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Disney Fireworks Cruises: Not Worth the Trouble

What in the World?
A weekly peek at Walt Disney World

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For many of us, fireworks are the best way to end your day at Walt Disney World.  Whether it be by watching Wishes, Illuminations or Fantasmic!, Disney offers some of the best nighttime entertainment.  Personally speaking, I have always watched the fireworks from within the parks.  While I knew that there were specialty cruises that let guests watch the fireworks on the water, I never took the opportunity to experience it for myself.  Luckily for me, I recently had the chance to go on a Wishes fireworks cruise for the first time and I thought I would share some of the insight I gained from that outing.  

The entire fireworks cruise last approximately one hour.  Boats pick up guests from the docks of the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, the Yacht and Beach Club, or the Boardwalk marinas about 30 minutes before the fireworks are scheduled to start.  The boat captain (who is a Disney Cast Member) first takes guest around a short tour of either the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake or the waterway between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The Wishes fireworks cruise has a bit of advantage here, because the boat captain often takes guests all the way over to the Wilderness Lodge on Bay Lake and points a lot of interesting things out, such as the now defunct Discovery Island and the tetanus-abundant River Country.  

After the quick tour, the boat captain then gets heads to the viewing location to get into position.  If you are on the Illuminations cruise, boats sit under the International Gateway bridge (between the United Kingdom and France).  For Wishes, boats make their way between the Magic Kingdom docks and one of the small islands on the Seven Seas Lagoon.  Once in position, guests can sit back and enjoy the show.  If you are watching Illuminations, it is easy to hear the music since you are in between two World Showcase pavilions, and speakers are plentiful.  Over at the Magic Kingdom, guests can either watch Wishes with or without the music synched up depending on the type of cruise that was booked.  After the show concludes, the boat makes its way back to the marina.  

There are two Magic Kingdom Wishes Cruises that offer a couple of different things.  The cheaper of the two cruises (the basic cruise) is held on a twenty-one foot Tracker Pontoon that can fit up to eight people.  While there is no audio feed that synchs with the Wishes music, the cost is $266.25 (tax included).  The premium cruise is held on a twenty-five foot tracker pontoon boat and can hold up to 10 guests.  For the ability of hearing the audio feed, this cruise will cost $319.50 (tax included). 

For me, the fireworks cruise was enjoyable overall, but because of a few uncontrollable circumstances, the cruise left me with some mixed feelings about it.  First of all, let me make it clear that there is no better place to experience Wishes than on the cruise with the audio feed synched up to the fireworks.  Being on the water provides you with a fuller picture of the display, without you having to stretch your neck to see everything.  The private nature of the boat is also a huge plus.  Sometimes you just don’t want to be among thousands of other people watching the fireworks – and you just want to share a private moment with a loved one.  Moreover, you won’t have to elbow someone to preserve your viewing location.  

There are some negatives, however, to watching the fireworks from a boat.  The first is the weather.  When I went, the temperature was in the low to mid 50’s, a rather chilly night for Orlando in March.  However, when I got out into the water, the wind made it feel like the temperature was below freezing.  I was wrapped in a blanket and had on a jacket, but it wasn’t enough.  My face was an icicle by the time I set foot back on the marina dock.  The weather definitely made it harder to enjoy the fireworks. 

Another major drawback for me is the price.  As I mentioned above, the Wishes fireworks cruise with the audio feed (the only way to experience Wishes) will cost almost $320.  Granted that if you had 10 people on the boat, each of them would only have to pay $32, it is still quite a lot of money to pay just to watch a 15 minute fireworks show.  Unless you are celebrating very special event (like the wedding of our very own Jeanne Cautrell a.k.a. PixieDust), or have the money to spare, families vacationing on a budget should skip the cruise and simply watch the fireworks in the parks.  

Trying new things has been one of my personal crusades since moving to Orlando last year.  Few things have peeked my curiosity more than the fireworks cruise.  Now that I have had the opportunity to experience one for myself, I believe that the cruise is just a luxury.  While it is great to watch Illuminations or Wishes on your own boat, the price is just too prohibitive to make it a “must do” at Walt Disney World.