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Renting Pontoon Boats
by Jack Spence
When I used to vacation at Walt Disney World (before I moved to Orlando), I would become worn out trying to cram as many activities as possible into the precious few hours and days I had to spend here. After about my third trip, I realized that my marathon touring left me no time to relax and I would return home exhausted. I decided that on future trips I needed to slow down.
One of the first things I did to accomplish this was to leave whatever park I was visiting after lunch and head back to my hotel. I always stayed at a Disney resort so this didn't involve too much time or effort. Once back at my hotel, I would take a quick nap and then head to the pool for a refreshing dip. By three o'clock I was recharged and ready to return to the parks with a smile on my face.
One day, instead of taking my afternoon nap and swim, I decided to rent a pontoon boat. I headed down to the marina at the Contemporary Resort and after a couple of minutes of instructions of how to operate the boat, I was on my way.
As I left the marina, I observed the "No Wake Zone" until I passed the boundary marker, then I pushed the throttle forward and opened her up to an amazing snail's pace. Okay, maybe it was a little faster than a snail's pace, but bottom line, you're not going to get anywhere in a pontoon boat quickly. Hey, if you want speed, rent a Sea Raycer. Pontoon boats are meant for relaxation.
I steered my boat toward the former Discovery Island and beyond to Fort Wilderness. Then I turned around and aimed back for the water bridge that separates Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. Once past the Contemporary, I circled by the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts and then onto the Magic Kingdom. When I looked at my watch I was amazed at how quickly the time had passed and I decided I should head back to the marina. The entire trip took almost an hour.
The weather was hot, but the breeze off of the water was cool and helped minimize the humidity. I found this activity to be far removed from any other Disney pastime. This was money well spent. When I returned to the dock I was relaxed and refreshed - ready to head back to the theme parks fully recharged. I resolved that this would become a new tradition on vacations to Disney World.
On my next trip, I started incorporating lunch with my pontoon boat excursions. I would stop by the counter service restaurant of my resort and pick up something to eat before heading out to the marina. Piloting a pontoon boat is simple enough that it's easy to eat and steer at the same time. Or, you can simply take turns piloting the boat with others in your party.
You can rent pontoon boats and pick up food at the following locations:
Polynesian Captain Cook's Snack Company
Grand Floridian Gasparilla Grill & Games
Wilderness Lodge Roaring Fork Snacks
Fort Wilderness Trail's End Restaurant (pizza only)
Earl of Sandwich
Wolfgang Puck Café
Old Key West Good's Food To Go
Port Orleans Riverside Riverside Mill
Yacht & Beach Club Beach Club Marketplace
When ordering food, ask that it be packaged "To Go" for easy carrying. You might also want to consider ordering cold food rather than hot as it will take you several minutes to sign-out the boat. Also, buy sodas in cans or bottles. Paper cups with lids will be difficult to carry any distance. Note, no alcoholic beverages are allowed on the boat!
Now I've never done it myself, but I have heard of people ordering a more elaborate meal by calling room service at their resort. I'm sure this picnic basket can be as elaborate as your pocket book can afford.
Disney also offers "Specialty Cruises" for eight to ten guests. This includes a meal and a driver. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for more details.
By law, all passengers on a pontoon boat are required to have a life vest. These are supplied by Disney and a cast member will verify that each of you have one before you're allowed to set sail. Life vests are arranged by size and can be found in several large bins at each marina. It's important to take the time to try one on to make sure it fits correctly.
Children twelve and under are required to wear them at all times while on the boat. All others have the option of wearing them or not. I know how to swim and on hot and humid days, the last thing I want to do is don a rubber life vest that will add to my discomfort, so I choose to go without. But this is a personal choice that each family must make on their own.
A trip around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon will take a full hour as will a trip up and back on the Sassagoula River. Traveling from the Yacht Club to the Disney/MGM Studios and back will take 45-50 minutes.
Whaler Montauk - Up to 6 passengers - $33.80 for 30 minutes
21' Sun Tracker Pontoon Boat - Up to 10 passengers - $39.43 for 30 minutes
Specialty Cruise - 8-10 passengers - Starting at $211.26