, pub-4365197612565232, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 7] Castaway Cay

We spent our final day of our New Year's Cruise at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Personally, I would much rather have spent Day 6 at Castaway Cay and Day 7 at sea. After spending the day at the private island, it's a little hectic to come back and then have to pack everything up. I also wouldn't have minded a reversed itinerary where we spend the first day at Castaway Cay (that way they could take advantage of the close proximity to Florida).

Most of the guest-facing personnel on the island are the crew members aboard the ship - servers, bartenders, and activities directors are a few of the familiar faces on the island. There's around 140 cast members who live on the island year-round and work in facility maintenance, engineering services, horticulture, custodial, transportation, etc. Then they'll boat in additional employees from adjacent Bahamian islands who run excursions, work at some of the stores, hair braiding, etc.


Castaway Cay (formerly known as "Gorda Cay") was purchased by Disney in 1997 from the Bahamian Government in a 99-year land lease.


The island is 1,000 acres and still largely undeveloped, as only 55 acres have been developed for the cruise line private island.


During development, 50,000 truckloads of sand were dredged to allow for Disney Ships to dock at the island, eliminating the need for tenders. Castaway Cay was the first cruise ship private island where ships could dock instead of tender. (Royal Caribbean followed suit in 2009, renovating their private island Labadee to allow for cruise ships to dock, then in 2018 with CocoCay.)


Rachel was able to snag us a Cabana at Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach. We planned to get off the ship early to take full advantage of our cabana.


In November, this sign changed from Chapek back to Iger....


To get to the Serenity Bay Beach Cabana, we took the tram to Pelican Point, then another tram from Pelican Point to Serenity Bay. We just missed the tram to Pelican Point, so we had to wait a little while for the next one to come.


Here is the Cabana Port Adventure information we received -


Cabanas are very popular at Castaway Cay and difficult to come by. The Cabanas on the Family Beach can be very difficult to reserve unless you are eligible for early booking through Concierge or  Gold/Platinum/Pearl Castaway Club status. I had read that Cabanas on Serenity Bay are a little easier to reserve since they have a minimum 18 year age requirement.

Rachel said that she got the tip that there were Serenity Bay Cabanas available on the Facebook Group a week before the cruise. The Serenity Bay Cabanas are also less expensive than those on the Family Beach. I hesitate to say this for fear that DCL will jack the prices, but right now, I think they're super reasonable. I've been looking into Cabanas at Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day CocoCay, and yeesh they price those high!

(Note: as of April 2023, prices have increased to Serenity Bay Cabanas $493.90 for the first four guests, $50 per person for additional two guests; Family Cabanas have increased to $797.50 for the first six guests, $50 per person for each additional guest; the Grand Family Beach Cabana has increased to $1,127.50 for the first 10 guests, $50 per person for each additional guest.)


While we were waiting on the tram, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the ship.




At Pelican Point, we spotted Minnie heading to the beach!


And Goofy!


The trams to Pelican Point are like the Parking Garage trams at Disneyland with the closing doors.


We also had to wait awhile for the tram to Serenity Bay...


Pelican Point has the fun shopping. If you want Castaway Cay-specific merchandise, be sure to hit these stores up early because they close at least an hour before return-to-ship time.


The tram to Serenity Bay is "Castaway Air" which is open on the sides (no doors) and a bit more dangerous-looking than the Pelican Point trams. I guess that's because Serenity Bay is for adults, and adults should know to hang on and not fall off the tram.

The plane theming is because to get to Serenity Bay, you drive along the landing strip. The landing strip was once used as a stop for drug runners.


Cabana Check-In for the Serenity Bay Cabanas is located right at the tram stop. When we checked in, we were given green wristbands which indicated our cabana guest status.


We were escorted to our cabana via golf cart which felt a little silly because it was just a short distance away. I wouldn't have minded being picked up by golf cart from Pelican Point, though...


We were in Cabana 23.


Cabanas 22 and 23 were formerly the spa cabanas, but were converted into rentable private cabanas. Cabanas 22 and 23 are larger than the other Serenity Bay cabanas, but the view from inside is obstructed a bit more since they have two framed openings to the beach, rather than one large framed opening.


I quickly snapped some photos before we rearranged all of the furniture.


There's a small hand sink in the corner.


A safe to lock up your valuables and beach towels -


Sunscreen is included with the cabana, but it was two bottles of Coppertone Sport SPF 50. I was a little surprised because Coppertone Sport is chemical-based and not biodegradable. It would be nice if Disney provided reef-safe sunscreen.


Provided snacks included potato chips and Kashi bars.


Rachel generously agreed to be my cabana model.




The cabana includes a small refrigerator. The fruit, chilled towels, soda, and water were provided with the cabana. We brought the Red Stripe and Veuve Clicquot. You can purchase drinks for the cabana - there's a few bucket of beer options. The cabanas also receive bar service. However, we decided to take advantage of the refrigerator and BYOB.... gotta spend money to save money?




If we did the route backwards and Castaway Cay was our first stop, then I would've definitely hoarded all of these water bottles and used them throughout the cruise. It's so annoying to get fresh, cold water on a cruise ship.



Plenty of storage areas. The curtain provides a little changing area. We were bummed to learn that it was not a bathroom.



Beach-side, the cabana has a hammock and shower.



Also provided are floaties. These rent for $15 each at the Family Beach.





Our Cabana Host, Jay, told us to let him know when we were ready to go to lunch, and he would take us there in the golf cart. We said that we didn't mind walking.... it was really close.



Serenity Bay is the adults-only beach at Castaway Cay. 




Arrive early and have your choice of beach chair.



It looks super quiet and peaceful in these photos that I took that morning, but later in the day, Serenity Bay got surprisingly rowdy. There was a large group of young (and older) adults playing football on the beach. They were pretty loud and decided to play their game right in front of our cabana, which was also at the entrance of the beach by all of the people lounging. Guests got annoyed with them, and the lifeguard repeatedly asked them to move their game down to a less crowded area of the beach.


We walked to lunch at Air Bar BBQ where we ran into William, our dining room server. There was actually quite a bit of a lunch crowd.


The burger is okay. I think this food is pretty mediocre. They could really stand to mix this food up.... maybe a taco bar or wings.


An hour bike rental is included with the cabana, but we did not take advantage.



We did decide to take advantage of the snorkel gear, though. Snorkel gear isn't listed as being available with the Serenity Bay Cabana, but we checked with Jay, and he said that it was. Jay drove Rachel, Aaron, and I in the golf cart to Pelican Point to get snorkel gear ($34 rental). We just showed our green cabana wristbands, and they gave us the gear.

You can also bring your own snorkel gear, but you must wear one of the yellow inflatable safety vests (you don't have to inflate it - I think it's primarily for visibility).

We headed to the beach and realized that Aaron's face mask was broken. I told him we could go and exchange it, but he said for Rachel and I to go ahead without him.

The snorkeling lagoon is 22 acres and off of the family beach. The main attraction for snorkeling here isn't the fish (there isn't really a lot of reef in this location...), it's the underwater Disney figures which are all marked by red floating buoys.



Boo's door from Monster's Inc. -


The main figure that I wanted to see was the Dumbo ride vehicle. It was for some reason the hardest to find. Then once we got there, there was another family that just wouldn't leave. We tried to wait them out, but got impatient. I dived down to try to sit in the Dumbo vehicle, but the guy kicked me in the head before I could situate myself. We were getting pretty tired, anyway, so we swam back to shore.


We met Aaron and decided to go down the slide at Pelican Plunge. Unfortunately, it had a pretty long wait, and by the time we got back to shore, they had closed the Heads Up bar! Darn!! Our next plan was to get Konk Koolers! We realized that everything was closing and that we should head back to the cabana. Rachel texted Landon and asked him to get Konk Koolers at the bar at Serenity Bay, but they had already closed up there, as well. Bummer!

The other annoying thing is that we just barely missed the Serenity Bay tram, so we were stuck waiting on the next one for quite awhile. Too bad we couldn't get a golf cart shuttle back.

Judy brought a cookie back from lunch and this little bird helped himself to it...



Things were looking pretty closed...


The bummer with private islands is that we never spend enough time there! Also, they close things pretty early since most people working on the island have to return to the ship. Our time there felt too short, and I'm bummed I didn't get a Konk Kooler.


Jay was busy shuttling other cabana guests back to Pelican Point. He told us that he would get us next, and we said that we could just take the tram.



Rather than waiting for the tram from Pelican Point, we walked back (because I wanted to take pictures of the island).



I took these photos of the Disney Fantasy from the Head's Up Bar -




Pelican Plunge -











Restroom building with showers -


The shaded dining area for Cookie's BBQ at the Family Beach -



I've never been to the Conched Out Bar.... next time?!


Castaway Cay








I think we were among the last to return to the ship.


This print is available for purchase at my Society6 shop!


The sailaway from Castaway Cay was a little too fast for a good timelapse, but I tried.


Before dinner, Aaron and I headed to The Walt Disney Theater to see Disney's Believe. Disney's Believe is a Broadway-style production about a workaholic botanist father, Dr. Greenaway. It's Sophia's birthday, and all she wants to do is hang out with her father and do magic, but he doesn't have time for that - his plants are suffering and he needs them to be in prime condition because they're going to be judged.... or something like that.

It's another Disney mashup that loosely ties together different Disney songs through the guise of needing to learn to believe in magic (the basis of the story is very similar to Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic). The dialogue between numbers is corny, but the production is fantastic.

SCENE 1 | Dr. Greenaway's Garden
  • Sophia's Rap
  • What Makes the Garden Grow - Dr. Greenaway, Sophia
SCENE 2 | Dr. Greenaway's Garden
  • Never Had a Friend Like Me - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Ensemble
SCENE 3 | Dr. Greenaway's Garden
  • Higitus Figitus - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Merlin
SCENE 4 | Dr. Greenaway's Garden
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Mary Poppins, Bert
  • Step In Time - Dr. Greenaway, Mary Poppins, Bert, Ensemble
SCENE 5 | The Jungle
  • Bare Necessities - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Baloo
SCENE 6 | A North American Forest
  • Colors of the Wind - Dr. Greenaway, Pocahontas, Ensemble
SCENE 7 | The African Savanna
  • Circle of Life - Dr. Greenaway, Rafiki, Ensemble
SCENE 8 | Neverland
  • You Can Fly - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Peter Pan
SCENE 9 | The Louisiana Bayou
  • Take You There / Dig a Little Deeper - Dr. Greenaway, Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen, Charlotte, Gospel Singer, Ensemble
SCENE 10 | A Ballroom
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo - Dr. Greenaway, Fairy Godmother
  • Princess Medley - Dr. Greenaway, Fairy Godmother, Princess Aurora, Prince Phillip, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Jasmine, Aladdin, Sophia, Sophia's Prince, Ensemble
  • Baby Mine - Dr. Greenaway, Sophia
SCENE 11 | Dr. Greenaway's Garden
  • Be Our Guest - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Sophia, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Helle, Ensemble
SCENE 12 | Dr. Greenaway's Garden
  • Finale - Dr. Greenaway, Genie, Sophia, Reporter, Ensemble
I definitely prefer Disney's Believe to Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic. I find the child parts cringey, especially when the actress sings in a baby voice. In Disney's Believe, the story follows Dr. Greenaway, and Sophia only talks/sings in the beginning and end. This show also takes use of Genie as a spirit guide/comic relief, breaking the 4th wall throughout. The sets and costuming are incredible. My favorite numbers are Step In Time and Dig A Little Deeper. I think this show is a must-see, even if you, like me, hate it when adults play children and talk in exaggerated baby voices.

Dinner that evening was in Royal Court. William trolled Rachel with a child's entree of mac and cheese.



I ordered the Oysters Rockefeller on the Half Shell. Too much breading, in my opinion.


This is the Lightly Breaded Baked Eggplant.


White Onion Soup -


Lemon-Fennel Salad with Green Peas, Smoked Salmon, Smoked Trout, and Creme Fraiche -


The Braised Oxtail Soup was good. The pasta in it was surprising and a little odd, but great flavor.



I ordered the Fettuccine with Parmesan Crusted Chicken. The noodles were good. Not super saucy which was actually fine. I'm not a big fan of having to cut chicken off the bone when it's in a pasta dish, though.


For dessert, the Apple Tart Tatin. A little dry... there's a reason they serve it with ice cream.



After dinner, we headed to the Atrium for the Character Farewell. Actually, we headed to the Atrium because we were trying to buy some photos, but we happened to be there in time for the Character Farewell.

Character Farewell


If you missed out on characters during the cruise, this is your last (and maybe best) opportunity to meet them. The princesses and Fab Five were all introduced, then they dispersed among the Atrium and it's a bit of a free-for-all to meet the characters.


We just happened to be standing by the stair which is where the characters enter.


The princesses meet in their formal ballgowns.


Mickey and Friends meet in their classic sailor outfits.


They all sort of bend to look down before taking the first step.... makes sense.






Hey, Mickey!!


I bought two photos (Boarding Day and Pirate Night) - it's all digital download now, no printouts. If you happen to be a Cast Member, you can get the merchandise discount on photos.

We hung out in Ooh La La and Skyline Lounge before heading to bed.

Last towel animal of the cruise.....


Despite many things moving to digital, DCL still has paper surveys.


On the morning of debarkation, DCL assigns passengers to breakfast in the dining room they dined in the night before. Guests with early dinner seating have a super early assigned breakfast time (another reason to go with second seating). You can also always go to Cabanas for breakfast, but it's usually chaotic - and especially so on debarkation day.

We returned to Royal Court for breakfast. It was very difficult to get an elevator - people were riding them up, then down to make sure that they got on. Aaron and I had been waiting and waiting, and we were joined by with this family that had two young boys who were quite hyped up, kept pressing the elevator call buttons with their lightsabers. Finally, we got an elevator, and Aaron and I squeezed to the back with our luggage so that their family could get on, too. One of the boys reached over to the elevator buttons like he was going to run his hand down and light up all of the floor buttons. I let out a panicked, "No!" and he pulled his hand back. His mom snapped at me, "He wasn't going to do it!" Really, lady, your kid who repeatedly pressed the call button wasn't going to push the buttons inside of the elevator?


DCL has the most chaotic debarkation of any cruise line I've ever been on. I'm not sure why DCL embarkation and debarkation is an absolute madhouse..... perhaps it has to do with the number of families with young children? I also think it's because the day before, we were in Castaway Cay, and all luggage had to be out in the hallway by 10PM to utilize their luggage service, so most families are hauling off lots of suitcases while also wrangling kids. I think if DCL pushed the luggage deadline back to 11/11:30, they'd have much greater participation which would reduce the number of families trying to roll off their own luggage.

My advice is to just take your time. The Atrium is an absolute madhouse, so linger in the dining room for as long as you can.


Next: Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - Glad I Did/Wish I Did

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review as always; I did the same for our Croatian/Greek/Italian cruise but not nearly as indepth or as many photos. Love to meet and read fellow cruise nuts!!