Universal Dining Plan 2013: Details, real guest review & your chance to ask questions

Universal Dining Plan 2013: Details, real guest review & your chance to ask questions

Universal Dining Plan 2013: Details, real guest review & your chance to ask questions

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Important update

As of November 3, 2013, all the information in this blog post PLUS additional details about the park’s new dining plan can now be found on our rebooted Complete guide to Universal’s Dining Plans page in the OI Universal Center.

 

Original Post

The Universal Dining Plan, a new feature available for guests booking Universal vacation packages, debuted on July 1, 2013. In this post we offer readers a look at the basic plan information and provide an in-depth review from a “real guest” who used the plan in August. Finally, in the comments section we encourage to ask questions or share your experience with the new plan.

Overview

The new Universal Dining Plan is available to add to any vacation package with on-site hotel or off-site hotel, booked through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations. The cost of the Universal Dining Plan is $45.99 + tax for adults and $17.99 + tax for children (age 3-9) – gratuities not included.

The Universal Dining Plan is NOT AVAILABLE for purchase at the parks.

 

Universal Dining Plan (updated August 27, 2013).
Universal Dining Plan (updated August 27, 2013).

 

If you have trouble viewing the details of the plan in the image above, you can view/download the PDF file by clicking here.

Please note that as of August 2013 Three Broomsticks is included in the Universal Dining Plan. In addition, a table service credit may be used for the Superstar Breakfast at Universal Studios Florida (reservations required, call 407-224-7554; for some reason this option is not listed on the form above but is definitely available).

 

Universal Dining Plan: Real guest review #1

I enjoyed my first family vacation at Universal last week (August 19). We had a great time! I have been to Disney four times over the previous six years and have always loved it. I always get the dining plan when I go to Disney in some form or another. I have read all the debates, for and against, and to me I just like it. I had not read about the Universal Dining Plan until after booking. I was happy to find out that we could add it to our vacation package, and so we did.

We were staying eight nights but decided to purchase a 3-day plan because we planned to visit other parks. I was happy to find out that the 3-day plan only meant that we got three days worth of food — not necessarily three consecutive days of dining. In other words, our credits could be used any time during our stay.

Upon arriving at the Royal Pacific Resort, I eventually made my way to the ticket kiosk. When my tickets printed, the Universal Dining Plan tickets were wrong. Each ticket had a different person’s name on it; none of the names were ours. After waiting in line for 10 minutes, we were told that there were problems with the Universal Dining Plan tickets printing at the kiosk and they would swap them out. We received new plastic dining plan cards.

On the first day we went to a cart in Islands of Adventure to get an Icee for a snack. The cashier told us that they did not accept the Universal Dining Plan there. The menu board at cart clearly had the “UD” symbol next to the prices. When we asked her about this, her reply was, “the register doesn’t have the button.” We walked quite a way to another Icee stand. This is when we found out about the unfortunate process of paying with your dining card. Each one was processed separately so one snack could be taken from each card. Because of this, throughout our trip it took several minutes to process even simple orders each time we used the plan. We much prefer Disney’s approach, as they put all entitlements essentially on one account (eg. three days for four people equals 12 snacks, 12 counter service, etc.).

That evening we had a reservation at Lombard’s Seafood Grille inside Universal Studios Florida. First, the food was good but not excellent. The plan offers any entree on the menu (except the lobster). I will say that the menus at the table service restaurants are not large. There are not many more options than any Disney restaurant, post-dining plan menu changes. After dinner our waiter appeared with a tray of desserts for the table. We were told that they were out of the deserts that came with the dining plan and put these options together instead. It was quite good.

The next day as we continued to use our cards it became more and more apparent that the staff was not comfortable handling the cards. We got everything from calling over someone to help to “Phew! It worked.” At the counter service restaurants, after ordering and paying for all four family member orders separately, the cashier has to yell over that she just had four Universal Dining Plan orders — that’s the only way the cooks knew to keep them together.

On the second day we has a reservation at Mythos inside Islands of Adventure. My older son (10), who had an adult plan, ordered a chocolate milk. We were told that this would not be included in the Universal Dining Plan. Really? He got a Sprite instead. Throughout the meal I was very disappointing with the service, and I could not help but feel our server’s less than stellar performance was the result of us paying with the Universal Dining Plan. After dinner we were again told that they were out of the desserts that came with the plan. We got a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whip cream and a few sprinkles. We waited 10 minutes at least for our ice cream while desert after decadent desert poured out of the kitchen. Needless to say we were not happy! In my opinion, if a restaurant runs out of an item, they should offer something better — not worse. Finally a manager, Glen, came over to speak with us.

Our conversation with Glen made it sound like the Universal Dining Plan was basically dumped on Universal’s team members with no advance notice. They were given one brief training, then it was on. The team members were overwhelmed with problems and lack of training. Glen was very nice, however, and after our experience at Mythos he personally took us to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. We got a mini tour of the castle from him and a trip to the front of the line.

We enjoyed our final table service meal at Finnegan’s Bar & Grill inside Universal Studios Florida. The food again was good, even slightly better than good. We finally got our included desserts… dessert shots. Ummm, can I have the vanilla ice cream instead?

But we did have another issue on our last day. We bought two waters and the cashier insisted that he could ring them together and use two different dining cards (verses the one-order-per-one-card process I explained earlier). He ended up deducting a beverage and a counter service meal from our card. We were sent to a nearby information booth to fix the problem. Fixed, all set. Then later that afternoon we went to Richter’s Burgers for lunch. One card did not have a counter service meal on it. Not fixed. Fortunately the manager was able to fix it for us. Just another hassle.

Overall I would say that Universal has issues to fix with their new dining plan. In addition to what I described above, there needs to more choices: there are currently no options in the resorts, and there is also only one counter service option in Citywalk, Pastamore (now closed for renovation!). The bottom line is, I definitely would not purchase a dining plan if we were to return next year.

– Steve

Thank you, Steve, for offering a brutally honest review of the Universal Dining Plan. We can only hope that as the plan matures over the next few months, Universal is able to address all the concerns you’ve mentioned.

 

Universal Dining Plan: Real guest review #2

Visited Universal 8/27-8/28 and a few hours on 8/30, my children and I (ages 12 and 16) purchased a 3 day, 4 night Universal vacation package at an off site hotel. Included in the package was a “free” 2 day dining plan. We arrived in Orlando on a Monday and went to city walk so that I could print out our tickets before our first day at the park on Tuesday. I also noticed that the names on the dining plan tickets were wrong. However, you need to go to guest services(at the entrances located just inside the parks) and get a plastic type credit card in order to use the card so the names on the cards really do not matter. Included on each of our 3 cards was two table service meals, two quick service meals, 2 beverages and 2 snacks(note that butterbeer counts as a snack!).

We did not encounter any problems using the card other than learning that each transaction needs to be rung up separately. We used our table service meals at Mythos restaurant for lunch both days mainly because we did not want a big meal at the end of the day and it was too far to go to CityWalk. The choices for full service are very limited and since we do not like seafood and Irish pub food, that left Lombardi’s and Finnegan’s out. That left Mythos and Confisco Grille. We found our meals to be excellent and were content with the small dessert shot that is included with the table service option.

We ate our first counter service meal at Krusty Burger and Cletus’ Chicken Shack because we happened to be in that area at dinnertime. We made sure to ask if they accepted the dining plan and they did. No problems using the card, but hands down it was the worst meal we ate at the parks. The novelty of saying that we ate at Krusty Burger did not justify the poor quality of the food. Our second counter service meal was at The Three Broomsticks. I found the quality of the food better than Fast Food Blvd but not as good as Mythos. The quick service meals are just that — food that is already prepared, sitting in pans under a heat lamp waiting for someone to order it.

We used our beverage credits on water and soda and our snack credits on butterbeer and a pastry from Starbucks. I liked the idea of not having to pull out cash or a credit card every time we wanted to eat something but the quality of the counter services meals did not justify getting the dining plan. Eat a big breakfast, have a big meal at Mythos and grab a butterbeer instead. I will not be getting the dining plan the next time we visit Universal.

– Debra

Thanks, Debra, for sharing your review. It sounds like you were more displeased with the food overall then with the mechanics of using the Universal Dining Plan, so I’m happy that, at least in that regard, your experience was better than Steve’s. I’ve also confirmed on a recent visit to Universal that yes, the dining plan can be used at Fast Food Blvd. Since FFB isn’t listed on the material, I think some team members are telling guests that cannot be used there — hence the confusion.

Readers, if you have a question about the Universal Dining Plan or would like to share your own thoughts, we encourage you to do so in the comments section at the bottom of the post!

 

More information

Orlando Informer will offer addition coverage of the new Universal Dining Plan as we continue to gather guest feedback. In the meantime, you can visit these two pages in the OI Universal Center to continue your planning (each link will open in a new window):

Learn more about Universal Orlando vacation packages

Learn more about the classic Universal Meal Deal plan

Thanks to everyone who has contributed their insights on this page.

Taylor Strickland Taylor Strickland is the Owner & Publisher at Orlando Informer, the internationally awarded independent resource for guests visiting Orlando. In this position, he leads the website's overall direction and day-to-day operations, working with a team of writers, editors, developers, and producers.

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OrlandoInformer.com
Guest
OrlandoInformer.com

Missy Hodges Very unlikely, since the classic Meal Deal is open to all guests and the new Dining Plan is only for vacation package guests http://bit.ly/oimealdeal. They’ll coexist, like the classic souvenir cup refill program and the new Coke Freestyle refill program http://bit.ly/oirefills.

Joy Mamer
Guest
Joy Mamer

Further to Missy’s question if you bought a flex pass and are staying off site, how can you obtain one of these?

InformerFL
Guest
InformerFL

You can only add the dining plan to vacations booked through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations. They sell packages for both on-site and off-site hotels.

Missy Hodges
Guest
Missy Hodges

so the new Dining Plan will be just like Disney’s

InformerFL
Guest
InformerFL

Not really, Disney has many exclusions and will be publishing additional exclusions shortly.

Cassy
Guest
Cassy

InformerFL What are all of these exclusions that you are talking about? Universal’s dining plan is just like Disney’s Plus Dining except restaurants in Disney’s hotels and Downtown Disney are also included.

Beth Spellman
Guest
Beth Spellman

Interesting, I was hoping it would be a little cheaper. For my 3 teenage sons I think the old Meal Deal is a better fit. Appreciate the info!

Kat Deason
Guest
Kat Deason

Copy cats….

Shannon Wainwright
Guest
Shannon Wainwright

What about a package I paid for back in April for my vacation next month. Can I call up and add this to my already paid for package?

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

@Shannon WainwrightI would think Universal will be happy to add it. Give their Vacation Package department a call and 1-877-801-9720 and see what they say 🙂

InformerFL
Guest
InformerFL

Yes, vacation packages previously purchased through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations for travel on or after July 1, 2013 are eligible to add the dining plan option at the published price. Just call them and request it.

JamesDaniel
Guest
JamesDaniel

I notice that the new Fast Food Blvd restaurants are not included on this list. Any news on this?

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

JamesDaniel I’m thinking the plan was probably devised before Fast Food Blvd was expected to open so soon, so maybe it’ll be added when the program officially debuts next month. We’ll see.

InformerFL
Guest
InformerFL

That is not accurate, Springfield Fast Food Blvd is included as a counter service meal; snack items and beverages are also available for redemption at that location.

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

InformerFL You must be looking at different information than everyone else was sent. Can you provide a link to where Universal has published this stuff you’re saying?

Joy Shaw
Guest
Joy Shaw

I’ve never understood the Meal Plan. I couldn’t eat enough in a day to justify it

Rachel Mulieri
Guest
Rachel Mulieri

Interesting, but since we eat at alot of resort eateries, this is useless to us..I really hope this doesn’t start to turn Universal “disney like” where you need to decide where you want to eat 180 days in advance and the food quality goes down.

InformerFL
Guest
InformerFL

Food quality will not be affected. Unlike Disney, very few menu items are excluded.

Melissa McLaughlin
Guest
Melissa McLaughlin

It is called competition. All companies do it.

Melissa McLaughlin
Guest
Melissa McLaughlin

This is an interesting change, I had not heard about it yet.

Alicia
Guest
Alicia

I wonder if Universal will allot you the credits per day. Not put it in a bank like Disney for you to use whenever.
None of the characters meals are on here because they are at the hotels, right?

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

@AliciaCredits are put in a bank that can be used over more days than just the number of days purchased.
The “character dining” at Universal’s on-site hotels are not included because, as you mentioned, the on-site hotels are not included. But you can use credits for Universal’s Superstar Breakfast at Universal Studios Florida http://orlandoinformer.com/wpold/universal/in-park-dining-experiences.

Heff15
Guest
Heff15

We got the dining plan on our trip last week.  It does not compare to Disney at all.  It was a hassle to use the plan everywhere we went.  We had stands that said we could not use it because she did not have the button on her register when it was displayed on sign that it was accepted.  Twice we had meals deducted when we were only getting a drink.  We had restaurant running out of deserts that went with the plan (desert shots).  We were informed by a very nice restaurant manager that the plan was basically dropped… Read more »

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

Heff15 Thank you for your honest feedback. I’d actually like to find out a little more. If you have a moment, could you please contact us via our contact page? http://orlandoinformer.com/wpold/contact/
Thank you for your time!

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

Heff15 Thanks again for contacting me, and your complete review is now part of our blog post above.

jlines
Guest
jlines

Heff15 I would love some more details!  Did you have to use all 4 credits in one day?

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

@jlines I asked Heff15 to contact me and he was nice enough to write up a full review of Universal’s Dining Plan for us. I should have it published tomorrow, and I’ll be sure to post the link here when it’s up on the site.

Kyle Russell
Guest
Kyle Russell

It does not look that great. It needs a lot more dinners at city work

Lynette Findlay
Guest
Lynette Findlay

It seems a little limited at the moment especially as its only open to ‘on-site guests’ yet doesn’t include any resort restaurants… I doubt that will prove all that popular. I’ll be hanging off and using the in-park plan until it beds in, I suspect. Thanks so much for the info – at least people will have a better idea what they are signing up for :o)

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

@Lynette Findlay Just for clarification, the plan is actually available only to “vacation package” guests. This means you don’t necessarily need to stay on-site to get the plan, but you do need to back a Universal Orlando vacation package, which could include accommodations at an off-site Partner Hotel (more info: http:bit.ly/oivacpkg). 
Similarly, guests who stay at a Universal on-site hotel but do not purchase a vacation package also don’t have access to the Universal Dining Plan.

jlines
Guest
jlines

Thanks Steve, you are the first who has chimed in anywhere and many of us have been searching!  Thanks also for your reply about spreading the credits out.  Would you mind giving me a breakdown of how many days you spent in the parks and how you used the credits each day?  Were there any places that the cards worked well at and hence you would recommend?  Did you use them anywhere at City Walk?  And finally, are any of the counter services at Fast Food Blvd. included?  Sorry for so many questions, but I’m just trying to see if… Read more »

Heff15
Guest
Heff15

We spent two 1/2 days (travel days) and 3 full days in the parks.  We also went to Sea World, Busch Gardens, etc.  We pretty much spread everything out over those 5 days.  We used the table service for dinner all 3 times.  We actually used a counter service one evening after returning from water park.  Twice we used snacks for butterbeer.  We never used the cards at Citywalk because the table-service restaurants didn’t interest us and there were no counter service options available.  This was a problem because when we wanted a quick counter service after returning from another… Read more »

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

Heff15 I just wanted to add the Fast Food Blvd does not participate in the Universal Dining Plan nor in the classic Meal Deal Plan. I think Universal feels they can charge a premium for the food there (at least for now), so you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket.

Heff15
Guest
Heff15

Also, for the most part the cards worked everywhere on the list above with the exception of the Icee stand at Fast Food Blvd (she just didn’t know how to do it).  I would definitely watch what is deducted each time you purchase something.  Each receipt tells you what entitlement(s) was used and how many of each are remaining.  Take a second to look!

jlines
Guest
jlines

Heff15 Thanks sooooooo much.  This has been very helpful!

Jennifer Locke-Thornhill
Guest
Jennifer Locke-Thornhill

I looked at the list, and I do not see The 3 Broomsticks, or the Hogs Head in either the dining plan or the meal deal… I go to Universal for Harry Potter… and wouldn’t think of having dinner anywhere other than the 3 broomsticks. It would be great if Universal would include these in either deal. Although, I cant see anyone in my family eating more than two meals (we eat breakfast at the hotel) each day, so I would rather just pay the money for each one, and have a choice of where to eat.

jlines
Guest
jlines

@Jennifer Locke-Thornhill 3 Broomsticks is included in the updated list.

MickeyMotto
Guest
MickeyMotto

Very few options at City Walk & resorts do not make this a very desirable option. Most of the places we are planning to go to are not even on the list. My boys really want to go the Three Broomsticks another option NOT on the list. I am glad to read such an honest review. It always helps making decisions while planning, so thank you!

jlines
Guest
jlines

MickeyMotto If you look at the updated list on Universal’s website 3 Broomsticks is listed.

Clarissa Gomes
Guest
Clarissa Gomes

Saca só, Arilson!

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

As @jlines mentions, Three Broomsticks is part of the Universal Dining Plan. In addition, although it is not listed on the plan’s literature, a table credit can also be used for the Superstar Breakfast at Universal Studios Florida.

jlines
Guest
jlines

So I wonder if Debra spread her credits out over the 2 1/2 days?  Maybe upgraded to PtoP tickets with the package instead?

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

@jlines Yes and yes.

talamol
Guest
talamol

Can i use the dining after my stay at The universal hotel?

Redcurlyhair
Guest
Redcurlyhair

Just visited the park oct 5-8. Had a 2 day dining plan. We had our own food for breakfast in the hotel and used the plan for meals in the parks and on CityWalk. Had several issues with the plan taking away the wrong thing. Ex: got ice cream, deducted full service meal. Each time, the staff fixed the screw up, but it was still a pain in the butt. We had great service at CityWalk at Pastamore and Pat o’ Brian’s. I felt like the plan has potential, but they have tons of bugs to work out. I also… Read more »