Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom is one of my favorite events of the year. It marks the start of the fall season at WDW, it means Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival is only a few weeks away, it means cooler weather is coming and before you know it – Christmas! But beyond all that, I look forward to MNSSHP because it’s a consistently great experience and I always walk away feeling that I’d gotten my money’s worth. Yes, it’s a $70 per person hard ticket event – but, in exchange for that you get some great entertainment, a great parade, amazing fireworks, trick-or-treating opportunities, a decent number of attractions with shorter than average waits and an overall vibe that could only be accomplished at the Magic Kingdom. For me, that’s worth $70 and I don’t complain about paying it.
I was excited, intrigued and a little skeptical when I heard that Disney was adding a special VIP event to this years MNSSHP offerings. Entitled “The Villains’ Sinister Soiree: A Wicked Takeover of Cinderella Castle,” this special event consisted of a preferred viewing area for the “Boo To You” Halloween parade, as well as the HalloWishes fireworks show topped off with a dessert reception at Cinderella’s Royal Table. The cost of the event is $99 (in addition to the $70 hard ticket cost) and runs twice each night during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party.
My skepticism (and I was not alone on this) was based on two things. First, the price point. $99 is expensive for what amounts to a dessert party. Second, I was fresh from licking my wounds after the debacle that was Villains Unleashed! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios a few weeks before. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try.
MNSSHP officially begins at 7pm, although your ticket will get you in the gates at 4pm. You check in for the VIP party at the Main Street hub at 7:30, and linger in the expansive area in front of Cinderella Castle that is cordoned off exclusively for those who purchased the Villains Soiree ticket. This area was large, not crowded and provided a great vantage point for the parade (one of my favorite parades, by the way).
However, this is probably one of the worst locations to watch the fireworks as the castle obstructs the view of most of the ‘big’ explosions. That being said, I completely understand why this area was chosen – it was a good choice logistically and even though it wasn’t great for the fireworks, they were still spectacular. I felt as though I had paid a premium price for an obstructed view – but I got over it quickly. After all, the preferred viewing area wasn’t why I purchased this ticket – it was the Soiree itself in Cinderella Castle. I had high hopes for this event, and unfortunately those hopes were dashed.
There are two seatings for the dessert party each night, and ours was the first seating at 10:15. We were told to check in at 9:55 and waited for them to open the doors. Upon entering the foyer, a precursor of what was to come unfolded. The foyer had several characters posing for photos – Judge Claude Frolo, the Queen of Hearts, and Captain Hook. I was excited to get some photos, but from the minute we walked in, cast members were shouting at everyone to head upstairs because the “show” started in five minutes. Five minutes?? I just walked in. Why do you have characters posing for photos if you want people to rush upstairs? We were assured that these characters would be around during the party (they weren’t) and were constantly encouraged to hurry up to the restaurant. Like I said, this set the tone for the rest of the event.
We arrived at our table to find a dragon cup filled with candy, as well as Lady Tremaine’s Classic Castle Favorites – a charcuterie board consisting of blue cheese with honeycomb, triple cream cheese with raspberry habanero sauce, black diamond cheese fondue, a selection of breads and some aged salami. After being seated, what happened next was a blur. An onslaught of servers, characters, managers, and songs all clamoring over each other in a disorganized and frenzied cacophony. Upon being seated we were served Captain Hooks ‘Not-So-Poisoned’ potion – a tart, sweet green apple and lime punch that needed to be stirred to be enjoyed. No straws were provided for this for some odd reason and if you tried to drink it without stirring, it had the distinct flavor of dishwater.
Once the drink was served, Lady Tremaine took to the floor to sing us a song and introduce us to the ‘villains’ for the evening. Those in attendance were Cruella DeVil, Dr. Facilier, the Evil Queen and Maleficent as well as Lady Tremaine’s daughters Anastasia and Drizella. The opening ‘show’ was very cute – what we didn’t realize is that we should have been devouring our cheese and salami like hungry refugees because no sooner did the 5 minute floor show end then the servers were coming around to take away our plates. Here’s a tip for servers – don’t ever pull a plate of food out from in front of a fat guy. It’s a bad idea. When the server attempted to take my plate, I made it clear I was not finished. He advised me that they were leaving the cheese and salami, but they were coming out with dessert. That’s nice, but salami, blue cheese and pistachio mousse aren’t exactly a great blend, so I’ll keep my plate thank you.
In the interim, the characters were making their way from table to table and doing an amazing job of being engaging and entertaining in spite of the fact they all looked as though they were being followed by managers with cattle prods wanting them to hurry up.
I want to pause here to heap high praise on the characters. This is something Disney gets right all the time. They were amazing – just as they were amazing at Villains Unleashed. They were the highlight of the event. You could have kept the dessert and the four pieces of salami on the charcuterie board and given us more time with these folks and I would have walked out feeling like I had gotten my money’s worth.
The desserts offered consisted of The Queen’s ‘Bleeding Heart Apple’ – a white wine poached apple with a rhubarb filling, Maleficent’s Dragon-toasted confection – a pistachio mousse topped with meringue, Dr. Facilier’s Chocolate Tarot Card – a dark chocolate covered pecan praline and flourless chocolate torte and Cruella De Vil’s Spotted Chocolate Mousse cake – a white and dark chocolate mousse with raspberry. Generally speaking the desserts were good – some were outstanding (the pistachio mousse) while others were a bit odd (poached apple and rhubarb). But overall, very good.
Keep in mind, all the while this is being served there is an onslaught of characters coming to your table, singing going on in the hall, servers reaching in front of and around you – and then it ends. Abruptly. With Lady Tremaine literally saying “that’s it – get out.” The characters that were in a manic dash just minutes before disappeared as though they were never there. Servers begin clearing away dishes, and managers came to your table and wished you a good night with a passive aggressive tone that suggests your presence is no longer required.
We entered at 10:15 and were thrown out at 11:15 – whether we were finished or not. For $99. That was offensive. Had we been given maybe another half hour to enjoy this, with the strength of the character interaction, I probably would have walked away feeling that it was expensive, but enjoyable. Instead, I walked out feeling as though I’d just been ripped off. I expected better from Disney. Yes, nothing at Disney comes cheap, but I have always believed that there was quality for what you spend. In the vast majority of situations, I still feel that way and it will take a lot to change that opinion. However, where these ‘special events’ are concerned, I see an alarming trend. Charge more, do less and completely ignore the guest experience. It’s clear that a manager sat down and looked at the ‘elements’ of this party and determined that they warranted the cost, and on paper they probably do. Unfortunately in the execution of the event, all value was lost – much the same way it was lost during the Villains Unleashed party.
By the time we left the castle, the Halloween party was close to being over. I’d spent 4 hours of a 5 hour event on this and honestly, I would have had a much better time if I’d saved my money and just enjoyed an already great party. Lesson learned – I won’t be doing this again. I don’t recall ever leaving MNSSHP disappointed until this event. I actually paid extra to get less. The time spent on this party meant I wasn’t going on those attractions with low wait times, that I wasn’t going through the trick-or-treat lines or getting to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere that is a hallmark of the Magic Kingdom at Halloween.
Category: Disney World