Disney's Special Activities - VIP Tours
by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the February 16, 2010 Issue #543 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Do not read anymore until you do the following.
Raise your right hand and repeat after me, "Despite the amazing information this week's newsletter will have for me regarding a little-known service offered by Walt Disney World to its guests, I do solemnly swear not to disclose this information..."
Did I say crossing your fingers was allowed? It was.
OK... you may now continue reading.
Have you ever wondered how celebrities or CEOs of huge companies tour Walt Disney World? What if one of those CEOs happens to lead a business that could potentially be a corporate sponsor and Walt Disney World wanted to showcase the WDW products and services in the interest of having that company commit to sponsorship? How would the Walt Disney Company do this?
Well it's kind of a secret... until now. The answer to all these questions is one of Disney's Special Activities (DSA) known as VIP Tour Guide Services.
Oh, I'm sure you have seen these tours in action. I am sure you have seen a group of guests walking through the parks being escorted by a Guest Relations cast member.
That, my friends, is a VIP tour.
Although almost everyone would say that the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney World in particular go to great lengths to promote and discuss all the services offered to guests, you would be surprised how many of these services do not fall under this huge marketing machine. One such service is Disney Special Activities, for which there is virtually no advertising. Instead the awareness for this service comes from word of mouth and, oh yeah, a newsletter or a blog written by someone who may know a little bit about the service.
This service treats guests exactly as the title says, as VIPs. The service has been described as a way for guests to enjoy a new "level of Disney Magic" by allowing guests to customize their vacation to the point they are spending their time "playing and not planning."
Some of the benefits of these VIP tours include:
-- VIP seating, better known as "the best seats in the house" for live stage shows, parades, and fireworks. Imagine not having to plan to get your "spot" some 30, 60 or 90 minutes ahead of time, investing in precious vacation minutes, just to be sure you can watch your favorite show, fireworks or parade. Guests on VIP Tours get to experience shows at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom from preferred VIP sections. When I first heard of this service the word "timesaver" popped into my head. If you can imagine watching one stage show, one parade, and one nighttime spectacular every day and how much lead time you usually need to get a good "spot" for each one, you would easily be burning 1-2 hours of vacation time... and probably not have the best seat in the house. These tours will assure you of that spot. The viewing area for Wishes is the area in front of the Plaza Restaurant. For IllumiNations it is next to the U.K Pavilion or possibly one the other areas used for dessert parties. VIP seating for Fantasmic! is in the Mickey Section. VIP parade viewing at Magic Kingdom is on the Liberty Square Bridge.
-- What I am implying here is "More Magic, Less Time," as these VIP tours help to save time. For many people the planning process, especially how to tour the parks, is a painstaking exercise. The VIP Tour Guides take care of this planning for their guests by using their theme park knowledge and Disney's FastPass to help guests get the most out of each and every day on vacation.
-- Also DSA will assist with Advanced Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World restaurants and can get same-day reservations at almost any restaurant. There are two exceptions; Le Cellier in Epcot's World Showcase and Cinderella's Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom.
Of course if you're like me, usually before taking a leap and saying, "Sign me up!" there's a little matter of cost.
The average price for a Standard Tour is $175 an hour and $300 for a Premium Tour. You may want to note that these prices go up during "peak" times. Also, there is a six-hour minimum for each tour. Are you getting the feeling that it's good practice to have your calculator handy when I get into these types of discussions?
So what's a Standard Tour? A Standard Tour gives you your own personal guide to help you tour the theme parks and assist you in getting FastPasses with your admission tickets.
Premium Tours include transportation to and from resorts and also include park-hopping. For instance, you could enjoy Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom and then hop over to Epcot and ride Soarin'. If you do this you'd be driven in through the backstage and park right behind Soarin'. You could then go over to Disney's Hollywood Studios and ride Toy Story Mania multiple times, going through the Fastpass line, and then finish your day at Magic Kingdom with a viewing of Spectromagic on the Liberty Square Bridge.
Both tours also include priority viewing and seating for all parades, shows, and fireworks, but a Premium Tour takes it up a level and includes transportation and immediate access to all attractions.
Let me explain the difference between Priority Access and Immediate Access as it is a little confusing. Priority Access is given to a high profile guest like actor Tom Cruise who would get the attention of other guests and create a distraction. Priority Access allows this celebrity to enter the attraction without going through the normal queue. You might say the guest is "back-doored" at the attraction. Immediate Access occurs during Premium Tours when those in the tour are allowed to use attraction FastPass lines without having to obtain FastPasses.
Here are the current prices for these services. Please note that these prices are subject to change.
Disney Resort Guest $175 an hour with six-hour minimum
Non-Disney guest $195 an hour with six-hour minimum
Disney Resort Guest $195 an hour with six-hour minimum
Non-Disney Resort $215 an hour with six-hour minimum
Disney Resort Guest $275 an hour with six-hour minimum
Non-Disney Resort $295 with six-hour minimum
Disney Resort Guest $295
Non-Disney Resort $315 with six-hour minimum
Special transportation can be arranged between local airports and Disney Resorts. The VIP transportation services also include transportation to and from Theme Parks and other Walt Disney World Resort locations.
If you would like more information on the Disney VIP Tours call 407-560-4033 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Plan on reserving your tour at least three months in advance.
Keep in mind that the tours do not provide priority entrance to attractions and the rates will vary depending upon factors such as time of year and whether or not you are a Disney Resort Guest at the time you take the tour.
If you would like to read more on these special tours then visit this top secret website (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/tours-and-experiences/vip-services/) for all the information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net: http://land.allears.net/blogs/mikescopa Other AllEars® articles by Mike Scopa: http://allears.net/btp/mikescopa.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.