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My family is a “Disney family,” so I’ve never experienced any resistance to a Disney-related vacation from my sons — not even during their contrarian teen years. However, plenty of parents report that their tweens or teens feel they have “outgrown” Disney vacations. For those families, Disney Signature Experiences may be the perfect solution.
Described as “anything Disney without a castle,” the Disney Signature Experiences umbrella covers Adventures by Disney (ABD), Disney Cruise Line (DCL) and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii — all great choices for clients looking for something beyond a traditional theme park vacation.
The portfolio offers more sophisticated Disney vacations without sacrificing any of the magic. Opportunities include exclusive perks such as backstage experiences at Disney Imagineering and private after-hours tours of Paris’ Louvre with ABD; first-run Disney and Marvel movies on DCL ships; or an authentic Hawaiian luau at Aulani.
“When you travel with Disney, you don’t just go into the Disney world — you go into the world with Disney,” said Evily Giannopoulos Peros, public relations manager for Disney Signature Experiences. “Signature service, storytelling and attention to detail are threads that tie these vacations together and make them Disney.”
Jonathan Frontado, public relations director for Disney Parks & Resorts, describes Disney vacations as a spectrum, with theme parks on one end — places designed to take guests into fantasy worlds — and the real world on the other. According to Frontado, DCL brings Disney stories to life while guests experience the real world in each port; Aulani is rooted in Hawaiian culture, but with Disney touches (and, in fact, when Disney characters are seen at Aulani, it’s because they’re on vacation); and ABD allows guests to explore the real world through the lens of Disney storytelling.
With that in mind, clients can determine just how much Disney will fly with their teens.
Adventures by Disney“We have an amazing world with many different cultures,” said Suzanne Bright, an adventure guide with ABD. “Families have seen Norway in [the Disney animated film] ‘Frozen,’ but we want them to experience the culture of the Norwegian people.”
For clients concerned that teens won’t respond well to Disney characters showing up on their vacation, ABD adventure guide Christian Cruz says there’s nothing to worry about. He explains that ABD storytelling is based on the destination, so while Marco Polo might make an appearance in Venice, Italy, Mickey Mouse won’t pop up on the Great Wall of China.
Instead, ABD offers families the chance to see iconic places around the world, as well as to get off the beaten path and do things that may not be available to the general public — such as a private dinner at a crocodile station in Australia (where teens even get to feed crocodiles) or an after-hours VIP tour of the Vatican.
“The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel can be very busy,” Cruz said. “But the guards open the doors just for us, and our local guide tells us about everything we’re seeing.”
Aulani, a Disney Resort & SpaWhen Disney Imagineers went to Hawaii to create a resort, they made efforts to learn about Hawaiian culture so that they could share the story of the destination. According to Peros, that’s what makes Aulani authentically Hawaiian, but also distinctly Disney.
“Here, you get the best of both worlds: the authenticity of Hawaiian culture, and Disney’s exceptional guest service and storytelling,” said Alyssa-Lende Kane, Aulani ambassador for 2019-2020.
Teens will be happy exploring the resort’s waterslides, lazy river and Rainbow Reef snorkeling pool — or participating in beachfront activities such as boogie-boarding and stand-up paddling. But Aulani also offers teen-only activities like North Shore Beach Zone, a fun-filled afternoon beach party, and Sunset Mele, an evening gathering to celebrate Hawaiian culture. Plus, the resort’s Laniwai Spa offers special Teen Treatments for guests ages 13 to 17.
Disney Cruise Line“Whether families want to explore the beaches of the Caribbean, the history of the Mediterranean , or the beauty of Alaska, we take them there — Disney style — and bring stories to life when they’re onboard,” said Ashley Long, cruise director onboard DCL’s Disney Wonder.
While Disney ships offer a lot of activities for younger kids, teens can still find cool things to do. On a recent Disney cruise, my teen son opted to watch “Captain Marvel” in the ship’s movie theater instead of the “Frozen” stage show (no surprise). There are also clubs specifically designated for tweens (Edge) and teens (Vibe) that offer programming designed to help them make connections with other kids their age.
disneycruise.disney.go.comOne Size Doesn’t Fit AllOn ABD river cruises, which run in partnership with cruise line AmaWaterways, families can decide what to do each day. They have flexibility to select activities and excursions that will make their vacation unique, but also to choose things that appeal to teens.
Agents can also offer clients the option to combine Disney Signature Experiences. So families can do an ABD Escape itinerary before or after a DCL vacation, or they can book ABD cruise packages that overlay ABD itineraries with Disney cruises. On these “ABD-embedded” cruises, onboard adventure guides take clients on exclusive ABD-only tours in each port.
With the ability to mix-and-match, advisors can create the perfect Disney Signature Experiences vacation for clients — and, hopefully, rekindle the spark of Disney magic for teens.
The DetailsDisney Signature Experienceswww.disneysignatureexperiences.com