Fairly recently, I wrote a post about what I would spend my cash on if money were no object. And while money quite clearly is still an object (does that even make sense?) we have managed to make some savings so that we can have one ‘splurge’ while we’re in Walt Disney World for our holiday this year. The big question now is what we chose to do – we’ve been trying to decide for a week!
1. Wild Africa Trek
About: This is one of the newest and definitely most talked about tours being offered by Disney at the moment. It is located at Animal Kingdom and is essentially a bigger and better safari, getting you up close and personal to the animals.You start out getting fitted for a harness and practising walking over a tall rope bridge, before you set out on your trail. Groups are kept small (up to 12 people) and your guide first takes you out to see the Gorillas – in the public areas of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. You then go ‘backstage’ into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve to where the adventure really begins. You’re attached to ropes for safety and are then able to lean over the side of the river to view the hippos from a really unique angle. From what I’ve heard, they’re generally fed watermelon at this point to entice them over so you get an amazing view. Next stop is the crocodiles! Once again you are made safe using your harness enabling you to walk over a long ‘rickety’ rope bridge, with the crocodiles below you. This again offers you a really unique viewing point. From that point on you’re taken in a safari vehicle around the safari, with your guides providing you detailed information about the animals. In my opinion, the best bit about this is that the vehicle pulls over and makes some stops as you’re going around, enabling some better views and photos than on the regular safari. You’re also allowed to stand up and move around the vehicle when it is stopped. You are then driven to a viewing platform, or boma, where you pause for the meal, which will either be breakfast or lunch, depending on the time of day. This is located in a safe area of the Savannah and binoculars are provided so you can view the nearby animals. Following this the safari continues briefly and you then return back to base. The tour is approximately three hours. In addition, the guides take photos of you throughout your trek, and you receive these on a PhotoPass card, with a voucher for the PhotoPass CD at the end of your tour.
The pros: Kilimanjaro Safari is my favourite attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I always wish that I could see the animals for a little bit longer so really, this tour is perfect for us – the ability to pull up and stop and get better photos of the animals is really appealing. I also love the idea of peering over the edge to see the hippos. We always take a trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge (admittedly mainly for Jiko) and spend some time with the night vision goggles, looking at the animals. So really, this tour sounds perfect for us. And if we don’t do it, I know I’ll be jealous when I see the special safari vehicles when I’m on the regular safari!
The cons: It is pretty expensive. It is currently being sold at $189 plus tax, plus park admission. For two of us that equates to £250. Rumour is that you get a voucher code for the PhotoPass CD – which we’d planned to purchase in advance for $99. If we didn’t need to get that (and there seems to be mixed messages out there about whether you can add other PhotoPass photos to this CD or if we’d have to purchase it anyway), that brings down the net cost to around £19o. While our ‘splurge budget’ will cover that, it still seems a lot of money to pay to me for what it is essentially a better version of something already offered. Everyone that has done the tour raves about it – but you do see the same animals that you can on the regular safari, which I know we’ll do several times – all be it you see them for longer and get a better view. The included meal seems nice, but it’s not what I’m paying for. Having said that, it does seem like really good fun!
In addition, the price varies seasonally, and rumours are that it will be going up to $250 soon (£330 for two). I haven’t yet found out if this price increase will be during our trip, but that would firmly but it in the ‘not worth it’ category for me.
2. Keys to the Kingdom
About: the Keys to the Kingdom tour is a 4.5 to 5 hour tour offered at Magic Kingdom. You have to be over 16 to do it and it is essentially a backstage tour all about Magic Kingdom and Walt’s ideas for Walt Disney World. You start out at City Hall and are given a microphone to hear your guide, who then walks you down Main Street giving you loads of fun facts about it and tells you why this is called the Keys to the Kingdom tour. A lot of the tour is ‘onstage’ but this is actually great as you learn about things that you can see again and look out for. You also get the opportunity to jump the queue for a few rides – usually Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion. You are told lots of trivia about these rides in particular, and it really does enhance the experience. You are also taken backstage – at which point you are no longer allowed to take photos. During this stage of the tour you see the famous utilidors (the underground corridors that enable cast members to get to the correct parts of Magic Kingdom), floats and more. During the tour you also receive lunch at Columbia Harbour House.
Pros: I really believe this tour is the best value for money of all the Walt Disney World tours. It is reasonably long, at up to 5 hours, and costs $74 per person, plus tax, plus park admission. For two of us that works out at £98, and includes a quick-service meal. You really learn a lot, it is interesting and you get to jump the queue for a few rides – so if you’re going at a busy time of year that’s a real bonus! In addition, if you take one of the earlier tours, on a non-extra magic hours day, you are let into the park early. There will be a short queue where you give your name to a cast member and if you have an early ADR or are booked onto a tour, you are allowed in. If you do this with a bit of time to spare you are then able to wander around Main Street and get some pretty amazing photos, without the crowds!
Cons: There is really only 1 con for us and that is that we’ve done the tour before. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone else who is considering a tour as it was the highlight of our trip. But what we can’t decide is if we are wasting an opportunity by repeating this tour, instead of doing something else. And also, would we find it as interesting the second time around? Even as a Disney fan, I knew very little of what I was told on our tour, but I imagine not much will have changed since we last did it in 2009.
3. Around the World at Epcot
About: This is a Segway tour at Epcot for people aged 16 and up. It is a 2 hour tour, which starts off with 45 minutes to an hour of training, where you watch a video and then get taught how to use the Segways and how to navigate over different types of terrain. Once the group is ok, you then start out on your Segway trip around the World Showcase, where you pause along the way for a few photos and the guide provides you with some interesting information about Epcot.
Pros: We have had a short play on the Segways, at Innoventions and we found them to be really fun, so getting a much longer ride on them is definitely appealing. I’ve also not read a bad review of this tour – everyone who does it seems to really love it and I think that in itself is a good indicator of how fun this tour can be!
Cons: This is a relatively short experience at just two hours, the first half of which is spent in training rather than out and about. It is also not really a ‘tour’ as such – it is fun and you get to play on the Segways, but the guides don’t wear microphones and they don’t give you information all the way round, like a true tour – you hear the odd thing about the places you stop, but its aim isn’t really about learning new things. The cost is $99 (plus tax and park admission) – so for two this is £130. This doesn’t seem totally unreasonable, but it doesn’t come out favourably when compared to £98 for the 5 hour Keys to the Kingdom tour. I think KTTK spoilt us!
4. Victoria and Albert’s
About: V&A’s is THE restaurant on property. It is located in the Grand Floridian and is strictly for adults and children over 10. Since 2000, it has been classed as a AAA 5-diamond restaurant (one of only 2 in Florida) and offers a 6 course prix-fixe menu, which is set each day. You can eat in the regular dining room, Queen Victoria’s Room or at the Chef’s table – each of which offers a differently priced set menu and there is butler service and personalised menus. There is a strict dress code which includes dinner jackets for men (ties are optional) and ladies are encouraged to dress up appropriately.
Pros: My hubby and I are very definitely ‘foodies’ – we love nice food and are looking forwards to our meals at Walt Disney World almost as much as we’re looking forward to the attractions. We certainly don’t get the opportunity to eat at somewhere as amazing as Victoria and Albert’s very often and both the experience and the food makes this a really tempting option.
Cons: If we go for this option, we’ll do the regular menu which is $125 per person. On top of this would be an extras we ordered, (a minority of the menu options have a surcharge), plus drinks – (they offer a $60 wine paring) plus tax, plus gratuity. All in all I’ve calculated it to be roughly $470 – around £300. Which is more than our budget for our groceries for a month! I know the two aren’t exactly comparable, but I just don’t know if we can justify spending that on just one meal – even if it turns out to be the best meal of my life – which I suspect it would be! We also have 5 signature restaurants already booked – so do we really need another (exceptional) meal on top of this?
I still can’t choose between the 4 things! A quick question on twitter and Victoria and Albert’s seemed to be the recommendation, but arrgh, just can’t decide! Maybe I should save the money and buy a very expensive souvenir instead!
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