Castaway Cay Cabana Rentals vs Excursions vs Restaurants and Bars ... and 4 more
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
Castaway Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Disney which acts as a port-of-call for its Caribbean cruises. While just 55 of the island's 1,000 acres have been developed, Disney has created an idyllic version of a Caribbean island with pristine white sand beaches and manicured tropical gardens.
Before Disney purchased a 99-year lease from the Bahamian government in 1997, the island was known as Gorda Cay and has had somewhat of a dark history. Rumor has it that during the early 18th century, pirates roamed the island and the waters surrounding it. There is some support for these rumors, such as the fact that the island sits just north of a popular trade route during that time period. Other support included the discovery of some coins and a silver ingot bearing the name of King Phillip IV of Spain and believed to have come from the San Pedro, a Spanish Galleon that was sunk in the area in 1733. More recently, the island was used by drug smugglers, including Floridian Frank Barber, who used the airstrip which was built by a previous owner to get drugs into the United States from South America.
Method 1: Cabana Rentals
Castaway Island Cabanas are little wooden huts, about 300 square feet in size, which you and your family can rent for the duration of your sojourn on the island. There are 20 cabanas on the island, the majority of which are located on the family beach. Whether you rented a cabana for the family or adult side, you need a wristband to access this area; it is provided to you in a package in your stateroom aboard the ship. Each cabana comes with a small stretch of "private" beach for your enjoyment, along with floats, sand toys, and refrigerator with cold drinks and fruits to snack on. Snorkeling equipment rental also comes with the cabana, but you need to use a voucher to grab them from the equipment booth. If you want something harder than a Coke, press the button to summon staff who will take your drink order and bring it back to you. Inside the cabana, you will also find a couch, chairs, and a table, along with a safe for your valuables. Outside on the deck are more chairs, a chaise lounge, and a hammock. As useful as they are, they are quite expensive and hard to get, since the Concierge Level and Platinum Castaway Clubguests have first dibs on them. Accordingly, book them as early as possible, if you want one. 90 days before the departure date of your booked cruise, any available cabins will be posted online. If you are traveling during a popular time such as when schools are on break, you will want to be online at midnight of your 90-day countdown. The prices are as follows:
- $549 for up to six guests at the Family Beach. Add four more guests for $50 each
- $399 for up to four guests at Serenity Beach. Add two more guests for $50 each
Method 2: Excursions
Disney calls the additional activities available on Castaway Cay excursions. Some excursions are operated by outside vendors rather than Disney, such as the parasailing excursion, and all cost an additional fee outside of the cruise fee, whether as the price of admittance to the excursion or the cost of renting equipment such as snorkeling gear. You can sign up for excursions or rent equipment at various shops located around the island.
- 1Castaway Cay Bottom Fishing. Board a boat at Marge's Barges, not far from where the ship is docked, with 8 other people heading to waters off the Abacos Island. You'll have the opportunity to catch anything from yellowtail, grouper, or snapper. Unfortunately, it's a catch and release program so you won't be able to keep the fish. Soft drinks, water, and juice are provided during the trip, the cost of which is included in the admission price. Tackle and bait are also included. The trip takes about three to three and half hours and costs $117 per person.Advertisement
- 2Castaway Cay Island Cruise. Sail around the island and learn about the history of the area, including legends of pirates that roamed the surrounding waters. Beverages such as bottled water and punch are included in the price. This cruise is seasonal; it runs from October through March, only and costs $39 for adults and $29 for children up to age 9.Advertisement
- 3Extreme Getaway Package. This package includes snorkel equipment rental, one-hour bicycle rental, float and tube rental and the Stingray Adventure. At $54 for adults and $39 for children up to age 9, it's a good value for a day full of fun on the island.
- 4Glass Bottom Boat Scenic Voyage. If you want to see the coral and its aquatic denizens, but you're not a strong swimmer, or you just don't want to get wet, embark on a voyage to the north side of the island where the Castaway Barrier Reef lies. Through viewing portals along the bottom of the hull, observe the many species of reef fish flit in and out of the coral without entering the water. The excursion lasts about an hour and costs $35 for adults $25 for children up to age 9.
- 5Seahorse Snorkel Adventure. Set sail aboard a 63-foot catamaran with your fellow castaways and head out to a special snorkeling area on the north side of the island. You will explore the barrier reef here and get up close and personal with the creatures that call the reef home. Snorkeling equipment is included as are beverages, and the entire journey takes about two hours. It costs $52 for adults, while children up to age 9 can join for $36.
- 6Wild Side Teen Adventure. Just for teens between the ages of 14 and 17, this four-hour jaunt includes snorkeling, biking, and kayaking around the island. It starts off with a bike ride along the airstrip to the north side of the island where teens leave their bikes and get into kayaks for a journey through the seas surrounding the island and mangrove forests. Arriving at a special beach exclusive to this adventure, teens may snorkel and swim before returning the way they came. It costs $35 per teen.
- 7Walking & Kayak Nature Adventure. This is a three-hour journey which includes a 45 minute guided walk through the island, during which you will learn about the history of the Bahamas. Like the teens on the teen adventure, you will take to the waters in kayaks as you explore shallow water tidal zones and mangrove forests before arriving on a deserted beach where you can have a dip in the sea. Afterward, you return the way you came. It costs $64, and children must be at least age 10 to participate.
- 8Watercraft Ski Adventure. Take a one hour guided journey aboard a Waverunner during which you will follow your guide while they talk about the sea life and history of the area. It includes two stops and costs $95 for a single rider, age 18 and up and $160 for two people, one of whom must be at least 18 years of age.
- 9Castaway Cay Parasailing. This excursion is operated by an independent company and departs from Marge's Barges. Take off into the air above the sparkling Caribbean and sail high for about an hour. It costs $140 per person, and children must be at least 8 years old to participate. Book this one early, because it is quite popular.
- 10Stingray Adventure. The Stingray Adventure is one of the highlights of Castaway Cay. Venture into a shallow water lagoon where the rays live. A guide is on hand to teach you about these gentle creatures and supervise you as you interact with them. You can even feed them from your fingers; it's amazing how the rays will queue up and gently take the food from you. The adventure lasts an hour and costs $45 for adults and $36 for kids up to age 9.
- 11Snorkel equipment rental. Rent snorkeling gear for the entire day and snorkel in the special 22-acre lagoon set up for this at your leisure. It includes a beginner area as well as a trail to follow through the coral. The equipment costs $25 for adults and $10 for children up to age 9. Additionally, you can rent the equipment for two days at $31.25 for adult and $12.50 for children up to age 9.
- 12Float and tube rentals. Float on the calm surface of the lagoon all day for just $6, or rent for two days at $7.50.
- 13Bicycle rentals. Explore the island on two wheels. Popular places to bike to include the abandoned airstrip near Serenity Beach. You may rent a bike for $6 per hour, or rent one for one hour over two days for $7.50.
- 14Boat rentals. Whether you want to rent an aqua fin, kayak, Hobie cat, or paddle boat, you can take it out on the waters of the crystal-clear lagoon for 30 minutes at a time. The prices vary depending on the type of boat.
Method 3: Restaurants and Bars
There are three restaurants and four bars to serve you during your time on the island. The price of food and non-alcoholic drinks are included as part of the cruise fee, so you don't have to pay extra to eat or drink on Castaway Cay. One important thing to keep in mind is that the restaurants close by 2:00 p.m.; however, the bars remain open longer. To be safe, get your lunch before 2:00 p.m.
- 1Cookies BBQ. Cookies BBQ is more of a food stand than a restaurant and is located close to the family beach. Choose from between such fare as burgers, BBQ chicken, and pork ribs, and dine on the beach.
- Conched Out Bar (near The Gazebo)
- Air Bar(at Serenity Bay)
- Heads Up Bar (near Stingray Adventure)
- Sand Bar (near the Family Beach)
Method 4: Weddings
If you have dreams of getting married on a warm, tropical beach, with sand between your toes, Disney Cruise Lines wants to make your dreams come true. Invite up to 100 guests to join you on board the ship as you set sail for your special day.
The price of the wedding package includes the food, ceremony, solo musician, and the reception aboard the ship. Castaway wedding packages start at $4,000. Wedding photography is extra, and you are responsible for taking care of the legalities, such as obtaining a marriage license before the cruise. You will be married in the cruise port before departure for legality reasons. So your license will be arranged in the location of the port.
Should there be an issue where the ship can not stop at Castaway Cay, the staff will arrange a ceremony onboard. My sister had this happen to her as Castaway Cay was damaged by a hurricane the week before departure. The Disney Staff handled the ceremony efficiently providing my sister's favorite Disney characters for the ceremony and the ship's captain officiated. Be prepared if you plan on a ceremony during Hurricane Season or close to it.
When arranging a wedding, you will book through the Cruise Line directly or an approved Disney Travel Agent. For something this monumental in your life, it is wise not to try to arrange this all on your own. Especially if you have more than 10 guests who will be attending.
Method 5: Family Reunions
Plan your next family reunion on a Disney cruise ship and have a special gathering on Castaway Cay. For the most memorable and comfortable occasion, rent a cabana so that everyone has a common place to gather, chat, and store their belongings. From there, you can embark on a day of fun in the sun: start with the Stingray Adventure, or go snorkeling in the lagoon. For those relatives who don't want to get wet, there's the Glass Bottom Boat Scenic Voyage or the Castaway Island Cruise. If there are any fishermen in your family, they will love the Castaway Cay Bottom Fishing trip.
Method 6: Family Vacation
A Disney vacation is full of fun for the entire family, and this is especially true on Castaway Cay, an idealized tropical paradise. Whether your children are tiny tots or rebellious teens, they will find something to love about this delightful port-of-call. Here are some suggestions to make your family's vacation memorable:
- 1Try to rent a cabana. While they are expensive, they make for a great home base, as it were, as your family spreads out over the island. You can recharge your batteries there while your kids go snorkeling, swimming, or are off on excursions.
- 2Drop your young ones off at Scuttles Cove. Scuttles Cove is where you can leave small children under the supervision of experienced counselors while you head to Serenity Beach for a massage, or just some peace and quiet. Your children will have fun digging for whale bones at Monstro Point, building sandcastles or participating in arts and crafts.
- 3Send your teens off on the Wild Side Teen Adventure. They will burn off their boundless energy by trekking across the island on bikes and kayaks, and snorkel off a beach set off just for them.
- 4Treat the entire family to the Sting Ray Adventure. Your family will enjoy learning about these magnificent creatures, seeing them up close, and even feeding them.
- 5Swim over to Pelican Plunge. This 2,400 square foot floating platform has two water slides: an enclosed corkscrew and 140-foot open slide that you and your children will love. After sliding around for a bit, let them soak you with the giant bucket of water, and have a contest to see who can hit the target with the four water cannons.
Method 7: Sample Itinerary
9:30: Ship arrives at Castaway Cay. Disembark and get settled in you Cabana if you have rented one.
10:00-12:00: Relax, go for a bike ride, or snorkel. Do some exploring of the island,: take a walk along the paths leading to the dock and around the airstrip and its surrounding area. Every bit of the island has something interesting to see. Rent a boat, or do shorter excursions such as the Stingray Adventure.
12:00-1:30: Lunch. Restaurants close at 2:00 p.m., so definitely eat before then.
1:30-4:30: If you have any longer excursions such as the glass bottomed boat ride or the kayak adventure booked, now is the time to do them, depending on when they are scheduled, of course. More relaxing, shop for souvenirs or get a massage if you scheduled one at Serenity Beach
4:30-5:30: Your day on the island is almost complete. Now is the time to do some last minute shopping to pick up exclusive Castaway Cay items that you can't get anywhere else, then it's time to go back to ship for supper.
When to Go
Castaway Cay has mild to hot temperatures all year around, but in the winter, the water can be a little cold, so the best time to go is from the end of May through the beginning of October. Keep in mind that hurricane season runs from May through September, with the riskiest months being August and September.
Castaway Cay Tips
- Bring a backpack with you to store your souvenirs, a change of clothes, your swimsuit, and sunscreen.
- Make a sheet of Disney Characters to "spot" if you have children. They are often located along the paths to the beaches so a short walk can entertain and delight. There will also be numerous photo ops for your child and their favorite Disney Character
- An underwater camera to snap pictures of the amazing coral reefs and colorful fish
- Wear a good pair of boat shoes/water shoes. The sand on the island gets hot and has tiny sea shells that can cut tender feet.
- Don't forget your stateroom key as it is your ticket back on to the ship
- The ship will be docked about a 15-minute walk/tram ride to the beaches. It is easily accessible should you have a toddler on a nap schedule or forget something on the ship. Should you miss the lunch time, you can always go aboard the ship to eat
- Try to get a cabana. They're expensive but worth it.
Where to Get More Information
Here are two of the many fora and blogs about Disney cruises and vacations where you can get up-to-date information from other travelers about their experiences: