Written by Gal Disney
Hearing all the buzz about Pandora I was super excited to take in this new world. That excitement stemmed to the two rides as well – Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. However, I was not excited for the long waits. My husband is not a guy inclined to wait in a line longer than 15 minutes nor is he a guy that is inclined to rope drop and race to a ride queue. So, I started researching my options.
I also was toying with the idea of a tour during this trip so I was scrolling through the discounts on my beloved Disney Vacation Club Member site and ran across a discount for Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tours. It was at Animal Kingdom – I was intrigued!
Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour in Animal Kingdom is a four hour guided tour (cue Gilligan’s Island music) that includes FastPass+ access to Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’Vi River Journey, Dinosaur, and the nighttime show River of Light. It also alluded to signature snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. This tour came with a lot of mystery and a hefty price tag of $249 plus tax per person plus valid park admission. Gulp!
I debated for months but the more I heard about the crowds and long wait times I took the plunge – I was getting a DVC discount which helped this thrifty Yankee gal feel like I was getting a deal.
Fast forward to the tour! We met our VIP Tour guides in front of Dinosaur promptly at 5:15pm. We received fabulous VIP Tour lanyard and surprised to find out our “snacks” would be at Satu’li Canteen! We selected our choice of dessert along with our choice of beer or wine. Complimentary water bottles were available during check in for our tour as well. Our guides introduces themselves, gave us some general guidelines. The guides then had each of us, in the tour group, introducing ourselves and share our favorite animal. The tour group consisted of about 12 people if I recall correctly.
We swiftly walked into Dinosaur and meandered our way through the FastPass+ line. Along the way, our guides shared fun facts about the ride. The guides try to keep the group together when boarding rides. Generally near each other but you never jump ahead of fellow FastPass+ park visitors. They do keep your family together just like any other ride – asking how many are in your party. Truth be told I had not been on Dinosaur in years and found it very entertaining – laughing my way through the whole ride.
Now, the tour is on a tight schedule and moves at a quick pace. Completely comfortable for me but may be an unexpected pace for some. After disembarking Dinosaur we made our trek over to Pandora. Along the way, our tour guides again shared park stories and more fun facts. They are also constantly in contact with each other via text. As we neared Pandora we stopped at the entrance and they shared the purpose of the big plant…Do you know the reason for this big misting plant? Then made our way to Na’vi River Journey. I was a little nervous because the FastPass+ line was long and showed a decent wait time. However, the line moved quickly and before we knew it we were on the ride. And what an amazing ride it is! I think it is phenomenal I may even like it better than Flight of Passage. It is so immersive and visually stunning.
We heading over to Avatar Flight of Passage after that and quickly made our way onto the ride. Again, you were kept with your party but the tour group was spread out among the different pods and floors. The tour guides have a tough job of keeping track of everyone hence why there are so many of them.
This is the point of the tour when the big Disney magic and surprise was revealed. We headed over to Satu’li Canteen, where we thought we were going to enjoy the dessert we selected and an adult beverage. Well, lo and behold, we had reserved tables where each table had the infamous Satu’li Sampler Platter to share among six people. Plus, our dessert a large SmartWater and adult beverage! We also had a beautiful battery operated River of Lights lanyard!
If you are wondering what including in the Satu’li Sampler it included four proteins (fish, tofu, chicken, and steak), along with each of the sauces, rice, and slaw. It was so delicious and a nice opportunity to chat with fellow touring pals. Our table was all made up of DVC members and we had fun sharing our various Disney experiences.
Once done we heading off to Kilimanjaro Safari for a near dusk ride. This was our first time experiencing the safari at this time of day and we were blown away. All the animals were out and active. We had many experiences with the animals up close to our safari vehicle and it was just beautiful! I highly recommend experiencing Kilimanjaro Safari at dusk!
As we were nearing the end of our tour we headed over to the last ride on our list – Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden. Another first for us as we had never ridden this favorite coaster at night. This was one of our tour guides favorite rides and he was super excited to ride it too.
Our tour guides gathers us all together after Expedition Everest and explained they would escort us to the reserved seating at River of Lights and leave us for the evening. We all said our goodbyes and then made our way to River of Lights. We were seated in a reserved seating section close to the water with a great view of the lake. Holding true to Disney magic the show started shortly after we sat down and we throughly enjoyed the show! The water displays and story are just beautiful!
Overall, I think this was a great tour and gave a full park experience in just 4 hours. A must if you are short on time! You are certainly paying a premium for that experience and a tough premium to swallow. I would say I am close to feeling I got my moneys worth but not 100% there. Adding a little backstage access or shaving about $75 off the price would get me there.
What is your favorite Disney Tour?