Castaway Cay – Disney’s Private Island

by Casey Morris on November 8, 2016

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If you are sailing on a Bahamian or Caribbean Disney Cruise Line Itinerary (Eastern or Western itineraries only) you will be stopping at Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.  There are no extra fees associated with debarking on the island, though there are quite a few Port Adventures you can book for your family to enjoy. You can technically spend a great beach day at Castaway and not spend an extra dime.

Your day at Disney’s Castaway Cay will start as early as 8:30 am.  Once the ship is docked guests are allowed off the ship.  We got up early this past year to watch the sunrise and were lucky enough to see the ship approach the island.  If you have never had the opportunity to watch the sun rise on ship, I recommend setting your alarm early on your Castaway Day to do it.  Sunrise time will be noted on your personal navigator.  The deck is almost deserted and it is a very relaxing way to get the day started.

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After the sunrise, head back to your stateroom and get ready for the day.  Head up to Cabana’s for Breakfast and grab an outside table where you can watch the ship finish docking.

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                                                             view of the island from Cabana’s

Once the ship is cleared for guests to debark, you can head out to the island off of deck 1….Welcome to Castyaway Cay!

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Grab some towels as you head down the dock, no need to bring one from your stateroom! There is even a towel return on the island, so you can place your dirty towels there before embarking the ship at the end of the day.

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Remember, even though this is Disney’s Private Island, you will need your Key to the World Card for every member of the family to re-board the ship at the end of the day.  The Bahamas also requires ID’s be shown at the check point.  Castaway Cay was actually the only port on our last cruise that asked to see my ID, I had it, so of course had to go searching in my bag for it.

I highly recommend reviewing the map for Castaway Cay before sailing, to become familiar with the different areas you would like to visit. See this link for an interactive map that is a little easier to read.

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On our first visit to Castaway Cay we walked to the beach instead of waiting for the shuttle. It can be a lengthy walk, but some prefer to walk first thing in the morning and take the shuttle back in the afternoon once you are tired.

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While the first family beach you get to is really nice, it can also be pretty crowded. We also missed a lot the island has to offer by settling for what we saw first.

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Not only is the main snorkeling lagoon connected to it, there is also a kids play area in the water.  My personal suggestion, take the shuttle to the Pelican Plunge stop (second stop).  The beach was much less crowded overall and very close to tons of activities. Now, this can change from time to time. If you are on one beach and notice the alternative beach is less crowded, you can certainly move. The norm is that the first beach tends to be more crowded.

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As you head for the beach from the tram stop, you will pass a few of the islands shops…

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as well as the new Summertime Freeze Frozen Drink Stand.  Here you can purchase smoothies for the kids in a signature Olaf cup or something for mom and dad to enjoy in the sun in a “bamboo” cup or coconut!

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Keep an eye out for a certain snow man who is enjoying summer at Castaway Cay too!  This is not a character meet and greet that will be on your navigator as it doesn’t happen every stop, but if it does, it will be in front on the Summertime Freeze Drink stand, in the morning, around 11 am. We happened to find him heading home as the sun was already starting to make him melt.

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If you do not get a chance to meet with Olaf himself, at least you can pose with him at the Summertime Freeze Frozen Drink Stand:

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Any purchases you do make on the island can be charged directly to your stateroom account by using your Key to the World Card (KTTW).  In fact, as you are leaving the ship, the first building on your right will be the post office, where you can purchase and mail yourself a postcard complete with a post stamp from Castaway Cay- the post office is the only place on the island that will accept (and requires) cash.

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Once past Olaf’s, you’re on the beach!  Grab a set of chairs and head out to explore.  We always leave all of our gear and belongings on a chair and have never had an issue with anyone bothering it.

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Take time for a quick swim in the lagoon,

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or head across the street behind you to Spring-a-Leak, a splash pad designed specifically for younger children!

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There is even shaded seats for the parents to relax, score!

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Here is a short video clip of kids enjoying Spring-a-Leak:

Castaway Cay does have a man-made rock barrier to keep the water calm inside the lagoon, so littles won’t have to worry about being knocked down by waves or fear the sand moving out from under their feet as the tide goes back out. You can see that in this photo:

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About 9:30 am, the best reason for choosing this area of the beach opens!  Pelican Plunge!

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Guests do have to be 38” tall to use the slides and the water is at least 6 ft deep- but when the tide comes in during the afternoon the water was over 11 ft deep.  There are quite a few life guards but if you are worried about littles swimming out to the platform, it was about a 12, maybe 15 ft distance from where I could not touch the bottom. My son, who isn’t the strongest swimmer, was actually very comfortable making the trip. We actually did the slides about 6 different times!  Right at the entrance to Pelican Plunge there are large bins of life vests ranging in size from Child Small to Adult Large, so everyone can enjoy themselves!

Once you are at the platform, there are a few “leaks” the kids can play in, but watch for the large spill bucket!  It is a lot of water and seems to never end… I don’t know how I didn’t realize it was about to spill but I got stuck under it! My son though it was hilarious.

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There are also high pressure water guns for the kids to play with while waiting for the slides.  The lines were never actually that long, but Disney thinks of everything.

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Go ahead and make the climb to the top, bring your camera with you, because it is the highest point on the island unless you book a parasailing adventure (which is an extra cost) and there are beautiful views of the island, lagoon and ship!

Once you are at the top you need to make a choice… go open slide, which is a bit slower and you can sit up so you can see the water coming, or go to the closed slide, which according to my son was super-fast!  In fact, he only went down the closed slide once!  If you are riding with a small child, just ask the life guard at the top to let you go a few seconds before your child, so you can be waiting for them at the bottom! See our video of going down the open slide!

After hitting up Pelican Plunge, you may want to take a relaxing bike ride!  You’re in the perfect place as the bike rentals and trails are right behind this area of the beach too.

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                                                                                Bike Rental Station

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There is a small fee for the bike rental, but if you are reading this thinking, “I haven’t been on a bike in years, no thank you”, you can always head to the snorkel lagoon.  Now, you can rent equipment on the island but, or choose to bring your own. We purchased ours at Target during an end of season clearance for about $30.00 each, and they have paid for themselves three times over!  Some ports charge a $30 rental fee so if you use the snorkel twice it is worth it.  Once they come home, we clean them, then store them right back in our suite case so they don’t end up in a pile in the garage and lost somewhere.

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THERE ARE TWO RENTAL STATIONS ON THE ISLAND, FLIPPER’S AND FLOATS PICTURED HERE, OR GIL’S FINS AND BOATS LOCATED NEXT TO THE CASTAWAY STING RAY ADVENTURE

The snorkel lagoon is huge! And really isn’t for those that aren’t great swimmers.  We got about half way out and had to turn around because my son panicked that it was too deep.  It was also a long and hard swim, when toting a somewhat nervous child.  I seriously recommend using fins, including the kids! I had mine on, but my son did not.  Hidden in the lagoon is a sunken Mickey (he is located almost at the rock barrier), and Minnie along with one of the ride vehicles from 20000 leagues under the sea!  We made it to Minnie, who is about half way out into the dead center of the lagoon!

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If you’re not interested in the bikes and aren’t comfortable snorkeling, take a walk back down the beach to Mount Rustmore, to visit with some characters!

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The Characters are usually out only in the early morning, and if you time your ship departure right, you will run into them on the gangway, at the post office and Mount Rustmore!  The lines for the characters on the island were at most 5 families long.

Don’t forget that lunch is provided on the island, there are three options: Cookies BBQ, Cookies Too BBQ and Serenity Bay BBQ (adult only at Serenity Bay).

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   LOCATIONS FEATURE COVERED PAVILIONS WITH PICNIC TABLES AS SEATING AREAS FOR LUNCH

Both Cookies BBQ and Cookies Too BBQ locations serve the same thing, chicken, ribs, Mahi, cheese burgers, hot dogs, beans and rice, potato salad and a massive cookie as a snack! Serenity Bay BBQ basically serves the same as well, although they have been known to serve “extras” from the ship, including lobster in the past. This is not always the case, but has been known to happen.

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There are soft drinks and juices right there, as well as a fruit station and  soft serve ice cream machines!

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Make sure to sit, relax and take in the views while at lunch, as Castaway is the last stop on many itineraries.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t swim for an hour after you eat lunch, but what do you do when you’re at the beach?  Head to Monstro Point about 1 pm for the family whale dig!

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The kids get to play in the sand, digging up whale bones, and get a surprise visit from the number one mouse.  This is actually a really nice thing for the kids to do!  Every kid is ecstatic to meet Mickey, but how many kids get to play in the sand with him?!  Mickey takes a good amount of time with the kids, digging up and examining bones then takes posed pictures too.  Our first visit to the island, they did have crab races scheduled and a dance party right in front of Cookies BBQ that weren’t on the navigator this year.  If by chance these activities are offered they are really fun and another way to enjoy the day without over spending.

Your all aboard time for Castaway Cay is usually 445 pm so you still have a few hours to enjoy the island.  Head back to Pelican Plunge or relax in the surf for a bit while older kids play at the family beach.  There is a sort of jungle gym set up out in the water for them to climb and crawl across!

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While you may want to take the shuttle back to the ship, I really enjoy setting out a bit early and walking to the ship.  There are great spots to take pictures of the island, your family and the famous Welcome Sign on your walk back.

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There is tons more to do on the island. Exactly what will depend on the age of any children traveling with you and will depend on if you are willing to pay for a port adventure.  There are glass bottom fishing boats that go out, parasailing, even snorkeling tours at the reef off the island.  We had reserved the Glass Bottom Boat Reef Tour this past vacation but unfortunately due to rough waters, it was cancelled.

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There is also a sting ray experience right on the island.  We did get to do this on our first visit and I thought it was great.  My son, not so much, only because for one time, he was actually paying attention to what the CM was talking about, and while the stingers are removed at Castaway, they do grow back, and that was that!

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                                                                           FEEDING THE STING RAYS

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AFTER LEARNING ABOUT THE STING RAYS AND GETTING TO FEED THEM, YOU ARE ABLE TO SNORKEL  WITH THEM IN DEEPER WATER

For the running enthusiast, every stop at Castaway Cay has a 5k race starting first thing in the morning.  The starting point of the race is actually right behind the Pelican Plunge Beach area so we did get to see them start out.  I had promised myself up and down that I would run the race this year.  The only catch with that was that I would have had to leave my son at the supervised kid’s club on the island, Scuttles Cove, as we were the only two traveling.  I just felt wrong, dropping him off and spending any time away from him at this absolutely perfect beach so The Castaway Cay 5k is still on my Disney Bucket list.

For adults traveling alone, make sure to visit Serenity Bay which is the adult only side of the island! Even if you have your kids with you, they can enjoy some time at the supervised kid’s club, Scuttles Cove, while you enjoy some peaceful time then go back to get them to play!  There is also a teen’s only beach if your young adults aren’t interested in spending time with mom and dad on the beach.

For those who book a concierge level stateroom or have sailed quite a few times with Disney Cruise Line, there are private cabanas on the island available to rent for the day.  While the rentals are open to anyone on the cruise, there are only 28 of them, and because Concierge and Platinum Castaway Club Members can book before everyone else, the cabanas are usually rented out early on.  They rent for anywhere between $450 and $600 a day. With so many other things to do on the island, I personally couldn’t justify the cost for a few hours.

For a full list of the available port adventures, see this link.

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There is sea life in the lagoon and while we never saw more than a few medium sized fish, I do recommend some type of foot wear or water shoes for younger children at all beaches in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  When traveling, it is best to be aware of what else lives in the habitat.  I would suggest doing a bit of research/learning with young children so they know what they should not touch.  Remember not all jellyfish look like those in Finding Nemo! There is quite a bit of Sea Grass at many Caribbean Beaches, sea urchins aren’t exactly visible when hiding in the grass!

Check out this video by Disney, summing up a day at Castaway Cay:

I can promise that you will love visiting Castaway Cay, and will want to visit again.  Make sure to visit the on board booking desk to book what is called a place holder cruise.  This offer is only good while you are on the ship.  Not only will you save 10% on your next cruise, but you will receive an on board credit FROM DISNEY CRUISE LINE for your next cruise!  The amount is based on the length of your sailing, and the deposit due is only $250.00 per stateroom!  You have 24 months to use this booking and don’t have to have an exact date at the time the place holder is booked.  Plus, if you let your Pirate and Pixie Dust Travel Planner know you have booked a place holder, and you used their name when booking, you would qualify for on board credit from us too!

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