Celebrations at Walt Disney World® can make an already special day even more magical. Even though just being at a Disney park or resort for your birthday or anniversary is great, sometimes you just want to add a little something extra to make that special day even more spectacular. A few years ago we discovered specialty cruises to be a fantastic way to add a little more magic to our family’s special celebrations. There are three types of specialty cruises offered at the Walt Disney Resort –Specialty Cruise, Fireworks Cruise, and Grand I Yacht. In the last three years we have been fortunate enough to have experienced the Fireworks Cruise and the Grand I Yacht. Both experiences exceeded our expectations and really made our events even more special.
Specialty Cruises are 21-foot or 25-foot deluxe pontoon boats. The size of the boat you will ride during your cruise is determined by the size of your party. The 21-foot boat can hold 8 people plus the captain and the 25-foot boat accommodates up to 10 people plus the captain. Your boat is reserved exclusively for your party. You can board the pontoons at one of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Resorts and sail around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon or you can also choose to cruise around Crescent Lake with Epcot view and board your boat at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort marina. In addition to a very knowledgeable captain, each boat also comes with complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. The specialty cruises are booked as one-hour excursions.
You can also reserve a pontoon cruise at night for a Fireworks cruise to experience one of Disney’s incredible nighttime shows. On the Magic Kingdom cruise, your captain will drop anchor in Seven Seas Lagoon, giving you an unforgettable view Wishes. If you decide you’d prefer an evening near Epcot, your boat will sail up International Gateway, near World Showcase Lagoon, giving you a unique way to watch Illuminations.
We booked a Fireworks Cruise last fall to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday. He likes that sort of VIP treatment and I knew he would love watching Wishes from Seven Seas Lagoon in his “own” private boat. We boarded the 25-foot pontoon at the marina at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge about a half hour before the fireworks were to begin. You can customize your cruise departure by selecting a time that best suits your party so the fireworks show can be at the beginning, middle or at the end of your trip. Since we have small children, we chose an earlier departure time so that Wishes would be near the end of our voyage. Our captain met us at the dock and once we had settled our bill, we boarded the boat. The kids who were under 12 were required to put on life jackets and since it was a windy night, the captain took extra time to help everyone get on-board safely. Once we were loaded, the captain offered us large towels to use as blankets so we would stay cozy during the chilly ride. Before we set sail, we were offered a variety of snacks and non alcoholic beverages, but since we had just finished dinner and had our fill of marshmallows at the campfire at our resort, there was no way we could’ve packed in any more food. Later during the cruise, however, my parents, my husband, and my two boys did take a few snacks to enjoy during the show. In addition to being safety and comfort conscious, our captain was A LOT of fun. He was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the Walt Disney World resort area. He entertained us with stories of the creation of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and tales about Paradise Island and River Country. He also tried to stump us with Disney trivia questions—of which my older son answered a good number of them before I! Our boat traveled from Bay Lake to Seven Seas Lagoon and dropped anchor just in time for the commencement of Wishes. Audio was piped right into our boat, which made for a really incredible way to watch my most favorite nighttime show. Once the show finished, our captain lingered around long enough for us to see the Electrical Water Pageant sail on by. We then sailed back to the marina at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Disney night from the water—truly relaxing! The cruise price is one flat rate and starts at $371, no matter your party size, and fluctuates depending upon the time of year. Gratuity is not included in the price and is, as always, at the discretion of the guest. My dad really enjoyed the experience and it was a great way to end his big six-oh birthday celebration. Since the cost is a bit expensive, it is definitely something we will reserve for special occasions but will most certainly do again someday.
While a Specialty or Fireworks cruise may be the “gold” way to sail around the Walt Disney World waterways or see your favorite Disney nighttime show, the Grand I Yacht is the platinum experience. You may have caught a glimpse of the boat once or twice near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa—that is where it docks. It is THE primo cruise experience at Walt Disney World. The Grand I Yacht is an impressive 51-foot Sea Ray ® Sedan Bridge Yacht and is as about as luxurious as they come. The yacht can carry up to 18 people (not including the captain and deckhand) is perfect for celebrating those extra special events. The yacht has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and an incredible out door seating area that can easily accommodate a large group. The Grand I Yacht picks up guests ONLY from the marina at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Like the pontoon boats, the Grand I Yacht can be booked for daytime sailings and also for nighttime cruises. When you book an evening cruise, you will get a front row, on the water view of Wishes.
For my husband’s 40th birthday, I wanted to plan something during our Disney vacation that would really “WOW’ him. Unfortunately for me, his 40th birthday just happened to fall at a time when I had a new baby and, through a series of unfortunate events, was recovering from two broken ribs and a broken foot. Needless to say, I was not on top of planning for his special day and before I knew it, we were only two weeks away from our trip to Walt Disney World. While searching the Walt Disney World Resort website, I stumbled across “specialty cruises”. I quickly put in a call to 407-WDW-Play to see if, by some miracle, there was anything available. I was thrilled to learn there was one boat available that could accommodate our entire party (we were traveling with friends and my parents—a total of 14people)—the Grand I Yacht. What did not excite me was the price. It was expensive! However, I was in a pinch. I did not think I could find anything LESS expensive that would really surprise him, especially since we were so close to our travel dates. Plus, you only turn 40 once and I knew he would definitely enjoy the experience so I booked it
The night of our reservations, we were picked up at the marina at Disney’s Polynesian Resort (later, I learned that this is not a usual pick up spot for the yacht). Once our entire party was aboard the ship, we quickly set out for our fireworks viewing spot. During our voyage out, we had time to explore this incredible vessel and let me tell you there were 13 VERY impressed passengers aboard the ship that night (Baby Girl was only 4 months old, so she was pretty indifferent toward the whole experience). Once the Grand I Yacht reached our viewing spot, we settled in to our seats on the outdoor deck and experienced the MOST incredible way to enjoy Wishes. Once the show ends the captain takes you around Seven Seas Lagoon—time permitting. The cruise is booked by the hour–a minimum of one hour and a two-hour maximum. I had booked our cruise for just an hour due to price but since there was a HUGE mix up earlier that evening with our pick up–the yacht initially picked up the wrong party and not only did we have to spend time trying to sort everything out, ruining the “surprise” element of the night for my husband, but we almost did not make it out in time for Wishes–the captain offered to sail us around for however long we liked. Since we had 8 kids with us, we politely declined. We did not want push our evening too late and run the risk of the kids getting cranky and ruining a perfect night. So, after catching the Electrical Water Pageant, we headed back to Disney’s Polynesian Resort marina.
The sailing aboard the Grand I Yacht is an incredible experience. The ship is unbelievable, the view of the fireworks spectacular, and the captain and deckhand offered the same great service you expect from Disney. They were even great with the kids, asking them trivia questions about Disney and answering all of their kid questions too! My husband had a wonderful birthday celebration aboard the yacht and it is an experience that we all still talk about quite frequently. The only downside to the Grand I Yacht is the price—the cruise starts at $751 per hour and the price varies depending on when you sail. However, you really get what you pay for when you book a cruise aboard the Grand I Yacht—you will most definitely not be disappointed. I would love to be able to experience it again someday, although because of the price is probably one of those experiences that is saved for REALLY special occasions.
Private dining and celebration packages can be added to any of the cruises for an additional cost. You can order things like birthday cakes, appetizers and entire meals like brunch or dinner. You can even include full butler service to serve your party while on the boat. Please note that if you do decide to include butler service, the butler does count in your total passenger count on board the boat. Prices for the dining or celebration packages vary depending on what you choose.
All of the specialty cruises can be booked up to 180 days in advance and they do book up quickly. To make a reservation, you can call 407-WDW-PLAY. You will need a credit card to hold the reservation but will actually pay for the event the day of your cruise. The captains are able to accept credit cards at the marina for final payment. All of the prices mentioned in this article are current and have been verified through Disney Recreation on 7/10/14.
There are many ways to celebrate a special event while visiting Walt Disney World. If you are looking for an out of the ordinary way to add to your special day, I highly recommend celebrating aboard a fireworks cruise. The pontoon cruise was a wonderful experience but if you can swing it, there is really nothing like watching Wishes from the majestic Grand I Yacht. Both experiences were unforgettable and I most certainly hope we get to celebrate aboard one of these incredible cruises again in the future 🙂