Above and in title: From fairy-tale weddings to enjoying the Magic Kingdom’s legendary fireworks display from a 52-foot yacht, the resort offers plenty of romantic experiences. ©Walt Disney World Resort photos
Below: A couple enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. ©Walt Disney World Resort photo
In the beginning, families convened to find magic rarely experienced elsewhere. In time, the creative minds behind the magic found a way to weave romance into Walt Disney World, and couples have been making pilgrimages there ever since.
“Walt Disney World is the No. 1 domestic honeymoon destination in the continental U.S.,” according to Korri McFann, marketing director with Disney’s Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons.
Disney’s expansion into romance was the brainchild of Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, McFann said. While attending a wedding in Japan where family members had convened from around the world, Eisner realized that couples and their families are willing to travel long distances to share special occasions.
Disney’s parks and cruise line have something to offer everyone, McFann said. She mentioned the magic and fantasy of theme parks, great spas, fine dining, yacht rentals with private catered dining, and meals served at Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom, the site of countless proposals.
Tens of thousands of couples honeymoon each year at Walt Disney World, Disneyland in southern California and aboard Disney Cruises, she said, adding that in September 2011, Disney officially launched Aulani, a resort and spa on Oahu, Hawaii, where Disney expects wedding couples to flock.
Land-and-sea packages are increasingly popular, she added, explaining that while three- and four-day cruises are offered, “increasingly, couples are choosing seven-day cruises for their honeymoons.” (See related story.)
Disney’s foray into romance “has been exciting to see,” said McFann, who has spent more than 15 years planning and marketing weddings and honeymoons. The romance that we found there certainly was memorable.
Romance in grand style
Our room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (AAA Four Diamonds) was made more special with pink rose petals scattered in the shape of a heart over the top of the king-size bed. The sweet smell of roses filled the room where even the plush bath towels had fresh flowers tucked into the folds. In-room celebration packages are available to purchase through www.disneyflorist.com.
With white towers, gabled red-shingle roofs and plenty of architectural ornaments, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa sprawls along the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon between the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Polynesian Resort. With 867 rooms, the Victorian-style hotel recalls the era when notables such as John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, and President Theodore Roosevelt wintered in Florida’s sunshine.
Meals at the resort were a romantic interlude. A seven-course dinner at Victoria & Albert’s, a AAA Five Diamond restaurant, was made all the more memorable by dim lighting, a harpist providing soft music and impeccable service in an intimate restaurant with only 18 tables.
The server handed us a menu personalized with our names, a souvenir we were allowed to keep so that we later could recall a dinner that included such choices as lobster, scallops, King salmon, duck breast, lamb, and Kobe beef. We ended the extravagance with a chocolate pyramid, a champagne-Chambord truffle with macerated pomegranate seeds.
The following morning, we shared a couple’s massage. My husband was a bit skeptical, but the quiet time in separate waiting areas helped to calm him. During my wait in the women’s area, I felt like a bride anticipating a first glimpse of her groom on their wedding day. As I waited, I slipped into a Turkish bath and then into a dry sauna. Anticipation was building. The massage therapist came for me apparently at the same moment that my husband was being escorted into the candle-lit room that we would share for the next hour.
We did not speak. The dimness and calm enveloped me just as I knew it was embracing him. The therapist rubbed warmed organic oils and semi-precious stones along my back, legs and arms. It was rejuvenating–and romantic. When our treatments ended, my husband and I were left alone in the room for a few words that sealed the experience.
More relaxed than we could have imagined, we headed next to Downtown Disney where we boarded a tethered hot-air balloon called Characters in Flight. The balloon rose 400 feet above Downtown Disney, providing us an aerial view of the hamlet below where children darted, couples strolled, families chattered and laughter rose.
After hovering high, we traipsed through Downtown Disney that is filled with shops, eateries and all sorts of interesting-looking people to study.
Couples wanting to spend a bit more for romance will find it aboard a 52-foot yacht that can be used as a viewing platform for fireworks on select evenings above the Magic Kingdom. For added charm, guests may arrange for private butler service and gourmet meals aboard the yacht.
Another option is an evening ride on a horse-drawn carriage that snakes through the “wilderness” of Walt Disney World Resort at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Lean back and let the driver take you throughout the kingdom.
On our final night, realities of the world began to seep in and we requested an early morning wake-up call. A recorded voice confirmed our request, ending with, “We wish you magical dreams.”
Dream we did as the sweet smell of roses drifted from the petals that I had clustered on the bedside table. Our final morning, we savored breakfast in our room that included waffles and fresh fruit cut into the shape of flowers dressed in a chocolate vase. I wondered if somewhere Mickey and Minnie were waking too, munching flower-shaped fruit, smelling fresh roses, remembering their carriage ride, a seven-course meal and planning another day of romance in the Magic Kingdom. I left that day feeling relaxed and special, rejuvenated and pampered as we experienced another side of Walt Disney World.
Lynn Grisard Fullman is a contributor from Birmingham, Ala.
From theatrical performances to driving a Ferrari around the track, adults get in on the fun at Walt Disney World Resort.
By Deborah Reinhardt
Adults visiting Walt Disney World Resort in Florida have almost as big a playground as the families and kids. In addition to enjoying the theme parks, here is a short list of favorite activities adults visiting without children can enjoy.
More than 70 international performers entertain at Downtown Disney West Side’s Cirque du Soleil theater in the production of “La Nouba.” Walt Disney Resort photo
Living it up downtown
“La Nouba” Cirque du Soleil performances at Downtown Disney West Side is an astounding 90-minute (without intermission) performance that makes a great evening out. More than 70 performers present juggling, trampoline, aerial acts, and more. It was a sensory feast that’s also suitable for youngsters, although with tickets ranging from $78 to $136 each, bringing the family can be quite an investment. The theater is dark on Sundays and Mondays. For tickets, call (407) 939-7600.
Coming in late 2012 to the West Side is Splitsville, a large entertainment complex that features billards, bowling, dining and music.
In addition to the West Side–although there is plenty to see here–adults can explore Pleasure Island’s bars and restaurants and shop to their hearts’ content for all things Disney at the Marketplace.
The need for speed
For years, thrill seekers have visited Richard Petty Driving Experience to feed their racing fantasies. The “Exotic Driving Experience” is set to launch mid-January. It’s a one-mile, custom-built circuit that will allow guests to either ride with a professional driver or get behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, or Porsche.
Of course, if you want to play, you’ll have to pay, and the epic vehicles are no exception. Ride with a driver for $99 or drive one of these beauties for $199–$389 (yes, the Ferrari that lists at $225,000 is at the top of the price list). Make a reservation by visiting www.exoticdriving.com.
An insider’s view
Disney guests who want an enrichment experience have a long list of tour choices, from a Wild Africa Trek to an in-depth look at the Magic Kingdom’s steam trains. But for those who are always asking, “how do they do that?” consider the Backstage Magic tour of any one of the four parks. This seven-hour experience reveals some of the technical and creative operations used to create the Disney magic. See things the average park visitor will miss, including the system of underground tunnels called “utilidors.” The price is $229 per person (16 and older). The tour is wheelchair accessible and those with hearing disabilities also are assisted. For more information, call (407) 939-8687.
To say Disney is a world unto itself is not an exaggeration, as anyone whose visited can tell you. Adults visiting Walt Disney World can do as much or as little as they’d like, creating a magical vacation they’ll remember for many years.
Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler magazines.