Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aloha to the Spirit of Aloha dinner show!

One of my favorite dining experiences at Disney is the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.  Now, I know that it's much maligned with die-hard fans.  It's often derided as "kitschy" or even sometimes "silly".  On both counts, I must agree.  It's very kitschy and silly!  But that's what makes it fun.

On the dining plan, this is a two table service credit meal.  And with the dining plan, you can only sit in section 2 or 3 (section 1 is "front and center").  Your table placement is decided by your party size and your reservation time (180 days out with a 2-person party is going to yield the best seat).

So, there are two questions here:  1, is the SoA show worth the time commitment on a busy trip; and 2, is it worth the price (cash or dining credits).  Each one is separate, I think.

First of all, I do think the SoA show is worth the time.  A wise man once said that your vacation shouldn't exhaust you to the point where you need to rest when you come home ... and really, I think SoA is a great bit of down time for a family.  The food is good and plentiful, the show is interesting (at least the second half, in my opinion), and it's fun to meet families from all over the world.  And, if you're staying at the Polynesian, it's a lovely (and short) walk back to your room after the show.

Upon arrival, you'll check in and receive a lei.  They're the simple silk-flower type, and the kids love them.  Well, until they start making your neck itch.  The cast members herd you over for the obligatory photo (not included with the price, don't worry they'll print it and stalk you during dinner) ... but you can graciously decline, of course.  Then you're herded into a large waiting area, all in a group.  There is a mobile bar available that serves wine and beer and some limited mixed drinks (cash bar, room charge wasn't accepted both times we visited).  At your reservation time (usually either 5:15 or 8:00 PM), you are then herded down a ramp toward the entrance point for the theater.  It feels disorganized and very confusing (and as my daughter says "hurry up and wait"), but when you make it to the front of the line you realize that they have this chaos very well orchestrated.

You'll be escorted to your pre-assigned table, and given a drink menu.  Soft drinks, beer, and wine are included with your meal, but of course there are other drinks available for a nominal charge.  While you wait for the show to begin, your server will bring some bread (which tastes a lot like Ohana's welcome bread).  It is worth noting that if you have a finicky eater, you can always request a na keiki (the child's) boxed meal.  This is usually a PB&J Uncrustable and some other kid-friendly fare.  However, I think that most kids will like what's offered and should really give it a try.

Shortly after the bread, a most delicious salad appears.  It's served with fresh pineapple, and topped with mandarin oranges.

photo courtesy of user pauliek on DisBoards

If you're anything like us, you'll tear through the salad quickly.  The dressing is sweet yet tangy, and the fresh sweet pineapple is the perfect complement to the crunch of the salad.  Try not to fill up on the salad, because there's even more delicious food coming.

After the first "act" of the luau (as part of the show), your server will then bring out your main course ... family-style. On one of the trademark pewter serving plates, you'll be presented with delicious barbeque pork ribs, rotisserie chicken with the most lovely seasoning, and sides of polynesian rice and veggies.  I'm not ashamed to admit that my 51 pound daughter and I tore through the ribs and had to ask our server for more.  The sauce was delicious, and the ribs were well-cooked.  Neither my daughter nor I were huge fans of the chicken either time we visited, aside from eating the seasoned skin and a bite or two as a change of pace from the massive amount of ribs we consumed.  The rice was acceptable, but not memorable.  Honestly, we may have eaten a small spoonful each.  The ribs were just that good.

The show continues, and before the traditional dance showcase portion begins, dessert is brought out with great fanfare.  The name "volcano delight" is a bit misleading, as the dessert that's served isn't the sparkler-laden attention grabber that's presented.  However, the single-serve chocolate mousse pyramids are certainly tasty.  Nestled on a bed of pineapple syrup and drizzled with sweet raspberry syrup, it's a diabetic's nightmare.  Sweet, rich, and oh-so-good. 

photo courtesy of Chip & Co.

After dessert is served, the best part of the show begins.  The cast members share dances from several different islands - all are beautiful and evoke feelings of the islands, but all are different and interesting.  From the hula of Hawaii, to the careful poi ball acrobatics of Tahiti, to the beautiful courtship dance of Samoa ... the dances are well choreographed and interesting.  But the highlight (and finale) of the evening is the Fire Dancer.  He is legendary amongst children and grown women alike ... for different reasons.  He is very skilled, and suffice it to say he's easy on the eyes.  He's my daughter's favorite performer, for sure.

All in all, it's a great night to kick back, have a good meal, and relax.  Cash prices are currently listed on AllEars, and vary based upon seating choice and age.  This is a two-credit dining experience if you are on the Dining Plan.

Back to my initial questions:

1. Is the SoA show worth the time commitment on a busy trip?  Absolutely.  A well-planned trip should include a meal or experience that causes you to slow down and appreciate your good fortune to be at The Happiest Place On Earth.  I think that SoA does just that.  The first part of the show is kitschy and a bit silly.  But if you have a child with you, I promise they'll love it.  The second part of the show is very well-done, and the food is great.  I prefer the 8 PM show, because it is easy to do a park in the morning and swim in the afternoon.  Even with the 8 PM show, we were tucked into our beds in Samoa 3607 by 10:30 PM. 

2. Is it worth the price (cash or dining credits)? This is a personal choice.  My family enjoys a good meal, and we like to linger and talk when we're finished dining.   We were not opposed to the price tag, as we considered it the equivalent to a dinner at Cosmic Ray's (with a bit better side dishes), and a nice show.  As a deluxe dining plan family, we carefully budgeted our credits for this meal and decided that it was worth the expense.  Personally, I say "yes, it's worth it".  And when planning our trip this year, this (and Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast) were my daughter's only two requests.

Score: I give the Spirit of Aloha dinner show a 9 out of 10.  As the gratuity is included in the meal price, I've noticed that the service is not nearly as attentive as other places on Disney property.  Don't misunderstand me ... our server both times did an acceptable job.  But they didn't play the part well - simply brought food, dropped it off, and cleared plates.  I've had similarly attentive service at a buffet meal on property, and the price was half of this experience.  The food is always well-prepared and very tasty, the show is acceptable, and it's a great night to enjoy with your family.  Give it a try.

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