My Best Night At Disney World Wasn’t In The Parks

Out on the water. The sun was setting, turning the clouds into a watercolor painting. All you could hear were the birds, the water slapping the side of the boat. The Magic Kingdom, with its thousands of visitors, fast rides and colorful parades felt miles away. And yet, there was Cinderella Castle, right in front of us.

Last year my family celebrated my mom’s sixty-fifth birthday with a trip to Disney World. We usually visit Disney World every two years, but I wanted to make this trip extra special. So I set out to combine our favorite things to do at Disney World (favorite restaurants, fast passes for can’t miss rides, etc.) with brand new experiences.

In particular, I wanted to surprise my mom with one big experience as our present to her. So on the third night of our vacation, around dinner time, we left Magic Kingdom and headed over to The Polynesian Resort. This was our first time visiting the Polynesian, and oh my gosh, I want to stay there! The place is gorgeous! And I’m dying to spend a day at their pool! After getting a little twisted around, we found what we were looking for, Trade Sam’s Grog Grotto.

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a tiki bar, but it’s soooo much more than that too. The whole bar, which is very small, leading to a wonderfully cozy feeling, is filled to the brim with treasures. You never know when a volcano might erupt, a tropical storm might arise, or a  giant squid might lend the bartenders a helping tentacle. I ordered an Uh-Oa, and well, just watch what happens. (Not my video) Seriously, Trader Sam’s is like being a part of a Disney ride, with booze. And those drinks? Delicious and strong! I love keeping the glasses as souvenirs too. 20140049_10210124440603810_2810944059850183707_n

After our drinks and a bite to eat, we headed to the pier. We waited by the little kiosk that listed prices for water equipment and activities. There was another family there too, they were also surprising someone for their birthday ;). The pier was full of small boats that would fit about 8-10 people. Some of the boats had banners that read “Happy Birthday!” and balloons. My mom looked confused.

Our skipper came to meet us, introductions were made, life vests were put on the kids, and we were led to one of the boats with a birthday banner. We said goodbye to the other family, who was getting on their own boat with a banner, and we told my mom what was going on. For her birthday we had gotten a private boat to take us around Seven Seas Lagoon. At the end, we would find a spot on the water to watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

My mom’s face lit up like a little kid’s. This was definitely not what she had expected. We got situated, and we were off. Our skipper (who was awesome, but whose name I can’t remember) told us to help ourselves to the provided snacks and drinks. There was a nice selection of bagged chips and cookies, and some Mickey shaped crisped rice treats (yay!). The drinks were sodas and water bottles. When I made the reservation I had mentioned that my mom was sensitive to gluten and soy, so I was happy to see two boxes of allergy friendly cookies and brownies for her.

Our skipper (let’s call him Tom) usually didn’t do the fireworks cruises, he usually stuck to fishing excursions. This meant that he was incredibly knowledgeable about the animal and plant life around and in the lake. Since we were a boat full of nature lovers, this was perfect. For about an hour, we made our way around the lake. Learning about which birds were native, and which were introduced. 20106840_10210124443843891_2121300574328517864_n

Tom told us about the different hotels we passed, and the unique architecture of The Contemporary Resort. He showed us the remaining remnants Discovery Island and River Country (Disney’s first waterpark) and the island where Walt Disney had planned to build his house. For a Disney nerd like myself it was heaven. For the non Disney nerds on the boat, it was a relaxing boat ride with family and a nice change of pace from the go go go of the first three days of vacation.

We watched the sunset and Tom found a good spot to watch the fireworks. I was a little nervous about the view when I made the reservation. The fireworks show had just been updated to include more projections on the castle, and I was worried we would be missing out on this part of the show watching from the water. There was no need to be worried. I was surprised at how well we could see the castle. The boat was equipped with speakers so we were able to hear the music that went with the show as well.

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Sunset. You can see the turrets of the castle on the right.

The fireworks was an amazing show. For twenty minutes we oohed and ahhed, my son slept through the whole thing. We clapped at the end, but Tom wasn’t done yet. He moved our boat closer to the Grand Floridian and stopped. There we got to watch the Electrical Water Pageant. Imagine parade floats mixed with Christmas light displays. Or, take a look at Disney’s website for a better description. When that was over, Tom made his way back to the Polynesian. Our private fireworks cruise had come to an end.

This really was one of the best nights I’ve ever had, at a Disney Park or otherwise. It might be cliche, but it was magical. There’s really no better word to describe it. There are so many different experiences at Disney World, it can be hard to pick and choose. I’m so glad we chose this one, and I would absolutely do it again for a special celebration. Here are a few reasons why it was such a good choice for me and my family.

Cost: A Lot of Bang for your Buck

I know, I know. A private cruise? At Disney? It must’ve cost an arm and a leg, right? It was actually one of the most cost effective experiences I looked at. When planning our trip I looked at behind the scenes tours, scuba diving, safaris, like I said, there’s a lot you can do at Disney World besides rides. Renting a private boat was one of the cheapest routes for one simple reason: it didn’t charge per person. I was traveling with a large party of four adults and two kids. At the time, it cost us about $350 for the fireworks cruise. Most tours, parties, even cruises, usually cost about $60-$80 a person.

Privacy and Quiet Time

I’ll never forget the time my brother took my mom to a Teppen restaurant. She was aghast at having to sit next to a stranger. At the same table! It’s not that she’s unfriendly, she just doesn’t enjoy forced mingling. At least, that’s what she says. 😉 Needless to say, when I was looking for something special to do, I knew she would appreciate something that was just family.

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Shoe Tree

Fun For All

I was traveling with, how should I put this, an eclectic group. Everyone was very different and had different interests. The fireworks cruise had something for everyone. There was the relaxing boat ride for my mom and brother, great photo ops for my husband (all the photos in this blog were taken by him, check out more of his photography here), Disney facts for me, the Disney nerd, and fireworks and snacks for the kids.

We All Like Boats

Yeah, don’t book a fireworks cruise if you don’t like boats. 😉 But if you do like boats, and you want more information, here’s the link to Disney’s page on specialty cruises.

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2 thoughts on “My Best Night At Disney World Wasn’t In The Parks”

  1. This was great! We will be heading to Disney World for 5 days with only one day in the park. I haven’t seen many people take on this challenge so it’s good to see someone have a great time without being in the park!

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    1. I’m glad you liked it! There is sooooo much to do outside of the parks, I know you’ll have a great time. If you need ideas, the different hotels have tons of activities, many of which you don’t need to be a guest there to enjoy. Have fun!

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