An aura of mystery surrounds Cinderella's castle, the chateau-style fantasy that serves as the hub of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Few have seen the inside beyond the public areas. Fewer still have stayed overnight in the third-floor suite originally built for the master Mouseketeer himself. But you can now add to that exclusive list the Morera family of Palm Harbor.
"It was just like an amazing experience because I felt like a queen," said Kaitlyn Morera.
The fairy tale began when mom Evie Morera took Kaitlyn and son Daniel to Orlando to celebrate Kaitlyn's 13th birthday in August. Work obligations kept dad, Publio, from joining them.
As they exited a ride at Epcot, the family was approached by a roving Disney "Dream Squad," who told them they'd just won a night in the castle as part of the Year of a Million Dreams promotion.
The family was told they were chosen because Daniel was sitting in the right seat on the right ride at the right time.
"I fainted, then I started running and screaming," said Daniel, 6.
The Moreras were ushered into a hidden concierge office with a giant grandfather clock that never strikes midnight, the fateful deadline imposed by Cinderella's fairy godmother in the Disney movie.
The family marveled over the foyer, with its elaborate mosaic floor in the shape of a pumpkin stagecoach and corner cabinet that housed Cinderella's glass slipper, tiara and wand.
They slept like royalty in the ornate, carved beds decorated with huge "C" monograms.
And they found it was easy for the three of them to all fit in the giant jacuzzi tub.
"I think it was better than I expected," Kaitlyn said. "I was, like, looking for a flaw because I just didn't expect it to be as wonderful as it was. And everything, down to the outlets on the wall, was perfect."
The family was also treated to a Disney FastPass to speed them through lines for rides and attractions, free meals and private, round-the-clock concierge service.
They got to marshal the afternoon parade and had VIP seating to watch fireworks later that night.
But the piece de resistance was having the castle all to themselves, the Moreras said.
Daniel figures Cinderella, who visited with the family, loaned the Moreras her guest suite.
"She lives upstairs," he said.
The family was surprised to find the room tidied and the beds turned down when they returned after dinner.
That was the work of Cinderella's mice, Jaq and Gus, the family was told.
"I can never top my daughter's birthday now," said Morera, laughing. "It's such a perfect thing for her to remember for the rest of her life and tell her kids about someday."
The day was exhausting, but perfect, Kaitlyn said.
"I could not wait to hit the pillow, but I wanted to stay up because I wanted to absorb every little detail. I wanted to remember it forever."
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4162.