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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

The husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary in July during our trip to Walt Disney World (our 11th trip, too).  So, on the day of our anniversary we had special plans to attend Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show held Luau Cove at the Polynesian Resort;  a new experience for us at Walt Disney World.

The show is held Tuesday through Saturday with two shows nightly—5:15 pm and 8:00 pm.  The cost varies by age, category of seating, and time of year—peak travel times are more expensive.  Good news, gratuity is included.

Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Ages 10 and older
$69.99 - $73.99
   $62.99 - $66.99
   $58.99 - $62.99
Age 3 to 9
$35.99 - $39.99
   $30.99 - $32.99
   $29.99 - $31.99

The meal is served family style, with the salads, appetizers, and bread waiting for you when you arrive at your table.  The main course is served later which includes pulled pork, ribs, chicken, rice, and vegetables.  Dessert is also included—warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce.

Soft drinks, coffee, lemonade, and other non alcoholic beverages are also included with the meal.  Adult guests are also offered beer and wine or pay extra for other alcoholic beverages—remember to add the gratuity to drinks that are ordered beyond what is offered with the meal.

Oh, and then there is the show!  A story about an island girl leaving for the mainland so her “Ohana” (family) has a celebration to honor her and her heritage.  The last portion of the show is dedicated to the various tribal dances from islands across the South Pacific.  And, of course, the fire dancer!

We had an 8:00 pm reservation that we made 180 days prior to our trip, which is recommended.  Spirit of Aloha is an “Advanced Payment Required” dinner show, so we paid $221 in February for a meal we would eat in July.  The cost was for 3 adults and the $27 gratuity was a part of the total.  We were given a confirmation number and told to pick up our tickets at our Walt Disney World Resort Lobby Concierge. 

The husband went to the Concierge at our resort while I was taking care of the check-in details, so that we didn’t have to make another stop later in our stay.  He was given an envelope with a print out indicating our tickets, date, time, location, and confirmation number. 

It is recommended that you arrive 45 minutes prior to the show—that would be 7:15 pm then.  It is also recommended that you give yourself 90 minutes of travel time if coming from a different resort.  Okay, so we were at the bus stop at 6:00 pm at our resort waiting for a Magic Kingdom bus.  It wasn’t long before one arrived and we traveled to the Magic Kingdom, walked to the resort monorail line (it was raining by this time and I had the umbrella, so I wasn’t reading the signs as we walked up to the monorail station—good thing we were in the right line!)  We exited the resort monorail when it stopped at the Polynesian Resort and made our way down stairs to the first floor to check-in for the show.

The forecast that day had been for rain and I kept wondering if the show was going to be canceled or delayed.  I was told that I would be contacted if that happened.  Since I had our resort number programmed on my phone, I had called it a couple of times asking them to check if there were any notifications about the Spirit of Aloha show, each time with the answer of nothing has been noted as of yet.  So, with this news, we kept proceeding to our destination.

We arrived in PLENTY of time.  There is a check-in desk near the large windows especially for the show.

The photographers were setting up in the lobby—I understand that they usually set up near Luau Cove when weather isn’t an issue.

There was a line for guests checking in and then another line for guests getting their photos taken after they checked in.  It was difficult to figure out what was going on and Cast Members, including the photographers, seemed to think that the guests knew what they were doing, but WE didn’t.  I wanted someone to take charge and help people figure out where they were going and what to do.

After checking in and getting our photos taken, we were told to wait in the area or proceed to Luau Cove.  If it started raining and we were in the lobby area, we would be provided with rain gear to get us to the Cove.  Otherwise we were on our own. 

Okay, not having been to Luau Cove or seen it before, this made for an interesting gamble.  Was it covered?  Would we need rain gear?  Was it going to rain again? 

The rain had let up, so we started walking towards Luau Cove, following the signs along the path.  The path winds past most of the Polynesian Resort, the marina, until you get to Luau Cove which is almost all the way to the Grand Floridian.  Now that I have been there I can see the room from the monorail.

There was another waiting area that guests huddled in to protect themselves from the intermittent rain and wind.  We could see all of the tables set with our food all ready for us, but no one was being seated.  We also saw guests checking in for the dinner show at this location, rather than inside the lobby at the Poly.  They were told they could check in here, but had to proceed back to the main building to get their photo taken—if they wanted to.  And, some guests were checking in AND paying for their dinner at this location.  Maybe this was for the last minute folks.

A Cast Member “manning” the desk made a call asking for permission to sit guests sooner than 8:00 pm.  She said that the area was getting crowded.  It sure was!  She must have gotten an affirmative, as soon we were being seated and if memory serves it was by some sort of number system.  We were some of the first to be seated.

This is when arriving early paid off!  We had Category 1 reservations.  The seating chart is below.   

Well, I found out that the Category 1 tables are given away in order of the guests’ arrival.  Our table was in the front row.  Downside—we were freezing!  While the seating area is covered, fans were blowing.  I am guessing it is to keep the flies away since the food was already sitting out and/or to dry off parts of the stage area since it had been raining.  Either way, we tried not to shiver from the cold.  Who knew we would be cold in Florida in July—outside!?!  At some point, the fans did turn off.  I think it was when the show started and suddenly it was quiet and then we able to hear the show.

The salads, fruit, and bread were yummy.  And, we were hungry!  We don’t usually eat this late.  Our server took our drink order, and offered a kids friendly selection for the boy if he desired—chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, grilled chicken, or mahi mahi.  Since the boy is ten, he is considered an adult by Disney standards—ticket price, meal plan, etc.  But Disney does try to accommodate for those “adults” who may prefer something else to eat.  We did not order any alcoholic beverages beyond what was included with our meal.

The main course soon arrived—the show had not yet started.  The boy enjoyed the ribs.  Guests are also welcome to order more of any item.  So, if the mango slaw was a hit, then you are welcome to order more anytime during the meal.  Ours was the pineapple-coconut bread.  We kept it coming!

Finally, the show started or at least we thought it had.  It was an introduction of sorts with the story line, a song, an introduction to the characters.  And part of the story was about eating, so we were encouraged to eat up. 

That’s when the photographer people started to come around with the photos taken when guests checked in.  Since we had Photopass + our photo was included.  All we needed was a bag.  Others were trying to decide whether to pay $35 for the photos. 

The break in the show was just long enough for all of the photo sales.  And a bathroom break.  The bathroom is located in a small yellow building just outside the check-in area for Luau Cove.  The women’s side has 3 stalls and is definitely not handicap accessible. 

Back to the show.  More of the story.  More songs.  As far as audience participation went, guests were encouraged to stand up at their tables and learn a few moves.  A big concrete gap was between the performers and the audience and that gap was never breached.  I don’t know if this was how it was typically or if it was just because of the rain—even though it wasn’t raining during the show.

Another break.  This time for “last call” as it was announced.  A flurry of checks being handled for the additional alcoholic beverage purchases.  Dessert had been served just prior to the break, so guests wanting coffer to go with their dessert were also being served.

Then it was time for the last portion of the show which included the tribal dances and the fire dancer.  The show ended with a finale of all of the dancers.  I caught a glimpse of the light and sound guys in their booth not far behind our table shaking their head as guests started to get up and leave before they could get the “house” lights on. 

So, now, it is 10:05 pm.  Wishes is going on at nearby Magic Kingdom—which is why the guest started to leave as they heard the explosions.  The bathroom has a line because of the 3 stalls, and we are trying to find our way back to the main building at the Polynesian to get on the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and return to our resort via bus.  There are NO signs leading guests back to the Poly.  We guessed about which path—and went right.  Many guests were going left to see the fireworks.  We walked back, cut through the food court, and used a larger bathroom there before heading upstairs to catch the monorail—the monorail station is on the 2nd level of the resort.

So, our take on Spirit of Aloha—we are going to Hoop Dee Do instead.  Our server was touted as “one of the best” when we were seated, but became less friendly when we were not ordering additional beverages that would give him addition gratuity money.  My issue—I had already paid $27 for a tip and the only “order” he had to take was our drinks and any extra food we might want.  He didn’t have to remember that my husband wanted steak cooked medium; all he had to do was bring the food.  

Also, the pedestals that hold the family style serving plates that are attached to the tables, make it difficult to scoop and put food on your plate.  The angle is hard and anyone with shoulder or arm mobility issues would find it impossible.  I wanted to stand up and serve, but didn't.

The “show” could have just been the tribal dances.  We didn’t need or want the rest of it, and the breaks made me feel like I was in a comedy club and it was time to pay our hostess when “last call” was announced.  Really?  And what about guest interaction that Disney is so well known for.  We were there celebrating our anniversary, as most likely were others.  We were made to feel more special at Mama Melrose—with two glasses of complimentary white wine spritzers or Be Our Guest with Grey Stuff than we were at Spirit of Aloha. 

And, when Disney gets ready to refurbish the Polynesian, I hope Luau Cove gets a bit of Pixie Dust, too.  The bathrooms first—oh my!  Three stalls for a bunch of women and girls who have just finished a meal.  And, most of the time it is the women who bring the young children to the restroom—so add all of those in to.  Not enough space! 

Then there is a need for signage to help guests return to the main building.  So imagineers—here is your challenge. . . just as many signs leading back from Luau Cove as there are signs leading to Luau Cove. 

As a Disney fan, it is hard for me to find fault with the most magical place on earth, so it was painful for us to have a less than stellar experience at Spirit of Aloha and it is painful for me to write about less than stellar experience.  At the same time, it would be untruthful of me to paint our experience any other way.  Now, having said (written) that, you are welcome to give Spirit of Aloha a try or return if you have had great experiences there.  I just know, we won’t be returning any time soon.

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