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AAA Traveler Worldwise | Southeast States
Disney, Done Well

OUR SEVEN FAVORITE WAYS TO GET THE ROYAL TREATMENT AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT

Whether you’ve been to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, more times than you can remember reprising the chorus of “It’s a Small World” or your next trip will be your first time to The Most Magical Place On Earth, the folks at Disney, you must admit, are famous for rolling out the red carpet for guests, treating them like family—and, at times, even like royalty. After all, Disney World is a fairy-tale setting replete with everything from royal courts and fancy castles to jeweled-covered crowns and majestic carriages. So it probably comes as no surprise that Disney also knows how to live up to its reputation as “The Place Where Dreams Come True” with VIP experiences fit for royalty. If you’re looking to live like Disney royalty at least for a little while on your next vacation, we suggest our seven favorite ways to experience Disney World—well, royally. 

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

1. Play dress-up at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Pretending to be a princess doesn’t get much better than a visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a salon owned by Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother with two locations: one tucked inside Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom Park and another in the Once Upon a Toy store in the Disney Springs Marketplace. Princess wannabes ages 3 to 12 are welcomed by a crew of Fairy-Godmothers-in-Training who provide everything from hairstyling to manicures to makeup application a la a young girl’s favorite princess. A number of packages are available ranging from a half-hour to an hour, and you can choose to purchase a dress, shoes and accessories at the boutique or bring your own from home.

Not into princesses? No worries: You can also select the stylings of a Disney Diva or Color Star (think pop star-style colorful hairpieces). And popular with boys is The Knight Package, complete with a sword, shield, hairstyle with gel and (with the deluxe package) prince costume. Whichever package you choose, a Disney PhotoPass photographer will capture the magical makeover, including the look on your little one’s face upon the big reveal.

Reservations fill up quickly, especially for the boutique inside Cinderella Castle, so book your appointment early, anytime up to 180 days in advance.

Cinderellas Royal Table

2. Be seated at Cinderella’s Royal Table
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If you think Cinderella Castle is cool on the outside, you’ll want to check out the inside, too. One of the best ways to not only see the interior finishes of the castle—including the Grand Hall, spiral staircase and banquet halls with stone archways, stained-glass windows and medieval flags—but also meet Cinderella and many of her princess pals is with a seating at Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle. Dine for breakfast with classic dishes such as steak and eggs, stuffed French toast and baked quiche, or choose a lunch or dinner reservation to feast on such dishes as slow-roasted pork tenderloin, steak and shrimp, and Her Majesty’s catch of the day. Just be sure to save space for your meal’s crowning feature: The Clock Strikes Twelve, a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, berry compote and a cookie shaped like the arm of a clock. As you enjoy your multicourse meal, several princesses take turns visiting each table, giving autographs and posing for photographs.

Reservations up to 180 days in advance are highly recommended. Also note that from February 28 through March 2, 2018, Cinderella Castle will be closed as it undergoes its own magical makeover.

The 14-table Dining Room offers one seating each night where guests can dine on the 7-course menu or 10-course Chef’s Tasting Menu.

3. Dine like royalty at Victoria & Albert’s
Of course, Cinderella’s Royal Table isn’t the only palatial dining establishment at Disney World. For an elegant affair that blends Victorian sophistication with haute American cuisine, reserve a seat at Victoria & Albert’s in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Winner of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award for the past 17 consecutive years, Victoria & Albert’s features the finer things in a gourmand’s life, from Russian Osetra caviar, Japanese beef, Italian truffles and Maine scallops, to Wedgewood China, crystal stemware, Italian linens and Sambonet silverware.

Guests are welcomed for dinner in their choice of three impressive venues. The 14-table Dining Room offers one seating each night where guests can dine on the 7-course menu or 10-course Chef’s Tasting Menu. For a more immersive experience, book the Chef’s Table in the restaurant’s kitchen. Here, you can enjoy small tastes of up to 13 courses expertly paired with cocktails and wines that include more than 700 selections in a 4,200-plus-bottle wine cellar. And for the ultimate in intimate dining, the private Queen Victoria’s Room seats just eight guests in a refined setting reminiscent of the Old World dining rooms of London and Paris. Guests are treated to a 10-course dinner with French guéridon service and wine pairings handpicked by the chef and sommelier.

Along with making required reservations well in advance (up to 180 days), remember to dress for the occasion; no jeans, shorts, capri pants, sneakers, sandals, flip-flops and the like are permitted.

4. Rub elbows with a Disney Imagineer
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If you like the idea of conversing with a Disney Imagineer about how Disney magic becomes reality throughout the resort, Disney World has a special invitation for you. Guests ages 14 and older are invited to grab lunch or dinner with an Imagineer—no inside connections necessary, only a reservation. Lunch includes a four-course meal in the Bamboo Room of the Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a restaurant that is a replica of the Hollywood landmark and dishes up the famous Cobb salad exactly the way California Brown Derby owner Bob Cobb invented it. Dinner is served at Cítricos in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where the atmosphere exudes Old World charm and American cuisine is infused with Mediterranean flair.

Whichever venue you choose, you’ll learn about the Disney brand of creativity with a behind-the-scenes look into some of Disney’s latest projects. At the end of your meal, take home a stylish souvenir plate personalized for you by your special Disney dining companion.

Disney Parks

5.  Enjoy special access to your favorite parks
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For even more insider insights and privileged peeks behind the scenes of your favorite theme parks, Disney has a host of special guided tours—at last count, nearly two dozen—fit for a king or queen. Guided by Disney cast members, these tours offer rare glimpses into the stories behind the magic at Disney, from providing special access to backstage areas of the parks to arranging meet-and-greets with Disney characters to learning little-known facts about the life of Walt Disney. Special tours also deliver unique adventures that delve into particular areas of special interest; think scuba-diving in a 5.7-million-gallon saltwater aquarium with some 6,000 sea creatures in the Epcot Seas Adventure—DiveQuest experience; taking an after-dark safari through an open savanna with a Starlight Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge; exploring the rich culture and history of 11 countries, including chats with cast members who are citizens of those countries, in Epcot’s World Showcase: DestinNations Discovered tour; and many more special experiences.

Disney likely offers a tour to fulfill your any wish. If not, you can create your own itinerary on a Private VIP Tour for up to 10 guests.

You need not be royalty to receive the keys to the kingdom on the aptly named Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour. This popular excursion presents the stories and philosophies of the themed lands in the Magic Kingdom and includes access to the legendary Utilidors (underground service tunnels) used by cast members. The Backstage Magic Tour is another top tour that includes such highlights as unraveling the inner workings of the audio-animatronics stage show at The American Adventure pavilion in Epcot; visiting Creative Costuming and Central Shops, where artisans create costumes, displays and sets; stopping by Textile Services to see one of the world’s-largest laundry facilities; and, yes, entering those famous Utilidors. Love the rides at Disney? Venture on The Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour to be whisked from one attraction to the next in three parks, or opt for the Ultimate Disney Classics VIP Tour to enjoy expedited access to your must-do attractions in the Magic Kingdom.     

Disney likely offers a tour to fulfill your any wish. If not, you can create your own itinerary on a Private VIP Tour for up to 10 guests. This custom multipark adventure is your day, your way, with door-to-door service in a private vehicle; special access to your favorite attractions; and reserved viewing areas to enjoy the parades, stage shows and fireworks displays.

Reservations are required for all tours, which sell out quickly. Check any minimum age requirements for tours, which may require a valid photo ID, and keep in mind that most tours run rain or shine.

Disney Cruise

6. Cast off on a Disney cruise—without leaving the resort
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The Walt Disney Company may be renowned for its Disney Cruise Line voyages, but did you know that you can take a specialty cruise right within the resort in Orlando? Charter a private
boat complete with a captain from one of the handful of Disney hotel marinas for a first-class sailing on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon or on Crescent Lake. Choose from a 21-foot pontoon for up to 8 passengers or a 25-foot vessel for up to 10 guests. Need more space and desire more luxury? Up to 18 passengers can be accommodated on the Grand 1, a 52-foot Sea Ray Sedan Bridge yacht helmed by a captain, crewed by a deckhand and offering butler service. Celebrating a special occasion? Make it a Celebration Cruise with the addition of balloons, banners, custom cakes, Champagne and more.

Nighttime sailings are ideal for a Fireworks Cruise, too. Depart from select marinas to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks extravaganza at the Magic Kingdom or to view the IlluminNations: Reflections of Earth show at Epcot. On select nights, you can also embark on Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise with a sampling of sweets and specialty beverages on the General Joe Potter ferryboat, departing from the Transportation and Ticket Center in the Magic Kingdom resort area.

Cinderella Castle

7. Retire to your royal chambers
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Okay, so it’s nearly impossible if you’re not royalty, a VIP or the rare sweepstakes winner to overnight in the Cinderella Castle Suite in Cinderella Castle, which was originally designed as 17th-century-French-chamber-style accommodation for Walt Disney and his family. Nevertheless, we commoners can come close with a stay in a
Disney Deluxe Resort in a club-level room or suite with benefits such as complimentary breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening cocktails and desserts. Club-level guests also enjoy Disney Signature Services that may include such red-carpet amenities as planning and scheduling VIP tours, nature experiences, specialty dining offerings and more, as well as making restaurant reservations and arranging in-room celebrations, including ordering special gifts and special-occasion cakes.   

Of course, all of this royal treatment comes at a price and eventually comes to end at the culmination of your vacation. But until the clock strikes 12, your carriage awaits, and there is, indeed, a ball to be had at Disney World.