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"Adventures by Disney" lets you travel to the United Kingdom & France in style

"Adventures by Disney" lets you travel to the United Kingdom & France in style

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Sometimes it's hard being a Disney "geek" when your spouse does not share your enthusiasm for all things Mouse. While my idea of an ideal vacation has always been and continues to be a trip to one of the Disney theme parks, my long-suffering and ever-patient wife finally had enough and put her foot down.

"I want to go on a vacation that has nothing to do with a Disney theme park!"

Well, we almost succeeded.

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She's long wanted to visit Europe in general, and London in particular. With a notable wedding anniversary occurring for us this summer, I began plans to celebrate with a European vacation. However, similar to the difficulty a lot of folks have planning a Walt Disney World vacation due to the vast quantities of information available, I struggled to put together a European trip suited to our particular needs.

Once again, it's Disney to the rescue!

You know all of those survey-takers you see just inside the turnstiles at the Disney theme parks? Well, one of the things they hear over and over again is that many guests wished there was a way they could experience Disney quality and Disney "Magic" on their other, non-Disney-theme-park trips.

Adventures by Disney was created to fill that need. It's a Disney program that offers all-inclusive, professionally guided vacations to various destinations all over the globe. The idea is to offer travelers the opportunity to visit a variety of cities, sites, and attractions completely unrelated to the Disney parks while still enjoying Disney-quality dining, accommodations, and most of all, service.

Beginning quietly in 2004, locations around the world were scouted and considered for inclusion in the program. Those chosen for the original 2005 and 2006 program included two itineraries in Hawaii, the Western US including Yellowstone Park, Costa Rica, the Canadian Rockies, London and Paris, and Italy.

After receiving and giving great heed to the feedback of Adventures program participants, the 2007 schedule has been refined and expanded. Hawaii and the Canadian Rockies have been dropped, but additional adventures have been added to the American Southwest, a mid-American itinerary, Ireland, Austria and the Czech Republic, two itineraries in Spain, and the division of Italy into three separate adventures.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

We opted to try the "Land of Eternal Knights" Adventure which included 3 days in London, a trip via train through the Channel Tunnel, and then 3 days in Paris. We would celebrate our anniversary in Paris, and then upon the conclusion of the Adventure we would spend three days at Disneyland Resort Paris. (See? I told you we almost completed an entire vacation with no Disney theme parks. I mean, we were already in Paris, right? It would have been a real shame to have traveled that far and not hop over for a quick visit to the former EuroDisney…..)

We awoke with great anticipation on the morning of August 10th to commence our journey to the United Kingdom. Anyone else remember August 10th? You know, that day when a terrorist plot to blow airliners bound between the UK and the United States out of the skies was uncovered and announced? That day when air travel throughout the world, but specifically for flights between the UK and the US, was significantly disrupted? That day when you could suddenly no longer carry any liquids on board an aircraft?

Yeah, that day. Sigh.

I'll spare the gory details, but after a looonnnnggg trip involving massive misinformation, a threatened confiscation of our carry-on bags, multiple searches including the most complete pat-down I've ever received, and many, many delays, we were finally on our way to London.

After such a long and hassle-filled trip, we could not have asked for a better antidote to the frustration than our experiences with our Adventure by Disney. We were greeted warmly upon our arrival at London's Gatwick airport by an Adventures by Disney representative. We were escorted to a large, shiny, black Mercedes sedan, where our chauffeur was waiting to take us to our hotel in London. After a very pleasant ride we were delivered to the Renaissance Chancery Court hotel in London, a particularly stunning luxury hotel. There we were again greeted warmly by our Adventure Guides, Alex(andra) and Mark.

We took a quick nap and then headed downstairs to experience our "Welcome Dinner" and meet our fellow adventurers. We soon learned that we were in a group of 38 people from all over the United States. I was surprised to find that we were the only couple on the Adventure – all of the others consisted of families, many of them with small children. I should have known – it's still Disney after all!

After an evening of wonderful entertainment ... 

... and a great night's sleep in a wonderful hotel room, our adventure began in earnest.

Each day of our Adventure was given a title and a theme. I'll recount them here as I go though a quick summary of our Adventure.

Day One: Jolly Holiday

Day one began with a ride on chartered double-decker bus…


… during which we passed by Big Ben (which is the name of the bell in the clock tower, and not the name of the tower itself) …

… on our way to a guided tour of Westminster Abbey.

We then went to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace …

… followed by a real English tea for lunch. Later that evening we enjoyed a fantastic meal at a private Soho club, and the highlight of the trip for me – premium seats for the stage production of "Mary Poppins". As an added treat, our group of adventurers were taken backstage after the conclusion of the show, where we met the stage manager. He showed us the sets used in the production, as well as a few of the secrets to the "magic" created on stage during the performance.

Day Two: The Royal Treatment

Today began with a trip to the top of the London Eye (which is the really, really big Ferris wheel built as a part of the celebration surrounding the year 2000).

We also enjoyed a cruise along the river Thames, a visit to the Tower of London, including a chance to view the royal jewels, and a group photo near one of the famous bridges near the tower of London.

After leaving the tower of London we had the afternoon off, and enjoyed exploring London on our own. We visited Harrod's, the famous London department store, spent some time at the National Museum …

… and wrapped up a very nice evening by sampling one of London's excellent Indian restaurants.

Day Three: Crumpets to Croissants

We began the cold and rainy morning with a walking tour of some of the lesser-know sites of London. That was followed by a cruise along the Regent Canal, one of many of the miles and miles of canals that cover London and that I did not know even existed.

The canal boat dropped us off at the very eclectic Camden Market, where we had some time to spend shopping at some unique and one-of-a-kind shops.

After our shopping excursion, it was off to Waterloo station for a first-class trip from London to Paris on the Eurostar high-speed train via the Channel Tunnel.

Upon arriving in Paris, we were delivered via motorcoach to the Westin Paris, where we settled in for a good night's sleep in yet another new city

Day Four: Drawn to Bohemia

Our first day in Paris started with a short walking tour from our hotel where we passed by the controversial architecture of the Pompideau Center …

… on our way to our final destination – Notre Dame cathedral.

We endured all 422 steps in order to reach the top of the bell towers, where we were rewarded with a stunning view of the city of Paris.

Later that evening we were treated to dinner at Altitude 95, a unique restaurant positioned at the first level of the Eiffel tower.

After our meal we continued our way to the top of the tower, which is really, really, really a long way up, and enjoyed a wonderful view (which my camera failed to capture).

Day Five: Parisian Palette

Today was the day for my wife the art lover. We began with a short walk from our hotel to the Louvre.

We welcomed a guided tour of some of the highlights of the museum, which included a visit to the Mona Lisa. We certainly did not have enough time to explore this wonderful building in any kind of detail, but it was fun to get a brief snapshot of the more famous works.

With our visit to the Louve completed, we again boarded our motorcoach for a visit to Montmartre and the Sacre Cour cathedral. While there we were treated to a tour of a French vineyard, complete with wine tasting.

An evening on our own allowed us to visit the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a stroll down the Champs de Elysees and a quiet dinner at a sidewalk café.

Day Six: High Society

Again we boarded our motorcoach for a trip to the palace at Versailles.

We were treated again to a guided tour of the palace, the artwork, and the architecture.

After a delicious lunch at the palace, we paused for a group photo in the palace gardens …

… and then hopped aboard bicycles for a riding tour of the beautiful and amazing palace gardens. While those of us suffering from a severe girth impairment (me) were fortunate to make it around the gardens once, several of the more competitive families engaged in an impromptu race and made it around the two mile path twice.

After our return to Paris we enjoyed a cruise on the Seine River …

… followed by our farewell dinner at a quaint Paris bistro rented specifically for our group.

That's it for the travelogue – now for the summary.

Our Adventure by Disney program was truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. Disney has succeeded in spades in transplanting Disney "Magic" to other locations around the world. Every possible contingency had been thought of and planned for in advance. Our luggage was always taken care of for us, our transportation was arranged and carried out in brand new motorcoaches, meals were always ready on time, hotel rooms were perfectly booked, and we felt completely comfortable in two foreign countries.

The quality of the accommodations, the quality of the food, the quality of the activities, and especially the quality of service provided by Alex and Mark, our Disney Cast Members (Adventure Guides) …

… was absolutely top-notch and worthy in every way of the Disney name.

I know I sound like a commercial. Believe it or not, I'm not employed by nor do I have any association with the Adventures by Disney program. Really. The horn just needs to be blown, however, because the Adventures by Disney are outstanding in every way.

So, just exactly how good was the experience? Well, remember my wife who wanted a non-Disney trip?

She can't wait to go back.

Scott Liljenquist is co-owner of Mouseketrips.com, the web's best travel agency for Disney vacations. A graduate of the College of Disney Knowledge, he suffers from a serious Disney Obsession Disorder. Unhappy unless he's either on a Disney vacation or planning the next one, he can usually be found scouring the 'net for the latest Disney news, rumors, and gossip, or helping his clients plan their own magical vacations.

If you are interested in your own Adventure by Disney, or for further information on the other sorts of trips and tours that Mouseketrips offers, contact Scott via the Mouseketrips web site or at [email protected].

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  • Thanks for the report, Scott. I've always been extremely curious about the Adventures program. It's good to hear it's living up to the Disney name!
  • I too have wondered about this program since there seems to be little info about it....Your trip sounds like it was really great....Hopefully there will be a second report from you about the time spent at DLP....
  • "one of the things they hear over and over again is that many guests wished there was a way they could experience Disney quality and Disney "Magic" on their other, non-Disney-theme-park trips."
    Really? for real?  Because whenever I get hit with a survey, I usually only get to respond "yes", "no", or give a number. As in : "Would you like to experience Disney quality and Disney magic on your other non-Disney-theme park trips?"  um, no

    OK, you're my travel agent - so what makes this different from any other guided tour of Europe? At first, the only thing I saw that was unique was the backstage tour at Poppins, but the Prince Edward Theatre offers that to the general public (http://www.theatre.com/show/id/3002515). I dont see the advantage, except you have your vacation on Disney's schedule - not picking on Disney, that's just how guided tours work.

    Then again, I'm not the target market. Last time I went to Paris/London, I watched airfares, booked a ticket, reserved a room, and rented a car. It's really not that difficult, it was less than a tour, and I got to spend as long as I wanted at Harrod's.

  • What is "encouraging" is that Disney seems to have significantly adjusted pricing.  I had the "pleasure" to do a focused survey on the product about 3 years ago.  When it came otu last year I took a "yikes" at what they were trying to charge.

    But this year it seems that they are benchmarking right against Tauck Tours (probably the world leader in upscale/luxury escorted land tours).  For example, Disney's 7 day Tuscany trip is priced right at the same rack rate as Tauck's 8 Tuscany tour.  Now "rack rate" for the Disney trip is $2699 a person.  Tauck comes in at $2740 for its "Week in Italy" that has similar overlaps (I love Assisi and St. Francis so I am a bit biased).  Tauck also offers free time - something you will come to love on these sorts of tours.

    Disney's Ireland tour is rack rated at  priced at $3199.  Seems like a decent line up (and I know why they don't take kids on the Ring of Kerry but I would strongly recommend that in any Ireland trip).  Tauck comes in a $2995.

    One hidden cost to be aware off (not sure about the Mouse) It is pretty customary on these tours to spend another $150-200 a couple tipping your guide and driver.  

  • Nice trip report, Scott! I've heard good things about the Adventures by Disney tours, but like others who posted above I went into sticker shock when I heard how much they wanted for the trip. Good thing Disney realized they were pricing the thing too high and adjusted the cost accordingly.

    As far as curmudgeon's comments: Granted, they're hitting places that most travelers with any experience have been to, but consider who they're marketing this thing to. Disney's probably thinking that most people who jump on this will be people whose sum total of foreign experiences consist of a couple of visits to World Showcase.  Seasoned travelers - or even people woh've been to Europe once or twice - probably aren't going to go on an ABD tour.

    One thing that surprised me about the ABD London/Paris tour (and the Disney Med cruises next year, for that matter): Why doesn't Disney offer an optional extension to DLP? Seems to me like that'd be a natural...
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