A huge thank you to Katie Drake for offering to document her family’s experience at the Akershus Princess Storybook Dinner in Disney World’s Norway Pavilion! I can’t wait until you see her pic of her daughter hugging Snow White…classic. Take it away, Katie!
Character meals are some of the toughest reservations to come by in Walt Disney World, particularly breakfasts. If the princess breakfasts are all booked and you can’t be first in the park, or you just want to sleep past 6 a.m. on your vacation, a character lunch or dinner is a great option. Akershus is one of the few restaurants at Disney that offers characters, in this case the princesses, at every meal and is open from park opening to closing (even when World Showcase is closed in the morning).
Located just steps off the main World Showcase promenade, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall truly does look like something from a storybook. From the outside, the medieval castle looks like a traditional European fortress that has been standing over the nearby lagoon for centuries. Inside, the medieval theme continues with banners and pennants hanging from the vaulted stone ceilings. Lead-panned windows let in plenty of light, reminiscent of gothic cathedrals. Tables are warm, heavy wood with matching chairs with padded tapestry seats. Norwegian college students, working in Epcot as International employees, are dressed in traditional garb that is just authentic enough not to be ridiculous. The overall effect is one of stepping back in time, from the paving stones at your feet to the ceiling’s wooden buttresses.
Let’s be honest, food is not the reason you are here. Disney could feed you Spam on toast and you’d still fork over the $40 (for adults; $20 for kids) to save yourself from standing in that horrible un-airconditioned line for character autographs.
That said, the food at Akershus is pretty darn tasty. The fixed-price meal includes all three styles of Disney table service dining, with an appetizer buffet, single-serving main courses and family-style dessert. Everyone starts at “A Taste of Norway,” a buffet loaded with Norwegian cheeses and deli meats, as well as standard fare for less adventurous eaters like fruit and those yummy, crusty rolls that seem to be a staple at every World Showcase restaurant.
Entrees are well prepared and have good presentation. There are plenty of options without being overwhelming. Our group sampled the mustard-glazed salmon, traditional kjottkake “dumplings,” citrus marinated mahi-mahi and the grilled pork chop. Both fish dishes were quite good, cooked at the sweet spot between sashimi and overdone. Sauces were not overpowering, but instead complimented the mild fish flavors. The mustard sauce in particular could have been overwhelming, but a small dollop provided just the right amount of kick.
The pork chop was the group favorite, grilled with a tangy apple-raisin chutney. The chop was cooked nicely, but the side of potato gratin took the top prize of the night. Cheesy on the inside with a nice crunch of browned cheese on top, it was delicious.
The kjottkake “dumplings” were somewhat misleading, but still tasty. I was expecting something like a Norwegian potsticker, but got two large meatballs in a savory gravy. I’m guessing the meatballs were steamed first and then browned, as they were well cooked all the way through, a concern since they were about the size of my toddler’s head.
The gravy paired nicely with the mashed potatoes, which were dense and rich with hints of cheese. Yum.
Desserts are served family style and are fine, but nothing to get overly excited about. A traditional Norwegian rice cream with raspberry sauce is like biting into a plate of whipped cream and finding chewy rice inside. That may sound unappealing, but is actually quite yummy after American palettes adjust to the foreign texture.
A flakey puff pastry with berries and mascarpone mousse is good, but uninspired, while the chocolate mousse is rich and creamy, but retains its light, airy texture. It was billed as “sweet and savory,” but the only savor was the hint of dark chocolate in the crust.
Kids’ offerings here are a disappointment, limited to standard theme-park fare like pizza, hot dog, grilled chicken and salad or meatballs and pasta with marinara. Luckily your children are likely to be so enthralled by the characters they won’t notice. If they are disappointed, Mom or Dad can order a second entrée, as the restaurant is all-you-care-to-eat, similar to a cruise ship dining room.
This is why you came, and the performance does not disappoint. Akershus offers what is arguably the best character interaction on property, with princesses stopping by each table to give hugs and autographs to their adoring fans. Guests wait in a short line to be received by one princess before being seated, in our case Aurora.
Photopass photographers are on hand to take pictures of the kiddos, or the whole family, which are later brought to your table! While you are dining, the remaining princesses (or sometimes other friends) come by to visit at the table and sign autographs. Since dinner is less crowded, you are likely to get more time with each of the characters, a huge bonus. Each princess spent 5-10 minutes with us per child, and this was during free dining! We saw Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella and Ariel, in addition to Aurora, though the line-up varies.
The princesses were incredible, putting up with my daughter’s sticky toddler kisses and answering every question my adoring niece threw at them in incredible detail. (Mackenzie to Ariel “Are you coming to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party tomorrow?” Ariel: “Well, Sebastian is having a concert, so Eric and I already promised we would go. And you know what Sebastian is like if you miss one of his concerts…”)
While not a destination restaurant food-wise, guests will still walk away with tummies full of tasty victuals. Kids’ offerings are no better than counter-service fare, but children will be so excited to see their favorite characters they are unlikely to notice. Princesses are perfect – beautiful, kind and never break character. The only improvement would be to set the schedule so guests know who is appearing, but if your favorite is unavailable, you can always pick her up at another World Showcase country.
This is a great alternative to the pricey, and not as good, meals at Cinderella’s Royal Table.