Cast of Characters: Me, sis, 2 friends and their son. We are all old friends and Disney enthusiasts, with most of our fun happening at Disneyland. We used a trade show in Orlando as an excuse to go to the World. Four days in the parks, two days of work. I think our priorities are straight, don’t you?
First evening, all arrived from west coast around 4 PM. Magical Express to POR Riverside. Royal Room! So cute. Pretty resort and most importantly, comphy beds! Took Lyft to Grand Californian. (Lyft will pick you up and drop you off at your particular building, yay!) Had cocktails accompanied by the magical orchestra there. Live music is a big YES! What a treat. But you can’t see the orchestra from the bar, which seems to be a rather large layout misfire to me, but anyway… We then caught the monorail (!) to the Contemporary. That Mary Blair mosaic!!! We were dying. Then we went up to the California Grill for dinner. We loved it here. The food was amazing, the service was amazing. We drank two bottles of wine and took a break to go out on the patio to watch the fireworks. We saw a couple get engaged (!) and cried at the fireworks before going in the finish the night. I’m afraid we decided to serenade the newly engaged couple with the song from Lady and the Tramp on our way out. I’m sure it was horrible but they seemed to love it anyway. We managed to catch a couple of songs by Yee Haw Bob back at the hotel. What a hoot, he was too fun.
We slept in and then took the bus to MK to ride a few rides I had fastpasses for. We did Haunted Mansion first and spent considerable time and money in the gift shop, Momento Mori. So delightful! Had packages sent back to resort. We also did Pooh and Peter Pan. The MK version of Peter Pan is superior. We admired the mosaics in the castle (a must see) and then got a bus over to Animal Kingdom where we had a reservation at Yak and Yeti and tickets for their tour. It took forever to get a bus. It was hot. Yuk. But lunch was wonderful.
Thoughts on the Ultimate Nights of Adventure Tour, Animal Kingdom
We met the tour by Dinosaur at 4:30 PM and met our plaid-clad tour guides. They had one to lead and one to follow and make sure that everyone is keeping up. They asked us what dessert we wanted for our “snack” and they had water for us too. The guides were charming and professional as per the usual Disney standard.
Having done Disney tours in the past, I was kind of expecting the headsets and lots of information about Animal Kingdom. But on this tour, you are basically running after your guide to get from ride to ride. There is some chat about the park, but not a lot and there are no backstage experiences.
In the middle of the tour, they surprised us by serving us a full-on dinner, with meats, veggies, rice, tofu, fish and yummy sauces from the Satu’li Canteen in Pandora. Plus dessert. There was about a half hour break for this and we enjoyed the food and talking with some other people on our tour. We have a celiac and vegetarians in our group but everyone had a lot that they could eat. The food was GREAT!
The tour covers Dinosaur, a sunset ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris (we had a great safari ride and saw the baby hippo, lions “wrestling” and tons of other animals) Everest, Navi River, FOP and nice seating for Rivers of Light. It costs $250. FOP! Even if you are prone to motion sickness, do this at least once. So much fun and did not mess with anyone too much. After Rivers of Light, we went back to see Pandora at night. If you can fit this in, do, because it is gorgeous. Pictures don’t do Pandora justice. It really is an experience.
All in all, we all really enjoyed the tour. If you want to get all the major attractions done in Animal Kingdom in one evening, with no lines, then this is for you. In our situation, a delay of getting our tickets through the military meant that I could not get fastpasses at the 60 day mark. Knowing I would not need any for Animal Kingdom took much of the worry about that away. (I did not have an issue getting any of the fastpasses we wanted for anything else at the 45 day mark.) Also, we just had four days in the parks total so it was worth the money to take the tour.
We are a bunch of 50-somethings and really into Disney details. If I was to make the tour more to our taste, I would add in couple of hours to allow for more information about the park and the animals, and to slow down the pace a bit. If you have the time to spend, don’t do the tour–just do everything on your own. There is no real reason to do the tour other than the time savings.
There was a big family with toddlers in strollers on our tour, which seemed a bit odd, as the kids were too young for the rides, meaning half the adults in the party (in this case, the moms) would not get to ride either. Seems like a lot of money to pay out, but maybe they decided the dads should get a special thing just for them during their vacation?
Hope this is helpful for anyone on the fence about this experience.
The next day we hit Epcot, starting with Spaceship Earth with fastpasses around 10. Note: we are not rope drop people. I just hate getting up early and being in that mob before they open the doors, so we don’t do it. If this is you, then just say no. We are, however, the very last people to leave at night. You don’t have to wait for a bus and you get that beautiful, empty park with the sweet night lighting that is just so lovely. We did all of the fine vintage fun in the Land and the Sea areas and then went for cronuts (!) and then to ride Frozen. First time for all of us and we loved it very much. Nothing makes me happier than a boat ride in the dark, and the cue area in the village at night, so adorable. I think they could stand to fill this ride in with a few more scenes though, don’t you? At this point we grabbed a boat to head over to Hollywood Studios for the afternoon. More soon!