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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Early Birds Make the Most of Castaway Cay!

Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay, is a little slice of tropical paradise.  Pristine beaches, calm ocean water, bike trails, watercraft, sting rays, water slides, Disney characters, and modern conveniences such as a tram system to minimize guest walking, photographers, purchasing items using shipboard accounts, food and beverages, kids’ clubs, and organized fun for those who choose to participate.  Ah, I could spend my entire vacation on this little island, and luckily, during our last Disney cruise on the Dream, the ship made two stops at Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay has distinct areas and guests are given a map of the island the day before with their Personal Navigator, along with a list of events on the island.  Disney Cruise Line significantly expanded beaches and amenities during the summer of 2010 to ready the island for more guests who would be traveling on DCL’s new ships, the Dream and the Fantasy.

We took advantage of the new amenities and our early arrival to the island paid off, as it can get quite crowded later in the day. 

After exiting the ship—have your Key to the World Cards ready, as they will be scanned to indicate you have left the ship—we stopped to take pictures with the ship’s photographers.  We then made our way to the Tram Stop—which is named Cargo Loading Area, which is near the “Fresh Catch” picture location.  This tram makes two stops—the Family Beach and then Pelican Point.  Most guests get off at the Family Beach, but we knew we were headed to Pelican Point, a new beach area that includes Pelican Plunge, so we stayed on the tram and go off at the next stop.  The Pelican Point tram stop is also where guests can take a tram to Serenity Bay, the adults’ only beach located on the other side of the island.  Look at the roof/awnings on the trams, as they indicate the location the tram services.

After exiting the tram, we made our way past the nearby shop, the restrooms on the left and bike rental station on the right and found a spot on the beach.  Ready for some fun and relaxation!

Towels Tip—you will find large containers of clean towels as you exit the ship.  Just pick up what you need and then deposit the used towels in any of the towel return locations throughout the island or just prior to reboarding the ship.  You will also find fresh water showers located outside any bathroom facility on the island, at the entrance to Spring a Leak, and near the entrance to the ship, should you want to rinse off any sand or salt water.

We bring our own sand toys, along with a mesh bag for easy storage and sand disposal.  We end up sharing our sand toys—which is just fine—as other guests may not have thought of bringing sand toys (it’s all about planning!) and/or don’t want to spend $13-$15 for a shovel and bucket—even if it is shaped like Mickey Mouse!  The boy found some friends to play with in the sand.

Tubes and Floats—There is a tube/float rental location near the Family Beach, Serenity Bay, and Pelican Point.  We had a voucher, provided to us by our travel agent, for 1 tube/float rental, but did not use it on our first day at Castaway Cay, as we were parasailing later and thought we would get more use on our second day.  Nevertheless, we ended up floats after lunch, as guests had reboarded the ship and left their floats abandoned on the shore.  For a while in the afternoon, the boy and I were both on floats in the water while the husband took us for a leisurely journey through the water.  Did I say Castaway Cay was a great place to relax?  Or as we refer to it—chillax?  Yep, I was definitely chillaxing!

We had lunch at Cookies Too, located just steps from Pelican Point.  Cookies Too serves up a great BBQ with cheeseburgers, Cajun chicken, grilled salmon, BBQ ribs (it’s great to be in a swimsuit and eat BBQ ribs—just hop in the water to rinse off!), various salads, chips, corn on the cob, fruit, and desserts.  The drink station is located nearby.  We asked for milk and the Cast Members were able to find a carton with the refrigerated items.  Covered seating with picnic tables is nearby along with serve yourself ice cream.

We were eating lunch and the boy heard the announcement about the crab races located near the gazebo just outside.  He asked permission to go watch and was granted.  I suggested that he get some ice cream upon his return, as he would be near the ice cream station.  The husband and I sat and enjoyed the rest of our lunches.  When the crab races were done, the boy returned with ice cream;  a cone in one hand and a cup in the other.  There were two flavors of ice cream in the cup.  He ate the cone first!  There is no better place to feed a growing boy than on a cruise!

We returned to the ship later that afternoon by taking the tram from Pelican Point to the stop near the Family Beach—we stayed on the tram until the next stop at the Cargo Loading Area—which is actually the drop off for the ship.  Tram tip: later in the day when the majority of the guests are trying to return to the ship, the line to get on the tram at the Family Beach can get quite long.  Since the tram goes from Pelican Point to the Family Beach, if the tram is full of guests from Pelican Point, there may be no room for more guests by the time the tram reaches the Family Beach.  We saw this happen and were very glad we were at Pelican Point and had boarded the tram there.

Prior to our second day at Castaway Cay, I asked the family whether they wanted to return to Pelican Point or go to the Family Beach, as we had done on our two previous visits to Castaway Cay.  The both said Pelican Point and I agree with them.  Here’s why we like Pelican Point better than the Family Beach:

  • Pelican Point’s beach is somewhat smaller than the Family Beach, making restrooms, shopping, tube/float rental, bike rental, and lunch all much closer.  You can stand in the middle of the water at Pelican Point and see where the restrooms are located.  DCL knew what they were doing when they made the upgrades at Pelican Point in terms of guest convenience.
  • Smaller location means fewer guests, which means chairs and spots on the beach go quickly, which means arriving early is of a benefit.  No problem!
  • Pelican Plunge—need I say more?

  • Fewer, if any lifeguard snorkeling announcements.  The snorkeling lagoon is located around the Family Beach, and guests being on vacation get confused and try to snorkel in other locations or try to snorkel without using the required vests.  So, guests on the Family Beach continually hear announcements made by the lifeguards using their giant megaphones (not electronic)—at least that had been our experience.  I could count on one hand the number of times the lifeguard at Pelican Point made that announcement during our two days on the beach.  Thumbs up in my book!
  • Near empty tram for return trip back to the ship.  As you read above, returning to the ship in the tram from Pelican Point is easy and you are most assured of getting a seat.  If I was a guest at the Family Beach, trying to return to the ship at the end of the day and there was a long line, I would ride the tram to Pelican Point and then return.  Most guests who get off at the Family Beach, don’t know the route, so they might not think of this, but I certainly would.

For the Williams Family, a Disney Cruise isn’t complete without a stop at Castaway Cay.  It is amazing how the scenery, the sounds, the feel of the island carry with you well beyond your visit.  Castaway Cay is certainly one of my “happy places!”

The six pictures above were taken by ship's photographers who are out and about on the island.  The two pictures of the boy were taken by a photographer who was in the water with camera.  They were happy to take our pictures.

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