Universal Dining Plan 2013: Details, real guest review & your chance to ask questions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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):
Thanks to everyone who has contributed their insights on this page.