"When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you."
There's a reason that tune is the theme song for all things Disney related, because it's true. The Orlando property, Walt Disney World and its four parks and variety of hotels, is just as much a fantasyland for adults as it is for children. It is, after all, the place where teacups swirl, carpets fly, pirates dance and Mickey smiles at everyone.
This magical flair and an impeccable attention to service has extended to the company's Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons program, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, as well as the Disney Cruise Line that recently welcomed a third ship to the fleet. I visited both a few weeks ago and found that for honeymooners dreams really do come true.
Happily Ever After
Did you know that since Disney launched its wedding packages they've hosted more than 40,000 couples? That's a lot of smiling faces. A bevy of on-site planners arrange everything from ceremony location and reception decor to photography and fun add-ons, like a fireworks display and being whisked away in Cinderella's carriage.
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, popular wedding sites include the croquet garden at Disney's BoardWalk Resort, a 1940s-style seaside retreat, and a lawn just beneath the emblematic castle in the Magic Kingdom.
You can also swap vows at any one of the "countries" of Epcot-personally, I'd opt for somewhere along the Venetianstyle canal in "Italy" or at one of the meticulous gardens of "England."
Another favorite of mine is the Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. It has a traditional wedding venue vibe, while still being very airy. The views of water, beach and hotel are trumped only by the sight of Cinderella Castle in the distance. PS: Our good friend and contributor David Tutera creates even more customized wedding experiences; disneyweddings.com/dreamy.
The Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion at Disney's Grand Floridian & Spa.
Disney World has a host of hotels near the parks, each with a different theme and connected to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios sites via bus, boat or the famed monorail.
I stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, a sprawling property that looks out onto the Africa-like landscape. From my balcony, I spotted antelopes, zebra and a giraffe-it reminded me of my own honeymoon adventures (room rates start at $250 a night; disneyworld.disney.go.com).
I love the elegant romance of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, located on the Seven Seas Lagoon. The grand lobby is simply breathtaking (room rates start at $440 a night;disneyworld.disney.go.com).
If you prefer to stay off-property, consider the new Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Spacious guest rooms, luxurious dining facilities and an unbeatable Guerlain spa are all located a short bus ride away from all the Disney attractions. The hotel is also home to a gorgeous par-72 golf course (room rates start at $199 a night; waldorfastoria.com).
The impressive lobby at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
One of the best things about visiting the Orlando parks is the diversity of cuisine. In addition to the usual fast-food offerings, there's a plethora of ethnic options, especially throughout Epcot. Of all the "countries," I'd have to say the food at "Italy," "Morocco" and "Mexico" are my top choices. I especially love Tutto Italia Ristorante, which offers Old World favorites like antipasto misto, cannolis and pizza cooked the way my grandfather would have-in a wood stove. The food at the Marrakesh is served alongside traditional belly-dance performances, and the tequila bar at San Angel Inn rivals any south of the border.
Out to Sea
Speaking of food, the dining options on the Disney Dream, the latest ship to join the cruise line, are out of this world. Although I found the ambience a little noisy, I enjoyed the vegetarian menu at the Animator's Palate the best. And I really liked the Enchanted Garden, an eatery with decor that's inspired by the palace of Versailles. Cabanas, the buffet by the pool area, offers a grand display of food, from a raw bar to a carving station, throughout the day. Not to mention you can get soft-serve ice cream-my favorite-any time.
A Disney Cruise Line docked at the Castaway Cays in the Bahamas.
The Disney Dream excels at offering adults-only amenities along with the fun and games for kids. At the private island, Castaway Cay (a destination on all Caribbean itineraries), there's an adults-only beach. Here, private cabanas sit in the sand by transparent turquoise water. A bar and BBQ station are also nearby, so there's no need to leave. I'm a lover of champagne, so Pink, a girly adults-only bar, is my go-to. The clubby sports bar 678, and Skyline, where the music, decor and cityscape views change every 20 minutes, are also cool spots. Don't miss the Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired fireworks display. Watch from the 18-and-over deck area before heading down to the raucous Evolution dance club.
One of the best deals on the ship is the Rainforest spa experience. For only $16, you get all-day access to the spa's beautiful wet-and-dry areas. The enormous sauna has floor-toceiling windows, as do the two-person Jacuzzis. Never, in all my spa visiting, have I been handed a glass of champagne pre-and post-treatment, as happened at the Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Treatments here are just as decadent, featuring the chic Parisian products.
Get pampered at the Waldorf Astoria's luxe spa.
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