04 October 2018

In Search of New Horizons

As shocking as this may sound, I don’t get much rest on vacations, particularly those of the Disney variety. By now it is sure to come as no surprise that everywhere I go I take my camera with me. In fact, at any given time on vacation I can be seen switching between up to four lenses and jotting down notes and story ideas into a small notebook. It’s wonderful to be able to share history, meals, and minute details with all of the Gazette’s readers, but it can also take its toll. This is why I find my time at Disney’s resort on Hilton Head Island and on Disney’s cruise liners to be such a breath of fresh air for me, because these two locations do allow me to turn off, tune out, and just relax and recharge.

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and its associated Beach House are the best of both worlds I’ve inhabited in my lifetime. As a Florida native, the beach and the sea, and specifically either the Atlantic Ocean of Gulf of Mexico, hold a special place in my heart. Likewise, I discovered the pine forests of the Carolinas early in my life and getting back to that spot in nature was one of the driving forces that brought me to western North Carolina. At Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, I can have the best of both worlds: a room with a view of pines and seagrasses, not quite the mountains but similar aesthetics, and a chance to splash along a shoreline, watch a sunrise, and search for seashells.

There are no theme parks here, only two counter service restaurants that only serve breakfast and lunch, and no attractions with wait times. What the resort does have is nature walks, bicycle rentals, a canine mascot, campfires, fishing, and hammocks amongst the trees. It has leisure games like cornhole, shuffleboard, horseshoes, and a non-Disney (but still wonderfully fun) miniature golf course. There are fine dining restaurants away from the resort that overlook the saltmarsh estuaries, the ocean, or the island’s interior.

The main thing I take away from my time at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is, and I know that I visit during the quieter offseason, that I don’t have to get up and go do anything unless I want to. I can ride my bike down to the shopping areas, the beach, or the lighthouse, but I can also just sit in a hammock beneath the pine branches to read and take a nap, and I can be completely content with any of these options without feeling like I’ve neglected doing some attraction or show.

Speaking of doing nothing and taking naps in the natural world, that’s also one of my favorite activities on a Disney cruise, but there is so much more to a cruise in a very different way. Onboard the cruise there is plenty to discover, and you generally have the time to do so because, save when you are in port somewhere, you have nowhere else to go. I thought the ability to not see land would cause me stress, but as it turns out, when no one can get ahold of you and you have nothing but the sights and sounds of the sea to keep you company, you can truly relax.

For those who wish to be entertained from sunrise to the next sunrise, Disney has you covered with a wide array of activities, from alcohol samplings to towel folding classes, interactive mystery games, first-run movies, bingo, a water rollercoaster, Broadway style theater productions, and character meet and greets. Some of these activities require reservations, but many of them are available to everyone in a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way. You can keep busy and only visit your stateroom when you are ready to pass out from overstimulation at the end of a long day and night.

For me, however, it is the ability to pick a couple of activities I’m wholeheartedly interested in and then let the rest go. On a cruise, apparently, I channel my inner-Elsa. While there are no hammocks onboard the cruise ships, there are large plush loungers, some in the sun, and some in the shade, perfect for reading and napping. A cup of tea, while lounging on deck listening to the sea crash against the ship and the occasional horn bellowing from the ship, is the perfect way to start a morning at whatever hour you see fit.

Which of the three dining halls you dine in each night is pre-determined for you, but none of these restaurants are slouches and it saves you from your own sense of indecision. Plus, there are stunning lounges, room service at all hours, and plenty of buffet and quick service dining options to satisfy any palate. The fine dining options, however, are experiences that will truly stick with you for a long, long time. Palo, along with Remy aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, have prepared some of the single best type of dishes I’ve ever had (I’m looking at you Palo’s lasagna), as well as some of the most exquisite complete meals I’ve ever been party to.

The ports allow you to choose which locales you want to go ashore at, or whether your time is best spent staying on the ship. Castaway Cay, with its crystal blue waters, water activities, bicycle rentals, and barbecues, is an extension of the ship itself and only heightens your ability to keep active or keep lounging away. It is the one port I will always visit when the ship docks there.

Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the parks around the globe have a ton to offer in terms of attractions, shows, dining, and atmosphere. There is a lot of ground to cover and, no matter how long your vacation is, there never seems to be enough time to take it all in. For someone like me, that is a challenge I adore, but it can definitely make me need a vacation from my vacation. Luckily for me, and those of you out there like me, that the Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s Hilton Head Island have found the cure to my vacation overload. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go and find a hammock somewhere…

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