The tropical paradise known as Castaway Cay is so amazing, it alone makes a ride aboard the Disney Dream worthwhile. There is more to see and do on the island than you can hope to accomplish in one day. Of course, you can also do nothing! Just relax on the beautiful sand beaches and let your cares drift away. Today, I am going introduce you to what all is offered on Castaway Cay and breakdown the three different beaches. By the end of our podcast you should have a good idea of what you want to do on your next trip to Castaway Cay and where to find it. Let’s start with getting off the boat.
One of the great things about being a private island is that Disney has made Castaway Cay very accessible to their guests. Disney spent considerable time and money dredging the ocean to create a port for their ships. The pier they created allows one ship to pull right up to the island and let guests off without the need to tender. If you are unfamiliar with tendering, this is just an extra step at some ports of call where guests are loaded aboard smaller boats to transport them from the cruise ship to the main land. At Castaway Cay you literally walk down a ramp and onto the island!
Once on the island you will pass by the Arrival Plaza, Post Office, and Marge’s Barges & Sea Characters & Dock. Many of the excursions will depart from Marge’s, so make note of this if you have excursions planned. After you walk past this area you will come to the first tram stop, the Kargo Handling Tram Stop. You can choose to walk, but the trams are very convenient and will save you some time on your feet. Before I forget, let me also mention there are free strollers and wheelchairs on Castaway Cay. These are no ordinary strollers or wheelchairs though, they are equipped with some monster truck size tires that make moving through the sand much easier. O.k., back to the tram. The second stop you will come to is Scuttle’s Cove Tram Stop. You can depart here and walk down to the first of the two family beaches.
To understand the layout of Castaway Cay, think about each area of the island as an ascending age group bracket as you move away from the ship. That means your first stop, Scuttle’s Cove, is going to be geared towards your youngest sailors. You can drop off children ages 3-12 at the supervised Scuttle’s Cove. Crew members from the ship run this activity center where kids can explore the 1,200 square foot wet deck area. There are enough water geysers and pop jets here to entertain the young crew for hours. In addition, the crew hosts organized activities and there is even a whale-bone excavation site known as Monstro’s Point.
Not far from Scuttle’s Cove you will find Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure, Boat Beach, and Gil’s Fins and Boats. Boat Beach is the meeting location for the Banana Boat Ride and also offers other watercraft rentals. Notice I said “rentals”, meaning this is not included as part of your Disney cruise package. You can charge these rentals to your Key to the World card and pay for them at the end of your vacation. Gil’s Fins and Boats offers snorkel, tube & float rentals, and as the name suggests, Castaway Ray’s is where you can experience the stingray adventure.
If this all sounds like too much activity, don’t worry, the first family beach is in sight from this hub of activity. The lounge chairs and beach umbrellas are free, but are on a first come, first serve basis. This is a good size beach with a wonderful view of the Disney Dream as your backdrop. The large swimming lagoon provides lots of room for swimmers to explore. Cookie’s BBQ and the Conched Out Bar are also located on this beach. With good food, drink, and a nice beach, a family could spend their entire day here without ever going further into the island.
Of course, we are going further in, which means it is onto family beach number two and the extremely popular Pelican Plunge! If you are taking the tram, this will be the Pelican Point stop. If you look at a map of Castaway Cay, this tram stop is about halfway between the Disney Dream and Serenity Bay, which we will discuss in a moment. Once again, there is a lot going in on this area. Flippers and Floats is another spot to pick up your snorkel, tube, and float rentals. By the way, these rentals can be returned at any of the rental facilities if you don’t finish your day in the same spot you started. You will also find Spring-A-Leak here. This is a 2,400 square foot play area with dripping pipes and broken plumbing, telling the story of an imaginary tropical tempest which wiped out the original facility. As you may have guessed, this area is designed for kids and is a good alternative for those not ready to swim in the lagoon. If you have teenage travelers in your party, there is a spot called the Hideout. This is a teens only activity area located right on the beach. If the whole family wants to get involved you can hop over to Sports Beach where you can enjoy digging in with a beach volleyball match. Or, you can visit In-Da-Shade Games where you can play basketball, billiards, ping-pong and more. See, I told you there was a lot going on here! Speaking of which, let’s get back to Pelican Plunge.
Pelican Plunge is a 2,400 square foot play area located in the ocean! This large fun zone is within swimming distance from the shore and has two large twisting waterslides. Each slide dumps its riders directly into the ocean. From what I’ve observed, the kids taking the plunge can’t swim back to the platform fast enough to go again. I must admit I was a little envious watching all the fun being had on Pelican Plunge. There is a great observation pier to watch this fun activity if want to keep a close eye on things and don’t mind leaving the comfort of your beach recliner.
Now, if reclining is at the top of your list, then you need to know about the private cabanas. The second family beach is connected to a private beach which is home to Beach Cabanas 1-17. These 325 square foot cabanas provide a rare sense of seclusion and privacy amidst the thousands of fellow cruisers on Castaway Cay. There are some nice perks, including snorkeling and float equipment, fresh fruit, snacks, canned sodas, cushioned furniture, hammocks, beach toys for kids, upgraded towels, reading material, and a Cabana Host. If you run out of anything or need something you can push a button for service and your Cabana Host comes running. The words “luxury” and “pampering” come to mind. Oh, and pricey. Yes, you do pay for all this convenience. You can check disneycruise.com for the latest pricing, but at the time of our podcast the price is over $500 for 6 guests. The other issue is availability. With only 17 family Beach Cabanas and 2,000-4,000 guests on board the Disney Dream, you can why these are so hard to reserve. To make matters more difficult, concierge guests and Castaway Club Members will have access to these bookings before other sailors. If you are interested in a Beach Cabana this needs to be the first thing you do after booking your cruise. If you book before the window of reserving excursions start, check to see what day you can begin trying. If you don’t succeed at first, there is still a sliver of hope. As with everything available to reserve, these can open up if someone cancels so it won’t hurt to check daily for availability if you have your heart set on a Beach Cabana.
Before we move over to Serenity Bay, the adults only beach, I want to mention there are other places to eat by Pelican Point. Cookie’s Too BBQ is the sister restaurant to Cookie’s BBQ over at the first family beach. The menu here is the same so don’t worry about missing out on something from the other location. There is also the Heads Up Bar and Sand Bar in this area if you need a frozen speciality drink or adult beverage.
Let’s take the tram one more time all the way over to Serenity Bay. If you are listening and you have kids, you might want to fast forward the podcast at this point so you don’t get too jealous. If you are on an adult’s only vacation, then welcome to paradise! You must be 18 years or older to enjoy Serenity Bay. This one rule dramatically changes the vibe at Serenity Bay when compared to the family beaches. The pace here is much slower and the beach much more peaceful. There are no children screaming with excitement as they slide down Pelican Plunge. It is, what’s the word? Oh, yes, Serene. With fewer crowds, there are plenty of places to lounge in the shade while sipping on a drink from the nearby Castaway Air Bar. You may find it so relaxing, you drift off for a nice little nap without even trying.
If you are still awake, keep your eyes open as you just might see Captain Jack Sparrow pay you a visit. Captain Jack can usually be found on Serenity Bay and loves to pose for pictures with his more mature audience. I secured some classic shots of my mom and dad with Captain Jack that I will treasure for years to come.
If you still crave more relaxation, you can try and snag one of the Beach Cabanas on Serenity Bay. There are only 4, so again it takes a minor miracle to obtain one of these luxurious spots. These are a little less expensive, currently about $400 for four adults. If that doesn’t work out, you can still make reservations for the Massage Cabanas. What could be more relaxing than a massage with an ocean view?
Finally, Serenity Bay has its own outdoor dining area with another BBQ lunch provided at your leisure. Like either Cookie’s location, you can expect hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken on this buffet. However, there are a couple of items like ribeye steak and cajun mahi mahi, which can only be found at Serenity Bay. There is also a good selection of fresh fruit, plus cookies and ice cream for dessert. Just like on board the Disney Dream, all of these eateries have unlimited refills of fountain sodas. While I haven’t talked a lot about the food yet, I must pause here to say this was my favorite meal of the trip. There is something about swimming and being in the Sun that works up a good appetite. I love eating outdoors and piling up a plate full of BBQ. Even though there are some much more refined food options for dinner aboard the Disney Dream, I would choose an outdoor BBQ lunch at Serenity Bay every time. That tells you a little about my taste I guess.
So, whether your crew is comprised of tiny toddlers, adventurous adolescents, cute couples, or relaxing retirees, there is a beach just for you on Castaway Cay. You can set your dial for maximum relaxation or turn it all the way up for all out adventure. Still, there is more to Castaway Cay than just the beaches. If adventure is calling your name, then stick with me and let’s cover some of the excursions you can choose from.
As you will hear in a second, there is no way we can cover all of these excursions in our time today. But here is the current list in alphabetical order: Abaco Flats Fly Fishing, Abaco Backcountry Fishing Adventure, Abaco Rigid Hull Snorkeling Adventure, Bicycle Rentals, Boat Rentals, Castaway Cay Bottom Fishing, Castaway Cay Fishing by Troll Boat, Castaway Cay Getaway Package, Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure, Extreme Getaway Package, Float & Tube Rentals, Glass Bottom Boat Scenic Voyage, Parasailing, Rigid Hull Snorkeling Excursion, Snorkel Lagoon Equipment Rental, The Wild Side Teen Adventure, Walking & Kayak Nature Adventure, Watercraft Ski Adventure-Double Rider, and Watercraft Ski Adventure-Single Rider. If any on these sound like something you would enjoy, come over to wdwrideguide.com and follow the link in this episode. You can get full details and pricing here.
One word of caution here. On our recent cruise we made reservations for the Parasailing excursion, and even managed to convince my parents to join in. Rachel and I were looking forward to this adventure as much as anything we had planned on our cruise. We have never been parasailing before, and we were really excited. When Castaway Cay day arrived, the sun was shining and the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. What we didn’t know was there was a good amount of wind that day. Walking off the boat it didn’t seem that windy, but nevertheless it was windy enough that our parasailing was cancelled. In fact, all shore excursions for that day were cancelled. With the exception of snorkeling and float equipment, that long list of things I just went over was null and void that day. Now, being our first time on Castaway Cay it wasn’t that big of a deal. We had plenty to see and do on the island without taking an excursion. In hindsight, we probably had a more relaxing day without the excursion. However, if it were our second or third trip I would have been a little more disappointed. We weren’t charged for the parasailing adventure since it was cancelled by Disney. Just keep this in mind when planning your day on Castaway Cay. You may want to wait till the day of to surprise the little ones in your group with any excursions, lest their hopes get raised and dashed.
The one thing I did get to do was the Castaway Cay 5K Challenge! I had been looking forward to this part of the trip for months as it was my first Disney running experience. Now, if you aren’t a runner, then the idea of starting your relaxing beach day with a hot 3.1 mile run probably isn’t that enticing. If so, you aren’t alone. There are usually only about 50-100 runners that participate. However, I would argue the best way to enjoy relaxing is with a little hard work first. The ocean water feels that much cooler and the picnic lunch tastes that much better after a nice morning run.
If you want to run the Castaway Cay 5k here is what you need to know. This a free fun run. There is no extra charge, all you have to do is register on board the Disney Dream. Go by the Guest Services desk by 5:00 pm the night before to join. You will be given instructions to meet by 8:15 am in a designated area of the ship. Be sure and bring your Key to the World card and photo ID with you. Family members not running can join you, but will need their card and ID as well to get off the ship. One perk of running is that you will be the first group off the ship, usually around 8:30 am. The group of racers and supporters is lead on foot across the island to the Buy the Seashore Merchandise shop. Before the race begins, you will have the opportunity to use the nearby restroom and do some stretching. This is not a timed race, so there are no chips or anything to keep up with. Once everyone is accounted for and ready, the race begins.
Now, I’m used to running in the rather warm and hilly terrain of San Antonio, TX. I figured a flat run in the Bahamas would not be too difficult. Well, I was wrong. The 5k course utilizes the old plane runway going out and coming in. There is no shade during this stretch and the humidity of the Bahamas makes a mid 70’s morning feel very warm, very quickly. About halfway down the runway is a water station that you will pass by a total of 4 times, so there is ample opportunity to stay hydrated. On the bright side, the course allows you to see more of the island than you will probably see without the run. It is a very pretty, albeit hot, way to start your day. You finish back where you started and after you cool down you can walk over to the shop and select one of several designs of t-shirts to commemorative the event. It is important to note that these won’t be available back on the Disney Dream. If you want Castaway Cay merchandise you need to buy it on the island. The other highlight of finishing the 5k is receiving your free medal! The medal is rubber, but highly colorful and a fun way to remember your race. I may or may not be wearing my 5k t-shirt and medal right now! O.k. yes, I’m definitely wearing both.
After the race, you can opt to shower off and change at any of the island’s restrooms, or go back to the ship before continuing your day at Castaway Cay. With a 5k in the books, you can feel slightly better about all the BBQ you will eat that afternoon!
Whether you do a 5k or take a 5 hour nap on the beach, you can be guaranteed your day on Castaway Cay will fly by much more quickly than you would like. My time on the island was my absolute favorite part of our Disney Dream Cruise. If I were setting the itinerary, I would go straight from Port Canaveral to Castaway Cay and keep the boat docked for back to back nights. Instead of Fireworks At Sea, I would vote for Fireworks at Castaway Cay! How cool would it be to hang out on the beach all day and then watch the fireworks from shore that night?! I would also start developing the rest of the island. With a 1,000 acres to play with, Disney could build a good size water park and theme park right there. We could be talking about a 5 night cruise where all you did is sail to Castaway Cay! O.k., so I might be getting a little ahead of myself. Still, as it sits today, Castaway Cay is so much fun you need to start planning your ride aboard the Disney Dream. The one day on this private island paradise makes the ride worth taking!