Our family doesn’t need a fairy godmother to make a cruise out of Port Canaveral or Tampa even more magical – we just opt for a pre-cruise stay in Orlando.
It’s easy: When we sail out of Port Canaveral (less than an hour away from Orlando) or Tampa (an hour and a half away from Orlando) on lines like Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, we book a night or two (if time and budget allow) in a resort or hotel in Orlando. That way we eliminate worry and stress if there are flight delays or cancellations on the day of sailing (some of our family members live in New England and need to fly in to meet the cruise) and we are already relaxed when we start our cruise from Port Canaveral.
Orlando, often called “Theme Park Central,” has all manner of attractions for families and travelers of all ages including Walt Disney World, Sea World Orlando, Universal Orlando, water parks and cultural venues.
Here are five lodging options for families or groups of friends to consider pre-cruise in Orlando:
(1) Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – Our last sailing out of Port Canaveral was a four-day cruise on the Disney Dream for our grandsons’ spring break. We stayed pre-cruise here and, as if by magic, now we had two vacations (but just one-time flight expenses for our family). The deluxe category resort offers 184 rustically-themed accommodations inspired in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest including studios, one-, two-, three-bedroom villas and waterfront cabins. The studios offer room for up to four guests, while the larger one- and two-bedroom villas and three-bedroom grand villas feature the comforts of home with full kitchens, expanded storage space for belongings and private patios or balconies with scenic views. The 26 waterfront Cascade Cabins feature two-bedrooms and two-baths, sleep up to eight and include a full kitchen, flat-panel televisions, a washer and dryer, a hidden pull-down bed featuring artwork of Chip and Dale, a built-in hot tub on the porch, and an indoor/outdoor fireplace. A free water taxi ride away is Magic Kingdom Park, and the resort offers bus access to other Disney parks and water parks.Resort amenities include a new pool and shared access to Wilderness Lodge facilities. Lodging here and in other Disney resorts offers Extra Magic Hours in Disney parks (extra time in the parks before they open to the general public and after they close to the general public).
(2) The All-Star Music Resort is a value category hotel at Walt Disney World that features two-bedroom/two-bath Family Suites. The 215 Family Suites sleep six and feature a master bedroom, kitchenette with microwave, coffeemaker and small refrigerator (to save time and money with quick breakfasts, snacks and other meals). When we did not want to bother with fixing meals – particularly dinners when we returned tired from the parks – we patronized the resort’s Intermission Food Court offering salads, soups, pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers and other popular fare as well as a big screen television showing cartoons to keep the kids entertained during meals. When we called it a day, we had two 27″ flat-screen televisions at our disposal. The resort is located within the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park resort area and features free bus transportation to Disney parks and attractions.
(3) The Embassy Suites Orlando Airport by Hilton is a moderate-price category hotel, practical for families or groups of friends as its accommodations are all suites with bedroom (king-size bed or two queen-size), living area with double sofa-bed, and kitchenette with mini-refrigerator and microwave. Amenities include outdoor swimming pool and spa, fitness room, restaurant, free breakfast buffet each morning and complimentary evening reception. Another plus is a free airport shuttle. A package is offered that includes airport shuttle to the hotel, shuttle to your cruise ship and shuttle back to Orlando airport after the cruise.
(4) The Walt Disney World Swan And Dolphin. This is a deluxe two-hotel resort: the Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton, from which you can walk to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or take a free launch to each of those parks, and there is free bus transportation to other Disney parks and attractions). It offers family rooms and a variety of suites. Amenities include Westin Heavenly Beds (in the Swan), Mandara Spa, five swimming pools, two health clubs, tennis courts, nearby golf, Extra Magic Hours in Disney Parks and18 restaurants and lounges. Among these is the Garden Grove Café, ideal for families as it features appearances by Disney characters such as the chipmunks Chip and Dale and Pluto at dinner nightly and for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. The restaurant has a park-like ambiance and a 25-foot tree adorned with lanterns and lights as its centerpiece. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Buffet-style dinners include unlimited prime rib, half roasted chicken and cedar plank salmon, vegetables, soups, salads and desserts –on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays there is a special seafood buffet featuring Maine lobster, snow crab legs and N.Y. strip roast among other dishes.
(5) The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a moderate-price category hotel onsite at Universal Orlando. The hotel features retro-style rooms and suites and its architecture and design are inspired by Florida beach resorts of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Family suites have 430 square feet of living space and sleep up to six people with two queen beds and pull-out sofa. A compartmentalized bathroom has a sliding privacy partition so three people can use it at once. The suites also have a kitchenette with mini-refrigerator, microwave and sink. Resort amenities include a food court, two swimming pools, a lazy river, and a bowling alley. Guests here and at other Universal Orlando hotels can enter Universal’s parks an hour before the public and skip the regular lines at popular attractions with the free Universal Express Unlimited.