Disney’s New Online Dining Reservation System: Launch Day Wrap Up

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The Walt Disney World online ADR system launched this morning to great fanfare. Here is our wrap-up of the day’s events and an explanation of how the system is currently working. Click here to go start booking those ADRs!

Don’t know what an ADR is? Read our explanation.

What we know and don’t know so far:

-The online ADR system has been available for Travel Agents since early/mid May.
-There is still a 90-day booking window.
-We are unsure about what time of day the 90-day booking window will open (for the phone centers, it remains 7am Eastern). On Twitter, @CharacterFan noted that the window for the travel agent site currently opens at 3am ET (thus most of the scarcest ADRs are long gone by 7am).
-Bookings can only be found through the “Explore” tab on the main site, then to the dining section on the far right. We assume that Disney will add a Dining section to the ‘Book’ tab (where it most intuitively lies).
-You can only currently book through the US site (no sign of the reservations on the CA/UK sites).
-We heard some reports of buggy behavior from the site here and there (particularly with the Safari web browser), but no major downtime or problems. Kudos, Disney!
-Disney offers “suggestions” both for alternate times and
-The booking site is went down as of ~12:45am ET… is this a nightly downtime? The reservation system returned less than 30 minutes later.
-Disney is releasing menus! See below for more info.
-You can book Dinner Shows and Special Dining Events, like Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Dine with an Imagineer.
-Cancellations online seems to be going smoothly (you won’t have to call the main number).
-DVC members are having getting their 90+10 day booking window as on-site guests: see DVCnews for more info.
-See our original post for more info.

Suggestions by Disney

One thing we noticed is that Disney is now using this new portal to suggest restaurants more effectively. If you look at the seven restaurants featured on the main Dining page, all score very low on our recent scorecard of ADR lead times (meaning, they are easy to get reservations for). Disney also has a lot of power in suggesting alternates when ADRs are not available for your first choice restaurant. The assumption here is that Disney is going to point you when it can to less popular restaurants.

Long-Term Abuse?

One of the biggest concerns with the online ADR system was and still is abuse. As Brian Noble noted first, Disney is using a Captcha system to help prevent bookings en masse, but the system is still susceptible to a network of people coordinated to make bookings by hand (a big problem in the online ticket industry).

The other major concern on people’s minds today was the controversial practice of booking “double” ADRs — ie, booking two dining reservations for the same meal at different places. Also from Brian:

If you try to double-book, you are told:

“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.”

So, it mostly trusts guests to do the right thing after telling them what the right thing is—which is not much different than the current system, really.

We’ll have to wait (and ready our pitchforks) to see if the system starts to be gamed. We think the next logical step Disney would have to make is to require a credit card hold on each reservation, as it does for some of the signature dining restaurants.

Menus

Disney is now offering full color menus for each of the restaurants and its sittings in PDF format. To find them, go to any of the restaurants’ overview section, and look on the right-hand side for the menus: see (and drool over) the Le Cellier and their dinner menu. As far as we can tell, they are indeed the menus as you receive at the table. While this is long overdue, it remains to be seen whether or not Disney will keep their menus updated and accurate as well as AllEars.Net, which is an amazing resource for WDW menus and has been so for years. There’s also been some reports of the PDF links being broken, so if you notice any, send them our way.

Community Reaction

Tarmara says:

Works good for me! I got Rose & Crown in time to see Illuminations when we go in August, something I’d been unable to do when I called yesterday and spoke with a CM on the dining reservations line. That said, the alternate suggestions are not always the most logical ones. Still, I’m thrilled to have this option.

Margot adds:

I just made several reservations for an upcoming trip (June/July) and I got reservations for 5 dates/times that I couldn’t get thru the phone reservations just a few days ago. I could see one or two of those happening but 5??? So this is great! I have been wondering if they would let us cancel reservations online. I get irritated paying for a long distance call and waiting on hold to make cancellations. Usually I just wait til I get to the park that day or the hotel…but it would free up things in a more timely way if they made cancellations easier.
Anyway – this was easy. I didn’t tie it to my resort reservation cauz I was too excited to try it out!

Lina summed it up well, saying:

I just made 3 more reservations for our upcoming trip in July. It is easy, no problems and love the online reservations. Just print out your confirmations and you are done. No more long distance charges and long waits.

We also received over 30 retweets on Twitter for our original story.

Tell us your experiences with the new system in the comments or on Twitter! And help us correct/improve on any of the information above!

photo by Joe Penniston

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Posted on June 17, 2009

24 Responses to “Disney’s New Online Dining Reservation System: Launch Day Wrap Up”

  • I made a few ADRs last week (when my 90 booking window began) the old fashioned phone way. I got everything I wanted. But when I saw the announcement yesterday, I thought I would check it out. I tried to use my resort confirmation number to pull up my existing reservation number and I wasn’t able to pull up my ADR info. One of the ADRs I got last week was for the Coral Reef. Just out of curiosity, I thought I would check to see if there was availability at Coral Reef during my trip. The online reservation system did show availability for the same day as my ADR but something like 4:50 and 7:50. There was no other availability during a five day booking window. Didn’t book the ADR since my original ADR time was better.

  • I wanted to thank Len for mentioning the 100-day window for resort guests. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about all WDW-planning topics but that was new to me. After hearing that I managed to score a lunch reservation at Le Cellier 94 days out, and it was one of the last openings there.

    But what’s surprising me even more is this: I’m trying to get dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern 92 days from now, and there’s nothing available between 4:15 and 6:45. (I was hoping to eat before Spectromagic at 7, so 6:45 is no good.)

    • (Heh, whoops, I just realized that Spectromagic is at 8, not 7. Which makes that 6:45 option just about perfect!)

  • We are planning a trip for this September so my 90 day window is coming up soon. I had a question though. We are hoping to eat dinner/dessert at the Rose and Crown Pub while viewing Illuminations. What time should I make my reservation for?
    thanks for any help!!

    • The last time I was there, they told me they allow 120 minutes per table, so any time 7 PM and on you should be able view Illuminations at your table.

      • Please be considerate of your servers though. If you are just sitting there for 2 hours, you are not giving them the ability to turn their table, and are effectively taking money out of their pocket. If possible, make your reservation for 8 PM or later.

  • Am I missing something? Resort guests typically get a 100 day window when calling for dining. The online system doesn’t seem to extend the 90 day window when linking your reservation number. Are resort guests still going to need to call if they want to use that extra 10 days? If so, I think I’ll still be calling regardless of the online convenience. Thanks!

    • Never mind – I got it to work. Don’t know why I was having trouble with it last week. The system is easy to use, but it was really slow yesterday, and I actually got knocked off before I had a chance to confirm the reservations in my cart. I ended up calling in to make my reservations, and the CMs were having similar issues. For anyone making multiple reservations, I would recommend checking out after a few, confirming them, and then continuing with a new search – that way you don’t risk losing them all if the system happens to freeze on a high volume day. The CM even did this over the phone as she had lost a long list of reservations earlier in the day and had to start over. It was much faster later in the day.

  • Just to clarify – I know I can’t make my initial reservation online or otherwise prior to the 90 days before check-in, but then I can make reservations for my entire trip up to 10 days out from check-in. The online system doesn’t seem to recognize that.

  • by Robin Casey on June 18, 2009, at 2:36 pm EST

    The online system appears to be quite awesome! I’ve been playing with it a bit as I can’t officially make ADRs for our Sept. trip until next week. I was wondering, however, if the Crowd Calendar is going to be updated for September anytime soon? In Fred’s June 8th post, he wrote that as more information was posted on Disney’s website the Crowd Calendar would be updated. Specifically, I’m curious about Hollywood Studios being recommended as a Best Park on Fantasmic days (9/20 & 9/25) as well as Epcot being recommended on an EMH day (9/23). Thanks so much for any information you can share!

  • by Lynn Barber on June 18, 2009, at 2:56 pm EST

    As of now, DVC reservation numbers are not recognized in the online system. Thus, for DVC reservations, you still have to call to get the 90+10 benefit.

  • “Disney is using a Captcha system to help prevent bookings en masse, but the system is still susceptible to a network of people coordinated to make bookings by hand (a big problem in the online ticket industry).”

    What’s the idea here – would people actually bulk-book ADRs at popular restaurants and then scalp them? Where and how would they do so, on eBay?

  • by Debra Kupper on June 19, 2009, at 9:11 am EST

    Could someone clarify the comment about the 100 day ADR window?Is that strictly for Disney Vacation Club members? How did ‘Mike” manage to snag post 90 day ressies? I linked with my confirmation # but it would not accept the reservation request.

  • Debra:

    the “100 day window” just refers to the fact that you can book reservations for 10 days of your reservations as of 90 days from your arrival. If you arrive April 1, then at 90 days out you can book reservations for dining from April 1 till April 10.

  • Yeah, as soon as I clicked on “retrieve your reservation”, the rest of the dates of my trip opened up. Before that, all the dates further than 90 days out were greyed out. I’m not sure why Cheri wasn’t seeing the same thing when she tried it.

    For instance, right now, if I just pull up the calendar, the latest date I can click is Sep 18. But if I retrieve my reservation, then I can select up to Sep 20 (which is my check-out date.)

    • Oh, and just to clarify… I’m not a DVC member or anything. I just have a regular resort reservation with the free dining plan.

  • What time can you log in to start making your reservations? Is it 3am? I need to know what time to set my alarm! :)

  • by John Nurkin on July 14, 2009, at 9:38 pm EST

    Used the system the other day. It worked pretty well, although Le Cellier was booked out until the last night of my trip. At least I got in.

    A couple of notes:

    1. Reservations seem to open up around 6:00 AM, an hour earlier than the phone lines.

    2. I had a couple of glitches checking out and later I couldn’t find my reservations when I searched for them online. I did get e-mail confirmations of all my reservations and I called WDWDINE later to make sure they had them in the system. So, all seems good for now.

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