Southwest Splendors is our 6th Adventures by Disney tour, and I suppose it's only natural as the experiences accumulate to compare and find that some tours stand out both in positive and negative aspects. I couldn't help but consider various components of the tour - destinations, food, accommodations, local expert tours, and logistics - with the other Adventures by Disney tours we've taken.
As I've reflected on the experience, I've come to think either one of three things was true:
That said, there were amazing moments to be had on this journey as well.. so, come with me through each and - at the end - maybe we'll which of the three it was - or pick a new option
DAY 1 - Red Rock Welcome
My first comparison begins at the beginning of the tour. In all of the other tours I know first-hand (Costa Rica, Spain, Wyoming, Peru, and Ecuador), the tour had a night scheduled in the city of arrival. We'd have a chance to regroup from the air travel and a meal together before we set in the motor coach. On the Southwest Splendors tour, we left in the motor coach from the Phoenix airport. This meant we either traveled early in the morning and spent some number of hours (3 for us) in the airport waiting for everyone to arrive or come in the night before, go to a hotel or motel, and come back to the airport the next day.
We met our Adventure Guides at 1PM (though we were told to arrange our flights to leave the Phoenix airport at noon.. not sure why departure was pushed back, but we could have taken a later flight if we'd known and gotten more sleep in the wee hours. Logistics: -1) Of course, the first thing I mentioned to them - after greetings - was that I have type 1 Diabetes, Alan and I both maintain a sugar-free diet, and I asked for vegetarian meals. Our Adventure Guides assured us it was taken care of, and I had high hopes based on how other Adventures by Disney guides took care of us (foreshadowing, here
The shared meal and introductions is an important component in establishing group camaraderie, and the result of not having it before we climbed aboard the motorcoach resulted in feeling like we were getting on a bus with a bunch of strangers... not the best way to start a tour. If I were making the decision, the tour would include a night in Phoenix. Logistics: -1.
Once on the bus, our Adventure Guides were friendly and entertaining; water was plentiful. They did their best, I believe, to make a bunch of tired travelers feel comfortable and open to getting to know each other. However, again, I compared. On the Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Wyoming tours, we had an Adventure Guide who was knowledgeable in the history, socio-economic structure, religious, and agricultural variables of the culture in which we traveled. It filled the time on the motor coach with interest information and dialogue. Lots of jokes and giggles from our Adventure Guides (which is still a good thing), but the depth of information was missing and missed
We stopped at Montezuma's Castle on the way to Sedona and were met by one of Adventure by Disney's "local experts" He led us through National Monument, and he was good. His knowledge of the history and local botany was very interesting. It was also very pleasant to get out and stretch our legs midway through the ride. Logistics: +1, Local Expert Tour: +1.
Montezuma's Castle from another view
Our Local Expert, dressed for the part; >)
This model showed us what the village probably looked like in its hey-day.