A long time before we'd even chosen a venue for our wedding, it was agreed we would spend at least a portion of our honeymoon at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Jon's family have been Disney fanatics for the best part of twenty years, with Jon and his sister both putting in stints as castmembers during university - whereas I'm quite new to the Disney fandom and hadn't been to any of the parks before the age of 23. A theme park/resort might not be number 1 on most people's lists for a honeymoon destination, and I must admit to being a bit apprehensive at first as to whether it would be the break we needed after all the wedding stress, but I'm happy to say my fears were unfounded. Here's why...
Not having been on any other honeymoons (obviously), I can't comment on the service elsewhere, but I have never been congratulated so much in my entire life. From the moment we checked in, to our very last visit to the Magic Kingdom, we were met with cheery grins, shouts of "congratulations!" wherever we went (not just castmembers, but other guests too!), and even the odd gift, including a special dessert at Sanaa (more on that later). We were so overwhelmed by the number of castmembers who went above and beyond to ensure our honeymoon was as dreamy as could be - we were even upgraded to a deluxe resort after a couple of teeny mishaps at our first hotel. I'm not sure if it's Americans in general, or just Disney, but so many people went out of their way to chat to us about the wedding and to wish us well, it really made the whole thing so special for us. One of our standout moments was watching the 3 o'clock parade in Magic Kingdom, and having nearly every character wave at us and shout congratulations - it felt like the whole parade was just for us! As a result I kept my wedding ears on at all times, and even started speaking to other newlyweds, which is very unlike my usual introverted self! My new in-laws also treated us to the Photopass option, which meant we could get unlimited photos from the Disney photographers - however, they will also happily use your camera to take photos if you don't want to pay.
A Disney holiday always involves a lot of walking - my step count was usually around 20,000 a day and I found myself needing naps a lot in the first week! Having been to Disney a couple of times before the honeymoon I was concerned I'd come home feeling more tired than I was when I left - and I think if we had stuck to the usual Disney schedule we would still be recovering now! Thankfully, as we had both been before we were able to plan out our days according to whichever Fastpass rides we had booked, and made sure to book in time to just relax as well. Our second hotel was the Saratoga Springs resort, and was absolutely tailor-made for relaxation. Alongside a gorgeous pool, there are also spa facilities, onsite restaurants and to top it all off, our suite had a jacuzzi to help ease any aching muscles. The beds at Disney are also topnotch and the free wifi meant we spent quite a few lunchtimes (the hottest part of the day) just lounging around the hotel, gathering energy for the evenings instead. The water parks are also ideal for chilling out when it's hot - my favourite day consisted of floating around Typhoon Lagoon's lazy river in a rubber ring, eyes shut, debating whether or not we needed a giant bucket of ice cream (we opted for mini doughnuts instead). Which leads me on to...
Okay - I'm a bit of a food snob. I appreciate simple, good quality cuisine, and on our previous trips to Disney parks had found them to be sorely lacking in decent food (I came home last time craving vegetables like never before). So I really was not looking forward to two weeks subsisting on burgers and hot dogs... Thankfully, my lovely sister-in-law and her fiancé stepped in to rectify this by booking us a dinner at Sanaa, an Asian-African fusion restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge hotel. I can hand on heart say that I had one of my top five favourite meals ever at Sanaa - I ordered butter chicken and Goan seafood curry and it was absolutely scrumptious. I grew up on curries so for a restaurant to garner my seal of approval is really quite special! We enjoyed our meal so much, we returned for lunch a few days later, where upon noticing our honeymoon badges, our lovely waitress brought us a special free dessert! Aside from the joy that was Sanaa, we found to our delight that Disney have been working on adding more options to their food outlets, sampling an amazing beef flatbread in Animal Kingdom, as well as a delicious seafood chowder in Hollywood Studios. Our hotel also offered a fair few salads as well as an amazing lobster roll, plus I managed to partake in my park favourite, the jalapeno cheese pretzel, multiple times... I was vastly more impressed by the food this time than I have been before, and would encourage any future visitors to try sampling the resort restaurants rather than the parks as you'll find a lot more choice!
Finally, I think anyone going on a Disneymoon must have a healthy enjoyment of theme parks in general - yes, they're going to be busy, full of children, with a lot of queuing... so it's important to embrace the love of Disney here! My favourite park is Animal Kingdom - it's enormous, spaced out, has my favourite ride (Expedition Everest), lots of more interesting food options (we actually observed a terribly confused man asking a castmember why he couldn't find any burgers on offer) and it houses the wonderful safari park where we spent 30 minutes stuck on a truck because a tower of giraffes (yes that's the technical term) decided they wanted to mooch about the road in front of us. We also attended Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, which meant we could all get dressed up (adults typically can't dress as characters in the parks). I cobbled together an Elsa costume using bits from Walmart and it was so much fun, so many little girls kept calling out to me throughout the night! Jon popped on a Han Solo tshirt and was good to go. On these nights, there's a special parade (I still have the song in my head...), a dance party featuring the witches from Hocus Pocus, and some stunning fireworks, as well as trick or treating throughout the park.
Last time we left having missed out on a few rides and experiences, so this time we were focused on doing everything we wanted to do - thankfully Disney have revised their FastPass system so you can book them 60 days in advance (as well as on the day itself dependent on availability), so we managed to organise all the rides and restaurants we wanted before we'd even got on the plane. It really helped us map out our days and schedule time for relaxing as well - a must when you're on honeymoon!
Overall I really think if you're a Disney fan and thinking about visiting during your honeymoon, it's so worth it - part of me wanted a beach holiday or a citybreak before it was booked, but in hindsight Disney was the perfect choice for us - we can go to the beach any time really! We also visited Universal Studios for a couple of days, just so I could experience Diagon Alley...but that's a story for another time!
What are your thoughts on Walt Disney World, whether you're visiting as a newlywed or not? Is it something you would do?