The last day of your trip. You know the one – exciting at the start, but you know it’ll be bittersweet at the end. The day where you try to come up with a way to sell off most of your belongings, ditch your responsibilities, and come up with a way to talk your family into moving to Orlando so you can go to the parks all the time. And live on property. And get paid to go to the parks all the time.
It was a great day. Since we’re from the south, we’re used to the heat, and it was plenty hot. But the crowds were pretty light for early May, and we managed to do many of the things we’d wanted to one last time at Magic Kingdom.
One thing eluded us – an opening at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
It’d been 12 years since we’d first visited the Castle. At the time, we had a four year old and two year old, and by a ridiculous stroke of luck, managed to get some amazing alone time with Cinderella during Wishes. We still talk about that night.
We’ve been to Walt Disney World a few times since, but never again tried to get in to Cinderella’s Royal Table – too many other things to do, whatever. But this time we had another little girl on her first trip (since that trip 12 years ago, we’ve been blessed with 2 more girls), so we really wanted to visit the Castle again.
We didn’t have the typical 180+ day window to get an ADR since we decided in January that we were going in May. Unsurprisingly, ADRs for Cinderella’s Royal Table were GONE when we started trying. And, as I’m sure you’ve all experienced, the Cast Members on the reservation line were very nice, tried their best to help us, and most importantly, told us to keep trying – even on our trip. But Cinderella’s Royal Table was booked – solid.
As our trip approached, I checked to see if there were openings – every day. On the phone, on the My Disney Experience app, at the resort front desk (which paid off because that’s how I got the After Hours passes).
The sun was setting, and we made our way to Frontierland to stake out a spot to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. Who knew this would be our last time to see that parade? Maybe I’ll discuss park and show changes in a future post, but let’s just say I’m bummed about this one, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m always right when it comes to whether or not any of these changes are good decisions. I bet I’m not the only one to think this.
We were hungry, with no set plans for dinner. So I bought a turkey leg. I thought that would be it until a very late night run to the Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I wish I’d have shot video of that turkey leg disappearing. I thought there was going to be a fight.
My wife and I talked about it – why not try one last time for Cinderella’s Royal Table? So I called the Disney Dining hotline. Nothing like being on the phone while a parade is going by, but the Cast Member on the phone with me was very understanding. I got the feeling that she’d had similar conversations. Just another dad trying to inject a little more magic into a trip. No luck in the computer. The last reservation was at 10.
But a last ditch tip – go to the Cinderella’s Royal Table reception desk and see if there’s an open table. At this point, it was the last thing to try. I made my way along the back of the parade route (the parade was still ongoing), thinking I’d cut across to the Hub, go through the Castle, and get to the desk.
Nope – route closed.
I congratulated myself on my knowledge of the Magic Kingdom, thinking I’d take the walkway along the Castle’s west side, eliminating the need to go around the long way by Columbia Harbor House. The self congratulation ended as quickly as it began when I saw this route was blocked.
I was out of time – ropes were up around the Castle perimeter for Wishes. I had the sinking feeling that I’d have to break the news to my wife and kids that Dad couldn’t deliver on that last bit of magic. But I went around anyway – the long way back by Columbia Harbor House.
When I got to the Carousel, I saw the rope across the walkway, and I could see the reception table. I did the only thing I could do to get across the rope – told the Cast Member stationed there what I was doing and asked if I could get by, expecting a “Sorry sir, this area is restricted.” or something like that. But maybe the Cast Member recognized me as a contributor to this website and gave me sudden VIP status. Ok, maybe not. But the next thing you know, I was in and sprinting to the desk.
So what happened? I got us in. THE. LAST. TABLE.
That’s right – I came through and at the time (and now) am taking all the credit for this. I didn’t chest bump anyone, but internally I was cheering as if the Cubs had won the World Series.
Now all I had to do was talk my wife and kids through navigating the post MSEP traffic to the back of the Castle and through the rope barrier. No small achievement, given the noise levels and crowds. But they made it.
What followed was a trip back in time and new memories. If you’ve experienced Cinderella’s Royal Table you know what kind of memorable experience it is. If you’ve never had the experience, I highly recommend it. Is it expensive – yep, but at the same time I think well worth it, if only to see how your kids react.
Being in the Castle while Wishes is going on is a pretty unique experience. Some of the views aren’t the greatest, but it’s the idea more than anything. The Cinderella, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, and Snow White meet n’ greets are great photo opportunities. It’s also another great place to hang onto moments where your kids (or you!) aren’t grown up. Even the older kids were into the experience. Every once in a while I hear or read about disinterested teenagers on Disney trips. I’m happy to say we’ve avoided that so far. I hope that continues.
I almost forgot! We had food too! Here’s the mandatory restaurant review (that’s not what this is, and I’m not qualified to do that anyway) food picture:
I’ll summarize by saying I enjoyed my dinner and dessert and the overall experience. Is it overpriced? That’s a tough question to answer – in the literal sense, yes. I don’t like how young children all of a sudden become adults when it comes to meal charges, and the bill for the 6 of us was impressive. But let’s face it – pretty much everything at Disney is expensive, but for good reason. Whether it’s the park experience, food, whatever, the product has been excellent for us. So the overarching question each guest or family has to ask is whether or not the value is there. When examined in total, for us the answer was a resounding yes. I mean, where else can you take a small child, meet storybook and film characters in real life, and eat inside THE castle?
Later, we made our way of a fairly empty Magic Kingdom for the last bus ride to the resort. Saying goodbye to the Magic Kingdom was sad, as it always is, but a little less so this time because of the magical late night hours we’d spent in Cinderella’s Castle. We still talk about it, and I expect we will for years to come.
The bottom line is this: your trip’s not over until it’s over, and don’t give up on getting into tough venues until it really is too late. As much as I love the My Disney Experience app or calling the Disney Dining people, the Cast Members at the restaurants are the ones with real time knowledge of openings. And they’ll try to get you in.
Do you have a memorable story for getting into a hard to get dining experience, or do you have a Cinderella’s Royal Table story you’d like to share? Send it in!