Day 1, Red Rock Welcome (part 1)
We took the opportunity to sleep in this morning as we expected a busy trip for the rest of the week! An email from Adventures by Disney requested that we meet at the Starbucks next to the baggage claim area in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport no later than 12:30 pm. While my husband dropped off our rental car, the kids and I wheeled our luggage over to the Starbucks (which we had spotted on our arrival at the airport two days prior). This is actually a decent meeting place for an airport as there is a fair amount of seating and tables.
Having traveled with ABD on two prior occasions, we approached the group with uncertainty. Would our Adventure Guides be as wonderful as our prior guides from the US, Jeanne and Mike Hage? Our hesitation was of course completely unfounded. Chris and Casey, met us with a warm smile and friendly welcome. They somehow immediately connected with my teenagers and me and efficiently tagged and whisked away our checked bags. They encouraged us to grab some lunch and return by 12:30pm as it appeared that all flights were on time and we should be able to get on the road as soon as possible.
We had hoped to eat at Chelsea’s Kitchen’s airport location, but we were concerned we would not be served quickly. So we ended up enjoying various options in the food court. None was picture worthy, but they were decent. We hurried back by 12:30 only to learn that one family was not there yet. (The Adventure Handbook actually stated the transfer would be at 1:30pm, and flights were asked to arrive by 12:30, so I suppose this was understandable.)
As we waited, we began to meet some of the other families on our journey. The children in our group were as young as age seven but the next oldest as about 11 years old. There were a few high school juniors and seniors, with the largest age group in the 12-15 year old range. One grandmother brought her adult children and their spouses and the grandkids. They were a lovely group of 10. There were also single moms with kids. Adventures by Disney is a fantastic option for single parents.
Finally, at about 1:30pm we followed Chris and Casey out the doors and onto our spotless coach that would safely transport us for the week. Our driver, Cortni, was highly experienced with Adventures by Disney and became part of the family throughout the Adventure.
The bus was comfortable with overhead compartments, video screens from the ceiling every few rows, and importantly, electric outlets for each set of seats. The bus also is accessible. They have the ability to include a chair lift on the bus, so it can easily accommodate a power chair.
As we drove out of Phoenix, we began to experience the story telling and passion that our guides Casey and Chris both had for this itinerary. On International Adventures, one guide is from the United States while the other is local. On this trip, both of our guides had extensive experience with ABD and had led Adventures in the US and around the world. I jokingly considered Casey the “local” since she was from Colorado, but both seemed to feel right at home in the Southwest.
Our guides shared stories about the history and climate of Arizona. As we began to learn about the mighty Saguaro Cactus, the bus unexpectedly pulled off the highway for a surprise stop to get up close and personal with these prickly plants that are native to the Sonoran Desert. This was one of the Disney Differences that makes Adventures by Disney so special. The stop was not on the itinerary. Yet rather than simply drive by the cacti, our guides took the time to let us truly experience their quiet beauty. We all paid closer attention while we drove further north and higher in elevation and saw the last of the Saguaro. Our guides treated us to cactus candy and played a fun ballad about a man and his run in with the Saguaro. (And I just found out it is based on a true story! A guy actually did die after he shot at one.)
Our ride continued to Montezuma Castle National Monument. After a bathroom break, we strolled to a covered area for a brief presentation about the cave dwellings and the Native Americans who lived there almost one thousand years ago. Our guides mentioned that National Parks and Monuments have a passport book that can be stamped at each location. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have one?” asked Casey, and in Disney fashion, each family was given a brand new National Parks passport! We then had some time to stroll the grounds before heading to Sedona and the beautiful Enchantment Resort!