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Every Day a New Adventure
Most likely right at this moment, somewhere in the world, families are exploring, laughing, and learning. Maybe kids are rolling pastry with an Italian chef, or maybe adventurers are kayaking through the American wilderness. Maybe there’s a treasure hunt through Paris’ Louvre, or perhaps a bike trip through an idyllic countryside, with a knowledgeable guide leading the way. One thing’s for sure — everyone is having a blast, because they’re in good hands. The experienced hands of Adventures by Disney, the tours with the Disney touch.
Next year, many of the favorite adventures will be offered again, from Italy to Wyoming. But Adventures by Disney will also be adding new adventures for families to explore and discover. With the whole world to choose from, how do they select the itineraries that families will love? How do they keep Mom from getting stuck hauling all the luggage? And what do they do to prevent whining when kids are along for the adventure? The Insider wanted to know, so we asked Heather Killingbeck, Director of Trip and Program Development for Adventures by Disney, what went into the newest adventures — and what Guests can expect to get out of them.
Here are her comments on some of the new adventures you can choose from in 2008:
Coasting the Golden State is the classic California itinerary. It starts in San Francisco, then we make our way down the coast, staying a couple of nights in Cambria to visit the Hearst Castle and explore the area’s natural aquatic wonders. We conclude the adventure in the Los Angeles area with a full day at Disneyland.
Once Upon a Fairytale explores the romantic fairytale routes of Germany, beginning in Heidelberg, which isn’t too far from Frankfurt. Then going through Trendelberg and Rothenberg and finally ending up in the queen of Bavaria, Munich, where we have a visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park.
Backstage Magic is definitely going to be a treat for the true Disney fans out there. It’s just absolutely packed with VIP-exclusive, secret, behind-the-scenes elements that are usually closed to the general public. We have a visit to Walt Disney Imagineering, we have a tour of the Walt Disney Studios. At Disneyland Park, we have VIP viewing of the parade, we have visits to backstage areas that are closed off to other paying Guests in the Park, and some before-open-hours and after-closing-hours experiences.
Enchanted China is one of our first exotic adventures. It’s also our longest trip — 13 days. It takes our Guests through the cities of Beijing, Chengdu, Guilin, and Shanghai, including a couple of nights at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. This trip is absolutely magical! We bring our Guests to the Great Wall, to Tianenmen Square, the Forbidden City. We have a zoologist at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center to host the entire visit as we learn all about these rare animals. We spend a couple of days exploring the beautiful area around Guilin, which is known for its ‘gumdrop mountains.’ Shanghai is a magical mix of cosmopolitan and ancient China fused into one exquisite city experience. There’s hands-on fun for the kids, including learning how to do a Chinese yo-yo, mask-painting, tai chi and stick-fighting lessons — they really are going to be able to get completely immersed in the culture. The cap of the entire experience is two nights at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. One day we spend in the Park, and the other day we explore the sights of Hong Kong.
Flavors of France is a combination of the southeast area of France called Provence, and Paris. We spend four nights in Provence. For our junior adventurers we have hands-on honey and nougat tasting and pastry making. We have a kayaking expedition along the River Gard, which goes right underneath the famous 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct called the Pont du Gard. We have a bicycle ride through one of the national forests in the area, with glimpses of medieval hilltop villages along the way. Then we take the high-speed train up to Paris and spend our final two nights in the fabulous City of Lights. We make sure our Guests are going to see some of the highlights, including having lunch in the Eiffel Tower and going to the Louvre for a junior adventure art-detective game.
“The adventures vary as much as the climate varies!” says Heather. “The European adventures tend to be more urban and cultural — we try to include immersive experiences such as cooking classes, pottery making, or mask making. In America, Australia, and Costa Rica, the adventures tend to be more outdoor and active.”
But one thing all of the new adventures have in common is a distinctively Disney element. Backstage Magic just might be the true Disney fan’s dream vacation, but many of our itineraries have a something special for Disney fans — from trips to Hong Kong Disneyland, Disneyland, and an optional jaunt to Disneyland Paris, to an up-close look at the real-life castles that inspired Disney’s own fairytale dreams.
There’s something else you’ll find only at Adventures by Disney — the Disney commitment to delighting Guests. “The Adventure Guides are really a huge hit with our Guests — they really strike the right balance between being hosts, being extremely “Disney” with a dazzling personality and being very Guest-service oriented, and also being extremely knowledgeable about the destination. On every tour we have two Adventure Guides, and typically one comes from somewhere in Disney — Cruise Line or the Parks,” explains Heather. “The second guide generally comes from the travel industry. They will have prior guiding experience, and then we give them Disney training. By the time they get to the Adventure, both Adventure Guides are working in unison to provide personal attention and excellent service every step of the way. And usually the Guests don’t know which is which!”
Do Guests notice the Disney difference? Heather can say first-hand that they do. “I’ve met quite a few Guests! They’re so appreciative that they’ve found Adventures by Disney, because I think it’s still somewhat of a secret out there in the marketplace. A lot of what I hear is that, especially when traveling with their families, they are so thankful that they receive a seamless experience. Parents don’t have to deal with schlepping the luggage or debating what they will all do each day. All of our itineraries minimize one- and two-night stays. You can settle in, it eliminates all the hassle that usually falls on Mom or sometimes Dad, of packing and unpacking.”
In fact, Adventures by Disney makes travel so easy that the hardest part of your trip may be deciding which adventure to choose. Even squabbling among the kids is usually minimal, Heather explains, because a combination of small groups (40 Guests max), child-friendly activities, and experienced Adventure Guides keeps things running smoothly. “There’s an average of seven to 10 kids in most groups, and they vary in age from four to 18 years. We often see some of the older kids working really well with the younger kids — they kind of become mentors to the younger kids. And the younger kids look up to the older kids and are less inclined to act immaturely or act out the way they might at home. And most importantly, the Adventure Guides are really great with kids!”
So come 2008, once again families will spread out across the globe — meeting pandas, making friends, and climbing the Eiffel Tower. Will you be among them? The adventures await.