There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child. ~Erma Bombeck
Perhaps if you are waking up on December 25th in the heart of a Disney Park, that sentiment doesn’t quite hold true…
|Can you spot Cinderella Castle in the distance?|
It [Disneyland] has that thing- the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement- I knew when I was a kid. ~Walt Disney
It was with both of these sentiments in mind that we planned to spend Christmas at the Most Magical Place on Earth several years ago. After many moons and much dreaming, and with our stars finally in full alignment, we decided to do things in a BIG way; creating a Disney memory that would truly withstand the test of time. Since we were looking for the royal treatment, there was only one way to go. Our extended family of twelve awoke in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, rode the monorail to the Contemporary Resort for Christmas Mass, and then toured the remaining resorts to sop up the Holiday flavors. There could be only one way to cap a day such as this- Christmas dinner at the Private Fireplace Dining Room at Victoria & Albert’s, or Queen Victoria’s Room as it is now called.
Just four months prior, I had taken a shot at scoring a table for our once-in-a-lifetime Holiday banquet. I knew the Chef’s Table was not available to us (this experience is open to a maximum of ten Guests), and was hoping for a spot in the Main Dining Room. I was shocked and ecstatic when I was told that we would have our own, private dining chamber for our Christmas feast! (Although it is possible to make on-line reservations at Victoria & Albert’s and Chef’s Table, all reservations for Queen Victoria’s Room must be made via their private line at 407-939-3862 starting 180 days prior to your visit.) I was contacted two weeks prior to our stay to arrange our custom eight course menu.
The James Beard Foundation’s award winning Chef Scott Hunnel crafts culinary masterpieces based on Guest preferences, special dietary needs, and seasonal availability of ingredients. (If that name sounds familiar, it should! Chef Hunnel collaborated to create the premier dining concept for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy- Remy Restaurant.) Our party included two extremely well-behaved young men ages four and six (Guests must typically be ten or older), and a teen with severe nut allergies, so we asked that all offerings be nut-free and not overly exotic; hold the caviar and foie gras! (They sure did enjoy the duck and buffalo, though!!)
Wearing our best Holiday finery, we strolled the halls of the Grand Floridian before arriving at our majestic destination. As you would expect, there is a strictly-enforced dress code for this uber fine dining establishment. Men are required to wear jackets, tie optional, and ladies the equivalent. In the event of a wardrobe emergency, there are house jackets available. In fact, they will even supply beautiful cashmere shawls for your princess to don in the event she catches a chill whilst dining. Our merry gang checked-in at Victoria & Albert’s at 4 pm on Christmas Day, and Maitre d’Hotel Israel Perez personally escorted my family to a medium-sized dining area off to the left of the reception area. The room was classically appointed in the Victorian style of its namesake; a grand but tasteful chandelier, silk upholstered walls, and fittingly, a portrait of the Queen and Prince hanging above the lit fireplace.
Our table was adorned by our personalized menus, European Royal Doulton china, Frette linens, Riedel crystal, Christofle silver, and my family’s hand painted Christmas goblets that I had shipped to the restaurant a week earlier. They had been hand washed and placed at each setting, just as promised. (More on the significance of this in a bit.) Once our entire party was seated, the doors to the Main Dining Room were closed, and we were on our way to culinary coronation. To say that we were pampered and waited on hand and foot does not begin to do justice to the service our now-royal family received. For the next four hours, a team of maids and butlers, a sommelier and the Chef himself served us a regal banquet filled with guilty pleasures. Though the table-service cart, or French gueridon, is a newer addition, we were treated to a flourish and voila moment as no fewer than eight servers lifted the silver lids off our main courses:
Despite a lovely harpist supplying beautiful strains of Christmas music in the background, some family traditions cannot be denied. For our longstanding custom, we needed those painted glasses and a very tolerant waitstaff. When my dad was still with us, we would sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”; each of us singing the part depicted on the wine goblet we sat in front of. To keep his memory alive, we repeat the ritual every Christmas Day, and under the gaze of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this day was no different. The patient staff indulged our family carol not once, but twice. Thank goodness for those doors! (I should also mention that our precious heirlooms were again hand washed, packed and shipped back to Vermont the very next day, without a peep from me.)
To add that Victoria & Albert’s has received AAA’s coveted Five Diamond Award still falls short of describing the regal luxury we were treated to that day. Yes, the tab is commensurate with the occasion ($210 for this Disney Signature Dining Experience, more for wine pairings), but the gift we were able to give our family was well worth the king’s ransom. We were all wide-eyed children again, subject to the magic of something brand new. If we were never to return to our private dining quarters, that would be OK. After all, I’ve had my crack at “Queen for a Day”- now it’s your turn.
Christmas is the day that holds all time together. ~Alexander Smith