When Walt Disney World comes to mind, most people picture castles, singing dolls and lots of wild, running children. Few know how many surprises Mickey has hidden throughout his Vacation Kingdom, and just how many of them are decadently luxurious.
Disney has carefully cultivated its experiences aimed at discriminating visitors who will settle for nothing less than absolute indulgence, and it extends far beyond the borders of Orlando’s most famous theme parks.
5. Sunrise safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro Club
Guests who book club level accommodations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge enjoy not only the famed resort’s breathtaking surroundings – where else can you stand on your balcony and watch giraffes and zebras roaming just feet away – they are given access to the Kilimanjaro Club lounge. While the club itself is not overly different from other deluxe concierge lounges, it does provide exclusive access to the Sunrise Safari.
For $65 per adult and $32.50 per child (age 3 – 9), in addition to park admission, the Sunrise Safari offers early morning private access to the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, followed by a lavish breakfast buffet. While all park guests can enjoy the Safaris ride in the span of about 15 minutes, the Sunrise Safari offers a 45 minute tour, with lots of stops and plenty of time for snapping photos of the animals in the early hours – which are their most active. The small group and elongated trip allows for more knowledge from your guide, and photos come out better as the car is not in frequent motion. After breakfast, you’re released into the wilds (of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that is) to enjoy the rest of your day.
4. Live it up at the Grand Floridian’s Royal Palm Club
If having every need and whim catered to is your style, look no further than Disney’s flagship resort, the Grand Floridian. The majestic Victorian architecture soars just to the left of the Magic Kingdom, offering lightning quick monorail access to both that park and Epcot. Concierge level guests can choose between the Sugar Loaf Club (in an outer building and less expensive) or the Royal Palm Club, centrally located in the main building and accordingly pricey.
I’ll be honest with you – the Royal Palm Club is the only way to go. The elegant lounge is unmatched and situated off and above the stunning main atrium, which plays host to a live orchestra and grand piano player each night. They provide a suitably classy soundtrack to the impressive spread of cordials and liqueurs at your disposal each evening.
Earlier in the day, afternoon tea is served complete with scones and devonshire cream, all in addition the above and beyond breakfast buffet laid out each morning. The concierge staff at the Grand Floridian are the best in the business, offering every accommodation with that legendary Disney aplomb. If anyone can get you into a booked solid restaurant like Cinderella’s Royal Table within the Castle itself, it’s these fine folks.
Many Royal Palm Club rooms offer stunning views of Cinderella Castle, and I dare anyone to find a more romantic spot than a Royal Palm Club room balcony during the nightly fireworks display.
3. See Disney’s famous fireworks from a private yacht
From the 45 foot Grand I yacht to smaller pontoon boats, several kinds of watercraft are available for your pleasure on the waterways of Walt Disney World. But why rent a boat to just tool around during the day when you can have a private guided fireworks cruise?
Available nightly for viewing of Wishes (the Magic Kingdom’s Disney-themed display) or IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth (Epcot’s pyrotechnic laser spectacular, presented in the round on World Showcase Lagoon), these voyages can accommodate parties as large as 18 (17 if a butler is hired), and as small as 2. Want to wow your significant other, and make a memory your kids will cherish forever? Make this unique experience a part of your next Walt Disney World vacation, and add on private dining for a meal bound to make an impression. Reservations can be made in advance by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.
2. Dine like Royalty at Victoria & Albert’s
Recently presented with its 13th consecutive five diamond award, Victoria & Albert’s is the premiere dining destination in Central Florida. Nestled within the Grand Floridian Resort, this world-renowned establishment offers the very best in haute cuisine in a child-free, formally dressed environment. Expect to be wowed in each passing moment, from the time the frosted glass doors open to you and your name is somehow known by all in your presence, to your farewell gift of a long-stemmed rose for each lady present and personalized souvenir menus.
Six course dinners begin at $135 (must-drink wine pairings start at $65) in the main dining room, where attentive service is taken to a whole new level. For a truly decadent evening, opt for one of only four tables per night in Queen Victoria’s Room, where a 10 course dinner ($210) awaits the lucky few able to snag a spot. Hardcore foodies can step into Executive Chef Scott Hunnel’s kitchen for an experience like no other at the Chef’s Table (also $210). With room for up to 10 lucky guests, Hunnel offers you his personal attention as he crafts your 10 course feast with your input. Reservations are a must and can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-DVNA.
1. VIP tour guides
Does the idea of trekking through any of Disney’s four theme parks unaided sound treacherous? It can be – especially on hot, crowded days. Put your fate in the capable hands of Disney’s tremendous VIP tour guides, who can be booked for six or more hours per day to personally navigate you and your family through the vast expanse that is Walt Disney World.
From reserved seating at shows and parades to the occasional line skip, VIP tour guides elevate your experience from casual tourist to visiting royalty – after all, celebrities and dignitaries are given the same treatment you’ll receive from your plaid-clad guide. Rates range from $175 – $315 per hour, not including your theme park tickets. Reservations must be made at least 72 hours in advance by calling 407-560-4033.
Walt Disney World isn’t just for kids and families looking to fill up time over a school holiday. With luxuries on tap like the experiences listed above, families and couples alike can have a relaxing, premium vacation that no other destination can quite match. No one does it like Disney, and their philosophy of top-notch service is only magnified when you choose to experience it first-class.
Drew Hackney is the Author of The Small World Ninja Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World.