By Jae Brattain
On December 12th, Disneyland began a new way to view the popular Fantasmic! light and musical show on the Rivers of America. They started an official fastpass system similar to the World of Color show at Disney California Adventure park. One of the exciting options to obtain a ticket is to book a dining package. There are four experiences to choose (in order of cost from highest to lowest): Blue Bayou Restaurant ($61 adult/$23 child), River Belle Terrace ($42 adult/$22 child), Hungry Bear Restaurant Dessert Party ($30 per person), and Aladdin’s Oasis On-The-Go Dining package ($20 adult/$14 child).
My wife and I decided to give the River Belle Terrace a try on Tuesday, December 14th. We’ve been here in the past for lunch. Normally, it is a counter-service establishment. However, for the purposes of the Fantasmic! Dining Experience, it is transformed into a full-service restaurant. In terms of cosmetic changes, the food service counter is closed and the seating area is only slightly spruced up with the addition of fresh flowers atop the dining tables. Other than that, it looks pretty much the same as before.
The dining experience at River Belle Terrace is a 3-course affair that includes a starter, entree, and dessert. As for the starter, there is a choice between the mixed green salad or creamy corn chowder. There are three options for the main meal including a New York Strip Steak with a Cajun Shrimp Skewer, Rosemary-marinated Chicken Breast, as well as a Gavatappi Pasta Primavera for vegetarians. For dessert, there was an apple crumb pie or chocolate mousse cake.
Since there were two of us, my wife and I opted to try everything on the menu with exception to the pasta. She chose the creamy corn chowder, steak with shrimp, and then finished off with the chocolate cake. I went for the salad, chicken and apple crumb pie. The best way to describe the quality of the food overall was just barely above mediocre. For an in-depth review of the cuisine, please visit MagicalFoodTour.com.
Although the food was not as great as I’d hoped, the service was outstanding. This could have been the fact that we were one of the few people eating at the River Belle Terrace and that it was a Tuesday evening. Plus, it had been raining all day and our server Fernando told us there were a lot of cancellations. I did notice there were several cast members milling around. Nevertheless, the group as a whole seemed very enthusiastic and accommodating. My water glass was never empty and Fernando checked on us periodically to make sure everything was good.
Upon completion of our meal, Fernando provided us two fastpass tickets for the show. Fortunately for us, the rain had stopped by the time we finished dinner. After leaving the restaurant, we were directed to seek out a cast member with a special yellow Fantasmic! jacket. It was around 7:20 pm, so it was too early to line up according to one of the jacketed cast members. So, we returned around 8:00 pm as instructed.
This is where things got a little confusing and frustrating. With four different dining packages, as well as a regular fastpass which can be obtained without purchase, there were several areas cordoned off to the public. By restricting walkways, a bottleneck situation was created around New Orleans Square. It was difficult to navigate our way through the throngs of people. The frustration part was finding a cast member who actually knew where my wife and I should go. There was no signage to indicate a particular location. We went to three different cast members before finally finding our designated area.
Once we found our spot, I noticed a few people wandering from one area to the next looking for a better spot. Although there are cast members filtering guests into the seating area, not many actually paid attention once people were inside. This caused a bit of consternation in the crowd. But, for the most part, people sat down and stayed still.
After entering the designated area, I felt a sense of relief. There was lots of open space, so I didn’t feel claustrophobic. The only downside was that guests are required to sit down on the hard concrete for the duration of the show. My back is not 100-percent, so it was uncomfortable to me. Nevertheless, the viewing angle was just about perfect. My wife and I secured a spot directly adjacent to the Blue Bayou fastpass area, which had the very best spot to watch the show.
Fantasmic! was as great as ever. It’s my favorite show of all (yes, even better than World of Color). Once the performance ended, the dispersal of the crowds was surprisingly smooth. With the number of people watching, I expected there to be issues leaving. But, to my delight, it turned out otherwise.
Overall, I believe the fastpass system is superior to the old method of camping out for hours in New Orleans Square. Yes, there are crowd issues and a degree of confusion. Much of that can be attributed to the newness of this experience. Once things settle down and people become accustomed to this way of doing things, it will be a lot smoother.
My only hope is that someone takes steps to improve the cuisine at the River Belle Terrace. Was it worth the roughly $82 plus tax and tip my wife and I paid? Not really. If anything, I would say $31.99 per person for adults would be a more appropriate price point for the type of food and ambience of the restaurant. My next mission is to try the Dessert Party at the Hungry Bear Restaurant and see how that goes. Thanks for taking time to read about my experience and hope you enjoyed the story.