A seasoned traveler's first-time ABD perspective for Alaska 8 - 15 July 2019

RamblingMad

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 29, 2019
I'm quite comfortable with luxe, and have stayed at the Peninsula Hong Kong. For us, I just don't NEED it on every trip, especially not when paying for 6 of us. Our G Adventures trip is almost exactly half the cost of the ABD for the same amount of days, a few less meals, and 4 star hotels. And it's private, just the 8 of us, with our own guide, which I think outweighs the "leveling up" of the hotels.

I'm actually more wanting to say that as a female that's traveled solo, I don't think you need Peninsula prices to be safe, but I completely understanding liking the luxe. We stayed at a hotel in Andorra that was so nice, it had amenities I didn't even know existed. Holy cow. I never wanted to leave.
If you have a large enough group, private tours with G Adventures is great. That was my Iceland trip. My Peru trip was just a normal tour. We didn’t have enough people. For New Zealand we used a different company.

For more high end in Europe, try Backroads.
 

Rapunzellover

DIS Veteran
Joined
Sep 3, 2014
I'm actually more wanting to say that as a female that's traveled solo, I don't think you need Peninsula prices to be safe, but I completely understanding liking the luxe.
No, obviously you don't need Peninsula prices. I was mostly meaning that "roughing it" -- like camping or some motel six or hostel-- isn't as safe. It's just a reason for a single gal to choose luxe over roughing it.
 

RamblingMad

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 29, 2019
No, obviously you don't need Peninsula prices. I was mostly meaning that "roughing it" -- like camping or some motel six or hostel-- isn't as safe. It's just a reason for a single gal to choose luxe over roughing it.
I usually end up camping with single women. The safety is really location specific. And bad things happen in luxe hotels as well.

However, it’s generally safer to travel in a group.
 
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    No, obviously you don't need Peninsula prices. I was mostly meaning that "roughing it" -- like camping or some motel six or hostel-- isn't as safe. It's just a reason for a single gal to choose luxe over roughing it.
    I agree with this. But the other reason a single gal might choose luxe over roughing it is just not wanting to rough it! :) I put in my time roughing it, and my body just doesn't want to do that any more!!!

    Sayhello
     

    RamblingMad

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2019
    I agree with this. But the other reason a single gal might choose luxe over roughing it is just not wanting to rough it! :) I put in my time roughing it, and my body just doesn't want to do that any more!!!

    Sayhello
    I have high standards. I will only be with women who will poop in the woods. :)
     
  • mtmueller

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 3, 2014
    mtmuller, thanks for posting the issues and problems you had with this trip. While many of us here have enjoyed ABD trips, that doesn't mean we ignore problems or avoid offering suggestions for changes. I'm particularly disturbed to hear about the lack of security at the basecamp.

    Since you have a significant financial interest in Disney, perhaps bringing these directly to the attention of the senior management there is a worthwhile use of your time?

    I have been on four Disney cruises and enjoyed those, but DCL and ABD are very different products. I'm guessing that the total number of guests per year in ABD would fill maybe 3 Disney cruise ships. They just don't have the volume to justify ABD-specific facilities similar to Castaway Cay. The closest they can come to that is visiting Disney facilities in the New York and Anaheim trips

    I did do a vacation in Alaska on my own. The only superb meal I had was at Seven Glaciers at the Alyeska resort. Many of the other meals elsewhere were disappointing, as you state. So I'm wondering if that is an Alaska thing. The food I had with ABD in Italy and on the Rhine Cruise were much better.

    Also, prices in Alaska are high in general. The Anchorage Hilton and Marriott prices were much higher than I would normally expect from that level of hotel. The main tourist season is limited to a few months due to the weather, so I guess prices get jacked up. The costs of the Disney Wonder Alaska cruises are always much higher than the Disney Wonder Mexico cruises, on a per-day basis.

    ABD might offer the most value on international trips.
    We had some great meals OYO - if you ever get back to Anchorage you MUST try the Moose's Tooth. There are several YouTube videos about this place. I would also vouch for a great meal we had at Glacier Brewhouse in downtown Anchorage. The crab exceeded my very high expectations! Finally, I just couldn't stop eating the salmon quesadillas we had on another OYO excursion with 49th State Motor Tours.

    I had a TON of Hilton points, so our pre-trip stay used some of the points we had so we really didn't have the hotel sticker shock you describe.
     

    mtmueller

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 3, 2014
    As a Disney shareholder too, I feel like ABD isn’t really in their wheelhouse.
    This was my wife's biggest beef. What's the point of a BRAND if the products are not consistent? If your going to productize something different, good business practice is to brand it differently. Hilton owns Hampton Inn, but there's no confusion on what each differently branded property offers. As a marketing professional, in comparison to our experiences at Disney resorts and DCL, my wife felt ABD is a complete mis-branded product line. But charging DIS prices for ABD really comes across as trying to milk the higher-end brand for a lesser product. That's what really chaffed her hide on this trip. I'm being charged 30 quid and expecting a crafted martini served by Allesandro in Dukes Hotel of London, but getting tossed a can of Coke (if you love martinis, and ever in London, you haven't lived until you've been to Dukes...)
     

    mtmueller

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 3, 2014
    Thanks for posting,OP! I have been researching ABd and other tour group operating companies. I have been debating if it’s worth it. We’re testing out TB in March with Costa Rica and ABD short escape in Barcelona.
    We did a lot in Barcelona OYO before boarding the Magic for a Med DCL cruise. Great city. Highly recommend a day trip to the monastery and hiking Montserrat. A short train ride from Barcelona (easy to do OYO), and take the cable car up. From the monastery, there are hiking trails. Really amazing place, unforgettable! You'll probably want some OYO time in Mercado de La Boqueria - definitely review Rick Steve's video on this place. Crazy fun!
     
  • RamblingMad

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2019
    This was my wife's biggest beef. What's the point of a BRAND if the products are not consistent? If your going to productize something different, good business practice is to brand it differently. Hilton owns Hampton Inn, but there's no confusion on what each differently branded property offers. As a marketing professional, in comparison to our experiences at Disney resorts and DCL, my wife felt ABD is a complete mis-branded product line. But charging DIS prices for ABD really comes across as trying to milk the higher-end brand for a lesser product. That's what really chaffed her hide on this trip. I'm being charged 30 quid and expecting a crafted martini served by Allesandro in Dukes Hotel of London, but getting tossed a can of Coke (if you love martinis, and ever in London, you haven't lived until you've been to Dukes...)
    The problem is that Disney is trying to brand adventure vacations to families for outrageous prices in locations that don't always provide a luxury experience. This creates a mismatch in expectation versus reality. I was pitched adventure vacations via Disney when I did a cruise with them. I told the sales guy that I don't think Disney is the right fit for these types of vacations, and I straight out told him that their prices were way out of whack with the market. Check out Backroads for higher end.

    At the end of the day, good adventure companies vet their clients to match their fitness and experience level with the proper vacation.
     

    Candycane83

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2012
    We did a lot in Barcelona OYO before boarding the Magic for a Med DCL cruise. Great city. Highly recommend a day trip to the monastery and hiking Montserrat. A short train ride from Barcelona (easy to do OYO), and take the cable car up. From the monastery, there are hiking trails. Really amazing place, unforgettable! You'll probably want some OYO time in Mercado de La Boqueria - definitely review Rick Steve's video on this place. Crazy fun!
    Yes we’re heading to a 5 night DCL Med cruise after which is why I thought it would be a good time to try ABD, we have some additional time at Barcelona after the cruise too so hoping it would be enough to see the city! Thanks for the tip on the market! I plan to find some places to eat in too because ABD does not include dinner on the 2nd night. If you have any recommendations? 😁
     

    Rapunzellover

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 3, 2014
    This was my wife's biggest beef. What's the point of a BRAND if the products are not consistent? If your going to productize something different, good business practice is to brand it differently. Hilton owns Hampton Inn, but there's no confusion on what each differently branded property offers. As a marketing professional, in comparison to our experiences at Disney resorts and DCL, my wife felt ABD is a complete mis-branded product line. But charging DIS prices for ABD really comes across as trying to milk the higher-end brand for a lesser product. That's what really chaffed her hide on this trip. I'm being charged 30 quid and expecting a crafted martini served by Allesandro in Dukes Hotel of London, but getting tossed a can of Coke (if you love martinis, and ever in London, you haven't lived until you've been to Dukes...)
    I'm sorry, but this is just not accurate. You may not have enjoyed your ABD, but to say it's completely misbranded and not consistent with the rest of Disney's products is overkill. And saying it's Coke instead of a martini, well that's just plain untrue.
     

    RamblingMad

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2019
    Yes we’re heading to a 5 night DCL Med cruise after which is why I thought it would be a good time to try ABD, we have some additional time at Barcelona after the cruise too so hoping it would be enough to see the city! Thanks for the tip on the market! I plan to find some places to eat in too because ABD does not include dinner on the 2nd night. If you have any recommendations? 😁
    Go see a Barca match at Camp Neu and maybe a tour. La Liga is starting up in two more weeks. Can't wait.

     

    Donalyn

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 2, 2008
    I agree with Rapunzellover.

    First, it is branded differently. It is Adventures by Disney, which is different from DCL, or DVC, or the Parks/resorts. Yes, it says Disney, but everyone still knows a Hampton is owned by Hilton. Same thing.

    Also, to be clear, even within these different product lines - there are varying levels of service/products. Compare All Star Music hotel to the Grand Floridian. Not the same, yet both Disney. Or on your much lauded DCL - the rooms are very, very different - yet, all Disney.

    And obviously ABD isn't hurting the Disney brand. If it was, they would not be expanding trips, they would be cutting them back or ditching the program.

    What I think that your wife is missing is that Disney isn't trying to make these products identical because it can't (as other have stated so nicely). They just can't control everything around the world like they can at the resorts/parks or on their cruise ships and private island. (Although, they do a pretty good job of it, their name opens a lot of doors.)

    However, what they are trying to do in the higher end group family travel space is be in a similar spot to where they are in the theme park market or the cruise market, for their highest paying customers (those who stay at the Grand Floridian or in the nicest rooms on DCL), not those who cruise or park at the "value" level.

    And ABD is definitely not a Coke when you wanted a martini in that travel market. To say so is to show that you don't understand the market they are in.

    Now food - yes, it could be better. No one will disagree with those comments.

    The other thing going on appears to be the use of the word "adventure" - with some taking it to mean active, outdoorsy, athletic travel (aka Backroads). I think that the word here means a different thing - like this definition (from Merriam - Websters) "an exciting or remarkable experience."

    I can understand that people may get confused by this initially. But not if they do any research here.

    And Backroads prices are similar, particularly when you see that their trips are shorter (although, they do have the ability to have your trip at lower end hotels/restaurants, so that can change up the price).
     

    DollyM

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 30, 2015
    The other thing going on appears to be the use of the word "adventure" - with some taking it to mean active, outdoorsy, athletic travel (aka Backroads). I think that the word here means a different thing - like this definition (from Merriam - Websters) "an exciting or remarkable experience."
    This is the definition that I use. I’m headed to London for a week on my own before my next ABD. I‘m calling it my pre-Adventure adventure. I use ABDs to go places and/or do things I wouldn’t do on my own. Not that I couldn’t, I just wouldn’t for a number of reasons. And as an often solo traveler I enjoy the camaraderie of fellow Disney fans (I’ve only done adult exclusives) and I love the guides.

    I think the word “active” is often used to mean there will be activities like more strenuous hiking/biking or higher class rapids for example. In 2004 I did a Backroads trip to the Big Island that had biking, hiking, and kayaking. On the first day I remember someone asking me if I usually do “active vacations”. I said no!!! That wasn't strictly true since I take vacations to ski and others to do go hiking if the area is known for it. But I’d rather do those on my own and my hikes wouldn’t likely be more than a few hours at a time and certainly not every day.

    BTW, I was originally booked on a Backroads Big Island biking trip in 2004 that was cancelled due to low numbers. They moved me to the “multi-sport” trip which was a few months later. It turned out to be the best thing that happened because I‘d had enough biking by day 2.
     

    ABDGurl

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 9, 2014
    We did do some research before we selected this trip, but obviously not enough. I did read several of the glowing and not so glowing reviews on a few sites and blogs but obviously didn't dig deep enough - my bad.

    As most of you probably realize, ANY Fanboy site will be absolutely loaded with confirmation and selection bias. My post was merely intended to provide an opposing viewpoint for another family that may be in a similar situation.

    Don't get me wrong, I LOVE you guys. Keep buying ABD trips! That boosts my dividend yield and capital gains on DIS!

    My narrative may not have been sufficiently clear, but we did find the good with the bad and tried to make the best of it during our trip. I don't think we 'copped an attitude', nor were we the only ones that expressed some disappointment. A 5-time ABD'er also expressed some disappointment and commented to us she thought the trip was not as good as the others she had taken in defense of ABD.

    The principal beef that I cannot get past is that for the ~$2000/night for our family (inclusive of our OYO costs during the trip plus ABD guide gratuities), we've had oh so much better. We probably further complicated things by having two absolutely incredible OYO "adventures" prior to the start of the ABD itinerary, which may have made for an unfair comparison.

    The food issue was more than "one or two" meals. It really was a bad joke.

    At $2000/nt, if someone's not getting what they think they paid for, yes I would demand some attention. That's the differentiator in customer service experiences. We compared notes with one of our Alaskan friends that used to work for Princess (yes, a different league from ABD), and they were aghast at the lack of action on some of the issues presented.

    In comparison, my daughter's favorite recent trip was a weeklong trek through Morrocco with a private guide/driver including a journey along the "road of a thousand casbahs" to the Sahara desert, a camel trek to a Berber desert "glamping" site (with flush toilets), ending in Marrakesh at the 5-star Es Saadi and falconry lessons. That came in at around $1000/nt all-in ground package by comparison. Or my wife's favorite, a small group (<12) from Aqaba to Petra and back on a 4x4 trip through Wadi Rum (where they filmed "The Martian" and "Lawrence of Arabia") which came in around the same ~$1000/nt. Not to mention the bareboat regattas we took in the Med, both the Greek Islands and the Dalmatian Coast out of Dubrovnik, Croatia with less than 10 yachts per flotilla at well under $2000/nt. At $2000/nt, I'm at the Four Seasons in Vail all-in for skiing.

    So yes, I just didn't see the value paying the very high premium for this trip. I can totally see how ABD would be amazing for multi-generational travel. That seems to be a real selling point for ABD.

    As has been implied by several in this thread and I will freely admit, we bought the ABD product thinking it was something else and representative of what Disney corporate has been known for, namely customer service. We really didn't see that on this trip. I hope we have helped another, similar family in their decision-making.
    I'm a HUGE ABD fan and I've had a bad ABD myself, so I totally get where you are coming from. That being said, it wasn't my first ABD, so I knew how good they could be and have gone on a couple since that were just as wonderful as my first. I do appreciate your input and I think it's always great to get all sorts of feedback from different folks so thanks for being bold and sharing. I found it helpful.
     

    paddles

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 2, 2011
    I do understand where the OP is coming from. My family is also very well traveled and have been around the globe and I enjoy planning trips and doing things at my own pace. We've done a few ABDs when the kids were younger because we wanted them to enjoy Europe and have fun with other kids on the trip. The Italy/Amalfi coast trip and Germany were excellent, and we did activities that might be a little harder to manage through logistically on our own (although I think Germany itinerary has changed), but Scotland was a disappointment for me. We were one of the first trips out, and the itinerary needed some fine-tuning, our guides were sub-par (sorry to say that...only time that's happened. We really needed a Scottish guide, and ones that actually enjoy being around kids)….looks like that itinerary changed a bit as well.

    I think tours in general are for people who either don't want the hassle of planning a trip, or are concerned about traveling to foreign places without a "safety net". I'm still considering China and Egypt (and wish they'd do India), but all the other trips I'd rather just do on my own. I find I can do the same activities with private tour guides, stay in 5 star hotels, eat at the best restaurants...and it's still about half the cost of an ABD. We went to Japan in 2013 and I planned almost the same itinerary as ABD, and our costs were about 1/3!! And don't get me started about the short trips...those prices are eye-watering, and in the case of London and Paris short trips, there's so much OYO time!!

    But given all that, I'd still like to do a China ABD since my kids (now teenagers) really like having other kids to hang with, and ditch their mom and dad at dinner and eat at the kids' table, and those are places that I do feel a little concerned planning on my own. And I love the ABD guides....big shout out to James and Dusty. They made the kids feel special, and encouraged kids' tables at meals and bonding with all of them. I love those guys and they make the trips so worth it.

    Regarding ABD business model and marketing.....I agree 100%. As a marketing exec, I'm stunned at how lame the marketing is for ABD and the lack of understanding of loyalty and rewards. In case they're reading this...Acquisition is often 5-10x more costly than retention, and 90%+ of profits typically come long-term customers (source: PWC). So, don't penalize your ABD loyalists and make sure you give them some real rewards (like free pre or post nights, early booking access, etc.). It will actually help your bottom line. :-)
     

    Candycane83

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2012
    I do understand where the OP is coming from. My family is also very well traveled and have been around the globe and I enjoy planning trips and doing things at my own pace. We've done a few ABDs when the kids were younger because we wanted them to enjoy Europe and have fun with other kids on the trip. The Italy/Amalfi coast trip and Germany were excellent, and we did activities that might be a little harder to manage through logistically on our own (although I think Germany itinerary has changed), but Scotland was a disappointment for me. We were one of the first trips out, and the itinerary needed some fine-tuning, our guides were sub-par (sorry to say that...only time that's happened. We really needed a Scottish guide, and ones that actually enjoy being around kids)….looks like that itinerary changed a bit as well.

    I think tours in general are for people who either don't want the hassle of planning a trip, or are concerned about traveling to foreign places without a "safety net". I'm still considering China and Egypt (and wish they'd do India), but all the other trips I'd rather just do on my own. I find I can do the same activities with private tour guides, stay in 5 star hotels, eat at the best restaurants...and it's still about half the cost of an ABD. We went to Japan in 2013 and I planned almost the same itinerary as ABD, and our costs were about 1/3!! And don't get me started about the short trips...those prices are eye-watering, and in the case of London and Paris short trips, there's so much OYO time!!
    I definitely agree with this too... we did Japan on our own last year and it definitely did not amount to the cost of ABD. Our itinerary was as packed as ABD too and had extras on top. So much more worth it for places you are not comfortable arranging on your own or not having to plan much. I think for me that’s more of South Africa, Galapagos...? Haha! As for the kids aspect, I need to see if my son will be drawn to this advantage. He’s much more introverted than most kids and sticks with us a lot. I guess we’ll see :D
     

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