From Disney World to the 'Honey-Do' Hotel

It's a given. Mickey Mouse is as American as the USO (search).  And for decades Walt Disney World resorts have been synonymous with family fun.

But what you may not know about the popular vacation destination is that, at the right price, it can be as posh as any place in the world.

"There are so many luxurious activities to do at Disney World," says Cara Goldsbury, author of the new "Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World," (search) (Bowman Books 2003), "that you can't possibly do them all in two or three visits, much less one."

Indeed, from suites running upwards of $2,000 per night at the 40-acre Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, to the ultra-exclusive chef's table in the kitchen of Orlando's only five-star restaurant, Victoria and Albert's (search), it's clear this is no "Mickey Mouse" operation.

"We understand guests here come from big cities, so we have to serve foie gras, filet, tenderloin and have a great wine list," says chef John State of the high-end California Grill, which sits atop The Contemporary (search) hotel, Disney's first on-site resort.

Lucky for me, "FOX Magazine" executive producer Marvin Himelfarb sent me on this plush assignment to get a bird's eye view of a side of Walt Disney World that isn't in-your-face Mickey.

The weekend started with a massage at the Grand Floridian Spa (search).  I could only spare a half-hour neck and back treatment (woe is me), and no matter how good it felt to relax at the hands of my masseur, it was only a small prelude to what lie ahead.

From there author Cara Goldsbury (search) took me on a tour of the Walt Disney Suite.  At $2,100 per night, it has all the amenities of home, with two bedrooms, three baths (marble), a living room full of Uncle Walt's memorabilia -- including original concept art for his theme parks -- a giant walk-in closet and a grand view of the grounds from the balcony.

At High Tea (search) we sampled leaves made exclusively for Disney, along with finger sandwiches and a plethora of desserts, from chocolate-covered strawberries to rum balls.

After a trip around the manmade Seven Seas Lagoon on a 48-foot Sea Ray yacht (search) -- (rentable with captain and crew at $350 per hour), Disney producer Douglas Brown and our host Connie Casipit somehow managed to book the private chef's table at Victoria and Albert's, which usually carries a six-month waiting list.

There, we were treated to excellent service by a staff that donned period costumes and who were all in character as either Victoria or Albert. Maitre d'Hotel Brian Koziol, whose knowledge of fine wine would rival any sommelier in any big-city eatery, rolled out the red carpet.

Chef de cuisine Scott Hunnel (search) prepared 11 courses, most of which I couldn't pronounce, each one better than the last. From beluga caviar (search) to applewood roasted African pheasant with cider vinaigrette, to Hawaiian Kona chocolate souffle, let's just say the five stars are well earned.

"They don't just give those stars away," said Goldsbury, who has owned a travel agency and fancies herself a finicky traveler. "I have been spoiled somewhat, and when I travel I travel in style, so I pick the best hotels and the best restaurants," she said.

It took her more than 20 years to write her guidebook, including research and publishing. 

The next day I dragged myself over to the Contemporary for more interviews and a parasailing (search) excursion, which was extremely cool.  From the (literally) breathtaking views high up in the sky, Cinderella's castle didn't look quite so tall.

After a behind-the-scenes tour of Cirque de Soleil's (search) La Nouba, we were back to the California Grill for dinner amidst the backdrop of The Magic Kingdom fireworks show.

I've been to Walt Disney World before, and I have fond memories of the place from when my parents drove my brother, sister and me there all the way from New Jersey. I even honeymooned there (my wife had never been -- sacrilege). But this last trip offered a side of Disney I didn't know existed, and I felt like a million bucks.

But just so I didn't come home Sunday with any delusions of grandeur (or thoughts of sitting on my butt watching football), the very pregnant Mrs. Straka prepared a "Honey-Do" list which included mowing the lawn, putting up a new clothesline in the basement and scraping and re-glazing our sash windows.

Ah ... reality.

**Tune in 11 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21 to see the Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World on "FOX Magazine."

Mike Straka is the project manager for FOX News' Internet operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on FOX Magazine (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC) and as a reporter and columnist for 

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