If you’re lucky enough to have secured entry to the DVC Safari Spectacular (part of “Membership Magic” for the 25th Anniversary), you might be wondering what to expect.
I attended the first of the four events (on September 6th), and I’ll admit – I was pretty frustrated with the amount of misinformation we received there. I had flown down specifically for the event and was fairly convinced by 11pm that it was a total bust. Ultimately, one thing redeemed the night for me… kind of.
Now before anyone starts lashing out, I know it was a free event. I know that my choice to fly down for it (thereby spending hundreds of dollars more than zero) was exactly that – my choice. I am the first to remind people who complain about their Disney Vacation Club membership that not only was it also a choice, but that we weren’t promised any specific perks like this.
However, I also talked to people with the same frustrations; thankfully, I was aware during that entire (disappointing) night they were frustrations that could have been wholly avoided with proper information.
So you, my friend, are in luck!
What is there to ride?
- Kali River Rapids
- Expedition Everest
- Triceratop Spin
- Primeval Whirl
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug
- Kilimanjaro Safaris (one ride per guest, with a timed return ticket)
What is there to see and do?
- Discovery Island Carnivale
- Tree of Life: Awakening
- Dinoland Dance Party “featuring characters from Zootopia” (but 99% of the time featuring Donald and Daisy Duck)
- two free games/person in Dinoland, USA
- other Live Entertainment
Who is there for meet and greets?
- Carl Frederickson and Dug (Up)
- Flik and Atta (A Bug’s Life)
- Timon and Rafiki (The Lion King)
- Launchpad McQuack (Chip n Dale’s Rescue Rangers)
- Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers
- King Louie and Baloo (The Jungle Book)
- Mickey and Minnie
- Disney Vacation Club Executives
What is there to eat?
- Flame Tree Barbecue is the only restaurant open throughout the event
- Complimentary snacks and refreshments included chips, cookies, lemonade, water, and ice cream treats (including everyone’s favorite, the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar!)
My tips (or “words of warning”) —
Let me remind you, I went to the first event. I was anxious to see if the second event went a little more as I would have expected, but it was held in a downpour and I think a lot of people chose not to attend. As a result, I’ve seen very limited reviews from that date.
Just in case these things happen though, you’ll be prepared. If they don’t, then it should truly be a magical night!
- The live entertainment – including the Tree of Life show – will happen sporadically throughout the night. The map you receive will have no times on it, and in hidhgsight that obviously makes sense. It’s important to know, though.The person who gave me my map told me, “the only thing we have a specific time for is “the tree show”,” which would be at 9:30pm and 9:30pm only. This led to me changing my safari time, wasting my first 30+ minutes standing around waiting for a tree that never Awakened, and missing several other things. If you’ve been to other hard ticket events, you know that the time goes by much more quickly than you’d anticipate. If nearly 50% of it is wasted on a wild goose chase, you’re potentially sunk.
- The cast members may tell you that characters will be out the whole time, and they’re supposed to be. If there’s someone you really want to see though, realize they may arbitrarily disappear – and plan accordingly. I asked this specific question because I wanted to meet Chip & Dale as Rescue Rangers (I mean, basically a lifelong dream…) but assumed the line would get a bit smaller later in the evening; I was told they would be out the entire time, aside from quick breaks for Mickey Bars and nuts of course.The character lines did get smaller throughout the night, but the cast member deliberately cut off the line to end at 11:30pm instead of at the end of the event. I politely pressed her for an explanation since the maps showed and I had been told otherwise, to which she replied, “the line has been steadily dying down so they’ll actually be done early”. Not ok. Had I paid for the event what we do for holiday parties, etc, this would have been the rare occasion I raised a fuss with Guest Services.
- The refreshments are plentiful, but as with everything else at the event: if there’s something you want, get (or do) it. Of course more popular flavored chips dwindled at a faster rate than plain chips, but the number of snacks available at each station was remarkable. These snacks were self-serve, so no waiting in line (I mean, any structured lines worth mentioning), no being embarrassed if you wanted to have three bags of Doritos for dinner, no getting dehydrated.The ice cream, on the other hand, was a slightly different story. Still “unlimited” and in an impressive number of locations throughout the park, the lines for the ice cream carts were very long, and many people enjoyed several. By the time I wanted an ice cream bar, I went to four or five carts without success. One had ice cream sandwiches and fruit pops left, the others all had only fruit pops. Boo!
- Have reasonable expectations for the nighttime Safari. We saw a handful of animals, but even then it was mostly in shadow. You do not use night vision glasses as are provided for the Animal Kingdom Lodge nighttime activities so the sightseeing is even more hit or miss than the daytime safaris. The “perpetual sunset” we heard about was maybe a stretch. It looks like there are a few lights placed throughout the reserve. That said, it was really cool just to be in the Harambe Wildlife Preserve at night. Learning about nighttime migration and seeing a few animals was icing on the cake, and our Safari guide was excellent.
- Don’t save your souvenir money for the “limited edition merchandise”. That’s probably a somewhat true moniker, but those of us expecting something related to the Safari – or even exclusive DVC merchandise only available at special events – were surprised to find that the two merchandise locations designated for the event had mostly their usual Animal Kingdom selection. One did offer the 2016 DVC pin that is available everywhere, and a mouse ear hat that… won’t suit everyone’s taste 🙂 There was also a small shelf with DVC Member shirts, and an umbrella, from the Disney Store website.
I don’t want to sound bitter about something that wasn’t promised us, and something in a line of 25th Anniversary events that have (from what I’ve heard) been otherwise well-received. It was an especially bitter pill to swallow though, after having to pay $35/night for parking at Aulani this summer because instead of staying on points, I had given the company an additional $1400 for a Premier passport and several thousand additional dollars to pay for the room on cash.
Perhaps Disney Vacation Club should begin with not overselling memberships to where it’s nearly impossible to get a room anymore. Or begin offering the same perks to all DVC members instead of treating them as lesser than people who rented points and gave $0 to the company. This 25th Anniversary Celebration year has felt much like D23, with its events that only cater to locals. Hundreds (thousands?) of DVC and D23 members that pay the same price are definitely excluded from events such as these. I would much rather return to the days when members received in the mail the same ornaments that were handed out at the Merry Member Mixers.
Or, you know, maybe just start by telling the Cast Members that “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer, instead of making up information or directly lying to guests.
There was a “the party is over, thanks for coming (…now get out)” kind of message that was broadcast throughout the park at 11:37 pm, which was perhaps not only slightly premature, but felt like a little extra slap in the face after the night many of us had just had.
I would have probably been upset when the announcement was made, except that I ignored it and continued watching this breathtaking view for the next 15 minutes or so:
And my goodness, it’s just too beautiful for them to stop sharing with the world. I expect it to be around a long time to come, but I’m so very grateful I got to see it before it does whatever it’s doing this Fall while the park figures out it’s nighttime plan!
And just look how pretty the Animal Kingdom is at night!