Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World
you've visited Walt Disney World once or one hundred times,
and whether you've visited recently or not, you'll get
helpful information about useful things you didn't
previously know in this book.
This book is an
encyclopedic guide full of helpful and sensible information
for all visitors.
NOTE : See also
free excerpts from her book, and a related book review 'Hidden
There are very many guides to
the Walt Disney World (WDW) theme parks. For a guide to be
valuable, it needs to have easily accessible information and be
easy to use, plus, it also needs to tell you things you wouldn't
otherwise know or easily find out.
This new book by Cara
Goldsbury passes all these tests.
This book has been superseded
by the second edition, with massively revised material and new
content. The second
edition is reviewed here.
What the Book Contains
The large paperback book
measures 6" x 9", and with 510 pages, measures just over 1" in
The book is printed onto
good quality white paper and includes a 16 page section of color
photographs. It was published in September, 2003.
The book sells for $19.95, and can be obtained through
Amazon at a discounted price.
Eleven chapters cover almost
everything from pre-trip planning through accommodations, the
different theme parks, other activities at WDW, shopping and
dining, plus brief sections on Universal Orlando, other theme
parks, and the Disney Cruise Line.
Rating and Recommending
For such a book to be truly
useful, it needs to be more than a factual listing of everything
about WDW. It needs to contain sensible opinions and offer
The book does exactly that.
It includes highlighted panels with recommendations and
suggestions, and also includes ratings for the various
attractions and rides, helping you to better understand which
are the 'must see' and which are the less essential activities.
The book contains generous
measures of advice, and the author seems to be sensible and
helpful in her suggestions.
Does the Author Know More than
My favorite part of WDW is
Epcot. I first visited Epcot in 1983, and have been there
at least twenty times since, and have definitely spent more than
a month in total, during these visits, at this one theme park.
Accordingly, I consider myself an expert on Epcot, and I used my
own knowledge as a standard to judge the thoroughness, accuracy
and completeness of the book.
The main section on Epcot
covers 43 pages. Extra coverage is given in other chapters
(for example the chapter on dining) and so in total there is
plenty of material on Epcot.
I found myself generally
agreeing with most of the comments and suggestions for Epcot,
and soon found things I'd never known before. For example,
a fascinating page described various 'behind the scenes' tours -
something I'll definitely do next time I visit. I also
learned about how to get on a boat and watch the marvelous
nightly fireworks from the lagoon - another thing I'll be sure
to treat myself to next visit.
And there were various other
small things that I had not previously known or even stopped to
think about - 'Places for Romance', or a suggestion to go out of
Epcot through the International Gateway entrance/exit to visit
close-by restaurants and shops. All in all, and even with
me considering myself an absolute Epcot expert, I learned plenty
of helpful new things that, within this single section, were
more than sufficient to justify the purchase of the complete
It is probably unsurprising
that author Cara Goldsbury knows more than me. She spends
up to 12 weeks, every year, at WDW, and as a former travel
agent, she has gained a broad understanding not only of what her
personal likes and dislikes are, but also of what other people,
across the board, tend to prefer. She also has been
regularly taking her daughter with her on visits to WDW, and so
has had a chance to see how children of all ages (her daughter
is now an adult) react and respond to the different parts of the
She writes with authority
and credibility, and explains 'I never critique a resort where
I haven't spent plenty of time or a restaurant I haven't dined
at several times'. This is obvious, and the information
she offers is fresh and very different from the recycled hotel
brochures and supplier press releases that sometimes find their
way into other publications.
Choosing a Hotel
For a second test of the
book, I used it to help me choose a hotel. I decided that
I wanted a 4½ star hotel with some type of novelty theming to
it, and within walking distance of Disney transportation that
would conveniently take me to all parks.
The good news : The
book has 102 pages devoted to accommodation issues.
The other news : I
immediately discovered that the book limits itself to
consideration of deluxe hotels and condos. Perhaps this is
not surprising, considering it is titled 'The Luxury
Guide'. So I revised my test scenario and continued
looking for information on five star choices.
What I most hoped to find,
rather than read through all 102 pages, was a map that showed
where all the hotels were located, and perhaps a couple of
tables that listed the hotels and summarized their respective
features. These aids to selection were not included.
Fortunately, there were
several pages of recommendations, and after quickly reading
through those, I decided that I'd probably prefer the Grand
Floridian or perhaps the Contemporary or Polynesian Resorts.
Unfortunately, there was no easy way to then go from the
recommendations to the detailed descriptions of the hotels - a
quick sub-chapter listing of where each hotel was reviewed would
There were six and a half
pages of information and tips on how to choose the best rooms at
the Grand Floridian, plus another three and a half pages of
restaurant reviews. Amazingly complete and thorough.
There was a six page review for the Polynesian Resort and five
and a half pages for the Contemporary Resort.
Which did I choose? It
was difficult to select based only on the information in the
book. I wanted to see pictures of the room interiors, and
wanted to understand exactly where they were located.
So, for this test, I'd give
the book perhaps only 3½ out of 5. Yes, it presented a lot
of information, but there were still things I wanted to know and
understand that the book didn't help me with, and the
information it did present was sometimes hard to conveniently
find and work with.
Only Luxury Information?
Although the book describes
itself as being a luxury guide, that does not make it less
relevant for 'ordinary' people on 'ordinary' budgets.
Much of the information -
for example on the various rides and attractions - are of
relevance to anyone, on any type of budget. And even
people on ordinary budgets might sometimes wish to treat
themselves to something a bit special as a highlight of their
visit, and so this book truly is helpful to everyone.
In addition to all the
information on WDW, the book also includes shorter sections on
Seaworld, Universal Orlando, and Disney Cruises.
However, if you're
considering a broader central Florida vacation, you'd probably
benefit from additional reference material that can tell you
more about more attractions around the region, and stretching of
course to Tampa and Busch Gardens as well.
The author also publishes a
website containing helpful additional information,
including update material that covers changes since the book
went to print and a free newsletter you can sign up for.
The book itself plans to
have more or less annual updated editions, so it should always
be reasonably up to date as well.
Author Cara Goldsbury has
graciously provided us with some summary material from her book.
Many pages of this very helpful information can be found,
If you find the material helpful, please repay her kindness
purchasing the full book.
This is an encyclopedic
collection of sensible and current information and advice about
how to get the best out of a visit to the WDW area and the many
attractions within the complex. The 510 page book costs
$19.95 but it worth much more to you in terms of helpful
suggestions and advice. It can be obtained from
Amazon (with a 15% discount on new copies and a greater discount on used
copies) or most other retailers.
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2 January 2004, last update
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.