After Hours Wind Down –New Hard Ticket Event at Epcot –Review

After Hours Wind Down –New Hard Ticket Event at Epcot –Review

By Cassie

I am really looking forward to experiencing this event with my DH tonight! Epcot at night is so romantic and the idea of staying in the parks “after hours” as promised on Disney Parks Blog makes the $35.00 a person more acceptable.

Let’s take a minute to see what Disney sells this event as: “Just imagine, after illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show at Epcot, instead of heading to your car or back to the resort, you could head to one of four spots in World Showcase for end-of-the-day relaxation with appetizers and beverages…it’s a magical time as the park quiets down.” There is a great photograph of a couple laughing and sharing a tender moment together with regular wine glasses in their hands.  Imagine…Epcot after hours! This is what I wanted to share with my husband. This is announced to continue on Thursday through Sunday nights from April 17, 2014 to September 15, 2014. To make a reservation, go to www.disneyworld.com/spring, call 407-WDW-DINE, or check in with Epcot Guest Relations to see if there is availability. It lasts from 9:20 to 11PM.

Now let me tell you how the first night really went down.  I had made reservations for Tutto Gusto in Italy but did not know what the food and drink selections would be as Disney continued to say they had no information on it.  Since I was in Epcot I checked with all the locations over the weekend and they basically said they were surprised by the announcement of the event and the meeting that would determine what they would serve was scheduled for sometime the week the event was to happen.  So, wanting to be able to share all the menu offerings with you so you could decide if it was something you wanted to do, we stopped in Guest Services Thursday, the first night of the event, and asked for this information.  The Guest Services Cast Member was happy to help us and thought he could get that information, no problem.

After searching the computer for a few minutes he excused himself to the back and he called Tutto Gusto directly to ask what was being offered.  He came out and told us a much abbreviated version of what the menu was. He apologized for not having the information available to hand us. We thanked him and went on our way.  We were surprised by how many people were in the park this evening.  We enjoy walking around the country pavilions in World Showcase.  We arrived in Italy shortly before illumiNations: Reflections of Earth was to begin.  We staked out a spot to watch it as a couple, away from the crowd.  I have that photo in my mind from the Disney Parks Blog thinking about what we were going to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Following the show we walked back into the pavilion to Tutto Gusto. We were the first to check-in with our reservation and were taken to a small table for two.  I like the atmosphere with the low lighting, the wine bottle chandeliers and comfortable seating.  You could tell that everyone was very excited about this first night of the event because they were all standing and watching our responses to things.  We were handed the menu which had six flights and an appetizer plate or dessert trio paired with the wines they chose.  I asked the waiter for a little help with the menu.  It was a bit difficult to understand as he had very broken English and tended to just repeat what was written in Italian on the menu. I finally just asked which of these flights are white wines, and which were reds.  So I knew then what I could choose from since I wanted white wine.  The menus had a photo of the plate you would receive and were laminated.

We were brought stem glassware with ice water.  Another group, of three, checked in and was seated right next to us, and the tables were very close together.  The group was loud and took many flash pictures throughout the evening ruining the mood.  By the end of the evening there were only 7 tables used in the lounge and since it was a reservation event I think they could have done better to seat people farther apart.  Perhaps seating the couples on one side and the groups on another side would be nice too.  It was off-putting to have the staff watching and waiting for us to order more food or drinks that it ruined the atmosphere, along with the table immediately next to us with their dueling flash cameras throughout.  There were more servers in the little lounge than guests. We could have used some soft music playing or some type of entertainment to take the “edge” off of everyone in that little lounge.

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Let’s focus on the food for a moment.  Our selections came out fairly quickly but they were probably already prepared ahead of time.  I selected a Seafood Flight which consisted of three Italian white wines, served on a flight board in small stem-less glasses. I estimate about 3 oz. of wine in each glass.  My plate was Insalata di Mare: shrimp, squid, octopus, potato, celery, red onion, capers, lemon, extra virgin olive oil.  It is accompanied by a triangle of toasted white bread and three skinny bread sticks.  I have to say that it was extremely fresh tasting and I enjoyed it very much.  The lemon, onion, olive oil was very good but was not over the entire dish.  There was abundance of octopus and not as much squid, and a total of three shrimp.  The wine was well paired with the seafood salad and I enjoyed tasting the three selections but nothing that made me want to purchase a bottle.  Halfway through I kept thinking I would so love to have tried something else this lounge has to offer than more octopus pieces.  Some variety, such as offering a smaller size of the salad and then one of the small dessert cups to end the evening would have been so much better, to me.   My DH ordered the Elegant Reds Flight which came with thin slices of an Italian sausage Salametto, Prosciutto di Parma, and two slices of Robiola a soft-rind cheese, a triangle of toasted white bread and three skinny breadsticks.  He enjoyed the tasting but felt much like I did that he would have liked having an appetizer and a dessert rather than just more of an appetizer.  We both had declined the Dessert Flight because it was three small dessert cups paired with all sweet wines and didn’t want that much sweetness.   DH said he would not want to do this event again that he would rather book a late reservation at the restaurant and enjoy a full meal for the price of what he paid for this event.  I have to agree.  And we could have walked out quietly enjoying World Showcase wound down at no additional cost. He also prefers to drink wine out of stem glass.

The $35.00 per person flights available at Tutto Gusto are: All Bubbles Flight=Parmigiano Reggiano, La Tur, and Olives paired with a red wine flight; Elegant Reds Flight= Salametto, Prosciutto di Parma, and two slices of Robiola, paired with red wine flight; Piemonte Hille Flight=Salametto, Gorgonzola and La Tur paired with red/white wines; Vegetarian Flight=white asparagus, eggplant caponata, marinated artichokes and brushetta di Capri paired with white wine flight; Sweet Dessert Flight=Mocha Tiramisu, Mascarpone Strawberries, chocolate and Nutella cake paired with sweet wines.  The Vegetarian Flight offers the most food on the plate so if you are really hungry you may want to select that.  The neighboring table had one diner who chose that as one of their selections and the guest did not care for the Eggplant Caponata as nothing was eaten after the first taste and expressed that to their waiter.  Nothing was offered in place of it.

Following the wine flight and small plate you are encouraged by several wait staff to go look at the dessert case and to order more drinks at the bar. It got really old, very fast.  Although the food was acceptable, good in fact, it was imbalanced and not what I was hoping for.  I did not enjoy the staff anxiously standing around the room watching the guests throughout the event. It was uncomfortable and there were 50% more than necessary in the tiny space.  I found it odd that when I took a few photos of our food before we started eating, without a flash, the head waiter came over to me and asked how we were enjoying our selection which had been on the table less than a minute, which he knew because he was standing there watching everything, and then made a crack about the “photo session” going on but then he never said a thing to the table taking flash photos from the time they came into the room.  Mr. Headwaiter, you should expect reviewers on opening night and you did nothing to endear yourself or your lounge to me.

We settled our check and left, hoping the rest of the evening “after hours” would make up for the circus we just experienced.  We walked out and immediately saw children running, people everywhere…oh, Disney changed Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests to Thursday night this week, it is usually on Tuesday except for during the summer it is on Friday.  So we did not get to experience Epcot “after hours” at all.  What would have been a quiet stroll alone down the World Showcase Promenade, just those who paid the extra bucks to enjoy it turned into being just two people among the usual noisy crowd.  Don’t waste your money on purchasing this “After Hours” package because it does not live up to it, at least not on Extra Magic Hour nights.

There was nothing I could do to try and reclaim the romantic evening I was sold, so instead, we sought out the other venues to see what they had provided to their guests.  In Morocco, Spice Road Table served a total of four people, and offered the Tingis Sampler which is a Lamb Slider, Harissa Chicken Roll, Merguez Sausage and a Chocolate Pyramid served with your choice of a red or white wine flight.  The Rose and Crown Pub, with a total of eight people, served Scotch Egg, trio of United Kingdom Cheese and three 8-oz glasses for their beer flight and an additional 8 oz. glass of Hard Cider.  Mexico had a three item small plate that they intend to alternate each night so you don’t know what you will get from one night to the other and it is accompanied by three shots of tequila and the bar instruction on why the tequilas taste different.  Mexico also had a few people.  Keep in mind that these locations also were closed except to those paying the $35.00 per person so there were many guests outside that were unhappy about not being able to enjoy the lounges during Extra Magic Hours and on their way out of the park. I think more money was lost on this first night due to the low attendance of the event and all the people outside wanting to get in during EMH. I would not expect the venues to want to continue this event unless more people choose to do it, and a lot more choose to do it on EMH nights.

I understand it costs money to enjoy special things at Disney and as long as it is what they have described to me, I am usually not disappointed.  Tonight was not what was described to me and I was disappointed.  I would encourage you to find out what the current food and drink offerings are if you want to book this event.  We were told at each location that the lounges themselves found out about the event when the tickets went on sale so they had to scramble to put it together. It was also clear that in Mexico you may not know what you are getting until it is served to you.  Italy was the only venue that had a menu. I would have chosen Rose and Crown if I had known everything on the menus.  I also would never choose an Extra Magic Hours night because it is not a special event worth paying the extra money for as it is not truly “after hours”.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.