Disney with Special Dietary Needs

I’ve discussed before Disney’s magical ability to make you fork over an absurd amount of money with a smile on your face. I’ve previously attributed it to fairy dust… but I think it’s because as you’re grinning whilst you empty your child’s college fund, the Disney cast members making minimum wage have an even bigger grin as they bend over backwards to grant your heart’s desire.

http://stitchkingdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/cast_members_party_for_the_planet_45885220_orig4.jpg

http://stitchkingdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/cast_members_party_for_the_planet_45885220_orig4.jpg

You just have to ask. And your wish is their command.

I have found no greater example of this than how Disney handles guests with special dietary needs.

First, I should explain. A year ago I was diagnosed with a digestive disorder that has me on a severely restricted diet. Low fat, low fiber, and no indigestibles such as nuts or seeds or popcorn. If I stray from my diet, I get sick. So the burgers, green salads, popcorn, and almonds that I previously enjoyed on my annual trip are no longer options. This is my first trip since my diagnosis, and I was pretty nervous about how I would be able to stay happy and healthy in my favorite place on earth.

People with allergies and other forms of food intolerances, I’m sure, can empathize. It’s that nagging fear whenever you stay someplace where you can’t control all of your food. So I write this article for anyone who has or knows someone who has incumbering dietary restrictions.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this disorder, it’s that you have to be your own advocate. Which can be incredibly annoying and just a hair bit daunting. You feel pushy and a nuisance. But, it’s your health, so what other choice do you have?

Well, luckily, with Disney, they make it easy. You don’t feel like a burden. In fact, they have a special office designated just for your purpose.

office

You can email them at specialdiets@disneyworld.com, or call them at (407) 824- 5967. I personally chose to do both.

First, I emailed, explaining my dilemma. They emailed me back asking me to fill out a form listing all my restrictions, contact information, where I was staying, and all the reservations I’ve made for my visit.

*Note: If you or a member of your party have special dietary needs I highly recommend making reservations ahead of time. Besides just good planning sense, it means that the restaurant can be contacted ahead of time about your needs and best serve you.

http://www.orlandofuntickets.com/common_resources/images/oft-blog_chef-mickey-character-dinner-at-contemporary-walt-disney-world-resort.jpg

http://www.orlandofuntickets.com/common_resources/images/oft-blog_chef-mickey-character-dinner-at-contemporary-walt-disney-world-resort.jpg

Then I called their office to ask about nutritional information at snack carts and counter service. The woman I spoke with was incredibly helpful, giving honest and helpful information instead of just scripted pablum. Unfortunately she couldn’t guarantee nutritional information on the snack carts, which is a bummer but I appreciate that she was honest about it. So I’ll stick to counter service.

The counter service, on the other hand, is a whole different story. She assured me that, because the food is not pre packaged but simply made quickly, they could prepare me something special. In fact, there is a specific protocol for guests like me.

Step 1: First, find a cast member, not one working the register (that would add to the wait time), someone like a busser.

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdduzwbKE71qmfwvm.jpg

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdduzwbKE71qmfwvm.jpg

Step 2: Tell this cast member you have an allergy. Tell them this even if you have a digestive disorder such as celiac, because the cast member is trained how to deal with allergies. He may not know what “digestive disorder” means.

Step 3: The cast member will then bring you to a person who does know what a digestive disorder is. Explain to him/her your restrictions and they will prepare something for you.

The cast member I spoke with suggested people with dietary needs should stick to some of the bigger eateries, which have a larger kitchen with more tools to cook what you need. For example, she said, instead of going to Casey’s Corner, which just has a frier, I should go to Cosmic Rays which has the appliances to cook a rotisserie chicken and a veggie burger. More options.

So, even with Disney watching your back, you should still do your research ahead of time. Check out the counter services online and make a plan of attack.

Also, if you have dietary needs, it is even more important to eat your lunch during off hours. There are only a few chefs and specialists they have entrusted to dealing with dietary needs per establishment. So if 15 people with celiac, nut allergies, and lactose intolerances have lined up for their special meals ahead of you, it could be a long wait.

That’s another bummer, but at least you know Disney is making sure capable people are handling your meal. So no slip ups and no bad reactions. We hope.

http://www.mouseplanet.info/gallery/d/88399-2/EP_ChefsdeFrance_ChefRemy_Animatronic-goldhaber.jpg

http://www.mouseplanet.info/gallery/d/88399-2/EP_ChefsdeFrance_ChefRemy_Animatronic-goldhaber.jpg

But Disney has settled my fears, and I’m much more relaxed about finding food during my trip.

So far, two of the restaurants I made reservations at have called me to discuss my menu options. One of them called me today, on the Sunday before Christmas! Further proving my theory that Disney employs animatronics. No one is this nice for minimum wage.

castmember

By the way, this goes for tours as well. I have booked the Keys to the Kingdom Tour and the Wild Africa Trek (SO excited). Both of which include lunch. So, when telling the dietary office about your reservations, be sure to include any tours you’re taking.

watfood

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-y8GAiB8epUc/T7rhbCRW1mI/AAAAAAAABzw/RJMr7ijNsmU/s1600/SAM_2734.JPG

Word around the blogosphere said that this process could soon get even easier, with their RFD technology that may possible communicate your dietary needs to the chefs as soon as you walk through the door.

If you have more straightforward needs, such as kosher or vegan, you can look at their website for information on what counter and table services will provide for you.

Bottom line, Disney can take a lot of the stress away from anyone who has to obsessively read the nutritional information on food packages. So be your own advocate, take the extra steps before your trip, and then enjoy the leisure of not having to prepare your own specialized meal. The mouse has got it handled.

http://cbskluv2.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/mickey-mouse-zippo-kluv-getty-kevin-winter1.jpg?w=420

http://cbskluv2.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/mickey-mouse-zippo-kluv-getty-kevin-winter1.jpg?w=420