Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Online Dining Reservations Are Live!

Since there was major news in the Disney community today (and I had the time) I wanted to post this blog post a day early so that people who were curious could get help on the new online dining system.

Today, word got out that Disney has released the Online Dining Reservations system to the public. So, of course, this means that I had to check it out and see what all the hubbub was about.

The system itself looks very self explanatory and from my trial run with it, it appears to run relatively smoothly. It's also very streamlined looking and eye appealing. (Much like their new site is.)

As for how it works...

Under the Discover tab you will see a link for Dining. You'll click on that and then it will pop up with a page that lists all the dining establishments in the entire resort area (counter service and table service, along with some of the refreshment stands). You can either search this list or you can (by using the links on the left hand side) select a certain theme park or look in the resorts.

When looking at the list of restaurants that are listed, the restaurants that can then be booked online will have an orange box underneath the picture of the restaurant that says Book a Reservation. As you can see in the example below for The Crystal Palace.

If you click on that link, it will load the online booking system. There, it will give you the opportunity to enter what day you are looking for (and it will search for up to 5 days past, so long as the dates are available for booking and you aren't staying at a Disney resort. If you are staying at a Disney resort and have a confirmation number, it will look past the 90 day window + 10 Days.

For my example, I looked at the dates 9/8 - 9/12 at 9 am for a party of 2 adults.

It then will pull up whether it has any results for you as well as any offerings that could be similar to what you were searching for or in the area around the area you were searching in that you may be interested in possibly dining at as well.

But, let's then assume that we wanted to eat at the 9:10 option...so we click on that and enter in the words in the security check area, then click add to cart.

From there, you can click on the Continue Searching Link or you can Check Out. If it's a high demand place, I suggest checking out immediately (LeCellier, I'm looking at you). If it's not so high demand, I think you'd be alright to continue searching to book up the rest of you trip. Of course, this is up to you...if you want to check out after every single booking, I say, go right ahead.

Also, the good thing is, there is a link you can click on if you have any special dietary requests or any other request...say like it's for a birthday or anniversary.

In all...I thought that using this new system was a breeze...however there are, of course a few things that need to be worked on, as there always is in life.

First up, the thing that I noticed, it would not let me double book the same restaurant on the same day at the same time. It would, however, allow me to double book if I booked two different restaurants. So, I tried booking Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey's both for breakfast at 9:00 and was able to have both as options in my cart. However, it does pop up with this message:
It appears that 2 or more of your dining offers are within one hour of each other. If the offers are for the same dining party, please remove the conflicting offer(s). If these offers are for different parties, please continue with your booking.

Basically, Disney is hoping that once people see this message, guests will not double book themselves. The honor system is thus, in place.

This is the part that majorly scares me. It's not as easy to make a phone call to check on availabilities as it is to just go online, click a few times, and boom...ressies are made. So, I do worry about people abusing the system and how this will negatively affect the ability to get ADRs...making it even harder than it seemingly is already. I guess only time will tell on this one.

Also, I didn't like how there was no time window available. They had the window to search for dates (like I searched from 9/8 - 8/12) but there's no specific time window you can search. It gives you options an hour on both sides between your times automatically. So I couldn't say search from 6 pm - 9 pm and see what was available in those 3 hours.

Also, if you do put in dates in the search window, it will give the first available day and that's it. It doesn't allow for answers for any other dates. For example, in my search, even though I searched the 8-12, it only gave me choices for the 9th because that was the first day I had requested that Disney also had available. They didn't include any available listings for the 10th, 11th, and so on.

One other thing I would like to eventually see...I would like Disney to allow for canceling of reservations online as well. That way, it would be just as easy as making them for people. You wouldn't have to call and wait. (I'd also like it if eventually you could do this online so you could very easily cancel while IN the parks and you have the internet on your phone, a few clicks and the ressies could be canceled, maybe leaving less restaurants with no shows....but I hear that there's a lot of Flash on the Disney site that isn't compatible with many phones...at least not yet...)

In all...I really think this online dining reservations system has it's merits and can be a very good thing. But hopefully Disney will take some of the feedback they have been receiving and will make some changes to help enhance the dining reservations process become just a bit easier.

What do you think of the new system? Let me know what you think.


Blue Line Bulldogs said...

I agree w/much of what you said Rikki. I thought it was very user friendly & nice looking. I didn't like that you couldn't put in a range of times for your options & I didn't like that if I did have a range of dates, it didn't show all available on all the range of dates...just that first date (just like you said).

I booked through a travel agency & couldn't use my confirmation # to try for the 90 + 10...although that confirmation number did allow me to book the tour & ADRs via phone just fine....so I think it is in their system, just kinda weird that I can't use it here.

I agree that the honor system could cause ADR nightmares & frustration if NOTHING is available...but how is anyone to know if someone double booked themselves?? That's not very magical is it??

Overall, I'm excited for the online ADR system. I'd be interested to hear how it's working for those who are at their 90 day mark (as mine has passed) & if they're getting the same ADR options online via the phone???

I also like your idea about being able to cancel on your phone once in the parks....maybe someday??

Unknown said...

Thank you so much Susan! I'm glad you're enjoying it! :)