Usually visits to areas in the vicinity of ports are side trips to our cruises, but our cruise on the Carnival Magic was a side trip from Disney World in Orlando. Our daughter and her husband are runners and decided to run a marathon in Disney World. Who knew Disney world had such a thing? Not me, at least not until they invited us along (presumably to watch the grandkids while they ran.)
Since they live in Australia where the seasons are opposite those of the northern hemisphere, the kids were on summer break when they came to America for the winter. After visiting us over Christmas and catching up with relatives and old friends we all set off for Orlando where we had a chance to see Disney World with the kids. After the races my daughter’s husband went back to Australia and some other relatives joined us for the cruise including my American grandson so this cruise included all the grandkids.
Crowds really aren’t my thing and I absolutely hate lines, both of which are expected at Disney World. The good thing about going places in the off season is normally finding them far less crowded. In the dead of winter just after Christmas Vacation ended we hadn’t expected the sheer amount of people flooding the parks at Disney World – but the races brought in an extra 70,000 people. Because of the amount of people who came for the races things were far more crowded than we expected (especially at the Magic Kingdom), but luckily Disney does have help to manage your time better while negotiating your way through the crowds.
If you purchase tickets in advance you can set up fast passes for a few chosen attractions before you even get to the park so you have a better chance of getting a time on the more popular things than you would if you waited until you got there. Some rides fill up more than a day in advance though so even with the fast pass planning ahead helps. There’s also an app where your phone will tell you when and where your fast passes are. The app has maps of the park and lets you know the wait times at all the different attractions so you know where to find the shortest line when you haven’t got a fast pass. It can also direct you from where you are to where you want to go. It would be nice to have a fast pass for everything, but they have limits on how many each person can get. You can get more after using the ones you have, but when the park is crowded there aren’t likely any same day passes available for popular attractions. What a great feeling it is to get in the fast pass line and walk past all the people waiting in the long line in the regular lane on your chosen attractions. Of course they will do the same to you on rides where you don’t have the pass.
Magic Kingdom is iconic Disney with Cinderella’s castle dominating the view from the park entrance and the familiar and traditional Disney rides throughout the park. Magic Kingdom is where you find It’s A Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Dumbo the Elephant, and other famous rides. There are also newer rides like those featuring the Little Mermaid or Toy Story. Other attractions include stage shows and character visiting pavilions. It’s a Small World may be an old ride, but after all these years its message is just as relevant – we all live on the same little planet. It’s a shame we don’t take better care of it.
If it weren’t for the 3 fast passes our tickets allowed us to book in advance per day we may not have seen much at all, especially at the Magic Kingdom. Even booking fast passes several days in advance we were unable to get them for some of the most popular rides, plus we had to watch the height limits and not book anything the kids couldn’t do. In between our scheduled fast pass times we picked rides or other attractions according to the least wait time shown on the Disney app.
The app’s wait times aren’t always accurate though. It said 10 minutes at the Swiss Family Robinson tree house and we walked right in with no wait at all. Then again a 25 minute wait posted on the Dumbo ride was actually 45. Perhaps after we went through they posted a more accurate time since we were given a card at our entry that said to hand it in when we made it to the ride for more accurate estimates. The best thing about the Dumbo ride was the playground in the middle of the line. After about 20 minutes in line we got to an indoor playground where patrons are given a buzzer. Adults have places to sit while children play until the buzzer goes off. At that time your group leaves the playground and gets into the other side of the line with a short wait for the ride. Sure beats standing in line for all that time. There are similar rides to Dumbo with shorter waits – like Aladdin’s Flying Carpets in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland or the TriceraTop Spin at the Animal Kingdom.
The Buzz Lightyear toy story ride was a favorite with the grandkids at the Magic Kingdom. On that interactive ride you get to shoot lasar beams at targets. Magic Kingdom was the most crowded of any of the parks during the time we spent at Disney World.
When visiting Disney World people can stay at one of the many Disney resorts. These are the most convenient places to stay while visiting the parks because each resort provides transportation to the parks. Mostly it’s by bus, but some resorts have monorail or boat transportation to some parks.
There are also hotels and vacation rentals outside the park. A lot of the hotels provide free shuttles, often through outside companies. Shuttle transport from outside locations is just at specific times and not throughout the day as it is at Disney’s own resorts. Besides prices lower than Disney’s, the advantage of staying outside the park is proximity to other food sources and some have shuttles to Universal as well as Disney. Uber or taxis are also a means of traveling through the area for visitors without cars. At the beginning of our visit we stayed at a hotel outside the park and often took the shuttle in and uber back because the shuttle return times were not convenient. Our hotel was close enough to Disney that we could see the nightly fireworks. Later we moved to a vacation rental condo which had the advantage of a full kitchen and everyone within the same unit, but the disadvantage of a farther distance to the park and no shuttle.