When spring break rolls around each year, the fam and I take to the open road to recharge and reconnect. This year’s adventure took us to Disney World followed by a Bahamian cruise on the beautiful Disney Wish. Our 12.5 hour drive from Virginia to Florida has been steadily improving over the years as we’ve embraced the backroads and smaller highways instead of opting for traditional Interstate routes. While we do end up on I-95 and I-4 for about half of our trip overall, the other half is spent pleasantly traveling along US-29 and a variety of other smaller roads before we end up on the beast that is I-95. This doesn’t really add any time to our journey and most definitely makes it more interesting. I love driving through the small towns and seeing things you simple can’t as you fly by on the Interstate. Take a look at your route the next time you have a long driving trip. Maybe there are some smaller roads you can venture out on to give you a new perspective!
We arrived in Florida and spent the time before our cruise at the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort. We haven’t stayed at Boulder Ridge in a good while but I opted to return since the rooms there were recently renovated. They’re super nice now and I love the change of bedding (good riddance sofa bed and hello Murphy bed!) and the carpet-less floors. The murphy bed pulls down to reveal that cute Donald Duck tent picture and Chip and Dale are hiding in the pull-down single bed that is also available in the room.
Our main to-do before the cruise was to ride the new TRON Lightcycle / Run roller coaster at Magic Kingdom. This ride opens to the public on April 4th but we had booked a special preview ride for this trip, two previews actually with one before the cruise and one the day we debarked the ship. The coaster was amazing! The ride vehicles look like lightcycles from the movie (Tron came out in 1982) and you ride on them like a motorcycle. There are also accessible ride vehicles at the back of some of the trains that remind me of a convertible VW Beetle. These are called lightrovers and are great for guests with any accessibility or mobility concerns, guests of size, smaller children who might be afraid of the lightcycle positioning, etc. The required height for the attraction is 48″ but it does take off and go very quickly during the experience. The lightrovers seat two guests and have individual lap bars that pull down for each guest, sort of like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster but WAY more comfortable. I rode the lightrover both times we enjoyed the ride but the hubs and kid took the lightcycles. We all had a great time and I wouldn’t hesitate to go either route, depending on which you were more comfortable with. Note that you likely will have a bit of a wait if you want to go with the lightrover option, but it was worth it to me. The ride time is fairly quick but the experience was worth it. I will say that both times we rode were earlier in the day and I would love to ride at night when all of the lighting is noticeable. I think that will add a lot to the overall enjoyment factor.
The Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot kicked off right before we arrived in Orlando so that was also a stop we had on our list. During the festival, various musical acts perform in the America Gardens Theatre in the evenings. The concerts are free but you can add a dining reservation at a participating restaurant and receive entrance into a reserved seating area for one of that night’s shows. These shows are called Garden Rocks and we saw Daughtry during our visit. The show was fantastic, despite having endless rain for a few hours before the show’s start. I love these concerts and it is such a treat when a performer we like happens to line up with a trip we have scheduled. The other Epcot festivals have performances too (Broadway starts at the Festival of the Arts, the Food & Wine Festival has the Eat to the Beat concerts which have bands similar to Garden Rocks, and then the Festival of the Holidays has the Candlelight Processional with celebrity narrators). All of these are free and all also have the dining package that can be added on for reserved seating for the show.
Before we went to Port Canaveral to board the Wish, we started off with a hearty breakfast at the ever-popular Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge. This breakfast was delish and our waitress was a total hoot! Sometimes the shenanigans at Whispering Canyon are hit-or-miss but we loved her. There was an unplanned stop afterward on the way to the Port to buy some new shoes for the kid and me… remember that rain at Epcot? Well, our shoes were soaked and attempts to get them dry enough to wear had failed. Always pack two pairs of tennis shoes!
At the Port, we boarded the Wish, had some lunch at Marceline Market and wandered a bit until our stateroom was ready. Then it was time to get settled and do the Muster Drill (back in person again, bummer!!) and start enjoying the ship. We always go with late dinner on our cruises and were fortunate to have our favorite server onboard to help us in the main dining room for dinner each evening. Unfortunately for us, he is being promoted to Assistant Head Server and we won’t be able to request him for our regular server any more. Boo! We’re so happy for him though, he is our absolute fave. We also had brunch in Palo Steakhouse on this cruise and got our fave Palo waitress again so that was a double-treat. When you make those kinds of connections, it really makes each subsequent cruise that much more special when you are able to spend time feeling like old friends. There was quite a bit of snacking at Donald’s Cantina for burritos and bowls for lunch and I’m sure gallons of ice cream was consumed by the hubs. I really like the quick service style food options and set up on the Wish better than the other four ships but I wish they would get rid of the Impossible food and go back to actual veggie burgers. This vegetarian does not eat fake meat!
We really enjoy spending time on the pool deck, watching movies on the funnel, reading, and just relaxing. After a long day, it is always nice to come back to the stateroom to find a cool towel/blanket animal too. I loved this wiener dog!
Since we sailed on the Wish in September, we skipped all of the nighttime shows and spent more time enjoying the other activities onboard. Drawing classes have always been a hit with us but this time we spent most of our time in various trivia events. We’ve always been trivia fans but I think we went to more trivia on this one cruise than we’ve ever done on all of our prior sailings combined! The kid is a Star Wars expert and we won Star Wars trivia plus Disney villains trivia and Disney food trivia. We almost won a couple of others, losing a tie-breaker on one and just coming in close to the top at a few more. Oddly enough, our favorite trivia was 90s music trivia. We didn’t win but we were very close. There was some guy who knew everything (isn’t there always!) and we hit a song none of us had ever heard of. But the best part was the packed room and everyone singing along when we were going through the answers. So much fun and definitely on our list for next cruise!
Our cruise was a 4-night Bahamian so it had one day at sea, one in Nassau, and one at Disney’s island, Castaway Cay. Nassau is probably my least favorite port I’ve ever been to so we never get off there. Our sea day was packed on the ship but that let up some when people adventured into Nassau. The Wish is a very large ship but with our cruise being over a spring break period, it was very, very full. Much more full than it was in September and reported to be a little more full even over what we had for the rest of the month. I will say it is very nice to have an adult child now so we can spend our time in the 18+ areas to help break up the crowds. The hubs and the kid rode the Aqua Mouse water rollercoaster and really liked it. I did not — major fear of getting stuck in/on a waterslide keeps me from most of those ‘adventures’. See the lifeguard walking in the tube in the picture below? That was to retrieve someone who got stuck. Fear unlocked!
Speaking of adult-only areas, Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay was at the top of our to-dos for this cruise. We have never been over to the adult section of the island since we have always sailed with a child. However, it was time to get over there since the kid is now 18! I was very happy to see that there were plenty of chairs and umbrellas there and the beach is a nice long walking beach. The water was pleasant and bar service was great! There is also a smaller version of the lunch restaurants there and it had some other food options that Cookies and Cookies Too don’t have! I loved it there and can’t wait to spend more time at Serenity Bay in the future. Castaway Cay as a whole never disappoints!
After the cruise, we drove back to Disney to do our second Tron preview. I was very quickly reminded why we do not stay at off-site hotels and do not drive ourselves to Magic Kingdom. Parking in the world’s biggest parking lot, having to take the tram to the Transportation and Ticket Center, boarding the ferry and waiting for it to fill (the monorail was mobbed), then going across the lake to Magic Kingdom… No way. If I had to do that every time I wanted to go to Magic Kingdom, I would lose my mind. I remember that from years ago when I visited as a child but I have stayed on-site for every trip since and will NEVER go back. We’ve parked in the Hollywood Studios and Epcot lots in the last couple of years for random reasons and that too is definitely not my cup of tea. Doing that every day of a trip, what a nightmare.
Our drive home was filled with so very much traffic until we finally were back to our backroads. This trip coincided with Bike Week in Daytona Beach so both legs of the trip were filled with motorcycles and guests headed to/from Daytona. That plus all of the regular I-95 and spring break traffic meant backups, delays, and accidents galore. But once we were back on our little roads, it was smooth sailing once again.
Until next time!