday present] “*SIGH!!!!* Ohhhh-kaaaaaaay, I guess….”
The tour starts at 6:30am in the lobby of the Grand Californian hotel. I got grumpier with each additional group that showed up to check in. $300 buys a lot of entitlement, and this “extremely limited” tour was looking more and more like a cattle call! We ended up with 26 people—not a huge group, but large enough that you had to be sure to stick close to the guide if you wanted to hear everything.
I got even grumpier when they surprised us with a Photopass photographer to document our every move. I get that they wanted to relieve us of the burden of documenting our excursion, but a little warning would have been nice for those of us who tend to shatter camera lenses sans makeup. (And we all spent just as much time straggling and snapping our own photos as we would have otherwise—I think it’s a modern instinct that can’t be overcome by any number of Photopass photographers.)
From the Grand Californian, they walked us through Downtown Disney and into Disneyland via the front gate. They told us we couldn’t take pictures til we got to the ride, except for a quick detour to snap the castle with nobody in front of it.
They led us through half of the Indiana Jones queue, then turned left just before the Spike Room to walk through a massive set of doors directly onto the Jungle Cruise.
This is where we were introduced to our classically Disney-campy tour guide, a game young woman sporting safari garb and a tenuous British accent. Her natural comedic talent did manage to shine through the pure corn the show writers had saddled her with, though. As soon as she said the word, Patrick and I sprinted onto the set to try for people-free photos of the breakfast setup (apologies for the slightly blurry photos on account of, you know, sprinting!)
As we approached the savanna, waiters handed us glasses of some exotic combo of fruit juices.
This person who is not our guide was one of several extra escorts that morning. I thought the faux record player spinning ’20s and ’30s tunes was a great touch.
I would estimate that we all spent about 75% of our time running around snapping pictures and only 25% eating the meal we were there for.
As the servers took our drink orders, our guide went around helping everyone choose “jungle names” (say hello to Patrick Parrot and Scary Carrie!) and passing out cards containing sections of the standard Jungle Cruise spiel. There were blank lines on the back for us to write in our own jokes, but most of us found our senses of humor were not awake at that early hour.
Hey lookit that amazing succulent!!!
Oh yeah, also a boat went by…
Patrick sacrificed more of his breakfast time than anybody to bring you this unnatural nature photography!
As if hyenas weren’t scary enough in real life….
Breakfast was interesting… I guess Disney was danged if they did and danged if they didn’t. They knew the Internet was alight with comments about $300 Mickey waffles, so they tried to give us something swanky and exotic to justify the price. But it simply could not be executed properly in a catered setting. Most everything was doused in the same vaguely African spice blend, like a poor man’s version of a meal at Jiko. I didn’t think it was terrible, but Patrick was rather indignant when he got back to the table and discovered that was all we were getting.
Exotic Fruit & Chia Parfait
Locally Sourced Duck Sausage, Exotic-spiced Pork Belly, Also Exotically Spiced Hash, and Exotic-spiced Cheesy Eggy Stuff
Little did we know what they were actually doing on that boat all morning was locally sourcing our duck sausage!
My exotic mushrooms, also attempting to escape…
But, of course, it wasn’t really about the food. It was about getting to explore inside the most elaborate show scene of an iconic opening-day attraction at Disneyland. And that was pretty rad. The exotically spiced cafeteria food was just a bonus!
In case you’ve ever wondered what the backside of giraffe looks like…
Here’s our guide hustling us off the savanna the moment the last exotic bite went down the hatch.
Out we went through the exit of Indiana Jones, past the queue and around to the exit of the Jungle Cruise.
They split us into three groups and put us on three boats. We each took turns having our photos taken with the skipper before we departed, so that the souvenir picture would be ready when we got back.
The idea was that at certain points in the ride the skipper would cue the person holding the appropriate spiel card and s/he would read it or their own joke. So what “getting behind the wheel of your own boat to recite that famous spiel” actually means is “riding on a boat with eight other people while you take turns mumbling into a microphone.”
One neat thing was that we paused longer at each of the show scenes, so there was a better chance of getting photos in focus. And it did feel like we had the jungle all to ourselves at that early hour.
Looks like a nice place to have breakfast!
Even the hippos were just waking up…
They let us go around again, and we each got new cards to read. This time the folks on our boat were more loosened up. I think Disney should probably not make us do the cards until the second go-round, because on the first trip everyone’s still shy.
I got to pass around the microphone, which made me feel pretty dang special, and for the first time I could really get into the cornball antics. I even ad libbed my line when we reached the boat piled high with skulls (tip: screaming “OH MY GOD, IT’S A BOAT FULL OF HUMAN SKULLS—SAVE YOURSELVES!!!” on an 8am excursion elicits only blank stares).
At the end of the tour, we all signed the guest book and picked up our keepsakes, which were packaged in wooden crates with our photos affixed to one side.
I hadda steal this pic of the keepsake off eBay cuz I don’t remember where we put ours. Though, judging by what these babies are selling for, I’d better figure it out quick—we could make back our investment!
We had to wait for a guide to escort us out of the park because it was still closed. Time for a hammy photo!
All of us dragged out feet on the way out so we could get more people-free shots of Disneyland.
So I guess I’d say if you have the money lying around, don’t really want anything else for your Christmas/birthday/anniversary present, or are willing to gamble on recouping the cost by selling the souvenir they give you on eBay, book this tour before it’s over!