Review: Epcot’s new IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party

| April 3, 2014 | 17 Replies

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On March 15th, Epcot introduced the  “IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party.” For one hour prior to the start of IllumiNations, you get a selection of desserts from around World Showcase along with a limited selection of champagnes and sparkling wines, as well as coffee, tea and soft drinks.  The cost for this event is $49 for adults, and $29 for children.

Desserts include Shortbread cookies from the UK, Tiramisu from Italy, Baklava from Morocco, and Chocolate Grand Marnier Vanilla pot de crème from France.  There were also two specialty stations that were preparing churros and donuts cooked in Kahlua Coffee liqueur and Bacardi 151 Rum.  Both of these desserts can be prepared without alcohol by request.  Soft drinks in the form of water, iced tea and lemonade were served (no sodas) and coffee and tea were available as well.

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Before I tell you what’s wrong with this event, let me start out by saying what’s right about it.  First, the deserts were quite good – not the usual ‘we ran this through a flavor vacuum to ensure it was as bland as possible’ desserts that Disney is sometimes famous for.  Also, the cast members working the party were outstanding.  Accommodating, friendly and fun are some words best used to describe them.  This is also a great space to watch IllumiNations from – located directly opposite the American Pavilion at the Epcot Showcase Plaza.

With that said, there were a few places where this event fell short.  First, when receiving my confirmation for the event, we were told the event was held at World Showplace, which made no sense at all, since World Showplace is tucked back between Canada and the UK pavilions and is not a location where you can watch IllumiNations (this was the pavilion created for the Millennium celebration and is now used to host special events).   Asking cast members in this area about the location of the dessert party was met with odd looks and lack of interest to find an answer.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about” was the general response.  No one picked up a phone, asked a supervisor or did anything else to help direct us to the proper location.

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The ‘sparkling’ part of the dessert party consisted basically of the three cheapest sparkling wines / champagne they could find.  My mother, who is no one’s definition of a harsh critic, said it was the worst glass of champagne she’d ever had.  To quote her directly ‘it was disgusting.’  One person at the party was overheard asking whether or not this was a non-alcoholic champagne.  No one thought this was ‘the good stuff.’

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So, for $50 a person, you’re paying for some better-than-average desserts and a good place to watch IllumiNations.  Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the expense.  There are some great places to watch IllumiNations around World Showcase, and for $50 a person, you can buy some good champagne and desserts with money to spare.



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Category: Disney World, Disney World Dining

  • Sevey13

    This is disappointing, especially being from Washington where the “Sparkling” part of the “Sparkling Desert” comes from. I was considering this during our visit. Maybe not anymore. Anyone done the Wishes party? How does it compare?

    • Cropman

      Wishes party is much, much better. We won’t do Epcot’s party again, but we will do Wishes again.

  • ChiTownGirl

    First of all Wishes has a lot more desserts than this for way less money. They really need to add more desserts and maybe some chairs too!

    • ChiTownGirl

      Oh, and what happened to the cronuts they were on another review?!

    • CM

      I’ve actually worked this event a few times (starting with the very first one, which was a little bit of a learning experience) and they really have been listening to everyone’s feedback and trying to improve the event in a lot of different ways. I really did wonder at first why they didn’t have seating in that area, but if you were to look at the space, it’s at a bit of an incline (because it’s previously been used for guests who want to stand and see over each other) and it actually would be a bit of a safety issue if there were to be chairs placed there, especially in the dark. I really hope that you guys who have already been to the party and have commented have made all of the pros and cons you’ve mentioned here known to the cast members in guest relations and the managers in charge of the events because they really do want to know what areas need changes since this dessert party is so new! And I hope that everyone who is thinking of ruling out this event will still give it a chance! I’m sure it will just keep improving over time :)

  • mrp4352

    We attended the event on 3/28 – and the dessert portion was moved into the Odyssey because of iffy weather. I agree the desserts were wonderful, and I must admit it was lovely having tables and chairs to enjoy the desserts in. One of our concerns about the party is the lack of seating at the viewing site. The hour+ of standing can be hard.
    The viewing location is the best – as long as the wind is in your favor. :-)
    Sevey13, I think the Illuminations party is a better event (if you don’t look at the price tag) – the desserts and viewing location are much better than the Wishes party. However, the Wishes party always offers chairs and the better price.
    I would also have loved having a photopass photographer there (like at the Wishes party).

  • AEP5050

    I agree. It was very, very disappointing. We paid for our kids to go the Beach Club that evening to go on a date. We sat on the concrete to eat and drink, because the few pub tables they had were filled. There wasn’t near as much variety as it looked like on the first impression seeing that a lot of the tables had the same foods on them. If I had paid for my kids to go to this, it would have cost us $160, and I would have been very upset. They wouldn’t have enjoyed it one bit. They had a blast at the activity center, so I am glad we did that and didn’t mind paying for it, even though the purpose of our date night was so we could do the Dessert Party, and it was not what we thought it would be. We ended up going to Jelly Rolls after Illuminations and had a great time there though!

  • Cropman

    Couldn’t agree with this review more. After doing the MK party and this one, there is no comparison. Overpriced, not a big selection of deserts, standing the whole time, and just trying to find the party, it was very disappointing. There is no way I could ever recommend this party, especially at $50 a pop. $25, maybe, but not even close to $50. Just one guy’s opinion.

  • Carrie Copeland

    Oh no! I booked this for our upcoming trip this month! I am always willing to try something new at Disney, so I am keeping my reservation and just hoping for the best!

  • sunshine

    Thank you so much for this review! I just cancelled my reservation for this. We plan to take your advice and get our own (better!) drinks while strolling World Showcase. I’ve been to a private event dessert party before and it was really great, so I am sad to hear this one doesn’t measure up. But I’m SO glad you told us! Saved me lots of money.

  • Patricia Gilreath Burger

    Love Love Love receiving your email drops every day and look forward to reading every word and watching your videos! I had traveled to WDW every year from 1972 till 2008 when the economy hit us hard and other issues and hope every year that I can make it back… not so far… with that being said, I can live a little of the magic through your emails!!! I should have a job related to doing what you do and that would be a dream come true!!!

  • volantiad

    Hello! I know this event hasn’t been an option very long, but I’m wondering if anyone has done it very recently? I’m trying to get a sense of whether Disney is responding to feedback they must be getting about this and picking up their game. My family will be going to the Food & Wine Festival this Fall and we’re making plans/reservations now, just to be safe. We’re looking at either this option (we were kind of looking forward to dessert/fireworks) or having dinner at Tokyo Dining which has a viewing option for Illuminations. Any feedback would be much appreciated!

    • Cropman

      We did this April 2 and I posted above. Not worth the money, but that is only my and my wife’s opinion.

  • Jess

    What do you mean if the wind is in your favor

  • julylady

    I originally had reservations for the Sparkling Dessert Party, but cancelled after reading the early reviews. My girls, ages 12 and 9, were pretty disappointed because the “idea” of unlimited desserts sounded great to them! I told them that we would create our own “Dessert Party.” They would be allowed to each pick two desserts of their choice during our Saturday evening at EPCOT prior to Illuminations. As we visited EPCOT during the week they scouted out desserts that were possibilities. On the Illumuniations evening, they each picked one dessert prior to sitting down for the Village People concert in America. The oldest picked a funnel cake and the youngest wanted her own bag of Cheetos (go figure). Then after the concert we visited France for our second selections (both got ice creams). I picked up a glass of wine for myself and we found a nice place near Italy to wait for the Fireworks to start.
    I just wanted to share my idea because it worked out GREAT for us and I think it will become a tradition for my family. The girls usually share treats so the idea that they could pick out two things in the same night just for themselves was a first for them. They also had a ton of fun looking at and some sampling (we shared a cronut just to test it) all the various desserts offered all week and “deciding” what they were going to get on Saturday. In the end, I think they enjoyed the looking more than the actual eating and I saved a ton of money.

  • Lorraine

    We are currently (May 10,2014) at the event, the desserts are ok with only 6 options… And no seating, for 50 bucks each I would expect some form of seating … Would not recommend , of course if we liked champagne it would be better , but was a secondary option to the terrace dessert party being full.

  • Lizzy

    I’m looking at this and all I see is gross coffee desserts everywhere. My husband and I aren’t coffee fans. Is there any point for us to even bother? Because literally everything listed just sounds boring or gross and the fact that it’s $100 for 2 with no seating does not help it in my book.