Monday April 16th Part IV - Illuminations Cruise I think we were pretty much done with our Epcot tour at that point. It was getting close to 7pm and now it was time to head over to the Yacht Club Marina for the birthday surprise for DW. Her b-day would be another week later, but I thought it would be a lot of fun to do the Illuminations Cruise to celebrate it. I booked the cruise about 5 months earlier sort of surprised there was availability but was happy to take it! About 3 weeks earlier, I called the private dining line for Yacht Club to order a birthday cake. I was not confident enough in my cake knowledge to custom design and order a cake so instead I went with one of their standard cakes. On the phone, I heard about 5 different options whiz by my ear, but once I heard the word chocolate, thats what I ordered! When booking the cruise, they also offered the celebration decorations for the birthday for an additional charge (I cant remember exactly how much) but I decided to decline it since I was thinking that the cake part could be a second surprise for DW after the cruise was on its way. I wanted to keep it a surprise until it was time to head over to YC. The problem was, that several times earlier in the day, the question was asked by DW if we really had to stay until park closing or if we could turn in a little early after doing a short tour of World Showcase. So, at that point, I had to tell her what I was up to. She was very surprised and loved the idea so it all went well. Anyway, I had to move our car before we got on the cruise. Because we had to get to Epcot for the early Akershus ADR and since monorails were not running that early in the morning, we drove and parked our minivan in the front row of the Epcot parking lot. Since our cruise ends at Yacht Club, it would require some extra work to try to get to our car from there. So, I gave instructions for the rest of the gang to find their way to International Gateway and take one of the boat shuttles to YC. I walked back to the main entrance of Epcot, took these topiary pics on my way out. Then drove the minivan over to YC. To avoid any parking controversy , AND to save us time getting back to our room after the cruise, I used the valet parking. Met up with the family, and we sat and waited until it was 8pm while feeding snacks and hotdog to the kids. Captain Joe was our skipper for the evening and he took us to the boat. To MY surprise, they went ahead and decorated the boat anyway with balloons and a Happy Birthday Banner on the back of the boat. There were sodas and water available in the cooler. Bags of chips and popcorns were also there. And the cake was delivered and sitting at the center. We took off and I have to say, I enjoyed the boat ride as much as the fireworks. We circled around the entire waterway starting from YC, over to Swan/Dolphin, to DHS, then turned around, passed the Boardwalk, and into Epcot. DHS from our boat During that boat tour, Joe told us a lot of interesting and fun stories. I thought he did an excellent job. The ride was very relaxing. Several visitors and CMs along the waterway wished DW a happy birthday. I loved the night time view of the Hollywood Tower Hotel we got from the waterway although my camera miserably failed to capture the moment. Can you even see it? Remember what I said before about my camera? Low lighting from a moving object not good. Joe told us a cute story about the artist Wyland as we passed one of the restaurants where he contributed to the décor. For you Poly fans, Wyland also has a gallery in the GCH. Joe said that few years ago, Wyland had offered to draw a mural for free on a elementary school building where his wife used to work (cant remember where). Initially, the principal declined but Joes wife clued him in on who the artist was and that they should take advantage of the offer. So, they agreed. One day while Wyland was working on the mural, a couple of 8-9 year old kids approached him and asked if they could help. He said yes! So the finished mural had a very polished appearing mural featuring the a couple of dolphins and other sea creatures drawn in by those two kids and everyone thought it looked perfect for the elementary school. By the time we docked underneath the bridge between UK and France, all the other boats were already there. We roped our boat against another one. The cake was revealed. We all sang Happy Birthday. Everyone got a slice. You know, with all the excitement surrounding the cruise and the fireworks, I honestly cant remember how the cake tasted. Im pretty sure it was good. I was also a little worried about the wind direction. All afternoon, I was paying attention to the wind direction and noted that it appeared to be blowing towards the general direction of UK/France pavilions. I had read that when the wind blows in that direction, it can make the illuminations viewing from the cruises a-not-so-magical experience. So when we docked, the winds were blowing slightly more towards UK and not our bridge. The show started and it was great. Even with the smoke heading in our general direction, since the winds were blowing pretty hard, the smoke cleared right away. Here are my attempts of capturing the moment as you can see, did not have a tripod to steady the shots but some came out okay. We had very nice views and enjoyed it a lot! We also had a very nice view of a small fire on the small island that got started when one of the remnants of a flare landed and lit the grass on fire. We first noticed it when we started smelling something really burning. If you enjoy Illuminations, I would definitely recommend the cruise. Its always nice to have a carved out private space to watch the show. Both kids stayed awake through the end of Illuminations, then fell asleep on the ride back to YC. We thanked and tipped Joe, got our minivan from the valet, and went back to the room. It was about 10:20pm before the kids were in bed. Next Up: Tonga Toast and Magic Kingdom!