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Monday, January 14, 2013

Secrets Private Seaside Dining Review

What turns a meal into a value?  For some people it’s solely based on the food they receive.  Some people want a lot of food for their money, others are only concerned about quality, and others still want a balance of both. 

On the other side of the coin you have people who give a lot of weight to the environment they are eating in.  If a place is poorly decorated the meal isn’t as good.  If a place has exceptional atmosphere maybe it makes up for subpar food. 

When you are paying $160 to $200 for two people to eat all of the above come into play.  Secrets offers a private dining option.  This option puts you and one other person at an outside, seaside, candle / torch list table.  You get one bottle of wine and a three course meal.  Is that worth the price?

Since a majority of the readers of this blog are Disney fans I am going to draw a lot Disney comparisons to help you judge if this option is worth the hefty price tag.  

The Atmosphere

It wouldn’t be easy to beat the atmosphere you experience with this dining option.  It is a nice relaxing atmosphere.  In most cases you will be eating on the sand somewhere.  The torches give just enough light to make things comfortable.

It sounds great but there are some big drawbacks.  First of all your experience could vary dramatically from another persons experience.   The reason for this is the actual dining locations vary greatly.  Some are out of the way and private while others are only feet from main walking path meaning you get no privacy whatsoever.   In our case we were put on a strip of sand a few feet from a private pool and the doors to half a dozen rooms.  All the lights were off so it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t ideal.

If you eliminate the privacy issue the atmosphere was about on par with a mid to high end Disney dining location.  San Angel Inn, The California Grille, and Garden Grille all offer atmospheres that have the same level of atmosphere.  Granted I am talking about having atmosphere not what kind.

So overall the atmosphere does not meet the price you pay. It’s just too much of a crap shoot.

The Service

The service starts with your server or a assistant meeting you at one of the bars and then walking you to your table.  In theory this should work well.  Our experience was not a positive one.  The bar we were assigned to wait at was closed for a private party so we didn’t even have anywhere to sit or get a drink.  We felt like a nuisance as we stood around and waited, and wait we did. 

We checked in, were checked off, and told our server would be with us shortly.  Then we waited as they tried to find our server.  No one seemed to know where he was.  After seeing the chaos of four different people call or try to find our server, finally someone showed up to seat us, twenty minutes after we were supposed to start our dinner.  Not a good start.  Considering this was supposed to be personalized service that exceeded our expectations it fell flat.  Most check in experiences at most Disney dining locations were far superior to what we experienced here.  This could be an anomaly but it still happened.  If it happened to one party I don’t doubt it’s happened to others.

Our server was decent.  He did well but considering what you are paying and what you get he was not up to par.  When I think of a dining experience that claims it’s on this level I think of The California Grille or Jiko.  At either of those locations you will normally get service that was far better than what we got at t his private dinner.

The service fell far short of mark.

The Food

So did the food make up for the other shortcomings?  I’ll start by saying the food I would expect at this price range should be on par with Jiko, The California Grille, The Brown Derby (when it’s at its best), or Narcoossee’s. The food wasn’t even close to what you’d get at any of them.

The food was terrible but there was one major issue with it.  The food was the exact same food you could get at any of the other restaurants on the property.  All of those restaurants were included in the cost of your vacation.  When you pay beyond that you expect something really special not the same stuff in a different location.

The food was a major flop for the price.

In the end, if you buy the cheapest package, you are paying $160 - $200 to eat on the beach under torchlight.  Keep that in mind.  You can get the same food and similar service at any of the normal dining locations at Secrets.  If the experience of dining seaside is worth that price for you then you would want to do this.  If that sounds insane then avoid this package at all costs.

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