Have you ever wondered what makes Walt Disney World such a magical place? Some may say its the castle, or the parades, or the fireworks, or maybe the mouse himself. Well, I discovered the answer. I know where the true magic comes from!
2016 was a pretty rough year. I knew the holidays would not be fun or easy, so I spent months convincing my husband and parents to book a trip to Disney instead. What better way to celebrate than to be at the “Happiest Place on Earth” rather than sulking over other issues at home, right?
Christmas morning we got up, had breakfast with Minnie, Pluto, Chip & Dale, and then hopped on a boat headed for Epcot. Along the route we had a few stops to make at other resorts. We started out sitting inside the boat, but as people got off at the next stop, we moved to the outside portion of the boat. We get to the Boardwalk and I noticed another boat’s captain looking at Eleanor. I was worried that maybe Eleanor was doing something wrong but quickly forgot about it. A minute later, the same captain, Natalie, walked onto our boat and handed a gift to me for Eleanor. She asked us to accept the gift in honor of her stillborn daughter whose name is Eleanor. We couldn’t say no, so we accepted and opened the present to find a toy and a dress, which happens to fit Eleanor perfectly! This was by far the greatest gift we have ever received and it made our Christmas so much more special than it ever could have been at home.
While meeting Natalie was the highlight of our trip, there were many other magical moments that made this trip so incredibly special.
Christmas evening, we boarded the boat to go back to our hotel. Captain Jake led the entire boat in singing Christmas carols. Eleanor had a blast and it was a great way to finish Christmas day.
While trying to eat lunch at the Diamond Horseshoe at the Magic Kingdom. Eleanor was tired and cranky and demanding my attention. Karin, the manager, sat and played with Eleanor for 10 minutes so that I could eat my lunch! Eleanor really liked Karin and I appreciated the time to enjoy my meal.
One morning, we drove over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for an African inspired breakfast buffet at Boma. When our server came to greet us, she informed us that another table was paying for our meal. They had a credit to use before leaving that afternoon and they chose to give it to us. Out of all the other families in the dining room they chose us!
One New Year’s Eve, I finally ran into Natalie and I was able to give her a hug and thank her for the gift. I gave her my number and went about my day. When Natalie got off work, we met up and she gave Eleanor a stuffed toy Olaf and a few fast passes. The next day, we met Anna and Elsa with her Olaf and while wearing her new dress.
See, it turns out the true magic of Disney does not lie in the fireworks, or the parades, or Mickey Mouse. The magic is in the people – the cast members and the guests. I can guarantee you we will never forget this trip!
I returned to Disney with my family a few months after Christmas. We had the pleasure of meeting up with Natalie, her son Alfie, and Eleanor Josephine in spirit, to spend some time together at Epcot. We rode Nemo together, played on the playground and then headed to Canada at the World Showcase. I had a reservation for my family at Le Cellier, which has become one of our favorite restaurants in all of Disney. I only had reservations for 5 but I walked in hoping they would find a way to make room for Natalie and Alfie. Le Cellier is a very small restaurant so they are not usually able to accommodate these kinds of changes, but somehow they were able to on this day! They were able to provide us some more of that special Disney magic and we all had a wonderful lunch together.
When I plan a trip to Disney, I always have a list of favorite places restaurants to eat at, rides to get fastpasses for, and now a special friend to visit!
Since publishing this post, I have been contacted by a woman who’s family also received a gift from Natalie on Christmas. The little girl that Natalie chose is named Elenore. Same name but different spelling. Its so wild to think that there were 3 Eleanor’s brought together by fate for a very special Christmas blessing.