by Sandi Lamborne
On Saturday January 14, 2012 we chartered The Grand 1 Yacht as a birthday surprise for our friends. We started out trying to reserve a pontoon boat but learned that we had too many people in our group, so we decided to go for the “once in a lifetime” chance to ride the Grand 1. The Yacht can take up to 18 guests. It can take 17 if you decide to have a butler aboard, but you only need a butler if you are ordering “hot” food for your guests.
The Grand 1 is a 52-foot SeaRay Sedan Bridge Cruiser. While speaking to Captain Hooper we were told it was a 2007 and it was recently refurbished. We took pictures of each stateroom and the salon, but they really don’t do it justice.
We elected to leave from The Grand Floridian but you can choose to leave from any resort marina. As a matter of fact, some of our guests were running late as they were using the Disney transportation buses from Old Key West. We told our captain they were just leaving the stop at Fort Wilderness and he said we could have picked them up there instead of having them take the bus the rest of the way to The Grand Floridian.
The price is $520 an hour (plus $33.80 tax, and we did tip the captain and first mate). We weren’t sure if that would be enough time, but we had little ones aboard that had a busy day planned Sunday and we didn’t want them out too late. The hour turned out to work perfectly.
The boat goes out a half-hour before Wishes. On the day we chartered the Grand 1, Wishes was at 8 p.m. so we were told to be at the marina by 7 p.m. Most of us got there by 7 or a bit earlier. It was a slightly chilly night so the captain graciously let us aboard and turned on the heat… suddenly we were glad we didn’t all fit on the pontoon. If you close the glass sliding doors, the salon was toasty warm and even the bridge had heat and clear plastic curtains that the captain had snapped shut.
We ordered a 10-inch cake for our birthday celebrations. That came to $70 by the time they added in the delivery to the yacht and taxes, but it was one of the best cakes I have ever had. We ordered the vanilla cake with the custard and strawberry filling and a whipped cream icing. The cake was supposed to be delivered and set up before we boarded, but there was some type of mix-up with the time in the kitchen so we waited on the bridge as they set up the cake in the salon. They placed a tablecloth on the table with the cake and sprinkled candy Mickeys around. It also came with a serving knife, real plates and silverware, candles, matches, and plenty of napkins.
By the time our last guests got aboard it was a bit past 7:30, but it was still plenty of time to cruise Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon while we sang Happy Birthday and ate cake, before we settled into position for the fireworks. (Some of the guys aboard were even watching some of the playoff game on the TV).
The captain unsnapped the bridge for people up top and those of us downstairs stepped out of the salon onto the aft deck to get ready for Wishes.
The Grand 1 has speakers throughout so the the music from Wishes can be heard from anywhere in the yacht. It was amazing and we could hear our guests oohing and aahing with each colorful burst.
After Wishes we headed back to The Grand Floridian. The little ones had a ball exploring the rest of the Yacht. I’m not even sure they knew we were moving, as it was such a smooth ride and there was so much to see on board. Even the smallest stateroom with bunk beds had TVs at each end of the beds. There was one slightly nervous moment when two of our little ones locked themselves in the master stateroom, but one of the moms was able to talk them through how to unlock the door and everyone had a big laugh and we didn’t have to leave anyone on board.
It was a magical experience and a great way to see Wishes. It was like Disney set them off just for us.