As some of you may know, I just got back from Adventures by Disney’s first trip to Egypt; it was amazing. Our group had so much fun! I learned about some of the most incredible things I have ever seen.
Today, I invite you to attend a special Adventures by Disney virtual event to learn more about my trip as well as some of our other exotic destinations.
Join us as we explore some of our most unique and exciting destinations. From China to South Africa and Australia, with the wild island Tasmania, to Egypt, this virtual event will take you whizzing around the globe – through beautiful landscapes and distinctive cultures, past fascinating animals and into time-honored histories. You will hear from some of our guests as they visit new places and you’ll see some of the exciting experiences that Adventures by Disney vacations are best known for. This special event ends Dec. 2, 2011, so click here and watch it today. Enjoy and see which one of these destinations will be your next family vacation.
One of my favorite Adventures by Disney stops in China is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. That’s where you’ll find nearly 100 acres of protected land filled with the world’s most beautiful pandas.
I fell in love with the fascinating (and incredibly unique) pandas of China as they romped, roamed, rested and played in their natural habitat. Our group of adventurers watched as the pandas began their day with each other. We were so close to them, I could hear the crunching of bamboo. It was also wonderful to explore a state of the art facility and see some of the cutest Panda babies that have ever graced the planet.
Adventures by Disney groups are treated to privately guided tours in China and have access to a biologist who can teach them about the pandas of the region. My experience getting to know these living wonders of China was unforgettable.
So, what would you most like to see during a trip to China?
I went to Tasmania for the first time earlier this year with the idea of grafting a whole new element to Adventures by Disney’s remarkable Australia trip. The itinerary was already comprised of wonderful activities and sights such as the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback at Uluru, and vibrant, cosmopolitan Sydney with its stunning harbor. With such a grand itinerary already established, why add Tasmania?
Well, the first intriguing thing we heard about the island state was of its reputation as one of the last wildernesses left unspoiled. The Tasmanian Tourism Bureau touts the island as having one of the most pristine environments on the planet because of its remote location − off the southern coast of Australia, surrounded by oceans for thousands of miles. “Freshest air you’ll ever breathe anywhere on the planet, mate” the locals like to say, proudly filling their lungs as they do so. About 38% of the island is protected in wildlife reserves, national parks and World Heritage sites. You’ll hear mention of the great indigenous forests that still cover many parts of the island, the indomitable cliffs that plunge into the sea, the zany wildlife – Tasmanian Devils anyone? – the wonderful seafood, organic produce, well-marbled beef, handcrafted cheeses and boutique wineries that make your mouth water at the very mention.
The Island’s early settlers were convicts and their guards, unfortunate souls sent away from the British Isles to the Empire’s most remote colony. Those who survived the perilous sea journey faced a hard life in penal colonies in a spectacular setting, the earliest of which was called Port Arthur. Port Arthur’s setting is outwardly idyllic, set on a small scenic bay with rolling, forested hillsides cascading off in various directions. On Discovery Down Under, Guests get to explore the grounds and museum of this historic former prison by day but, as the sun disappears, the 19th century ruins of Port Arthur can seem an entirely different place; the air fills with mystery, of silence and what once was. After sunset is when the “ghost walking” begins. It was on my first Ghost Tour, in search of spirits, that I really got a feel for Port Arthur. Wandering through the deserted structures led by the flicking glow of lantern light, intrigue and stories of long ago, the past crept up and those “long gone” felt close. Restless. Are those who were detained still imprisoned? Is it myth or truth? How far away is long ago? Are there ghosts?
The Galapagos Islands lie just 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, and have incredibly unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Across the islands, visitors can explore lagoons, lava fields, mangroves, caves, forests and breathtaking beaches. But for me, the rare wildlife that inhabits this beautiful place is the best part.
Many species that reside here can only be found in the Galapagos. Inhabitants vary greatly from island to island, making each one a special place to visit. For example, the Galapagos penguin is the only species of wild penguin that can be found in the northern hemisphere and they only inhabit a few of the islands.
There are 23 species of reptiles in the Galapagos and all but two of those are endemic to the archipelago. One of those unique to the islands is the marine Iguana; they live between land and sea (they can dive 30 feet!) making them the only marine lizard known to exist.
The Galapagos giant tortoise may be the most famous resident species unique to the Galapagos Islands. It is the largest living species of tortoise, weighing up to 595 lbs and living upwards of 100 years in the wild. The Galapagos Tortoise is native to seven of the islands; populations vary from island to island in characteristics such as neck length and the dome of their shell. The island-to-island differences of the Galapagos Tortoise played a huge role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
There are so many animals special to the Galapagos that I could go on and on. Instead, I invite you to experience the Galapagos Islands with Adventures by Disney. Our Grandiosos Galapagos is our new 9-day cruise of the Islands, while the Andean Highlands and Galapagos Islands is a 9-day adventure that takes you first to Ecuador and immerses you in the culture of the region before heading out to the Islands. Join us as we head out to meet the Galapagos fur sea lions, blue-footed boobies, the world’s only red-footed boobies, cormorants, penguins, giant tortoises, sea turtles, fish, more fish and so many more incredible creatures. Hope to see you there!
Interested in exploring other Adventures by Disney destinations? Take a look at the posts below:
As regional manager with Adventures by Disney, I have had the opportunity to develop new itineraries from the ground up, as well as redesign and enhance existing itineraries. I’m not sure which is more fun: One of them gives me the opportunity to open up parts of the world for our guests, while the other lets me take something our guests already enjoy and bring it to the next level.
Cities of Knights and Lights has been delighting our guests with the sights of London and Paris for many years. We always look to our guests for information and feedback and based on their input, we’ve added visits to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge, as well as a ride on the London Eye. At first I thought my aversion to heights would keep me from enjoying the views from the London Eye or even keep me grounded entirely. But once I boarded the capsule and felt how smooth the ride was, those concerns vanished. I now find myself taking a ride on the Eye (that’s what the cool kids call it) every time I’m in London.
We also added a two-night stay at the Foxhills Hotel & Resort in Surrey to give our guests the experience of staying on an English countryside estate. When I stayed at Foxhills earlier this year, I fell in love with the property and the plethora of activities available for every member of the family. I don’t think our guests will want to leave – I know I didn’t. I love how the new version of Cities of Knights and Lights experiences the bustle of London, then visits the quieter English countryside before moving on to the cosmopolitan city of Paris.
There are many memorable dining experiences on this trip and one highlight is our celebration at the famous Ladurée restaurant in Paris, which, aside from the opulent décor and the delicious food, offers the best macaroons in the world. They are definitely one of my favorite treats.
When I think about bucket-list destinations I’ve traveled to for Cities of Knights and Lights, the list goes on and on – Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Versailles, and more. When I’m developing a new itinerary or making enhancements to an existing one, if I have a “pinch me” moment, I know it’s a good addition because, most likely, fellow travelers will feel the same. I think guests on the Cities of Knights and Lights will be pinching themselves every day. I know I did.
For a look at other exciting destinations offered by Adventures by Disney, check out the posts below:
I eventually learned from the Egyptologists who escorted my tours of the monuments that many ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses took the forms of animals. Hippopotamuses, hawks, cobras, jackals, crocodiles, vultures and even the lowly scarab (also known as a dung beetle) took on deep religious significance, and within the temples and tombs their images can be seen everywhere. The images weren’t confined to just the walls and ceilings. There are also magnificent sculptures. Here’s one of my favorites, the god Horus who takes on the form of a falcon or hawk, and who is known as the All Seeing Eye as well as the God of the Sky, the God of War and the God of Protection:
I have a number of other animal-related stories but none of them “tops” the experience I had in Upper Egypt near Aswan, a beautiful city on the Nile River. This region of southern Egypt is home to the Nubians, a people who in ancient times were known for their vast wealth, military prowess and advanced civilization. I visited one of their villages and was invited into a café to get out of the deadly heat and enjoy a glass of refreshing mint tea. This is what the café looked like from the outside:
And here’s a view of the inside where it was remarkably cool and just as brightly colored as the outside:
I noticed a low-walled cement basin in the middle of the room – half filled with water and holding two small Nile crocodiles. I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!” The owner of the café was a friendly guy who decided to join my Egyptian companion and me at our little table. When he noticed my interest in the crocodiles he became animated and picked one of them up. A few minutes of discussion in Arabic followed with my companion and it was translated to me that the Nubians want to protect the endangered crocs, so they raise them as youngsters in their homes up to a certain age before releasing them into Lake Nasser, the vast body of water that was formed when the nearby Aswan High Dam was built in the early 1960s. As this story was being shared with me the owner placed the crocodile on my head and motioned to my camera – I quickly understood that he wanted to take my picture. Here’s the moment, as it was captured. It’s one of my all-time favorite pictures:
The next day, visiting one of the ancient temples near Aswan, I was astonished to be introduced to another Egyptian god known as Sobek – characterized as a powerful man with a crocodile head. In thinking about my “croc encounter” on the previous day I had a very odd sensation of feeling like I knew exactly how the ancients had come up with their vision for Sobek:
Thanks for reading my Disney Parks Blog posts. I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of my travels in Egypt and that you’ve gotten a sense of the amazing things to be discovered there. Please visit us at www.AdventuresbyDisney.com to learn more about our trip to Egypt and consider joining us for this phenomenal experience.
As a Trip Operations Manager for Adventures by Disney, I was part of the team that put together our new Pyramids, Pharaohs and Ancient Treasures trip. This was a dream come true because from an early age I had long sought to travel to this fabled land of vast deserts and ancient monuments. When I arrived in Cairo to begin exploring how we could put an amazing adventure together, I fully expected to be wowed by the monuments of antiquity – the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, the elaborately decorated tombs and fascinating temples clustered along the banks of the Nile River that I had seen in books that first captured my imagination as a child. Everything I saw was just as extraordinary as I had ever imagined. I experienced any number of “pinch me, I can’t believe how truly awesome this is” moments as I found myself walking among the splendors of what many say are the world’s most iconic ancient treasures. Words like Tutankhamen, Luxor, Aswan, Giza and Cairo took on new meanings as I saw for myself what so many had discovered before me in this fabled land where tourists have been coming for centuries.
One thing I had not anticipated during my initial site inspections around Egypt was experiences that involved interactions with animals. Animals are everywhere in Egypt, certainly much more so than I’m used to seeing in my daily life in Los Angeles. Perhaps the first awareness I gleaned were all the donkey carts weaving through the impossibly jammed streets of Cairo, most of them heaped with fresh vegetables brought daily into the city from the fertile fields lining the Nile.
Next came the famous pyramids at Giza, where I discovered that camel rides and horse-drawn carriages are big business. With one of the most famous backdrops in the world – well, it’s impossible to resist having one of the best all-time souvenir photos ever (and by the way, my camel’s name was Mickey Mouse!):
Soon after touring the pyramids I visited several ancient tombs located in the desert outside Cairo that are dated to 4,200 years ago. The walls of the temples were covered from floor to ceiling with extraordinary carvings and hieroglyphics. Many of the scenes represented the daily life of Egyptians, and there were animals galore, domesticated and wild. Here’s a sample panel from one of the rooms in the tomb of Mereruka who was Chief Justice and Vizier for the Pharaoh Teti. It appears to show a variety of Nile waterfowl and a hunter grasping the tail of a river otter:
Please check back tomorrow for my second-half look into of our Pyramids, Pharaohs and Ancient Treasures adventure. In the meantime, head to www.AdventuresbyDisney.com to find out more about this and many of our other fabulous destinations.
We want to thank everyone who participated on our Adventures by Disney, “Where do you think we’re going next?” destination teaser game on Facebook. It’s clear that many of you are quite savvy and easily figured out the answer to our clues. Bravo! For those who might be wondering, our clues were created to share some of the special sights and activities you’ll enjoy on our new “Greek Odyssey” adventure.
Here’s a quick rundown …
Clue #1: Kayak to an ancient fortress which once withstood an attack from the Pirate Barbarossa …
On the historic island of Spinalonga sits a 16th century Venetian-built fortress that proved impenetrable, even to the relentless pirate, Barbarossa. You will have a blast on the kayak excursion to visit this remarkable place in Crete.
Clue #2: Stomp into the fun and take a sip of this sweet dessert …
The island of Santorini rose from volcanic eruptions to yield a knack for fine winemaking. From this, a special dessert wine was born known as Vinsanto. On a visit to the Volcan Winery, Junior Adventurers will stomp their own grapes while adults get a “taste” in the craft of winemaking.
Clue #3: Be carried away by old-world charm with Jack, a new found friend …
A donkey, also known as a Jack, is a traditional transportation of Greece and a fun way to visit charming villages on your trip.
Clue #4: Learn the art of “pickling” for this national cheese …
Feta, the Greek national cheese, is made through a special process called “pickling.” On this vacation, you will learn the fine art of cheese-making.
Clue #5: Race through the games of history and celebrate on sparkling white marble steps …
Engage in sporting activities on your visit to Panathinaiko Stadium, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games and be cheered by your fellow adventurers as you take a victory walk on the white marble steps after a friendly game.
Clue #6: Dine under a cloud of silvery green leaves from these primitive trees …
Olive trees are among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world and of course, a specialty of Greece. So what better way to celebrate than to take pleasure in a memorable farewell dinner in an olive grove?
Clue #7: Stand among pillars of antiquity and live the myths in this former treasury …
As a Greek temple, the Parthenon was utilized as a treasury. Learn the rich history and myths as you explore this iconic structure on the Acropolis.
Also make sure to also check out our video and hear more stories from Heather, one of our many amazing trip developers. You’ll see this new adventure is filled with special activities that are sure to excite all the senses. So come join us and experience Greece like never before.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since Adventures by Disney first launched with the grand idea of creating family-friendly adventures to exotic destinations around the world. Starting with just a few trips, we set out to put the “fun” back into your family vacation and boy did we succeed. Today, we offer 22 breathtaking trips across six continents, each specially designed with exciting and unique activities that are sure to please every member of your family. So for our 2012 lineup, it brings me great pleasure to announce the addition of two new amazing – and often requested – destinations, as well as the addition of a little “extra spice” on some of our current adventures.
This time we’re off to Greece, considered by many to be the birthplace of western civilization. On your “Greek Odyssey” adventure, we’ll take you on a magical journey through Athens, Santorini and Crete. In the pale yellow light of the Greco moon, mythology comes to life through the art of storytelling on the steps of the Parthenon in Athens. Sporting games will ignite the thrill of victory at Panathinaiko Stadium, birthplace of the modern Olympics, and on the volcanic island of Santorini, the rumble of excitement will fill the air as kids enjoy stomping grapes while adults take pleasure in Volcan wine tasting. Then set sail on the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea on your way to the mountain villages of Crete for a lesson in Tsatziki cheese making and classic Greek dancing.
Our next new destination will be nothing short of picture-perfect as we take you to Northern France on our “Esprit de France” adventure. You’ll walk in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci as you visit Château du Clos Lucé, his last known home, and Monet’s Gardens will inspire the artist in you as you create your very own works of art. Normandy awaits as you voyage to the rocky tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel and uncover the mysteries of the fortress-like monastery nestled high above. Emotions will run high as you visit the American Cemetery in Omaha Beach, honoring our fallen heroes during the D-Day invasion in 1944. Entice your taste buds with a lesson in brandy making on the Normandy Cider Route, bask in the beauty of the French countryside and take a leisurely bike ride on the grounds of the majestic Château de Chambord.
But wait! The adventures don’t end there, because our “Pyramids, Pharaohs & Ancient Treasures” adventure to Egypt makes a grand return that can only be described as “fit for a king.” This destination is bound to captivate the archeologist in all of us.
We’ve also enhanced some of our current trips like our “Discovery Down Under” trip to Australia, which now includes a visit to the unforgettable island of Tasmania, home to the mysterious Tasmanian Devil. And if discovery is your game, then you’ll be excited to hear that we’ve added yet another way to explore the amazing Galapagos Islands. “Grandiosos Galapagos” is a seven day cruise on board the Galapagos Explorer II that will take you on a journey to the place that time forgot. Civilization more your cup of tea? Then you’ll be thrilled to learn that we’ve added a trip to the British countryside. On our “Cities of Knights and Lights” adventure to London and Paris you’ll enjoy a privately-guided tour of Windsor Castle and finally get a taste of what royalty is all about.
Can you tell how excited I am about our destinations? It’s obvious that the last seven years have been an amazing journey and now, more than ever, our Adventures by Disney family can’t wait to welcome you and your family on our adventures. So decide where you want to go, what you want to see and let Adventures by Disney take care of the rest!
Check out the following posts for more information on Adventures by Disney destinations: