Disney relaunched Ferrytale Fireworks (get it…because it’s on a ferry…never mind…): A Sparkling Dessert Cruise this past Sunday, April 8th. Since debuting during the fall of 2015, the Cruise has seen a number of changes leading up to the current offering. I’ll briefly compare what we see now to what we would have experienced over the last couple of years. The basic idea is the same.
Disney’s official page, which you can also use to book the cruise, outlines the offering pretty well, though we will come back to the advertised view seen in the header. There are a couple of logistical considerations to work out. First, Ferrytale Fireworks is currently scheduled on most Sundays and Fridays through the end of June. The Sparkling Dessert Cruise officially begins 70 to 75 minutes before the start of the Happily Ever After Fireworks. So with the current 8:55pm or 9pm fireworks time, you’ll see a 7:45pm start time. When the fireworks move to 9:15pm on Sunday May 20th, you’ll see an 8pm start time.
Second, the Cruise casts off from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), which is probably going to be a bit inconvenient. If you find yourself at Magic Kingdom, you’re going to need to leave and transfer to the TTC via the monorail or ferryboat. From Epcot, you’ll want to take the monorail over. From Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, you have a couple of options. You could take the bus to the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian and then board the resort monorail from there. Or you could take the bus to the Polynesian and walk over. Obviously from a monorail resort, you’ll take the resort monorail and disembark at the TTC.
From a resort off of the monorail, you’ll probably want to take a bus to Magic Kingdom and then transfer via the express monorail or ferry. You could also take the bus to Epcot and transfer via monorail from there. For those driving themselves, the Cruise departure from the Transportation and Ticket Center is easier than having to transfer to Magic Kingdom. You’ll simply park as usual and then walk or take the tram over here. If you’re using Uber/Lyft, select the Transportation and Ticket Center as your destination. The pickup/drop-off area is a three or four minute walk from where you’ll check in for the Fireworks Cruise. Springing for the $10ish cost of the Uber/Lyft may be worthwhile to cut down on travel time if you’d otherwise be using Disney transportation and are coming from a location where you’ll need to transfer. From Animal Kingdom, you may be looking at a 20-minute wait for a bus and then a 15-minute drive to a monorail resort or Magic Kingdom/Epcot. Then you’ll need to go through security again, transfer to another form of transportation, and add that travel time, which could easily take another 20-30 minutes.
So if you do end up springing for the Ferrytale Cruise, you may want to plan at least part of your day around being at a location where you can conveniently transfer to the Magic Kingdom. Erin and I spent the afternoon at Magic Kingdom and enjoyed taking the resort monorail around for a loop and a half as the sun set in front of our arrival.
We’ll discuss cost more during the conclusion, but keep in mind that tickets are $99 for adults and $69 for children ages 3 to 9. See if you can find that much value as we move through the offerings.
The check-in location is to the left of the regular walk down to the ferryboat dock. While our official start time was 7:45pm, check-in began 20 minutes prior, at 7:25pm.
To maximize your time at the bar and to get settled, I’d recommend planning on arriving at the Transportation and Ticket Center 30 minutes before the scheduled start. That gives you an extra ten minutes to account for unexpected delays before the check-in process begins. This is the scene we encountered at that time – there’s about 15 other people waiting already.
Check-in is a breeze. You’ll give them the name on the reservation.
And receive this light-up lanyard, which includes your “Mickey Vision glasses” which will supposedly “transform your viewing experience in the most delightful way.” This seems like a bit of a stretch as it’s rather annoying to have to hold up a narrow, flimsy piece of cardboard with narrow eye holes for the duration of the fireworks.
And as we’ll see momentarily, the boat stations itself so far away from the fireworks that any effect is rendered largely useless.
After checking in, you’ll be held in this covered area until about ten minutes after the scheduled event start time, or 7:55pm with our 7:45pm official start. To the left, kids have an opportunity to decorate a pinwheel similar to the Kidcot stations over at Epcot.
A makeshift bar area is set up on the far side.
Four wines are available -Beringer White Zinfandel, Hogue Pinot Grigio, Hogue Chardonnay, and Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon. At $4-$9 per bottle, these are decidedly low-end selections, though the Hogue varietals are drinkable. That’s perhaps untrue of the Beringer Main & Vine, which somehow tasted even more sugary than their regular White Zin.
16-ounce aluminum cans of Heineken, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra are also available.
In addition to 12-ounce cans of Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Classic, and Sprite.
This is it as far as food options go while you’re situated on land – little cups of carrots and celery with either ranch or hummus and toothpicks with a cherry tomato, hunk of mozzarella, and an olive.
The bar closes up shop early – right around the official start time of the event – because they transport everything to the ferry. So if you arrive around 7:25pm and grab a beverage, get back in line by 7:40pm if you’re interested in a second. I saw a number of people that arrived right around the time Disney said they should turned away before they could grab anything, despite the fact that it’s relatively easy to hand someone a can of Diet Coke. There was only one overworked bartender to serve the 100+ guests both on and off the boat.
At 7:55pm, we were on our way to the General Joe Potter Ferryboat, which is docked to the left of the usual spot.
There’s a quick picture opportunity on the walk to the ferry. The same photographers board the boat and take photos throughout the event.
There isn’t necessarily a hurry to get on the boat, but there are only a couple of high-top tables set up on each floor of the ferry and seating is on the limited side given the fact that no chairs are added for the event. You can see some of the tables along with the regular bench seating up top. If you’re after a particular spot, be ready to move.
We ended up spending the majority of our time downstairs, where only about 15 of the 100-or-so guests set up shop. Capacity is supposed to be capped at around 150 people and while it “felt” like there was enough room for the number of guests present on our Cruise, adding any more would have definitely increased any feelings of too-many-people being crammed into a too-small space. Our event was not sold out and could have been booked on the same day up to the start time of the event.
There’s one bar set up on the lower deck.
In addition to the three beer choices and four wines we saw before, two specialty beverages are offered.
In both instances, it’s the non-alcoholic offerings with just a little bit of alcohol added on top.
On the left is the “Firecracker Fizz – Pineapple Juice, Sprite, Blue Curacao, and Grenadine” with a half ounce of rum added on top. On the right is “The Grand Finale with Passion, Orange, and Guava Juices mixed with Wild Strawberry Syrup and topped with Prosecco or Beer.” My Fizz has about an ounce of sparkling wine on top; I can’t imagine it would taste good with beer. But the good news is that both drinks are tasty, though neither packs much of a punch.
Hot Water is offered along with a selection of Twinings Tea bags, in addition to Regular and Decaffeinated Coffee. A couple of Da Vinci Gourmet Flavored Syrups are available, in addition to milk, cream, sugar, and sweetener.
These are the same juices that we saw before without the addition of the booze. Water is also an option.
One note on drinks – the General Joe Potter is equipped with two bathrooms on the lower level, but they’re not much better than a Porta Potty. They work in a pinch, but take the advice of the cast members and use the facilities on land if you can.
Here’s about half of the main spread. The fruit and cheese in the back left were nice additions – it’s nothing out of the ordinary, but the fruit was fresher than it had any right to be and the variety of cheese was a nice contrast to all of the sweet elements.
Bread is obviously not the main event, but there’s white, wheat, and pita to go along with the cheese.
Being a “Sparkling Dessert Party,” the desserts carry some a bright fireworks theme, here with the “Red, White, and Boom Cupcakes.” These were freshly baked and while straightforward, still satisfying with a nice crunchy sugar topping and a sweet swirl of frosting on top of the moist vanilla base.
The “Firework Cheesecake Tarts” were very sweet with a nice chewy crust and a “hidden mickey” sugar topping.
The “Roman Candle Assorted Eclairs” offered more sweet sugar, this time with a dough-y exterior and a sweet chocolate cream exterior. A tasty couple of bites.
Here’s the other half of the spread with the “Sparkling Night Sky Blue Velvet Whoopie Pies” towards the bottom. These were cupcake-esque with a shot of food coloring for good measure. I appreciated their bite-size quality and like the other cupcakes, vanilla was the prominent flavor. To the right are the “Sky Rocket Sugar Cookies,” which taste just like you would imagine – the confetti sprinkles do elevate things, of course.
The “No Sugar Added Mango Panna Cotta Pizazz” had a nice fruity quality to each bite. And no vanilla, which was nice.
Perhaps the best of this bunch of desserts, the “Cherry Bomb Pie Tarts” balanced sweet and tart flavors much better than the other desserts with a little bit of chocolate from the crust surrounding the cherry filling and a sprinkle of satisfying pie crust on top. Very good with a real cherry presence.
There is one more option found on the lower level – the “Brownie Barrage – Warm S’more Brownie Skillet with Caramel Sauce.”
This was really good. You’ve basically got a chocolaty brownie swimming in caramel sauce mixed in with marshmallows and graham crackers. It’s hard to go wrong.
There was no ice cream to speak of. Originally, Mickey Ice Cream Bars were offered, in addition to other frozen treats. When the Cruise debuted, desserts were also themed to the nearby resorts along with Magic Kingdom. For example, A Pineapple Upside Down Cake representing the Polynesian Village Resort and Cinderella’s Slipper made entirely out of sugar representing Cinderella Castle were served.
You also won’t come away with the plastic branded plate that was originally offered.
As it stands, there isn’t a ton of variety offered, particularly with the vanilla cupcakes, vanilla whoopie pies, and basic sugar cookes. Even if you were to absolutely gorge yourself with sweets, it seems unlikely that you could do more than ten dollars worth of damage compared to picking up a couple of $5 treats from Main Street Confectionery, where a number of the offerings are far more inspired than what’s available here. But you could say that about most other Disney dessert parties, too. Obviously, the emphasis is not on gourmet treats to carry the value of the event.
With the exception of the Brownie, the other desserts are available upstairs.
In addition to the same bread and cheese.
Let’s check out what else our Sparking Dessert Cruise has in store.
You’ll spend about 40 scenic minutes exploring Seven Seas Lagoon.
You’ll get closer to the Grand Floridian side than you normally would on the vessel, but the route isn’t unlike the one you’d take in a smaller watercraft if you were otherwise headed to the Grand or Polynesian.
Our view of the Electrical Water Pageant was only so-so with a large island blocking the majority of the procession.
But the Captain does recite some fun facts about the area, including a snippet about John Lennon signing the paperwork that officially dissolved The Beatles at the Polynesian Resort or that Magic Kingdom opened on October 1st, 1971. Unfortunately, the audio wasn’t great and we could barely hear anything that was being said. That will be a bigger issue come fireworks time.
A roving magician joins the ranks. He stopped by and performed two fun card tricks before moving on. A nice touch.
Nobody informed us, perhaps because we didn’t have any children in tow, but there’s an “ultraviolet scavenger hunt” that the kids can go on. Disney provides black light flashlights and the kids walk around the boat looking for hidden Mickeys. It might help occupy their time if they’re not otherwise enamored by the sights and sounds of the Lagoon.
The ferry isn’t decked out with a lot of decorations outside of some fireworks props and colorful lights underneath the tables.
Fortunately, bugs weren’t a major concern, though they were attracted to the light above the S’mores Brownie. Later in the evening, people would come up for a plate and end up trying to fan the bugs away as they waited to be served.
The view for the Happily Ever After Fireworks disappointed a little as we stopped far away from Magic Kingdom and the other boats that were stationed hundreds of feet closer. You can actually see a ferry, which is operating normally, stopped much closer to Magic Kingdom as it waits to dock towards the right of the frame.
That ferry, which costs nothing to ride, has a much better view of the fireworks as it floats back towards where we’re stationed.
This picture was taken at 35mm, which is a pretty accurate depiction of what your eyes will see from this distance.
Compare that to the picture Disney uses to advertise the event, which must have been taken at least 15 years ago.
Even cropped and zoomed in, you’ll never see any of the projections on Cinderella Castle, which are now a big part of the Happily Ever After experience and why Main Street is now an even-more-popular viewing location than before.
Your $100/person ferryboat fireworks cruise view pic.twitter.com/MZ1dQJBvbQ
— josh (@easywdw) April 9, 2018
Here’s a video of the finale to give you a better idea about the viewing angle and music volume.
But the view is straight-on, at least.
When the fireworks start, all of the desserts are removed and the bar closes, so be sure to pick up whatever you’re interested in eating or drinking a couple of minutes before showtime. We weren’t warned that was going to happen. The boat returns immediately to the dock at the conclusion of the fireworks. This picture from the dock with the people streaming off the boat was taken three minutes after the fireworks ended. So there’s no messing around.
According to Disney, the Cruise “includes a special take-away surprise,” which ended up being this “Crisped Rice Treat.” I think I would have preferred the commemorative pin that was originally offered. Cast were also handing out the balloons that were used to line the walkway to the ferry.
Overall, I didn’t think Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Party offered a lot of value considering it costs $99/adult and $69/child. First, it’s on the inconvenient side in most situations. You might remember that I do recommend the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing, which I review here. The current cost is $59 per adult and $35 per child, with the price going up to $69 per adult and $41 per child beginning May 28th. It doesn’t include the alcohol or the boat ride, but you don’t have to leave Magic Kingdom to participate and the viewing location is far superior, up close on Main Street with a good view of the projections and the fireworks. But getting to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) is going to be time-consuming in most situations, though you can mitigate that if you’re traveling from a nearby area. On the plus side, those driving will have a head start on exiting the parking lot at the conclusion of the Cruise. Resort guests also have the opportunity to board shared buses at the TTC that will return them to their resorts. On this particular evening, Magic Kingdom was open until 11pm and the fireworks ended at 9:13pm. If we had done the cheaper Tomorrowland Party, we could have immediately been on our way to another attraction. From the TTC, we’d have to take the monorail or ferry back over to Magic Kingdom and reenter the Park.
The Tomorrowland Terrace Party also guarantees a table with chairs and offers more desserts and (non-alcoholic) drinks.
The fact that the Cruise begins and ends outside Magic Kingdom also opens up the discussion to comparing the cost to other experiences available at the resorts.
Celebration at the Top, which I review here, costs the same amount of money and includes much better food, desserts, wine, cocktails, and beer.
You’re not on a boat, of course, but it’s a much more sophisticated experience.
You could also do a whole lot of damage for a hundred bucks a person at a nearby restaurant and then enjoy the fireworks from there. This picture is from the patio outside Narcoossee’s at Grand Floridian Resort. For $100, you could order the $52 Steak & Lobster entree, $11 Signature Candy Bar dessert, and add a $13 Manhattan and still spend less than the Fireworks Cruise. Though you are still not on a boat.
You could go to ‘Ohana for dinner and order three Lapu Lapus from Tambu Lounge after and still not spend $100.
An impromptu fireworks cruise from Fort Wilderness pic.twitter.com/CrmhVnW8iH
— josh (@easywdw) November 3, 2017
For that matter, I thought this boat ride from Fort Wilderness to the Contemporary provided a better view of the fireworks at no additional cost. This is the normal boat ride.
And you can always watch the fireworks from the Transportation and Ticket Center itself, which is only a hundred feet or so further away than where the boat docks.
And you could always just ride the regular ferry back and forth during the fireworks at no cost whatsoever.
So it seems difficult to recommend Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Party, as clever as the name might be. The desserts are nothing out of the ordinary and probably lower quality than what you’d find for $5 at something like The Confectionery. Bud Light and Beringer White Zinfandel are not good. You might be able to rationalize some amount of value given the fact that 16-ounce Heinekens are around $10 with tax and tip, but you’ll only have about 90 minutes at most to consume them. And if drinking is what you’re after, the California Grill event is a much better choice. The view of the fireworks is only slightly better than what you can experience at the Polynesian Village Resort beach at no cost. And you won’t be able to hear the music just the same. There’s also more room to spread out and if you have annoying people talking through the whole show, as we did on the boat, you have the opportunity to move away. The same can be said for a number of other locations around Seven Seas Lagoon.
If you are looking for a Dessert Party then I’d highly recommend taking a closer look at the Tomorrowland Terrace offering. It’s better in almost every way and you can spend the $30-$40 you save on a couple of drinks afterwards.