Tour Review: Behind the Seeds

…or why I wanted by money back.

Leafminer Flies

Leafminer flies are the stars of Biological Control.

That’s right, out of the 11 Walt Disney World  tours I’ve done to date, Behind the Seeds is the first one where I actually left feeling cheated and angry.  I wanted my $18 back, damn it. Actually, I wanted back the $30.74 (with AP discount) I paid to take myself & my sister.

Why did I get all up in arms over an $18 tour?

Let’s start at the beginning…

On a Saturday back in early April, my sister & I made our way over to Epcot for the Behind the Seeds tour.  While only an hour long, this was one of the tours that we were looking forward to the most.  Along with the 7-hour Backstage Magic, Behind the Seeds is a tour that we knew about long before I started obsessively researching Walt Disney World tours.

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In the Biotechnology Lab, they grow seedlings in agar using mother cells from greenhouse plants.

As expected, we showed up at Behind the Seeds tour desk at the entrance to Soarin’ at 2:50 and were able to buy tickets for the 3pm tour.  The tour desk uses the same tour booking application as when you call, so they were set up to take all available discounts.

After a quick introduction with our guide and fellow tour mates, our tour proceeded out a door behind the Soarin’ fastpass machines. While the tour feels backstage-y since you go where non-tour guests don’t have access, the tour is technically all onstage and photography is permitted throughout.

Behind the Seeds backstage

While parts of the tour feel like you are backstage, photography is permitted throughout.

We started by going into the Biological Control room where they house aquariums full of leafminer flies – which can do severe crop damage. Researchers are using the the leafminer fly’s natural enemy, the parasitoid wasp, to control infestations without pesticides.  Quite a bit of the tour was spent talking about alternative pest control methods.

Next, we walked by a window looking in on the backside of the Biotechnology Lab for Crop Improvement (co-sponsored by USDA-ARS) which can be seen from the Living with the Land boats. Amongst other research-y activities, the researchers there use plant cells from the greenhouses to grow seedlings which can be purchased at the Behind the Seeds tour desk. I personally like the idea of growing a little bit of Epcot at home, but I don’t know that it is worth $9 a seedling for the pleasure.

Tomato plant

One of the best parts of the tour is waving to all the guests on the Living with the Land boat ride - while they completely ignore you.

Then we hit the big time - the Living with the Land greenhouses. The greenhouses aren’t that big, so guests could wander around a bit (staying off of the sand) while the guide went through her spiel and kinda fielded questions.

This is where I go off on my rant about my expectations for Disney Cast Members… 

In addition to my sister & I, we had 5 tour mates – two farmers, two gardeners & a 5 year old girl. Out of our group, I quickly found out I was the least knowledgeable about plants – and I actually took organic vegetable gardening in college. My sister also took an undergraduate course in plants, but hers was clearly better than mine – or at least more recent.

Cucumbers

Tour guests were offered cucumbers grown in the greenhouses and conveniently kept pre-sliced in a mini-fridge.

Point being – any question this group asked was well beyond our tour guide’s pay grade. And she acted it.

Really. The Disney Cast Member leading our tour was 99% of the reason I left underwhelmed to the point of anger.  While technically polite and never directly rude, she managed to convey a clear lack of enthusiasm for Disney, the tour & the guests. She waved away questions as unimportant and used the phrases “I guess” and “sure” quite a lot.

Since she was unable to answer (and unwilling to find an answer for) many of the specific gardening methods questions from the other guests, I spend the whole tour asking her questions I thought she could handle.  I shared most of the trivia learned from these questions in my Behind the Seeds guest questions post.

Living with the Land ramps

Cast Members use these metal ramps to cross over the boats to the other side of the greenhouse.

Through my questioning, I found out she was there as a part of an intern program. Most of the guides leading Behind the Seeds are college interns with no prior Disney experience.  They usually do their 6-month stint, and then leave the company.  Unlike tour guides in other areas, they have not worked for years in the parks working their way up to tour guide status.  All the other tour guides I have encountered (at Disney or elsewhere) set the bar for passion and customer service. This was far from the case for our guide.

Note: I’ve made a point not to post this review until after my guide’s 6 months are up.  Because I knew she was leaving Disney shortly after our tour, I did not fill out a Comment Card. Honestly, I was too mad to calmly explain my unmet expecations to the kind folks over at Guest Services.  Plus, I believe Comment Cards should be used to report positive experiences, not just negative.  It has taken me awhile to be able come up with enough nice things to say to write a review.

Shrimp Mickey.

There are a few hidden Mickey's throughout the attraction - some of which can only been seen on the tour.

All tour guide complaints aside, I recommend this tour for anyone who is interested in plants. Despite not having their questions answered, my green-thumbed tour mates appeared to be thrilled listening to the standard tour spiel and standing in the greenhouse.

I would also recommend this tour for anyone wanting to try out a Walt Disney World tour without the commitment. With the short duration, availability of walk-up space & relatively low price – Behind the Seeds is good for the inattentive, non-planners & budget-contentious alike.

Produce table

Guests got to check out some of the more exotic produce & spices grown in the Land Pavilion. Sniffing was encouraged.

Since it has no age restriction, this tour may also be good for families with young children. While the 5-year old on my tour was not entertained (& actually disrupted the tour a few times), many of the other reviews on our tour page mention how much their kids loved the tour. I imagine a different tour guide would try harder to engage children. Still, as with any tour, it is important to take into account the personality of your child. Can they stand still and behave even when standing in a warm greenhouse listening to adults talk about pesticides? No? Neither can I, which is why I wandered off and took photos instead.

Cassabana

On the Saturday of our tour, the cassabana and winter melons were growing strong...

It should go without saying that I would not recommended taking the tour if you are not interested in plants. I am mildly interested in plants and very interested in Disney tours. Unfortunately, this combination was not enough for me to stay focused while listening to the guide drone on about parasites & watering methods. The other 1% of my disappointed was based on how long the tour made an hour feel. On second thought, maybe the inattentive should skip tours all together.

I also would not recommend this tour during the height of summer. While the greenhouses are vented, I was pretty warm in early April. I’m not convinced they won’t be burning at noon in July.

Empty greenhouse

...by Tuesday, they had removed them as part of the largest greenhouse update in years.

All in all – Behind the Seeds probably isn’t the worst tour ever.  It just felt like it.  Will I ever give it a second chance? Maybe, but not before I finish my quest of completing all the other Walt Disney World tours.  11 down, 13 to go…

 

*If you want to learn more about the Behind the Seeds tour, be sure to check out our tour page here. In addition to finding tour restrictions and discounts, we’ve included links to reviews and podcasts from other websites so you check out other people’s opinions on this tour.

*Agree or disagree with this review? Have any specific questions about this tour? Just let us know by posting in the comments below.

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7 Responses to Tour Review: Behind the Seeds

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  3. Kelly says:

    Wow, how disappointing that your tour guide wasn’t up to snuff, ours was great. The person who led us around was indeed an intern, but it was clear that he was REALLY into horticulture and answered each question thoroughly. Our tour lasted around an hour and a half since we had a larger group (10+ people).

    I did decide to pick up a Mickey’s Mini Garden, it’s one of the few Disney souvenirs you can’t get elsewhere (they make them at Epcot).

  4. Lindsay says:

    I know! I have never run into anyone else with anything but glowing remarks about their Behind the Seeds experience. I usually leave tours glowing from excitement about everything we learned and saw – obviously, my Behind the Seeds tour left me feeling quite the opposite.

    I definitely do not think all interns would display the same level of un-enthusiasm, but the lack of previous Cast Member experience/training increases the potential for there to be “un-Disney” tour guides unlike for other tours which are rarely, if ever, led by first time Cast Members. Fortunately, the tour isn’t too expensive, so I plan on revisiting it this year. Hopefully things will go much smoother!

  5. Lindsay says:

    Oh – and I think the Mini Gardens are great! I had been checking them out before our tour, but left so angry I didn’t buy one. I love finding unique souvenirs. However, I have started my own spider plant from one for the spider-babies growing off the numerous spider plants on property. The seriously overgrown ones at the Magic Kingdom bus stops are particularly good for doing a little inconspicuous pruning if you don’t mind feeling rebellious.

  6. Pingback: Behind The Seeds At Epcot Tour Review - Disney Tourist Blog

  7. Pingback: Behind the Seeds — A Backstage Tour of The Land Pavilion | WDW For Two

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