SamsDisneyDiary Episode #27 – Epcot Segway Tour (A look back at the World Showcase Segway Tour)
Last year (2012) I had the opportunity to take part in the Epcot “Around the World Segway Tour” (June). I enjoyed the tour so much I did it again on my next trip. This time it was the “Keep Moving Forward: See the World, Share the Dream Segway” (November 2012). As you may know, Disney recently cancelled the Epcot Segway Tour! Say it isn’t so ;-( If you’re a big Segway fan, you can still do the “Wilderness Back Trail Adventure” over at Fort Wilderness featuring the Segway X2 outdoor vehicle.
The timing of the cancellation was interesting, only a few months after the “retooled” experience Debuted on September 17th 2012. I was in the process of developing a blog focusing on the differences between the two experiences when I heard that the experience had been cancelled. A quick call to Disney confirmed that the tour was not accepting any reservations. A quick review of the Walt Disney World activities and tours page yielded no reference to the Epcot tour, only the Fort Wilderness tour. I can summarize pretty easily… That stinks!I enjoyed both of the tours I had finished, learning different facts and insights into World Showcase. Each tour guide had their favorite features, and it was nice to hear a different twist on the same story. I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The tours themselves could be conducted without the Segway, a stroll around World Showcase with a guide explaining the history and meaning of the Disney details is wonderful by itself. Adding the ability to ride a technologically advanced gyroscopically stabilized 2-wheel Segway Personal Transporter, well, it’s icing on the cake. Not to mention the ability to get into Epcot before it opens to the public. Both versions of the tour included a
detailed indoor Segway training session followed by a trip around World Showcase. The tours started at Guest Relations where you checked in about 30 minutes before your planned start. Starting as early as 7:45 am, you had the opportunity to take some pictures in a basically empty Epcot (Aside from the occasional princess headed to Norway for breakfast…). Entering the front gate wasn’t a problem; however, it was a little challenging to enter via the International Gateway for the early tour. It was a little frustrating as we stayed at the Boardwalk, but we made the tour. Some logistics: Guests must be 16 years or older, guests under 18 need to be accompanied by a parent/guardian, riders should be in good health and able to stand for the length of the tour, and riders must weigh between 100-250 lbs.
The tour guide will lead you from Guest Relations to Innoventions West where the training begins. Stepping up onto the Segway for the first time is probably the hardest part, and before the end of the hour you’ll be able to cover all of the basics. I know… I made it sound simple. I also know there are lots of people that just don’t see themselves on a Segway. If you get the opportunity, TRY IT!! The Disney staff was very accommodating. If you didn’t feel like you could do it, they won’t force you. If you want to back out, you could get a refund.
The “Keep Moving Forward” (November 2012) tour included some extras that were not part of the “Around the World Tour” (June 2012). Most notably, breakfast! When you checked in at Guest Relations, you had the opportunity to pick your breakfast. After the Segway training, the instructor led the group, all on their Segways, across Future World to a backstage area near Imagination to a side door that led directly into The Land (Near Soarin’). There we headed to Sunshine Seasons where breakfast was waiting… a nice touch. Even better was the ability to grab a Soarin’ Fast Pass on the way back to the Segway. Interesting to just watch people run into the pavilion, grab a Fast Pass and get in line for Soarin. I had better things in mind. Remember, our tour started at 8:00, so it was about 9:15 as we left for our Segway. The Fast Pass return time was 11:30 am… perfect. (Think about that…15 minutes after official opening, and the return time was already 11:30. Wow.)
Now, it’s on to the good stuff. After all, this is a World Showcase Tour, and we just happen to be riding a Segway. Right now the Segway’s sole purpose was to get us from country to country, but first we need to get from a backstage area near Soarin’ to World Showcase. Future World is open and full of people at this point. Another addition for the revamped tour was the addition of audio. Every rider was given an earpiece, and the tour guide was able to talk to you while riding. Each group had a tour guide and Segway guide, the latter keeping everyone safe from guests and themselves. This allowed our tour guide to keep us engaged which was a big improvement.
World Showcase opens at 11:00, but until then there is open guest access from International Gateway to Norway. The pavilions are
closed, with the exception of the France Bakery. That development happened after the tour was cancelled. Could it have had anything to do with the cancellation?? The tricky part is getting past Norway. Guests are lined up for their breakfast at the Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. Getting to and past Mexico is a little tight, but it’s not too bad since the pavilion and restaurant aren’t open yet. There are little princesses just about every place you turn near Norway. Repeat to yourself… don’t hit a princess, don’t hit a princess. I’m sure we will never know, but I do hope the cancellation of the tour had nothing to do with an accident in this area. Once you get past Norway, a cast member opens the rope, and you’re all alone in China… This is why I’m here!! The addition of the earpiece allowed our tour guide to add some facts as we passed other pavilions. It was a nice touch that wasn’t possible in the original tour.
You may ask why I did both tours. It was for two primary reasons. I was able to convince other members of my family to try it, and the second tour was during Food and Wine. The one thing that was clear on both tours, there is a lot of activity pre-opening. From watering and fixing the flowers to stocking merchandise carts and food carts. I saw a limo near Italy because there was a wedding in the courtyard, and a family doing a portrait session in Canada (a Photo Pass Portrait Session). I need to look into that.
Based on what was happening in World Showcase, the tour guide needed to think on the fly. A few times that meant changing direction. For example, on the first tour we went right through the train display near Germany. The second time there were workers tending to the exhibit, so we zipped past and spent more time in Japan than the first tour.
Most of the video in the video episode is from the first tour where the riders needed to form a semi-circle around the tour guide so she could talk to everyone. That wasn’t necessary for the second tour with the earpiece. The only downside… my video camera didn’t pick up the audio.
Click the image below to play the video edition of SamsDisneyDiary Episode #27 (Blog continues below)
Some of the highlights… After getting past the princess crowd, the first stop is China, followed by stops and information in Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco and France. Each stop featured interesting facts regarding each of the pavilions. I’ll keep the facts for another day or check out the video edition of this podcast for facts straight from the tour guide.Overall, the Segway tour was a unique experience and a great way to cover a lot of ground. The operation of the Segway wasn’t too difficult. Once on, it was easy. There would have been no way to tour the entire World Showcase on foot in an hour. The tour
guides in both cases were very knowledgeable and able to make last minute decisions based on the ever changing activities in World Showcase. I cross my fingers and hope to be able to experience the adventure again. If you get the opportunity, take it!! But as of now, the World Showcase Segway Tour, along with the “Nature-Inspired Design (Backstage) Segway Tour”, are no longer taking reservations.
If you get the opportunity to experience any of the tours, let me know. SamsDisneyDiary@Mail.com Check out the video and podcast associated with this episode!!
Check out the Podcast edition of thie episode below… and look for SamsDisneyDiary in iTunes.