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"Four and a half is too young for Disney!". Words that will forever haunt Bob Perry, retired Hudson High School teacher and Grandfather of Cinderella-For-A-Day winner, Marleah Perry.
The day started out very unassuming; Grandma Perry, also a retired teacher at John L Edwards, Mother Diane (Olson) Perry, and Marleah were off to Disney World during their family vacation; while Grandpa and Dad were taking Owen (Age 20 months) over to see their Grandmother (or Great Grandmother depending on who you talk to) in Orlando.
While Bob, Matt and Owen were having lunch with Grandma, Diane and Marleah were selected at the Dumbo Ride at Magic Kingdom for Cinderella-For-A-Day, the crown jewel in Walt Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" sweepstakes. The chances of winning…an estimated 1 in 350,000! Grandma wants to turn down the prize because we don't have any bags packed and Grandpa has convinced her that sweepstakes are a scam and there is ALWAYS a catch.
The girls were whisked away to sign some paperwork (in the absence of a lawyer), apparently allowing Disney to use your likeness as they see fit and something about a first-born child. Then they taught Marleah how to wave like royalty as they prepared to be Grand Marshalls in the Walt Disney World Parade.
After the parade, we took some photos and when Marleah said that she was hungry two tubs of popcorn and 6 waters appeared out of nowhere. And from that point on, we had a concierge who was available to take us on any rides (without waiting) and make sure we had everything we needed. That was the start of 24 hours of pampering.
Once the parade was over, they take you to your suite in Cinderella's Castle. Disney randomly chooses only one family each day to spend the night in its new Cinderella Suite, a purported $4 million dollar renovation on 3 rooms. We sat around for a few minutes to gather ourselves. We had no toiletries for the grownups, but they provided us with toiletries for the evening.
There is ornate wood everywhere and golden flecks in the floor. The desk in the corner is a 17th century Dutch antique with velvet-lined shelves with a high-speed Internet hookup. There are two queen beds with headboards and a canopy and a fireplace.
The television in the sitting room is a mirror that converts at the touch of a button, while the main TV changes from a framed electronic portrait of Cinderella. There is a television with channels from around the world, an array of DVDs (all Disney, of course) and free calls to anywhere on an antique phone.
There is a 4-foot square Jacuzzi jet tub with a waterfall faucet, a separate shower that could comfortably fit three and a square toilet. Over the tub are three sparkling mosaics made of hand-cut Italian glass.
After a brief respite, we wandered out to avoid the lines on the childrens rides with our concierge Daniel, who was equipped with a phone that could accomplish anything and a badge that says "This family will not be waiting in line!", something that I remember vividly from my own youth.
Much of the royal family's day — like the parade and dinner reservations — is preset, so there isn't a lot of time for rides.
We have dinner reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table, where the Fairy Godmother and other Disney characters perform songs. It is expensive and you need reservations up to 6 months in advance, but we aren't paying because it's included in our prize.
Before dinner we meet Cinderella. We ask our Concierge Daniel how much training is required to be Cinderella, to which he replies "What do you mean? This IS Cinderella".
The restaurant serves surprisingly good food including prime rib, grilled pork and salmon; and chicken nuggets and hot dogs for the kids. Godmother acknowledges our table as the lucky winners during dinner to rousing applause and jealous glares.
Our Disney escort is waiting sharply when we're done with dinner. Grandpa and Matt sneak off for some of the grownup rides…Amazingly, we are able to cover Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain in only 30 minutes.
Back at the suite, there is a tray of cookies, chocolate and fresh fruit (even a slipper made out of white chocolate) awaiting us.
We step outside to watch the fireworks and then the evening parade in Reserved Seating. One minute after we get back to the suite, Marleah is fast asleep. We are awakened at 7:30 by a wake-up call from Cinderella…I am now considering getting an alarm clock with the voice of Cinderella asking me to wake up. A short walk over to Breakfast with the Characters where we are again the head table.
We were given four passes for the day, but Cinderella ends up in a Pumpkin, as the Disney People make preparations for their next lucky family.
On the ride home, Grandpa says "I still think 4 1/2 is too young for Disney." Nice try Dad!