Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trip Report: Disney Fantasy Western Caribbean [Day 7] Castaway Cay

May 16, 2014 - Disney's Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay is Disney's private island in the Bahamas, and all Caribbean itineraries visit the island at least once.  It is rated the most popular port of call by Disney cruisers and is arguably the best cruise line-owned private island in the industry.  When Disney first purchased (actually leased from the Bahamian government for 99 years) the island, the requirement was that they could build a pier so that the ship would be able to dock right on the island so that they would not have to tender passengers ashore.  Disney was the first cruise line to be able to dock on their private island (Royal Caribbean has since built a dock for their private island, Labadee).

Castaway Cay 5K

Rachel and I had signed up to run the Castaway Cay 5K.  The 5K is complimentary and is offered on all cruises to Castaway Cay, weather permitting.  I had read that this started as a casual event when cast members invited guests to run with them in the morning, but has become so popular that it has been taken over by runDisney, the same branch of the Disney Company that coordinates the Walt Disney World Marathon, Princess Half Marathon, and so many more races in Walt Disney World and California Disney Parks.  To register, visit the Port Adventures desk during operating hours up to the day before your stop in Castaway Cay.

I am not a big runner.  In fact, I hardly run at all.  But I take all of Rachel's indoor cycling classes, so I would say that I'm in fairly good physical shape.  Rachel runs charity 5Ks all of the time, usually to get credit for her sorority.  I actually ran my first 5K the month prior when The Color Run came to Clemson.  And I'm not sure if that counts because I'm fairly certain that the route wasn't actually 3.1 miles, and they don't keep up with the runners' times.

We were scheduled to meet in The Tube at 8:00 AM.  Rachel and I got up and ate a light breakfast in Cabana's before heading down.  We arrived about 10-15 minutes early which was before the long line accumulated.  To check in, you just need the Port Adventure ticket that they give you when you register, and they give you a bib.  They also asked to make sure that we had our Photo IDs before exiting the ship.  We did not, as we were just walking straight off the ship and going to Disney's private island, but we ran back to the room and got them, anyway.

Castaway Cay 5K

After everyone had checked in, the entertainment team discussed the route with us, showing us a map of it on a projector.  We would run the bike loop once, then run down the airplane landing strip, then run back down the airplane landing, then do the bike loop a second time, then head back to the finish line.  We were cleared to leave the ship around 8:30-8:45, and two members of the entertainment team guided our group to the gangway, asking that parents who were checking their children into Scuttle's Cove leave first.  However, the entire group had to wait about ten minutes in the stairwells before we could actually leave the ship.  Looking around, I noticed several Disney Marathon shirts, and even a guy wearing a Goofy's Race and a Half challenge shirt (that's 39.3 miles over two consecutive days!!!).



It was once we were off the ship that I was really kicking myself for not bringing Rachel's little camera.  It was actually an idea that had crossed my mind that morning, but I decided against it because I thought we wouldn't want to keep up with it.  I didn't realize that the walk to the start of the race would be long, overlooking the yet-to-be occupied beaches and the most exciting thing that we would see the entire run.

It was a *long* walk to the start of the run.  It is considered a run and not a race because they do not actually keep times, but they do run a clock so that you can see for yourself.  The serious runners started positioning themselves at the front of the pack, and we decided to fall back to the middle.  And the middle of the pack (well, it was a really spread out pack) is where we stayed the entire time.

This photo was taken later in the day, but it is of a [portion] of the airplane landing strip that we had to run -

Airplane Landing Strip

At first I thought, "Oh, this isn't bad."  But then I started to feel the humidity.  It was awful, and for several portions of the bike loop, there was no wind - just the stagnant heat.  Rachel compared it to running in Florida.  The bike loop was far from interesting.  We were surrounded by palm trees with nothing to look at.  It really reminded me of the golf cart paths at our old home in Haines City, Florida.  Every once in a while, we would pass a bit of theming, like an anchor or a barrel of rum.  Or the distance marker.  It was far from inspirational.  After finishing the bike loop and running the airplane landing, it took a lot of motivation to go back through that dreadful bike loop, again.  Rachel said that this had to be her worst 5K time ever.  When we neared the finish line and could see the clock, we had just hit 30 minutes... sprint it out!  We crossed the finish line at 30:30 which wasn't too terribly bad.  We made sure to find the entertainment cast member to get our Mickey medals.

Castaway Cay 5K

It is not an event-specific medal, but the generic plastic Mickey-shaped medal that Disney Cruise Line distributes to winners of a variety of different onboard games.

While not competitive and very laid back, I wouldn't describe this as a "fun run".  Rachel and I, familiar with runDisney events, were expecting to run surrounded by gorgeous views or at least get to interact with Disney characters.  So we were disappointed by the lack of theming and "Disney" that went into the Castaway Cay 5K.  However, it is completely free of charge which is unusual of running events.  The Castaway Cay 5K t-shirt was sold at the finish line for $21, and Rachel and I both bought one because we didn't run in that humidity for nothing.  I suppose that because this is becoming a more popular runDisney event that there might eventually be a fee to run.... and then maybe they would include the t-shirt (not that I'm complaining about having to purchase my own t-shirt... I really didn't mind at all).

After the race, Rachel and I took a break on the beach before catching the tram (yes, the tram!) back to the ship.  From the tram, we watched another 5Ker run all the way back to the ship.  You go, guy!

Back to the room to wake up Max!

Castaway Cay

We could see the character meets from our stateroom.  Chip n' Dale rotated turns with Donald.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Rachel gave Olaf a warm hug!

Castaway Cay

The weather didn't look too promising, but that didn't stop us from heading out to enjoy our day on Castaway Cay!

Castaway Cay

Something I appreciated about Castaway Cay is that they have a tram (much like the tram that takes you from the parking lots to the parks at Walt Disney World and Disneyland) that takes you to the different beaches. The main tram departs from the Kargo Handling Tram Stop (by the ship) and goes to the Scuttle's Cove Tram Stop (kids' club, Stingray Adventure, snorkeling lagoon, family beach) and Pelican Point Tram Stop (family beach, Pelican Plunge water slide, bike rentals). Adults (18 and older) going to Serenity Bay get off the tram at Pelican Point Tram Stop and wait for the Serenity Bay tram to take them to the Serenity Bay Tram Stop.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

We were headed to Serenity Bay, but browsed a bit at Buy the Seashore while waiting for the Serenity Bay tram.

Pelican Point

Pelican Point

Disney never misses a marketing opportunity, so they of course sell Castaway Cay exclusive merchandise on Castaway Cay. Being a Disney merchandise collector, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase.

Float rentals -

Pelican Point

Pelican Point Tram Stop -

Pelican Point

We were quite familiar with the route to Serenity Bay (the airplane landing strip), as we had run it that morning.

Castaway Cay

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay is without a doubt the quietest beach I have ever been on.  It was actually quite populated - more so than Satellite Falls, the adult-only sundeck on the ship ever was.  Yet it was almost completely silent except for the sound of the waves softly coming in and out.


Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay

Max and I were eager to explore Castaway Cay, so we took the tram back to Pelican Point.  As we hopped on the tram, I had another Deb sighting.  This time I creeped a picture.

Serenity Bay

You can't miss her - she's in the blue shirt and floppy sunhat.

Airplane Landing Strip

Pelican Point


Pelican Point

Pelican Point

Pelican Plunge

Max and I headed straight for Pelican Plunge.  The enclosed tube slide is extremely fast, so using the trick we learned in Cozumel (heels and shoulder blades down with butt lifted up), we flew!  The open slide isn't nearly as fast, but it's a much longer slide.

Pelican Plunge

As we were doing the slides, it began to rain.  Looking out, I realized that we were surrounded by rain showers.  Max and I had to abandon the slides to make sure that the bag we left on the beach wasn't getting soaked.  We figured that it would be a great time to eat lunch.  Of course, everyone else on the beach had the same bright idea.  Cookie's Too BBQ at Pelican Point, was packed!

We decided that we would have better luck back at the adult beach, so we took the tram back to Serenity Bay.  There was a ridiculously long line at the adult beach barbecue buffet.  We waited around 45 minutes for food.  Of course, by the time we got food and sat down to eat, the line had dissolved to almost nothing. The barbecue was good, though. And they had their amazing Disney cookies, speaking of which, are better than what I had previously named the "best cookies" at sea on the Carnival Breeze. Sorry, Carnival Breeze, but I must pass your honor on to the Disney Fantasy.

Serenity Bay Cabanas

Serenity Bay

My parents and Rachel hadn't eaten, yet, so they went to the barbecue before it closed while Max and I ventured out onto the sandbar.  There is a nice, long sandbar at Serenity Bay with many shells and even sand dollars to be found.  You aren't supposed to take them with you though, but leave them for more guests to discover.

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay

Not long after the rest of the family returned from lunch, we decided to pack up and leave Serenity Bay for Pelican Point.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

While on Castaway Cay, you can get additional towels at the float and equipment rental stand. You can also return wet towels in "Wet Towel Return" bins located around the island.

Castaway Cay

If you don't want to spend $10 to rent a tube, later in the day, you'll find that many have been abandoned and not returned.

Pelican Plunge

Rachel and Dad also enjoyed Pelican Plunge. I think we each did it a total of 6-7 times.

One thing that I learned on this trip is that parents with small children usually choose to go down before their child so that they can catch them at the bottom. The problem with that is that after mom or dad go down the slide, the little one will sometimes chicken out without their parent there to encourage them. The lifeguard then has to signal to the lifeguard at the bottom of the slide to locate the parent, and the parent then has to go back to the top of the slide to retrieve their frightened child. And then when the kid's parent reappears, the child almost always regains his or her courage and wants to try it again.... so it's a never-ending cycle of parents going and then having to come back to fetch the child! I witnessed this with a little girl at Playa Mia and a little boy at Pelican Plunge. I have to say that it works much better if there are two parents or a parent and an older child so that one can lead and the other can bring up the rear. Another option would be to send your child down the open slide and to take the enclosed slide at the same time. With the closed slide being shorter and steeper and yourself being heavier, you will almost definitely make it to the bottom before your child.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

My family had visited Castaway Cay once before in 2000. This was before the addition of Pelican Plunge and many of the other amenities now offered on the island today. What we did have vivid memories of was making our way all the way across the suspended rope using just our arms across the obstacle course. We were motivated to make it to the end of the rope because our dad promised to buy us plush Disney character keychains if we completed the challenge. It was a true test of upper-body strength, and I remember doing the obstacle course over and over again until I finally made it to the end.

Nostalgic of our childhood visit, Rachel wanted to have another try at the rope. Unfortunately, it was closed due to low tide. We'll just have to go back to Castaway Cay so that we can give it another try.

Castaway Cay

Sense our obstacle course was closed, we decided to spend our last hour on Castaway Cay at the Heads Up Bar.

Heads Up Bar

The bartenders were really struggling. Or, one bartender was really struggling. He took forever to make drinks. They were doing a buy one/get one drink special, though, so the prices were really good. Max and my dad ordered first. Of course, I got the struggling bartender. When it was finally my turn, I ordered a Konk's Kooler in a souvenir cup. The souvenir cup was of course excluded from buy one/get one. I told him that was okay, and I would have two drinks and two souvenir cups, since you pay for the cup separately. Well, I think he missed the two cups part and he put one drink in a cup and one in a regular glass. I wasn't paying much attention as he made it which was a mistake because when he presented me the bill, I realized he had charged me for a virgin Konk's Kooler. I told him that I wanted alcoholic. That's when the other bartender stepped in and took my drinks and put them back in the blender to make them alcoholic. So they are working on my drinks and my dad is already back with another order! He had ordered two fruity drinks (what, I can't recall) and when the bartender gave them to him, he says, "Can this be frozen?" Yes, it can be frozen. They took the drinks back and puts them in the blender with ice. When dad gets them, now frozen, he takes a sip and says, "This tastes weak." Of course it tastes weaker... they added more ice. So some of the alcohol that was originally in Dad's on-the-rocks drink was now in the blender because they now had more drink than could fit in the cup. When they finally gave me my two alcoholic Konk's Koolers, I didn't even bother with trying to get the additional souvenir cup because I had to get out of there!

So I bring the drink to Rachel who is very disappointed that she doesn't have a souvenir cup. That's really all she cares about. We actually still have our souvenir cups from Castaway Cay in 2000 somewhere, I'm certain, but we remembered drinking Konk's Koolers as little kids out of souvenir cups, and Rachel wanted to recreate that memory. Max tasted the drink and really liked it, so he agreed to get her the souvenir cup when he got his own Konk's Kooler. Thank goodness!

Konk Kooler

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Heads Up Bar

We closed down the bar!

Castaway Cay

There was a light rain (hence the water droplet on my camera lens) as we began to make our way back to the ship.

Of course, we stopped to do some souvenir shopping and get our Castaway Cay exclusive merchandise. Rachel and Max got matching t-shirts and shot glasses. I picked up a cute yellow Mickey anchor keychain.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Mount Rustmore

Mount Rustmore

Mount Rustmore!

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

The beach was almost as empty as it was when we arrived that morning! Rachel and I were among the first on and the last off Castaway Cay that day.

Castaway Cay

Disney Fantasy

Castaway Cay

Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy

I don't know who these people are, but they look pretty important...

Castaway Cay

That isn't the typical dress for Castaway Cay.

Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy

The last time we'd be boarding the Disney Fantasy on this cruise! Waaaahhh!!!

Disney Fantasy

We headed to the pool deck to ride the Aqua Duck one last time!

Goofy Golf

Then we set to do something we hadn't gotten to yet - Goofy Golf! Goofy Golf is a 9-hole miniature golf course located on Goofy's Sports Deck.

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

It is themed so that there is a tee-off for Goofy and a tee-off for Max (Goofy's son). Max's starting spot and route was generally easier than Goofy's. I think the idea is that adults go Goofy and kids go Max.

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy Golf

Goofy's Sports Deck

We returned to the room to find the saddest thing ever...

Luggage Tags

Bag tags! We packed up as much as we could for dinner and were able to slide our packed bags under the bed so that they would be out of the way for turn-down. As we each grabbed a side of the open suitcase to pick up, Max sang, "Teamwork makes the garden grow!"

Dinner - Animator's Palate

Tonight's show at Animator's Palate was "Animation Magic". Animator's Palate on the Disney Fantasy has three different animation shows - Finding Nemo (like Turtle talk with Crush), Pirate Night, and Animation Magic. We saw the Finding Nemo show the first time we dined in Animator's Palate that week.

We arrived to these sheets on which we drew our own character.

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

That is not a girl - it is a guy athlete with dreads. Max had first drawn a big '1' on his jersey, but colored over it because the instructions say not to use numbers or letters (perhaps because they might appear reflected?).

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

Dad drew himself.

Animator's Palate

Rachel's animation skills really impressed me this week.

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

You could tilt the menu and the Sorcerer Mickey Animation would come to life.

Animator's Palate

There weren't many options for us, as the appetizer and soup were pre-selected. You only had to choose a main course, or off the Lighter Fare menu. This is because we were eating at Animator's Palate on the final night and had the "See Ya Real Soon" menu.

Animator's Palate

Throughout the meal, Sorcerer Mickey would come on the screens with our artwork, showing him transporting it backstage to make some Animation Magic. I am a huge fan of Mickey Mouse, so I much preferred this theme to the Finding Nemo/Crush show earlier in the week. I also felt that it fit better in the setting - a show about animation in an animation-themed dining room. Makes perfect sense!

Animator's Palate

Much to Max's delight, they sang Be Our Guest to us before serving our appetizer.

Appetizer Sampler Platter

Appetizer Sampler Platter

Macaroni Cheese and Baked Potato Soup

Macaroni and Cheese Baked Potato Soup.... two really good things combined there.

Roasted Filet of Beef Wellington

And I had the Filet of Beef Wellington. Notice that the greens are wrapped in bacon!

Animator's Palate

Before dessert, they played the Animation Magic theme. It's really cute because all of our characters came to life and marched in, broomstick style (Fantasia), then danced with Disney characters.

Animator's Palate

Someone drew an impressive Fred Flintstone!

Animator's Palate

There's Max's (left), Rachel's (second from right), and mine (right).

Animator's Palate

And then the fun part...

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

And our signatures appeared in the credits!

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

What's in the paint jars? Paint! Not wet paint - they painted the outside of the jars.

VIC_7137

And for dessert! Rachel got the Baked Alaska.

See Ya Real Soon Sweet Temptations

I had the See Ya Real Soon Sweet Temptations.

Animator's Palate

At the end of dinner, they returned our drawings to us with a seal!

Though you can pre-pay your tip and charge it to your onboard account, Disney still does tip envelopes for your dining team and room steward. We had been given the envelopes and vouchers showing our electronic tip the night before, so we brought them to dinner that night to give to our head waiter, waiter, and assistant waiter. I do like the old-fashioned way of delivering tip envelopes to dining staff, as I think it provides good closure and gives you an opportunity to personally thank them for their outstanding service.

See Ya Real Soon

After dinner, we returned to our staterooms to add some final things to our bags then put them in the hallway (the requested deadline was 10:30 PM). We then headed to the atrium for the See Ya Real Soon final character meeting. They introduced the entire gang, and then they dispersed around the lobby for photos and autographs.

I had a prime location for photographing the characters, but I regretted that I didn't bring my exterior flash because my shutter speed wasn't quite fast enough. You can see a bit of motion blur in the photos below.

See Ya Real Soon

See Ya Real Soon

See Ya Real Soon

See Ya Real Soon

We then did what we love to do... go shopping! We picked out four 8x10 photos to purchase. Rachel got herself another Alex and Ani bracelet. I contemplated getting a lot of things, but never make a final decision (I want it all!), but I did get a plush Captain Mickey Mouse and a Donald Duck pin. Rachel got a plush Sailor Minnie Mouse.

DCL Merchandise

Our motto.

Towel Animal

Just a little nightcap before bed...

3 Liter Bacardi

3 Liter Bacardi

Max had purchased a 3-liter Bacardi and a 3-liter Crown Royal on our Carnival Breeze cruise. He purchased one for a friend when he was in Cozumel. They run about $38-40. Except on DCL, we were able to take the bottle straight to our cabin, so we could have been sipping out of it all week!

Rachel, Max, and I sat down that evening and filled out our post-cruise evaluation. I really appreciate that Disney Cruise Line does this and that they give you a hard copy. So many cruises have moved to emailing surveys after the cruise. After cruising the Carnival Breeze in March, I was expecting to be emailed a post-cruise survey, but never received it. Anyway, it was fun and interesting for me as a blogger to get to go through and discuss each category with Rachel and Max. We were able to reflect back on certain events that stuck out in our minds. It was an enjoyable conversation.

After filling out our survey, Rachel decided to watch a little on-demand television before going to bed, and Max went with me on my long exposure photo walk of the ship. I will share more photos that I took in the next post. Here is a little preview -

Mickey Pool

NEXT: Disney Fantasy Nighttime Photo Walk