We love Disney Parks in the summer! While certain things, like standing in long lines and watching the daytime parades in the warmth may be challenging, the weather allows for those special outdoor activities that just aren’t the same the rest of the year. At Walt Disney World, our favorite summertime heat and crowd buster is to take a Specialty Cruise along the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake at the Magic Kingdom, or Crescent Lake at Epcot. There is no better way to end a long day in the sun than leaving the Parks, having a relaxing dinner at one of the Resorts listed below, and then walking down to the dock to board your own private boat to watch the fireworks shimmer and bounce off the cool water. How’s that for summer magic?
We love Wishes Nighttime Spectacular AND IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, so we just had to do Fireworks Cruises for both; each provides a different experience. You can choose from a 21 foot (seats 8 at a cost of $284; 2011 pricing) or 25 foot (seats 10 and costs $346) pontoon boat for either excursion. The pricing includes a driver (thank goodness- otherwise my husband would have been behind the wheel), simple snacks like chips, water and Coke soft drinks. Unlike years ago, all boats offer a soundtrack to the show. Cruises depart 30 minutes prior to the scheduled fireworks entertainment, and are now one hour in length. Bookings can be made 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-PLAY. If a cruise needs to be cancelled due to inclement weather, you would receive a refund.
The Wishes cruise leaves from the marina of either the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Resorts. As a bonus, you can usually experience the nightly Electrical Water Pageant while out on the water and tour the Lagoon. An advantage of this cruise is that the body of water is so large that the boats can spread out. You feel as though you are watching your own, unobstructed, private fireworks show! A contrasting point is that you can get a similar vantage point from any of those Resorts’ beaches, and that’s FREE.
IllumiNations cruises depart from the Yacht and Beach Club Marina, and park under the International Gateway Bridge. It is a wonderful vantage point for the fountains, laser ball and fireworks, and gives you a completely different perspective from what you see on land. A disadvantage is that you cannot get a full view of all of the Pavilions due to trees and the Bridge, and occasionally there’s a hint of smoke in the air.
There are two additional cruises offered by Disney: the VIP Grand I Yacht docked at the Grand Floridian, and the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage. They are very different experiences, and deserve their own post!
Now some tips to make your Specialty Cruise extra special:
• We usually add some desserts, fruit, cheese and champagne to make our tour complete. (There’s nothing like popping that cork and toasting the Magic Kingdom!)
· A Top PT Tip for the other special person in your party: The Parks can be crowded and overwhelming at any time of the year, but excessive heat in the summer takes its toll on the elderly and disabled. Children with sensory issues can find the intensity and noise of the fireworks unbearable. The serenity of a pontoon ride can be a godsend for special needs families. If he or she can tolerate the confines of a 21 foot pontoon boat for approximately 90 minutes (you can bring your special needs stroller on board if you are concerned about the water), this cruise might just be your dream come true. Everyone can enjoy the show together, the cushy couches allow for elevating an arthritic leg or swollen sprained ankle; the soundtrack can be modulated as needed. Though not inexpensive, a Fireworks Cruise can be worth every penny.
As final plus to your unforgettable summer day, while your boat silently pulls back into the resort slip you can appreciate not having to fight the throngs of guests lining up at the monorail, working their way back to the parking lot. You can simply disembark and take your magical memories and your champagne bottle back to your room!!