Don’t mind me, I’m still in the day-dream world of my honeymoon. Well, coming back to a freezing cold England after two weeks in the Sunshine State did bring me back down to Earth with a crash and a cold, but mentally, I’m still in Florida.
We travelled out to the land of humidity and heat on Sunday 13th November, just two days out from Hurricane Nicole. Phew. With our flight taking off at 10am, it was a blistering early morning of travel. Up at 3.30am, it took us eighteen hours to get from home to hotel. Despite the long journey, it was a joyfully uneventful flight, apart from the lovely gift of some in-flight champagne from my in-laws.
Surprise-surprise (aka ‘not a surprise at all’), we were staying at Walt Disney World for our honeymoon. Typically, my husband and I are a historical and cultural kind of holiday couple – think Crete, Italy, even Scotland. But for our honeymoon? When else can you go all out on luxury, nostalgia, and pure joy? So, Walt Disney World it was!
After jumping on our Mears coach connection from Orlando International Airport, a swift twenty minutes later, we were at our hotel – Coronado Springs Resort and Gran Destino Tower.
Arguably the least Disneyfied Disney hotel, this 142 acre resort is themed to Spanish, Mexican and South-western culture, with the newer Gran Destino Tower taking inspiration from Salvador Dali and his Disney short ‘Destino’. I’m sure I’ll do a proper review of the hotel soon (so keep your eyes peeled for that) but it was beautiful. The tower and three accommodation villages surround a 15-acres lake that is joined by three bridges, complete with a restaurant on the lake and four different pools. We stayed in a standard room in the Casitas accommodation village, which was actually our preferred choice of villages. The room was bright, airy, and clean, with a large ensuite bathroom and two gorgeously comfy queen-size beds. It was a straight shot across the bridges to get to the main building, yet far enough away to be peaceful, and it was the first stop on the bus loop. Success.
Our original arrival date plan was to just try and stay awake until at least 8pm to defeat jet lag, and grab some dinner at the hotel. It was even on my spreadsheet, dammit. However, my husband is more on the spontaneous side and as soon as we landed, he wanted to go to the parks: Magic Kingdom in particular. It took a bit of persuading with my jet-lagged body and brain, but I caved. A swift change of clothes later, and I found myself crying in front of the castle, fireworks going off overhead, and corn-dog nuggets in hand. I would blame the jet-lag, but I know I’d still be a happy-crying wreck no matter our first visit. There’s something so magical about turning the corner in the dark, seeing the park light up before you and the castle standing there like a beacon saying “girl, you are going to spend so much money here and you are gonna love it”. Of course, like the ever professional blogger that I am, I didn’t take any photos of this evening. Post-fireworks, we ran around the park in the dark, fighting off that jet-lag, and getting onto as many rides as we could before collapsing into bed at 11pm; that’s 4am UK time!
First Day – Magic Kingdom
For our first full day in Disney World, we woke up half an hour before our alarm, which is pretty good going for a five hour time difference. It was another early start as we had Extra Magic Hours to play with at Magic Kingdom. This is a perk you get when you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, where you can get into the parks half an hour or an hour before non-resort guests. Now that might not seem like a lot of extra time, but it meant that we could experience entry at a quieter level, cry again walking down Main Street with less crowds, and get in the queue for rides before the wait times started totting up – and boy oh boy, would they start totting up. After hitting the rollercoaster Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first thing, I made Rory do a cheeky photoshoot outside of the castle – he is an excellent Instagram husband, getting them angles.
If starting the day at Magic Kingdom wasn’t good enough, our first breakfast of the trip was impeccable. Strawberry funnel cake from Sleepy Hollow. Mmm mmm MMM. What? Did you expect fruit salads and smoothies? Ma’m, this is a honeymoon.
Following the sugar overload, we went clockwise around the park and made good use of our first day energy. Thankfully, we were hit with pretty short wait times so got to ride most top priority rides before 12pm. I’m talking Jingle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Haunted Mansion.
Then, we made sure we were in the ideal position for the parade. I’m not interested in seeing or meeting characters, and I’m controversially not a huge fan of the parades (please don’t shoot me, Disney adults), but you do have to experience them at least once. If you would rather put your time to experiences and rides, then here’s a top tip for you and something we did ourselves. Position yourself between Pecos Bill restaurant and Splash Mountain – this is where the parade actually starts. We waited ten minutes for the parade, had an excellent view, and then as the last float passed us, we ducked into Pecos Bill’s for lunch before the rush. Compared to camping out for an hour in the heat beforehand, battling with crowds five people deep, and then getting stuck in the crowds when the parade is done, it’s perfection.
Post-lunch, we moved on over to the Tomorrowland section of the park and finished our day there. Yes, Rory beat me at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. No, I’m still not over it.
In all honesty, I was struggling by that point. Not with the heat or the walking but with one of my chronic conditions, a hormone condition called PCOS. When my hormones don’t play ball, I can struggle with chronic fatigue and sciatica and both of those were raising their ugly heads. So before we got the bus back to our resort, I stopped by Guest Relations to see if I was viable for the free Disability Access Service. Reader, I was. This meant I didn’t have to wait in physical queues for any rides again and my queues became virtual! I could rest somewhere in the park whilst waiting for my return time, without worsening any conditions or overdoing it. I certainly will be doing a post all about the DAS and the Universal equivalent as they were absolute gamechangers, and all my disabled and chronically ill travellers need to know about these passes.
When evening came, after a long lie down and change of shoes, we went to Disney Springs. This is the Disney-owned, outdoor shopping and food complex, complete with any kind of food or store you could imagine. By this point, we were too tired to look inside any shops and had our sights set on one place and one place only – Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy. It was amazing. The best fast food of the whole trip and pretty reasonably priced for what you get. We each had a chicken burger and fries, and shared a milkshake and mac and cheese. Also, it was entirely nut free. It just goes to show how easy it is for restaurants to make things allergen friendly if they really want to. I’m looking at you, every other eating establishment in the United States.
Day Two – Hollywood Studios
With a rather special booking at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in the evening, we had a rather slow morning on day two. Perhaps most importantly, I had my first Mickey waffle of the trip, a true right of passage. When we were full of sugar, we hopped on a coach and a boat to end up at Fantasia Gardens and Mini Golf for a morning of, you guessed it, mini golf.
Fantasia Gardens is your traditional, fun mini golf set up but make it Fantasia themed. There was spurting water, dancing hippos, and sculpted alligator obstacles that made this course a lot of fun for all ages. The other course was called Fantasia Fairways. Essentially, this is a fully fledged golf course with bunkers and greens, just shrunk down to miniature size. I think one of Rory’s proudest moments of the year was when he got the highest score of the day on this course, and ended up on the honours board.
Next door to this mini golf sits Hollywood Studios, the Disney park centred on the magic of film. So we took the boat across the river for an afternoon of fun. Our first stop, and a vital one to stop my sciatica getting worse, was past all the old Hollywood glamour and Christmas theming and into Toy Story Land for lunch.
Introducing Totchos from Woody’s Lunch Box. I’m going to say something controversial now – I think this might be the best quick service lunch at Walt Disney World. It’s literally just potato barrels, bean chilli, and cheese, and yet it’s one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. Like most of the portion sizes here at Walt Disney World, it was the size of my head, so we split and shared it for lunch.
After savouring more carbohydrates, we walked through to my all-time favourite part of the park – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I still get tongue tied trying to describe this land. On paper, you are entering the planet of Batuu and visiting Black Spire Outpost, a hub for traders, rebels, and Resistance alike. But it feels so real. The background noise changes along with the theming and terrain. You can see droid prints in the concrete, the sounds of ships taking off in the distance, and radio chatter from the market. Stormtroopers walk around patrolling the area, and you can find Rey hiding behind the life-size Millennium Falcon.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect for any Star Wars nerd, like myself, is the attraction Rise of the Resistance. It’s a thrill-ride, mixed with an immersive show, and also shows off one of the most spectacular set pieces Disney has in its parks. A ship hangar, full of Stormtroopers and a window to the ‘outside’ world of space. My jaw dropped when I first saw it, from the lines of troopers to the TIE Fighters lining the walls. I won’t go into any more detail about this experience, for those who don’t want to be spoiled, but if you a) are a Star Wars fan, b) have maybe seen one of the films, or even c) have no clue about a singular Star War, you are guaranteed to enjoy this ride.
Following Rise of the Resistance, we piloted the Millennium Falcon on Smuggler’s Run, and headed over to the classic Rock n Roller Coaster to get a fix of Aerosmith. As darkness hit, it was time to meander back to Galaxy’s Edge for our booking at Oga’s Cantina. It’s our honeymoon, of course we were going to be having some drinks – just with a bit of a spacey, galactic theme. Oga’s Cantina is an immersive bar experience where you feel like you are stepping into that world of smugglers and bounty hunters, like Mos Eisley itself.
There is an extensive menu of drinks (and snacks), and the bar even comes with its own robot DJ. I settled in with a bubbling and smoking Bespin Fizz, made of yuzu puree, rum, and pomegranate juice, whilst Rory went straight in with tequila with The Outer Rim. All-drinks, even the non-alcoholic ones, are impeccably themed and the menu really wants to make you try them all! Disney, you are already taking all my money, come on. I was about two brain cells away from drinking a Fuzzy Tauntaun, a drink that actually makes your lips go numb, when our time slot was up. With a tipsy feeling in my blood, the warm Florida air around me, and the prospect of some chicken tenders at the hotel, I felt joyous.
I’m actually going to put a pin here in this post because wow, this would be a full dissertation if I kept going. So I am going to make this into a four part series on my Walt Disney World and Orlando honeymoon. Make sure to be following if you want to find out what we got up to next, or if you are booking your own Walt Disney World trip and need some tips and tricks. Can you guess where we go to next? Part 2 is live now!
Thanks for reading,