As I am sure you know by now, yesterday Disney announced their Free Disney Dining Plan Promotions for 2015. I won’t go into all the details, but some of my Disney colleagues covered it well: Disney Tourist Blog’s coverage / Orlando Weekly’s coverage

I have a feeling that Disney is perhaps trying to phase out the free dining promotion a few steps at a time. Right off the bat, I noticed a few things that was different this year than from previous years:

  • There was no advance notice (or opportunity) given to Disney Visa cardholders. As a cardholder myself, the card seems to slash benefits every year, to the point where it’s almost not worth it to just get 1-2% on purchases back in the form of digital Disney Dollars.
  • This year there was a new requiement that you had to add the Park Hopper or Water Park Fun option to your ticket package.
  • The room requirements appear to have been a bit higher, too. As in, you couldn’t book the lowest-tier room, it had to be a nicer view room or king bed, for example.
  • Fewer rooms appear to have been offered up this year.

The bigger problem which I heard both through the grapevine and through my own experience, was that the Disney call center was simply not able to handle the volume of this promotion yesterday. I’ve heard many stories of people calling and gettnig a busy signal, a “we’re sorry all circuits are busy” message, or flat out being disconnected after holding for hours. I also noticed the website was very glitchy in the morning, but that got better throughout the day.

Now, obviously, Disney should perhaps have staggered this: half the rooms available for Disney Visa cardholders for a few days, then another half for non-Disney Visa card holders. That litearlly halves the promotion’s impact on call centers and gives people more time and more opportunity to land the coveted rooms that include free dining.

But, I’d like to go on a limb and say this isn’t all Disney’s fault. I’ve noticed a big strategy that travel agents use lately is to say “book with us now, and we’ll call Disney when promotions drop and add them”. Well, you get enough travel agents with a back log of reservations to update, and this is kind of what happens. Same day frustrations from travel agents are, to some extent, on those very travel agents.

In general, though, as I said, I think Disney is trying to navigate away from free dining. Off-seasons get more crowded every year, so their incentive to run promotions gets smaller. To combat that, they offer fewer rooms in the promotion, and make it slightly more expensive to obtain in the first place (add park hopper, better rooms, etc.).

What do you think, readers, is Disney trying to phase this out? Did you have any bad experiences yesterday trying to add? Were you successul? Unsuccessful?

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