October 2011: Walt Disney World instituted a cancellation fee for no-show guests who make a dinner reservation at one of its 20 of its top restaurants. Since it’s not exactly a warm, feel-good initiative, it arrived without fanfare. The impacted restaurants are mainly top-of-the-line or character dining (eating while meeting the Disney characters).
While not welcome, it’s understandable. Disney has a problem with no-shows, and it’s unfair to guests who hang around a restaurant “to see if something opens up.” As with any new policy, however, expect Disney to tinker. If enough people complain, it could go away. But if it proves successful, a few more restaurants could be added to the system.
How it works: If you make a reservation at one of the 20 restaurants, you give Disney a credit card number to hold it. If you show up, pay for dinner any way you like. If you don’t show up and fail to cancel within 24 hours, Disney charges your credit card $10 per person. You can cancel a reservation through a dedicated phone number – 407-WDW-CNCL (939-2625) – or online.
The concern: Over the years, Disney extended the timeframe for making dinner reservations, and a table can now be reserved six months in advance (180 days) – enough time that you can book a restaurant in January and forget all about it by July. (It happens often, hence the new policy.) It’s not clear what happens if you call Disney to cancel a room reservation but don’t mention Sunday night’s dinner at The Crystal Palace. If you must cancel, make a note to cancel everything.
Plan B: If you fail to cancel a reservation and get charged the $10 per person, call and beg forgiveness. It’s hard to imagine Disney taking a hard line on this one. The relatively small cancellation fee pales in comparison to losing theme park business if a family of four vows never to return.
The restaurants affected
The Crystal Palace
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway in World Showcase)
The Garden Grill (Future World)
Le Cellier Steakhouse (Canada in World Showcase)
Hollywood and Vine
The Hollywood Brown Derby
Tusker House Restaurant (Africa)
The Grand Floridian Resort
1900 Park Fare
Victoria and Albert’s
Yacht & Beach Club
Cape May Café
Flying Fish Café
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Jiko — The Cooking Place
For more info or to make a reservation, visit the Disney World website.