Character meals are an iconic part of a Disney vacation, and for good reason. They are efficient, allowing the characters to come to you while you eat saving you the agony of waiting in lines, and you get some pretty good return on investment for your time and money, with multiple characters, food and beverage all at one event. I wasn’t sure Miss O would want to meet any characters, let alone the four or five we’d meet at any given event. The trip was still a surprise at that point, so I couldn’t risk asking her and somehow revealing the trip early. Nevertheless, something inside me said this needed to be part of her first trip to Disney World, so I took a chance and added a character meal to our wishlist.
I struggled over which event to choose, but I knew it would only be Miss O, Hubs and me. Even though we were traveling with my mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and nephew, I wanted this to be a special experience just for us. Mister A, my nephew, wasn’t into princesses anyway, so I knew Uncle B and Auntie L wouldn’t be in a rush to join us anyway.
After many hours of pouring through reviews and blog posts on Pinterest, I decided to use what I now refer to as “The Akershus Strategy.” It goes something like this:
Try to score a reservation at Akershus in Epcot for as early as possible that morning and get an edge on your day at Epcot.
Because it opens before the rest of the park and if your child has any interest in riding Frozen Ever After or meeting Anna And Elsa, like mine, this is the edge you’re looking for. While world showcase usually opens at 11 AM, Norway opens at 9 AM, largely due to the popularity of what some now call “the Frozen section.”
Poor Norway, there’s so much more to you…
Anyway, if you can score an 8 AM-ish reservation, you’re essentially in a position to eat breakfast whilst meeting four or five princesses, then either going right next door to walk onto Frozen Ever After or around the corner to queue up for meeting Anna and Elsa before most people have even made it that far into the park after rope drop.
I looked at what characters usually appear at the Princess Storybook breakfast and knew we’d be able to cover some of Miss O’s favorites. At the time of our trip, it was likely to be Belle, in her yellow gown, Ariel, with legs, Aurora, Snow White and sometimes Jasmine. It’s always subject to change, so I held out hope that it wouldn’t change too much. Breakfast for the Princess Storybook breakfast is only one table-service dining plan credit. We had allocated our table-service credit for that day to an anniversary dinner celebration for my in-laws at Coral Reef, so while we’d be going over our dining plan allotment, we’d only end up having to pay for our last lunch out of pocket, which really wouldn’t be that bad. With that plan in mind, I set Akershus as my first choice for a character meal for our day at Epcot.
I’m not gonna lie I stressed a lot the morning I made our dining reservations. With three devices going at a time, this was the first reservation I tried for. The Pixie Dust was working overtime that day and I was lucky enough to score an 8:25 AM reservation. Not as early as I would have liked, but not bad either.
Breakfast takes about an hour and the park was scheduled to open at 9 AM that day. While we were getting into Epcot just before rope drop, we wouldn’t really be in a position to beat the crowds like I’d hoped. We would still already be in Norway, so hopefully the lines for Anna and Elsa or Frozen Ever After wouldn’t be quite so insane that early in the morning. Hey, at least I GOT a reservation. That’s hard enough to achieve.
Our day at Epcot finally came, though it didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped. We were running a tad behind for our reservation, so our shuttle turned into a Lyft Minnie Van and our stroll up to the main gate became a controlled fast walk. I’m trying to teach Miss O to roll with it, not freak out and run like crazy, not matter how much you feel like you need to. The reservation will still be there. Besides, if I told her to run, she’d trip, fall and end up spending an hour crying at the main gate and who wants that?!
Fortunately, I knew from all that aforementioned blog research to head for the far-left line of turnstiles dedicated to character breakfasts. I was trying not to look worried or panic stricken as we rolled through the gate and I told Miss O to put on her hustle shoes. Friends, that is a long walk from the main gate to Akershus. Plan accordingly and double check that morning shuttle time. It’s a lovely stroll on a good day, but when you’re hustling to get to a reservation, it’s definitely not as much fun.
We arrived at Akershus only a few short minutes past our reservation time and as I breathlessly checked in with the first cast member toting a clipboard I could see, she assured me we were “right on time.” There were several families in line ahead of us, so I panicked a little about how this would affect our park plan for the day, then quickly let it go and thanked Miss O for her very determined hustle. Thank goodness it wasn’t too humid that morning!
We waited a brief 5-minutes before our name was called and we were pulled out of the line, much to the dismay of everyone in front of us. I felt compelled to tell them all we were late, but knew it wouldn’t help and kept it all inside. As we passed the desk up front, we were taken in to wait in a short line to meet Belle in her yellow gown, as promised.
We had met so many princesses already at Animal Kingdom and on our first day at Magic Kingdom, so I wasn’t sure she’d really care about meeting more. I was so wrong. Miss O’s eyes lit up the second she laid eyes on Belle and she looked back at me with so much excitement. Belle signed her autograph banner and they chatted about reading books, one of Miss O’s favorite things to do. I think Miss O’s love for Belle grew that day. They took some lovely photos and I scanned my Magic Band for the PhotoPass Photographer.
Our table, which was right near Belle and the door, was also very close to the buffet, so really, it was perfect. We were a nice safe distance from the buffet line so as not to be part of it and close enough to the door to get the heck out when we were ready to go. The service was excellent and our server was ready to go with the allergy-friendly menu for me. She also offered to have the chef walk me through the line, but I’m pretty good with sorting out what’s probably gluten-free. After a glance at the menu, I felt pretty confident about it and knew I could always ask for the Chef later.
I’ve read mixed reviews on the breakfast menu, but we enjoyed it, so add +3 to the like column from us. First off, they bring hot food to your table family-style that includes scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and potato casserole. The eggs were fine, don’t go expecting anything amazing, and the casserole was really good. They even made a gluten-free casserole just for me that was a full-size portion! I couldn’t tell you what about it made gluten-free, but they assured me I should have my own and I wasn’t about to argue or risk the pain. Sometimes other people take better care of me than I do!
The Norwegian Smorgasbord is a cold buffet offering little muffins, bagels, cream cheese, fruits and preserves. It also offers smoked salmon, which I enjoy, and was pretty good. There are some other cheeses and meats along with some peppered mackerel that I’m not into, but you’re in Norway, so what do you expect?
The princesses, which is what most of the people in Akershus were really there for, came around twice while were there. They constantly work the room while you eat and every 45-minutes or so, pause for a Princess Parade, gathering whomever wants to follow them as they weave their way through the tables around the restaurant. Miss O was definitely not up for the parade, but she was all about meeting the princesses.
While there is a Photopass Photographer available for meeting Belle, you’re on your own for photos with the Princesses and there’s no handler to help with autographs. So, when you sense they are near, get ready. I had our banner out and pens lined up for autographs and Hubs was on standby with his iPhone for pictures.
Aurora stopped by first and was very gracious. She signed our banner and asked us if we slept well. Miss O was dressed in her blue Elsa shirt I picked for that day, so she and Aurora discussed pink and blue for a bit. Miss O’s assured her she loved her pink dress and I don’t think I realized quite how big Aurora’s crown is. Well done, Aurora. Well done.
Cinderella followed next and I hoped Miss O wouldn’t be disappointed to meet her again. I was able to quickly “remind” Cinderella how lovely it was to meet her the day before at the Magic Kingdom. Without missing a beat, Cinderella responded how it was lovely to see us again and how she hoped we enjoyed our visit yesterday and she was so happy she was able to come over that day and spend time with her friends at Epcot. Whew. Well played, Cinderella.
I had a similar moment of panic when Ariel came by and was able to “remind” her about our meeting in her grotto the day before as well. Miss O was quick to add that she was happy Ariel had her legs that day. Ariel was on point and said how nice it was to get out and walk on land for a bit. She and Miss O compared shoes and there was much giggling. These women are amazing.
Snow White was last to visit our table, but may have been my favorite. She was perfect! Miss O has never seen Snow White’s movie, but she knows her and was so excited to see her. As Snow was signing our banner, she told us she always wears a bow because when you do, it shows you’re a gift to the world. Note to self: wear more bows.
In total, our experience lasted about an hour and was totally worth it. Even with repeated princesses, Miss O’s smile in the photos proves she had a ball and it was well worth the planning, time, and expense.
As for the strategy, we only waited 5 minutes to meet Anna and Elsa and then practically walked on to Frozen Ever After. Whether that was a testimony to “The Akershus Strategy” or going in late August, I don’t know, but I’d do it again if I had to. If you’re looking for a decent breakfast whilst crossing some princess time off your list, I highly recommend it, no matter what time of year you go.