Location: Plymouth
Wanted: A family of four – mum, dad and two young teenagers – would like to visit Florida or California in 2020 to see Disney’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction. They want to know what else is available at the theme parks; theme park ticket costs; and other aspects of the holiday such as accommodation and flights. They’re flexible about dates, as long as it is during the school holidays, but wondered about the merits of Disneyland California compared to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Budget: £8,000 (but flexible)

Virgin Holidays
Debenhams, Royal Parade
89%

Impression: The concession within department store Debenhams had bright colours and a curved shape that felt inclusive. The staff looked smart in uniform. There were full-size Star Wars cut-out characters, and a Chewbacca on the desk of the agent who served me.

Service: The agent said Florida offered better value for money than California. The agent had explored California with a hire car, and told me about staying in Anaheim and driving to other attractions. The agent talked about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, meal credits, activities near the parks and visas. They exuded confidence about what was available at both parks.

Quotes: Both were with Virgin Holidays in August, 2020, for 10 days. The first was from Gatwick to Orlando, staying at Lake Buena Vista Lodge & Spa, on a self-catering basis for £9,053. It included ‘bundle experiences’, with tickets to Disney World and Universal Studios, and transfers. The second was from Heathrow to Los Angeles, staying at Hotel Hyatt Regency Orange County on a room-only basis for £5,768, including two-day passes to Universal Studios Hollywood. The agent said Virgin doesn’t sell Disney park tickets in California but a five-day Disney family ticket would cost $1,500.

Overall: The shopper was very impressed by the levels of Disney knowledge.

Tui
64 New George Street
65%

Impression: The carpet was dirty by the door, and the concrete above the sign was black but the shop interior was clean and staff looked professional in their uniforms. A video screen included a short piece about Disney World.

Service: It wasn’t obvious that I had to speak to a receptionist to be allocated to an agent until I saw another person doing so. After about 15 minutes I spoke to an agent who did not know about the new Star Wars attraction. A colleague suggested Florida would be better than California, so we only looked at Orlando. They were keen to close the sale and said they could offer me £300 off if I booked that day.

Quotes: I received a quote for a 10-night Tui holiday flying from Gatwick in August 2020, and staying at Disney All Star Sports on a bed-and-breakfast basis including Disney Ultimate tickets. The total was £6,697. I also got quotes for travel insurance (£326) and a Universal three-park ticket for £284 per person. I didn’t get anything for California, or any other Orlando options, but I did get information about the aircraft and currency cards.

Overall: The agent was friendly and helpful but didn’t know about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or Disneyland California.

Thomas Cook
9 Old Town Street
59%

Impression: There were lots of offers in the windows and on a sandwich board, and well-tended flowers in a hanging basket. The displays included a poster with ‘3 Magical Disney Offers’.

Service: I said I was enquiring for my daughter’s family and the agent wanted all their dates of birth – so I said I needed to go and check. When I returned, a second agent dealt with me and suggested Florida would be better, so we discussed two quotes. I asked for print-outs but they said they would email them. Only one of the quotes discussed was on the email, so I searched the brochure for information. The first agent assumed I wanted Disneyland Paris and neither agent knew much about the Star Wars attraction.

Quotes: They were both seven-night holidays with Thomas Cook in August 2020 flying from Gatwick with Thomas Cook Airlines to Orlando. The first was staying at Coronado Springs for £8,505, including seven-day tickets to Walt Disney World Resort. The second was at the All-Star Movies Hotel Resort for £7,199 including seven-day Disney tickets, and £280 for Universal Studios tickets.

Overall: The shopper did not feel confident that either agent knew enough about the Disney parks to offer a comprehensive service.


Winning agent

Kate Talbot-Evans, travel advisor

“Most of our sales come from Disney requests, for California and Florida. I have been to both Florida and California, and first-hand knowledge is essential. We also have training about the new attractions at Disney parks. Virgin Holidays has even got a Star Wars experience package in Florida in February 2020.”


Verdict

The Virgin Holidays agent was the clear winner with a wealth of advice and choice about both locations. The Tui agent offered a lot of general advice about holidays to Florida but not much specifically about the Disney attractions the shopper wanted, while the Thomas Cook agents gave the shopper less information and lower levels of service than elsewhere.


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