Tips for Castaway Cay, Disney’s Private Island

CastawayCayHeaderCastaway Cay is Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas.  Most of the Disney Cruises sailing in the Bahamas or the Caribbean stop here, weather permitting.  Castaway Cay is our favorite destination, by far!  There is as much to do or as little to do as you want.  There are special character meeting spots, activities for all ages and great food.  Here are a few Castaway Cay tips you need to know to maximum your trip:

Book An Excursion

There are a variety of tours and excursions that you can sign up for on Castaway Cay.  They have something for all age: parasailing, fishing, Jet Ski rentals, massages, tube and snorkel rentals, bike rentals and feeding stingrays.  We try to do something new or special each trip.

Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure is my favorite excursion that my oldest son and I did.  It was a unique experience that fills up fast.  We got to feed, touch and snorkel in shallow water with stingrays.  It is an instructor-led educational program that lasts for 60 minutes.  The instructor goes over a quick safety speech before entering the water.  I know that my son started worrying about having to do the “Stingray Shuffle” and the Stingrays barbs “getting him”.  Do not worry – Disney has removed the barbs from the Stingrays that are a part of this encounter.  The safety speech is so you do not hurt the Stingrays.  This excursion is $48.38 for adults and is $38.70 for kids.

In the past, we have rented a sail boat but the wind was not really strong enough the time we rented it.  Another downside is the area where you have to stay is kind of small (and shallow at low tide).  We still had fun and if you have never sailed before, it is a good beginner experience.

If you are looking for a piece of paradise head over to Serenity Bay, which is dedicated to guests over 18 years of age.  There are lounge chairs and hammocks that line the beach.  You can soak up the sun or relax in the shade of an umbrella and enjoy the peace and quiet.  There is no need to walk or take the tram back over to the family beach to get lunch. Serenity Bay has an adults-only BBQ buffet lunch.  Serenity Bay is a great place to relax. They offer a peaceful beachfront cabana massage.  The cabana massages are great! In fact I even loved it so much I talked my mother into getting one on her next cruise.  You can hear the ocean and feel the breeze that comes through the cabana.  This is one of my favorite places to get a massage.  Spaces are limited, so make sure you book early.

Disney also offers family cabana rentals.  They are very expensive (to us) but they are always full.  The cabanas are 325 square feet and are furnished with tables, chaise lounge chairs, stocked refrigerator and a hammock.  The cabanas are divided between Castaway Family Beach and Serenity Bay Beach.  When you rent a beach cabana, you will receive non-alcoholic beverages, suntan lotion and towels.  Other packages with special services, food and beverage options are available.  For an added special touch, Disney writes your name by your cabana.

We normally rent a mat or tube for the kids to play on.  Our last trip we did a package deal, with mat/tube rental, snorkeling gear and bike rental.  There is a small discount if you book the package deal before you leave.  We prefer to book in advance so we do not have to stand in line at the Port Adventures desk.  There is no need to worry; if the weather doesn’t cooperate and excursions get cancelled, Disney will issue a full refund.

Sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K or Morning Yoga

If you want to see the island before everyone else, sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K. Participants meet early in the morning to get their bib numbers and start racing when the majority of the ship is still eating breakfast.  Everyone who participates will get a Mickey medal at the end of the race.  We have done the Castaway Cay 5K for our last two cruises.  I can assure you that we are not seasoned runners; our pace was more of a fast walk with some running mixed in.  Our last cruise our oldest son ran with us, too.  If running is not your thing, there’s a free morning yoga class at Serenity Bay.  I have always wanted to do the yoga class on Castaway but I have not yet.

Go Snorkeling

Mickey Mouse under water on Castaway CayYou can rent snorkel equipment; an all-day rental is $31.18 for adults or $15.05 for kids.  The snorkel equipment can be picked up from Gil’s Fins and Boats or Flippers ‘n Floats at your leisure.  Everyone is required to wear a lifevest while snorkeling.  Castaway is a great place to snorkel.  Not only is the water clear, it’s sheltered. The tide comes and goes with very small waves.  There’s a snorkeling area that is dedicated for snorkelers that has fun things to explore.  Disney has hidden items within this area, such as the Captain Mickey pictured to the right.

Eat lunch on Castaway Cay

There’s no need to fill up on food before you leave the ship.  There are three lunch locations on the island – Cookie’s BBQ, Cookie’s Too BBQ and one at Serenity Bay (the adults-only area) –  which serve a lunch buffet from 11:30am to 2pm.  There are burgers, chicken, hot dogs, ribs, corn on the cob, fresh fruits, banana bread, pineapple upside-down cake, chips, cookies and soft-serve ice cream stations at each location.  There are drink stations at each location as well.  You can eat your lunch at the picnic tables or take your food back to your lounge chairs and enjoy the gorgeous view of the ocean.  One of our favorite things to do is make ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwiches.

See more of the island

Rent a bike on Castaway Cay

Rent a bike and explore the trails.  They have bikes for all ages, including child seats for the smallest ones in your family.  It is a nice and relaxing ride (and helps burn off some of those calories).  On our most recent trip we rented bikes and we loved it.  We had been to the island over 10 times and we got to see so much more of the island with the bikes.  We rented the bikes down by the “main” tram stop and went for a relaxing ride, so relaxing that our youngest son started falling asleep as he was being pedaled around the island.  It must be nice to be little.  We rode down the “runway” and onto the bike trail (it’s all paved so don’t worry).  Just a few steps away from the bike trail is an observation tower.  It has great views of Castaway Cay and the ship.  After running in the morning, my legs felt every step climbing the tower though. After the tower, we climbed back onto our bikes and road towards Serenity Bay and then past the private cabanas to an amazing view of the bay. The kids had never been to this side of the island and loved the ride.  We highly recommend the nice bike ride on Castaway Cay.

Find that special place for each member of your family.

Scuttle’s Cove is the children’s play area with youth activities supervised by Disney counselors from the ship.  The “yellow shirts” are my kid’s favorite people on the cruise ship.  Scuttle’s Cove has a water play area, sand activities, organized activities and a giant whale-bone excavation area.

Hide Out is a beach for teens with lounge chairs and umbrellas with organized activities supervised by Disney counselors from the ship.  We do not have teens so we have not explored this area.  There always seems to be a lot of teenagers over there.

Serenity Bay is the adults-only beach section where there is a long stretch of white sand.  We love Serenity Bay and the quiet adult time.  The kids want to go to Scuttle’s Cove which gives us a chance to enjoy Serenity Bay.  There are more hammocks in the adult area, which we love.  As you can imagine it is much quieter on this side of the island.

Pelican-PlungePelican Plunge (pictured here) and Spring-a-Leak are two water play areas on the Family Beach side of the island. Spring-a-Leak is a splash pad water playground geared towards younger children.  Pelican Plunge is further into the water (depending on the tide, it can be deep) and guests under 48″ must wear a life jacket to play in this area.  The life jackets are free and are found at the entrance to the line.  The kids should feel comfortable in life jackets and should be able to swim out of the way to use this attraction. There are two slides: an enclosed slide and an open one.  If your kids are a bit timid, have them go down the open slide. The closed one is a heck of a ride!  Once you splash down into the water, you can swim back around for another ride, or swim ashore to enjoy the rest of Castaway Cay.

Unfortunately, there is no nursery on the island.  If your child is not potty trained and under 3 years of age, you can sign up for nursery time on the ship.  You will still have to pay for this time in the nursery.  We have done it before when the boys were babies to give us some free time.  One note: it takes a while to get to the ship and back to the beach when you need to pick the kids up from the nursery.  It will eat into your beach time, so plan your nursery time accordingly.  The good news is your wave phone will work on Castaway.  If the nursery needs to get in touch with you, they will send you a text on the wave phone.  You can also use the wave phone to call the nursery while you are on the island as well.

Buy Your Castaway Cay Souvenirs on the Island

Check out the exclusive Castaway Cay souvenirs that can only be found on the island.  If you see a t-shirt you like, make sure you purchase it then because you may not see it again on the island.  You are on a small island so quantities are limited. Prices are what you would expect to pay for Disney souvenirs on the ship.  You can buy sun screen, beach toys, pins and other specialty items.

Send a Postcard from Castaway Cay

Just a few steps from the dock, you’ll find the Castaway Cay Post Office.  Normally, there are characters there to greet you.  Last time we were there, a dancing Olaf was there to greet us.

You can mail yourself or a friend a postcard from the Castaway Cay Post Office. Bahamian stamps are required and can be purchased here.  Bring cash, as your “Key to the World” card will not work here.  One thing to note is this Post Office is run by the Bahamian government and runs on island time.  Do not be surprised if it is not open on time or closes early.  We have had both happen.  Most likely you will be back from your trip before your post card gets to its destination.  There is a special Castaway Cay post mark and fun stamps.

Disney Cruise Line merchandise

Disney Cruise Line Anchor ToteA little known fact is now you can actually buy Disney Cruise Line merchandise from the Disney Store.  Once only available on the ship and Castaway Cay, this is a nice way to get some gear before or after your trip. Surprise your kids about the trip with a Disney Cruise Line towel or shirt. There are also Disney Cruise Line lanyards, jackets, t-shirts and much more. There are even Disney Cruise Line spa products, so if you used the spa and “need your fix”, get some Disney Cruise Line merchandise at the Disney Store.

We hope you enjoy Castaway Cay as much as we do.  If you have any questions about your upcoming trip, feel free to leave a comment below!

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This is an excellent summary, and well written. Thank-you!