With an average annual attendance of more than 52 million visitors, Orlando’s Walt Disney World is the most-visited theme park in the world. While most guests wait hours in lines during a typical visit and might spend a little extra for some ice cream or sodas, others fork over a lot of cash for more exclusive experiences.
If you want to escape the crowds — and want a more upscale experience beyond a mouse-ear-shaped ice cream treat — consider ponying up for a few luxe activities. Disney offers a suite of exclusive experiences and personalized services dubbed the Crown Collection.
If you want to feel like a VIP but don’t have loads of cash to spend, know that some experiences are reasonably priced. Disney offers something for most budgets, including the Ears to You Gift Basket (Mickey Mouse ears, autograph book and treats) for $39.99 and the Minnie Magical Moment Floral Display for $49.99. The new Character Couture makeovers (beauty services inspired by iconic Disney characters) run $75 for hairstyling and $50 for make-up.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find highly customizable celebrations, such as the popular Haunted Mansion-themed parties, that can run into the six figures or higher.
“Some guests want to go deeper into the storytelling, such as with ‘Star Wars,’” says Paul Oppedisano, vice president for premium services at Walt Disney World. “These experiences could be more luxurious, while others could be more exclusive to a limited audience.”
If you want to book a few luxury offerings — or just dream about them — consider these elevated experiences (taxes not included).
TAKE A BEHIND-THE-SCENES TOUR
Get whisked through lines and taken to off-limits areas typically reserved for staff. (All tour costs are in addition to park admission fees.) If you’d like a Disney Dream Day, expect to pay $425 to $750 per hour (depending on the season) to create a customized itinerary for up to 10 people. The more affordable luxury option? Choose a group tour, such as Taste of Magic Kingdom ($99 per person) or Ultimate Disney Classics ($249 per person).
For a unique experience, book the Wild Africa Trek ($189 to $249 per person) through Animal Kingdom’s version of an African savanna. On this three-hour expedition, you’ll ride in a rugged safari vehicle, watch hippos get fed, cross a rope bridge hovering over crocodiles and enjoy African-inspired snacks in a rustic veranda with wildlife views. Along the way, you’ll learn about the animals you encounter and the park’s conservation efforts.
RENT A YACHT
For $399 per hour (daytime), you and up to 17 guests can cruise Disney’s Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake aboard the Grand 1 — a 52-foot Sea Ray yacht. For an added fee, you can hire a private-dining staff and butler to prepare and serve a sumptuous meal in the yacht’s full kitchen. Guests also can watch the fireworks from the yacht for $799 per hour (nighttime).
SPRINKLE PIXIE DUST ON YOUR SPECIAL OCCASION
The talented team at Disney Meetings & Events can turn birthdays, graduations and more into special events. At one guest’s “Peter Pan”-themed baby shower, Disney transformed the venue into Neverland, according to Ken Malquist, show director at the Disney Event Group. The party included themed decor and food, costumed waitstaff, entertainment and a custom lullaby (framed as a sheet-music keepsake) for the baby’s nursery. A Disney photographer captured the event, creating a scrapbook for the expectant mom.
A highly immersive, personalized experience such as this starts at around $200,000, says Malquist. For details, call (321) 939-4648 or visit www.disneymeetingsandevents.com.
ENJOY TEA TIME
At the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, indulge in Perfectly Princess Tea for a nice mother-daughter bonding event. Infused with storytelling, sing-alongs and a princess parade, this 1 ½-hour event includes tea/juice, fruit, heart-shaped sandwiches, photo session, doll and lots of royal goodies (think crown, jewelry and cinch bag). Packages start at about $333 for one guest (ages 10-plua) and one child (ages 3 to 9) with upgrade options.
DINE AT THE CHEF’S TABLE
Make reservations months in advance to snag the chef’s table at Victoria & Albert’s, the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Central Florida. With a prix fixe beginning at $250 per person, you can observe the renowned restaurant’s inner workings. During this three-hour culinary adventure, you’ll interact with the chef and kitchen staff as they prepare your 10-course feast, ranging from caviar to quail to Japanese Wagyu beef.
STAY IN A DELUXE SUITE
With eight luxury hotels to choose from, including the famed Grand Floridian, you can book a primo suite such as the Royal Asante at Animal Kingdom Lodge. With a spacious living room, kitchen, dining room and savanna views, the suite starts at $1,737 per night and incorporates African patterns and motifs in the decor. Staying club level also delivers luxe amenities, such as access to a private lounge.
Guests who book luxury experiences often turn into repeat customers, Disney says.
“It’s less about a transaction with guests and really about building that bond and helping them shape their experience,” says Oppedisano.