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A Magical Paradise at Disney’s Castaway Cay

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quick, quick, close your eyes (but don’t stop reading).  Imagine you’ve been transported somewhere warm near sand and water.  Picture palm trees waving in the breeze and the sound of pelicans as they fly by while the sound of waves crash against the shoreline.  Imagine reading, eating, and enjoying your favorite drink under a colored umbrella.  Hold it right there!  I’m about to tell you of a place very similar to what you just imagined.  A place where paradise meets the magic of Disney. 

60 miles away from the Walt Disney Resort is Port Canaveral, Florida home to Captain Mickey Mouse and his sailor pals.  The Disney Cruise Line opened for business in 1995 using cruise ships from the Premier Cruise Line.   In 1998 Disney built its first ship the Disney Magic and in 1999 built its second ship the Disney Wonder.  Just recently, Disney Cruise Line introduced its third ship into the fleet, the Disney Dream and in 2012 will introduce its fourth ship the Disney Fantasy. 

A major activity that is a part of most Disney Cruise Line vacations is a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.  Located in the Bahama Islands just north of Nassau and approximately 200 miles off the east coast of Florida, Castaway Cay is a place where most Disney Cruise Line guests can’t wait to visit.  Frequent DCL guests will admit a visit to Castaway Cay is worth their entire cruise fare alone.  You get an entire day (usually from 7:00AM – 5:00PM) on this island where your troubles seem to evaporate during each passing hour. 

Castaway Cay opened in July of 1998 along with the introduction of Disney’s first cruise ships.  Disney spent over $25 million dollars renovating this island for guests.  Before Disney purchased Castaway Cay it was called Gorda Cay.  The 1000 acre island was practically inhabited with only an air strip and a sandy shoreline.  50,000 truck loads of sand, a barrier reef, and a load of pixie dust has turned this once uninhabited island into a pure Disney paradise.  Currently, Disney employs 65 Cast Members who live on the island and maintain it for guests who visit each and every week.  Cast Members from the ship join guests on Castaway Cay during each visit to make sure all of their needs are met on the island.  Bartenders, cooks, servers, and shopping attendants are all available on the island to assist guests and make sure they are having the best time possible.  You'll also find several Disney characters waiting to take photos with you and your family as you leave the ship and enter the island. 

The Island is very picturesque and themed after a castaway community with buildings to look like they’ve been improvised after a shipwreck.  Castaway Cay is an ultimate private island escape for adventure, relaxation, and quality time with your family.  It includes several excursions like snorkeling, glass bottom boat rides, jet skiing, and parasailing.  Also available to guests are 3 white sand beaches for families, teens, and adults and a few restaurants that host a delicious barbeque during each visit. 

Cookies BBQ and Cookies II are the places you will want to visit for a lunchtime Barbeque complete with ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and all the side items needed for a great meal.  Unlike most other cruise lines the food on Disney’s private island is included with your cruise fare.  Also included is fresh cut fruit and ice cream.  Alcoholic beverages and swimming equipment are not included and will be charged to your stateroom however, both are reasonably priced.  In fact, you will find drink specials and happy hours throughout the day at most of the bars located on the island. 

Castaway Cay is very large and spread out.  Most guests choose to walk and enjoy the scenery, sights, and sounds of the island.  However, some guests may decide they want to relax and not walk.  There is a shuttle available which will take you to all points of the island if walking is not what you desire.  If you decide to walk signs are all around the island directing you where to go. 

One of my personal favorites about Castaway Cay is sitting on the beach and looking over the water at the Disney ship.  It makes for a great picture background.  Several guests like to take their picture on the beach with the ship in the background.  While the ship is docked at Castaway it has a grand presence.  If sitting on Castaway Cay wasn’t enough the ship will remind you that you’re on vacation without a care in the world.

The fun on Castaway Cay doesn’t stop on land.  Out in the water are a couple of very nicely equipped water playgrounds.  Children and adults can swim out to them and enjoy slides, rope bridges, and water splash play areas.  The newest addition to the water playground family is Pelican Plunge. 

If you are looking for a truly unique Disney experience for the entire family Castaway Cay provides something you won’t see at any theme park or resort hotel.  It’s a day full of white sandy beaches, relaxation, good food, family & friends in a place far away from work and the stresses of our daily lives. 

Disney Cruise Line vacations are typically more expensive than other cruise line fares, but after you’ve visited Castaway Cay you will understand why.  Disney has gone all out to make your day there as comfortable, relaxing, and inclusive as possible.  Thinking of what’s going on back home will be the furthest thing from your mind during your 10 hour visit to this island paradise.  Its one of the best days during your Disney Cruise Line vacation.  So get ready for one of the most relaxing days of your life because if you’re spending a day at Castaway Cay you’ve got it made in the shade. 

Next Up:  Soaking up some atmos"phere" at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Lights, Camera, Action! 

Related Link:  Disney's Castaway Cay

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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