FOOD REVIEW: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway at Epcot

Entrance to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is one of those character meals that I've often wondered about. Is it worth the money? Is the food just a smörgåsbord of seafood? Is it any better than other princess meals? Well when I was invited by the women in family to join them on a breakfast here with my niece, I would soon find out.

My mom, sister and almost 3 year-old niece were having a special girls trip to Disney World this past January. They wanted to take advantage of the cooler weather and post Christmas crowds. They naturally asked if I wanted to come along and specifically enjoy some princess time at the parks, since the husbands were left at home. I've been weary of pumping too many princesses to my niece. It's 2019 after all and I think little girls she be exposed to other female characters. But ever since she expressed the desire to get a Spider-Man action figure, I started to worry less and felt that indulging in this princess meal at least once was acceptable. I cannot deny that she loves dressing up in princess costumes all the time. Just as much as she'll want to dress up as a mermaid or superhero for that matter. The girl would play soccer in a princess dress if you let her. So on an unusually cold Florida morning earlier this year, we arrived to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall towards the end of breakfast time at 10:45am eager with anticipation at dining with some princesses.

Crowds in the park were exceptionally light on this day. Epcot felt like a ghost town, especially because this was a week in between two festivals. But you can always count on at least a medium sized crowd in Norway. This pavilion is princess central for World Showcase given the Frozen Ever After attraction, meet and greet with the royal sisters of Arendelle and of course this character meal. Cast Members have a good system in place of helping you park strollers outside the pavilion before entering the check in line for the restaurant. There's an orderly queue, and they seem to have a good system ensuring that if you arrive 10 minutes before you reservation, but the family behind technically has an earlier sit down time, they will be sat first. It's fair, calm and orderly.

Once inside, I was surprised to see that even though you do get to meet a nice collection of Disney princesses, everyone gets a special photo-op with one princess before being sat down. I love when Disney does this because it keeps the little ones satisfied from the start assuring them they will get to see a character at some point in the meal. On this occasion, we got to meet Belle at the start of our experience. She was stationed here throughout the time we were inside the restaurant and did not come to the tables. I was told by Cast Members that the character stationed at this photo-op changes all the time. So don't get your hearts too set on something one way or another.

While be escorted to our table, I took in the beautiful sight of this dining room. Akershus oddly feels intimate and grand at the same time. The main dining room at the center has a large cathedral-style ceiling and large windows at the end that was pouring in some beautiful sunlight on this morning. Then there are adjacent rooms that feel more intimate. There's a round room inside the turret that you can see from outside the building and another room cozied up to a stone fireplace. I later discovered that there was a whole other set of smaller rooms on the other side of the restaurant, that felt like you were inside a medieval cottage. It is a beautiful restaurant, and although I've yet to try Cinderella's Royal Table, there is something about Akershus that feels more real. Mainly because the architecture in World Showcase is meant to feel more authentic than other parks in Florida. For a brief moment, I forgot I was in Disney World and that I was thousands of miles away from the fjords of Norway.

Then finally came the topic of food. This is where my expectations were low. I've done enough character meals to know that I do prefer the restaurants that bring food to the table family style. Buffets such as Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club offer a wider range of items, but leaving your table to plate up sometimes means you could miss out on a character. When you're the cameraman in the family, the struggle is real when making sure you try all the food, but don't miss those touching moments with the kids. Akershus offers the best of both worlds.

Our waitress, Camilla, took our drink orders and informed us that she would bring a plate of food that would include scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and a hash brown casserole. As we ate, we could simply ask for more of whatever we like and she'll would bring it out for us. At the same time, you have the option to go up to the buffet for the cold breakfast offerings. Since we sat at a time where no princesses were out, one of us went up to the buffet and plated up a collection of pastries, yogurt, fruit and Mickey waffles for us to share. This one trip to load up on what we like, plus Camilla bringing out the hot stuff at our leisure meant that we really could enjoy a lot of food without missing out on those special moments with my niece and her favorite princesses.

In terms of food quality, everything was good. I know that it actually is possible to mess up breakfast food, but the food here was solid. The eggs, sausages, bacon and hash browns were nice and hot. The fruit at the buffet was fresh and included strawberries, grapes, melons and orange slices. In terms of the breads, there were plain bagels, muffins, Mickey waffles and small cinnamon rolls which were just ok. Nothing beats the giant cinnamon roll you get at Garden Grill in The Land Pavilion. There was a sampling of cold cuts and fresh smoked salmon as well. I wasn't quite in the mood for fish on this particular morning. But it was the only trace of a Scandinavian smörgåsbord, if you could really call it that. This was undoubtedly a typical American buffet breakfast.

But we came for the princesses. On this occasion, the timing was great. My niece actually ate some food, a small feat at her age, because she wasn't distracted by any characters. As soon as she started to finish up, out of nowhere Cinderella turned the corner and came to our table. She complimented the little one on her Aurora dress and Marie stuffed animal, graciously signed her autograph book and posed for pictures. The interactions with the characters here were great. I was told it was an unusually quiet morning for this restaurant, so the vibe was perfect. Cinderella was followed by Snow White, Ariel and Aurora. Who spent a little extra time at our table mainly because of my niece's matching pink dress. After a round of each princess, the characters partake in a special mini-parade with all the kids around the restaurant.

The seperation of intimate rooms makes these character moments intimate and special. It's not as if you're sat in a huge dining hall with your little one distracted from eating as they not-so-patiently anticipate The Little Mermaid coming to the table. This restaurant was not originally designed to house a character meal back in the late 1980s. Therefore, adapting it to a character meal in 2004, actually worked well in its favor, if you're looking for a character meal.

In the end, breakfast at Akershus really surprised me. My heart melted as my niece got to meet here favorite princesses. The service was fantastic, our waitress stood out as one of the more pleasant ones I've encountered recently. Always ready and gracious to get us more food, but not intrusive in anyway. The food was good, nothing exceptional. A standard American breakfast with a smaller range of offerings, but I left with a full and happy belly. It was the ambiance and experience that left me extremely satisfied with my meal. A much better alternative to the hustle and bustle of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, which can get overwhelming.

Breakfast was priced at $52 per adult before out 10% Annual Passholder discount. (Kids 3-9 would've been $30 on this day, and free for the under 3s.) Making breakfast at this restaurant about $20 cheaper per adult at breakfast in comparison to Cinderella's Royal Table. Depending on the size of your group, that's a decent price difference. In fact that could be an adult's quick service meal at some other point in your trip. If you're on one of the Disney Dining Plans, this place gets even better. Akershurs is eligible for 1 table-service meal credit at all meals of the day. Cinderella's is a signature restaurant, therefore valued at 2 table service credits. I know that dining inside the iconic Cinderella Castle must feel magical. But I look at the bottom line, factoring in the quality of food and experience and Akershus really shines at breakfast. I must also add that Cinderella's is not all-you-can-eat like Akershus. Making this restaurant an excellent choice for those wanting to experience a hearty and straightforward American breakfast, but really a Disney princess fan more than anything else.