The ultimate guide to planning an exclusive, luxury Disney World vacation, when price is no obstacle
Written by Robert Niles
Planning a vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort? Sure, you can find plenty of articles offering advice to families on a budget. But you're not looking to skimp on your holiday get-away. What about planning an ultra-luxury trip to the world's top vacation resort, instead?
For the "one percent" of family vacationers, we offer our Insider's guide to the best of Walt Disney World's most exclusive vacation options.
Start planning your get-away with a call to Walt Disney World's VIP Tour Services at +1-407-560-4033. Disney's VIP Tour guides will pick you up at your hotel and escort your family through Disney's four theme parks. On a VIP Tour, you'll skip the lines at most attractions and enjoy priority seating at your choice of Disney's top restaurants. Why wait for a space on one of the Disney parade routes, when a VIP host can reserve a private viewing for you?
VIP Tours start at $275 per hour, with a six-hour minimum, in addition to your park tickets. Of course, while Disney's VIP hosts can provide expert insight about the resort, you didn't get to where you are in life without doing some research on important issues. And what's more important than enjoying a wonderful experience with your family? So let's explore some of the other exclusive options you also might consider during your Walt Disney World vacation.
Let's start with where to stay. For the best experience during your vacation, consider a club level room with a theme park view at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (starting at $942 a night) or a Savanna view club-level room or suite at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (starting $473 a night for rooms and $912 for suites). From the Grand Floridian, you're just a monorail ride away from Disney's Magic Kingdom theme park, which you'll be able to see from your room's window. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you'll watch the wild residents of Disney's Animal Kingdom from the privacy of your own room. Both hotels offer top-quality dining and award-winning customer service in addition to the resort's best views.
Speaking of dining, you won't want to leave Disney without experiencing the most exclusive dinner available at the resort: The Chef's Table at Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian, rated as one of only three five-diamond restaurants in Florida by AAA. Only one party per evening is seated for this three-hour, 10-course dining adventure, with prices starting at $210 per person, with wine pairings available for an addition $105 per guest.
Inside the parks, don't miss the new Monsieur Paul, at Epcot's France pavilion. Under the guidance of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, this gourmet restaurant serving classic French cuisine recently replaced Bistro de Paris, a three-time winner of the Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best theme park restaurant. Entrees start at $38.
For a spectacular end to a day visiting Disney's theme parks, head to Disney's Contemporary Resort for a late dinner at the California Grill, where you can watch the Magic Kingdom's fireworks for the dining room atop the Contemporary. The California Grill's currently undergoing a transformation with a fresh new interior design and menu from Chef Brian Piasecki, featuring the latest in California-inspired cuisine. The restaurant will reopen in September.
In the mood for a luau? Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort (located one monorail stop from the Grand Floridian) offers an all-you-can-eat tropical feast, along with the spectacle of hula and fire-knife dancers. The best seats range from $70-74 per person for adults and $36-40 for children.
If you have a young daughter, treat her to an afternoon at the My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea Party at the Garden View Tea Room in the Grand Floridian.
You'll enjoy a delightful tea service while a Disney princess visit your table. Young guests each take home an 18-inch My Disney Girl doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown as a memento of their special afternoon. ($176 for children ages 3-11 and $90 per person for adults)
While a VIP Tour is the best way to see Disney World's four theme parks, Disney also offers behind-the-scenes experiences you won't want to miss. Get a closer look at the residents of Disney's Animal Kingdom with the Wild Africa Trek, a three-hour safari adventure through the park's Safi River Valley. You'll closer looks at hippos, crocodiles, giraffe and rhinos than regular park visitors, while Disney photographers capture the highlights of your tour. The $189-249 price (depending upon season) also includes gourmet snacks, such as smoked salmon, brie, tandoori shrimp or chicken curry salad, as well as a complimentary gift at the end of your adventure.
Want to explore the seas instead? Sign up for Disney's Epcot DiveQuest, a 40-minute dive into one of the world's largest aquariums, Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion. You'll swim with more than 6,000 sea creatures, including sea turtles, dolphins… and sharks! If you're not SCUBA-certified (a requirement for the DiveQuest tour), don't worry. Choose the Epcot Seas Aqua Tour instead, a 30-minute snorkeling adventure in the aquarium. The total DiveQuest experience lasts about three hours and costs $175 per person, while the Aqua Tour lasts about two and a half hours total and costs $140 per person. (The rest of your tour time will include a private backstage tour of the pavilion.)
You can get even more of an insider's look at Disney's theme parks with the seven-hour Backstage Magic Tour, which will take you behind the scenes of all four Disney World theme parks, including a look inside the Magic Kingdom's "secret" tunnel system that runs underneath the park. You'll also learn how Disney creates the live and animatronic shows that have made Disney's theme parks the world's most popular attractions. ($229 per person)
The Walt Disney World Resort offers more than theme parks, too. You can challenge yourself with a round of golf on a PGA Tour course at Disney's Osprey Ridge, or take some high-speed laps in a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche on a former IndyCar track with Disney's Exotic Driving Experience. Or just have some fun with the family while water-skiing, wakeboarding or parasailing on Disney's Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon at Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre. Finally, if you're looking to unwind after all that excitement, treat yourself to an afternoon at the Mandara Spa at the Dolphin Hotel, or anyone of the other world-class spas located in hotels throughout the resort.
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