Posts Tagged ‘Castaway Cay’
I’ve had cruising on my mind lately; a lot. Disney Cruise Line just announced their new itineraries for 2011 and I’m dreaming about a Panama Canal Cruise, Mexican Riviera or Mediterranean Cruise. I’m not sure when or where, but there’s definitely a cruise in my future. Why? Well that’s what I want to talk about today.
Where to start? I love cruising for quite a few reasons. First is value. Yes I know it looks like cruises are expensive, but when you think about it and add it all up; they’re really not much more than a land based vacation. I’ll use Disney Cruise Line as my example because I have the most experience with it (and I love it). When you cruise on DCL and the fare that you pay is it. Of course if you want to go to the spa or order drinks at the bar, there are charges for those but your meals, sodas/coffee,shipboard entertainment, even room service are all included. It’s nice to know that you’re not going to get nickel & dimed to death. Did I mention the meals? There’s food available all the time, as the parent of a growing tween & teen I can’t begin to tell you how helpful that is! On our trip this summer, I think my son ate enough food to have covered all of our fares……In the morning he would eat a bagel from room service before heading to breakfast. Where he would have pancakes, eggs & bacon. That was followed a couple hours later by a large lunch including dessert, then a couple slices of pizza up by the pool. After playing some soccer on the sports deck, he’d grab another few slices of pizza or a hot dog before going to the show (and possibly again between the show and dinner). After dinner, more soccer or club time and another snack, the best is a Mickey Bar from room service. If the boy went more than 2 hours without food during waking hours, I’d be shocked! What did all that pizza cost? Nothing. The Mickey Bar ice cream? No charge, it’s all included. I loved being able to say “order what you want” and ”if you’re hungry, get something to eat” instead of “no” or “I don’t know, how much is it?”. If we had been anywhere else, that would have cost a fortune, but thankfully it was all included.
Why else do I love to cruise? Well, I love that I can do as much or as little as I want, and I can change my mind at any time. Unlike planning a quite beach trip and then getting bored or an active adventure trip and just wanting to sit by the pool and read; you get all of that on a cruise. Every night you’ll receive your Personal Navigator–the schedule for the next day. Just like reading an old TV Guide; you’ll see hour by hour what’s going on in all locations for all age groups. Sailing with small kids? You’ll check the schedule in the Oceaneers Club for the kids and the family section for all of you. The kids want to go make flubber in the Oceaneers Lab? Great, now you can go to the spa or the adult only pool. Maybe that Martini Tasting Seminar in the Navigator caught your eye…… From playing sports on the sport courts, to watching them on TV in Diversions or working out at the fitness center or relaxing in the Rainforest Room in the spa; game shows, bingo, reading a book, watching a 1st run movie, taking a nap. Those are just some of the options of things to do on the ship. There are so many things to do that I don’t think anyone could possibly do everything. The four of us did things together, seperately and off in pairs. There was always something someone wanted to go do; even if it was just to nap on the “secret” deck.
Now, when it’s a Disney Cruise, there are a lot of fun family things to do. The Sail Away party as you leave Port Canaveral is fun for kids, adults and anyone that wants to have fun. Dance & sing along, sip on a Bahama Mama and know that you’re headed for fun! Disney also has a Pirates in the Caribbean Party on deck during one of the evenings of your cruise. More singing, dancing, Characters and FIREWORKS! Only Disney shoots off fireworks at sea and it’s amazing! There are family game shows to participate in (or watch if you’re shy), family karaoke (Disney songs of course), dance contests, pin trading, character meet & greets, pool time, scavanger hunts, ping pong & shuffleboard on deck…….are you tired yet? Those are just some of the things to do on the ship.
What do you do when in port? Whatever you want! There are excursions that you can book (before or during your cruise) that will take you to explore historical locations or cool resorts & aquariums. You can explore a place on your own. We spent a morning in Nassau just walking and wandering around to get the “flavor”. If you’ve “been there done that”, stay on the ship and enjoy a nearly empty pool or take advantage of a “Port Special” in the spa.
No matter if you take a 3, 4, 5 or 7 night cruise in the Bahamas or Caribbean, you will stop at least once at Disney’s own private island Castaway Cay. This is a wonderful place and is only going to get better when the refurb is finished. Right now, there is: a snorkeling beach, family beach, teen beach (13-17 only) and an adults only (18+) beach. The kids clubs (not the nursery) move ashore for the day. Your kids can go on a snorkeling excursion with you and then join their friend in the kids programs for a couple hours and meet back up with you for lunch and a volleyball game on the sports beach. While the kids are off doing their things, you can enjoy a peaceful, quiet nap on the adult beach or sip on the islands specialty drink or indulge in a massage in a beach cabana. Again, you can spend the day resting, being very active or a combination of the two. We went for the combo approach this summer. As a family we did an excursion that included snorkeling, stingray experience & bike/float rental. First thing we did was the snorkeling, all I will say now is that it was really cool and you have to look for the Disney touches…..they’re out there. After snorkeling we went and learned about and fed stingrays. That was pretty neat and we got a lot of time out in the water with them. Then my daughter took off to “chill” at the teen beach and my tween went for lunch (does that suprise anyone?). After lunch he went and joined the kids club group at the game pavillion so we had some time on our own We went to Serenity Bay beach and enjoyed a cool beverage and snorkeled out there for a change of pace (still neat things to find, besides the wildlife). We met back up with our son, and headed to the family beach. He decided to snorkel some more before going to get a float and relax. We did a little shopping and we’re back on the ship in time to get ready for the evening show and dinner. Wondering what happened to the teen? She had directions to be on the ship & in the room at ”X” time. Whenever you leave or come onto the ship, you must go through security and scan your Key To The World card (it’s your room key, charge key, everything key), that way they know who left and came back. When we walked back onto the ship, and they scanned my Key To The World card, I asked the Cast Member if her key had been scanned yet. They were able to look and tell me exactly what time she returned to the ship. Just a nice little piece of mind. We had rested & been active and it was a fantastically fun day!
The DisneyDifference and service are the main reasons I want to go back so bad. From the artwork and design of the ship, the special touches in the snorkeling beach, the towel animals in the cabin each night; it’s wonderful but the people really make it Disney special. The service wasn’t just good, it was excellent and more than that; it was personal. I had Cast Members say hi and welcome me back because they remembered seeing me on my agent cruise. A waitress in the Cadillac Lounge the 1st night, also served us on Castaway Cay and picked the conversation back up from where we had left it. A mix-up/confusion about celebrating our anniversary at dinner was not only fixed, but improved upopn and apologized for more than necessary. The best of the service though can be summed up with 2 experiences that my son had on the last night of the cruise. When he went to give the tip to our room attendant, he told her how much he liked the towel animals. She stuck her head in and asked us if it would be allright if she could come in and teach him how to make them himself. She didn’t have to do that, but he was thrilled! The most amazing was Liam. He was a retail CM at the pin trading event. My son had been looking for a pin to complete a set of 5 for over 3 trips in the previous 18months. The pin he was missing was of course the most limited edition of the set and we didn’t have high hopes of finding it. Liam looked through 5 or 6 pin lanyards while we were talking to him. When he couldn’t find it, he asked for our sons name & room number just in case he found someone with it. In the middle of the night, en envelope was stuck partially under the door. Inside was a personal, handwritten note with the impossible to find Ursula pin attached. That was a Magical Moment and is a big part of why I can’t wait to go back on a Disney Cruise!
Toasted and heated all the way through after our day at Castaway Cay, we all showered and changed for our last night on the ship.
Tonights show is Disney Dreams, every night it gets better and this is the best! The cast shows just how talented they are and will bring a tear to your eyes; guaranteed! Jon & the kids had doubted me, but I think they were impressed. I really don’t want to spoil this one, but there are some pretty darn cool effects that go on during this show. Just a tip, if you have a drink in the theater, you may want to cover it at times…. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, there are concessions stands outside the theater with drinks (alchoholic & non), snacks, etc (these snacks & drinks are a purchase, not free). There are also servers that take & serve drink orders in the theater before the show starts.
On our way to dinner, we stopped by the big pin trading event near guest services. Jason has been collecting a series (Hidden Mickey Villain series) and has 1 missing pin; Cruella DeVille (the most limited edition of the series) that he’s been looking for for a year and a half. We checked with everyone, and the last CM we talked to, Liam, searched 8 lanyards that he had. He asked Jason for his name and cabin number just in case he found one. We thanked him for his time and headed to dinner.
Our meal tonight is at Parrot Cay. This is one of my favorites of the trip! I prefer to have it on ‘Pirate Night’ instead of ‘Formal Night’ but it’s still really good and a fun place to eat. My favorites on the menu….Appetizer; Baked Crab Martinique. This is filled with lump crab, creamy and delicious! Next, order the Cold Cream of Mango & Papaya soup! This is probably in my top 3 foods from both cruises! and I’m not even a mango or papaya fan. The Mixed Grill is a great entree and I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the banana bread they serve with dinner, yummy! If you aren’t stuffed at this point (even if you are) try the French Toast Banana Bread Pudding with coconut icecream & caramel sauce. Now you’re stuffed! Good luck doing the limbo…..
As usual, the kids took off after dinner. Megan went to Aloft and Jason took off for the sports courts & the kids club. Jon & I made sure everything was packed and in the hall for our bags to be picked up. Then we wandered around, enjoying our last night on the ship. We stopped by Cadillac Lounge, Diversions, Wavebands and finally ended up at Cove Cafe enjoying some tasty coffee drinks while watching the incredible light show the storms were putting on. We finally went back to the room caught up with Jason, and watched the storms from the verandah. Jason went out and gave our tip to Willie our cabin attnedant and told her he really liked the towel monkey in our room. After checking with us, she came in and taught Jason how to make the hanging towel monkey. Very cool! It was after 1am, time to kick back and relax, and try to stay awake till Meg came “home”. She had told us they had a lot planned for their final night and that she’d be back late. I tried to stay up, really I did. I woke up around 2:30am and went to the bathroom. I saw there was an envelope under the door, but it was stuck and I didn’t want to open the door and wake anyone. It was addressed to Jason, assuming that it was a “hope you feel better” after the ray bite yesterday, I left it till morning….. I know, don’t assume. Worried because I hadn’t heard Megan come in, I decided to peek around the curtain, and saw her in bed sound asleep – 1st time in her life that she’s been quiet Knowing she was safe and sound, I went back to sleep.
Mickey Mouse called again to wake us up (some of us were already awake). I got up and got the envelope from outside. Jason was just excited that he got an envelope, then when he opened it he was ecstatic! There was the Cruella DeVille pin he’d been searching for and a note from Liam the CM. That was so far above & beyond the call of duty, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Liam! Truly a Magical Moment!
We all got ready, finished packing up our last minute items and left our cabin for the last time. We went and had our farewell breakfast at Parrot Cay (you’re scheduled to eat your return to port breakfast at the restaurant you ate at the night before -or were scheduled to eat at). Good breakfast, omelets, pastries, bagels. Fueled up for our drive home, we made our way off the ship.
A tip, grab a porter when you get off the ship. Let them help you find your luggage (that part is actually very easy), they will load it up and take you through the Customs line quickly and efficiently. I think it is well worth the tip money! Before you know it, you’re outside and your car is loaded up ready for the drive home.
These are all of my pictures from my June agent trip. Enjoy pictures of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, the Disney Wonder & Castaway Cay. Pictures
Most families are going to plan for months, even a year before they set sail. Thanks to a special travel agent perk, my family is going on their (the kids) first cruise in less than 2 weeks. Although with a Disney Cruise, once you’ve picked which cruise you want to go on, there isn’t much else to do.
Where to start? With a good travel agent of course, lol! We’ll talk about how to find the right cruise for you in another post. Today I’m going to focus on getting ready for your cruise.
First things first, for U.S. citizens, right now you are not required to have a passport for travel that starts & ends in a U.S. port but it is highly recommended! If you don’t have a passport you will need the following documents: certified birth certificate (not a copy!!!), government issue photo ID (drivers license), marriage license (ladies, if you name has changed since you were born bring the marriage license). Same documents are needed for children; 15 & under do not need photo ID. You will need all of your documents when you check in at the cruise terminal, so DO NOT PACK your passport & ID! Carry your documents with you in your day bag. I also recommend making color copies of all your ID; pack a copy and leave a copy at home.
Next, go online to disneycruise.com and do all of your online registrations. Register for the kids clubs, enter your credit card info for your Key To The World Card, online check in, flight info. All of the paperwork that you need to have when you check in you can print & fill out ahead of time and some only needs to be done online (kids club registration). Now look at the excursions & spa treatments. Think about what you want to do while in Nassau, if you see the “perfect” excursion for your family, book it now so you won’t miss out. You can also book your Castaway Cay excursions, spa treatments and make Palo reservations online. If you’re not sure, you can wait to book these things once you’re on the ship. Keep in mind, some of these will “sell out” or the time you want may not be available.
What do you need for the cruise? Not a whole lot really. If we were going on a 7 night cruise there would be a few more things that we would need but for a 3 night cruise here’s what I suggest:
- Comfortable “cruise casual” clothes. Shorts and tee-shirts are perfect for most of the day(s)
- No shorts in the dining rooms for dinner, but it’s not super fancy. Collared (golf) shirt and khakis for guys, and skirt, skort or sundress for ladies. One night of the cruise is the “dress up” night, but it’s not overly formal and it’s optional. Guys, bring a sports jacket and you’ll be set. If you think you might want to eat at Palo, you have to have that sports jacket & ladies will be more dressed up.
- Bathing suits! Bring several so you always have a dry one to put on. A cover up is nice to have, but not required.
- Pool shoes with traction. If the bottom of your flip flops are worn smooth, get a new pair. The deck can be slippery and you don’t want to fall on vacation.
- Light weight sweater or jacket. The theaters & restaurants can get a little chilly.
- Camera. You have the camera, do you have your charger, batteries, film??? If you forget batteries or film you can buy those on the ship, but it’ll be cheaper to bring them from home.
- Dramamine. Not sure if you suffer from motion/sea sickness? Pick up a package of dramamine from your local drugstore for a couple of dollars, just in case.
- While you’re at the drug store, make sure you stock up on sun screen!
- Gym or tennis shoes. If you think there’s the slightly possibility that you might want to work out or participate in the 5k run on Castaway Cay, you’ll need your gym shoes.
- Cash for: room service tips (more info on tips below), the Bahamas.
I really struggled to come up with more, but you don’t need more.
Our “planning/packing” so far has been to run out and get a 2nd bathing suit for my son, new flip flops for my husband and a sundress for my daughter. I’ve gathered the passports & birth certificates and have them in a pile. Jon’s sport coat is on it’s way to the dry cleaner and I’ll start working on the laundry. I’ve done all of our paperwork and my son is registered for the Oceaneers Lab. We’ve decided to skip the excursions in Nasasu and to just take the kids into town and explore on our own for awhile. We’re going to check out the Pirate Museum and of course the Straw Market and then we’ll play it by ear. After looking at the options for Castaway Cay, we know that we want to sign up for the “Extreme Getaway Package” (only available for booking onboard at any day before arrival in Castaway Cay).
I mentioned tipping earlier, and now I’ll go into more detail. Tipping/Gratuities are of course optional, but they are pretty standard. One of the options that Disney Cruise Line offers is the ability to pre-pay your gratuities. Don’t worry, your servers & cabin attendant won’t know ahead of time so you don’t need to worry about that. You’ll just have the convenience of having done it ahead of time, not worrying about having cash or envelopes made up. When you choose to pre-pay your gratuieties, on the last night of your cruise you will receive “tickets” and envelopes made out for all of your servers/attendants. Then you hand them out the last night. Ta da, you’re done!
Other tips/gratuities would be for:
- Bar items, there will be an automatic gratuity added to your bill. You’re of course free to tip more, but be aware that a tip is already added on!
- Room service is free, so you won’t receive a check to sign. You’ll want to have cash for tipping room service.
- Porters. If you use the porters for your luggage when you drive to the port or when disembarking the ship, you’ll want cash for tips. Generally a couple of dollars per bag is the suggested amount.
What else needs to be done before leaving the house? Well I’m starting on laundry, dry cleaning and cleaning the house- I hate coming home to a dirty house! I’ll go to the bank to make sure I have cash for the trip, drugstore for sunscreen & dramamine (just in case) and the library for some poolside reading materials. Since we’re also spending 5 nights at Disney World before our cruise, I need to make sure to pack for both parts of the trip.
I’ll post with more tips & suggestions throughout the week.
These are the questions from my 1st post in this series:
- What should I pack? What did I pack that I didn’t need and what do I wish I had brought?
- Do I need a passport or should I have one even if I don’t need it? What are the new passport rules?
- How are the cabins? Can you see/feel the difference between the different categories? Is it worth paying for the ocean view?
- When will my documents arrive?
- What should I know to make it easier and more relaxing?
Packing: my packing list was probably a little different than most because I needed to have “business/cruise casual” clothes for work/seminar times & then regular clothes. I was actually really happy with what I took as far as clothes. Casual comfy shorts & tees are perfect for most everything except dinner. I wore sundresses at night for dinner and felt that I was dressed appropriately-not too casual and not too dressy. Make sure you have bathing suits & a cover up is nice to have. If you get cold easily, you may want a light sweater for dinner & the shows. What did I forget to pack? I should have packed the charger for my camera! I actually took less pictures than I would have liked because I was afraid the battery would die before the end of the trip. What I didn’t need was my hair dryer. There’s nowhere to plug it in the the bathroom and there is a built in hair dryer that worked just fine.
Passport: Right now, American citizens do not NEED a passport for cruises that start and end in the same port. However, if anything were to go wrong–miss the ship in Nassau, get sick and need to emergency fly back to the U.S.–you would be in for a lot of headaches without a passport. I would strongly recommend getting the passport, it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
Cabins: I was impressed with the size of the cabins. Any DCL cabin that is “Deluxe” has the split bath, a really great feature. The split bath is a sink & toilet in one bath and the other bath has the shower & sink. Makes it super easy to get ready with multiple people in a cabin. That is an upgrade that I think is worth paying for! I was in a Category 6, Deluxe Cabin with Verandah and LOVED IT!!! I really liked being able to go out on the verandah but if it came down to not being able to go or having a verandah I’d take a Deluxe Ocean View Cabin in a heartbeat. The “port holes” are quite large and give a good view and natural light. I like having a view, but I’m also a little claustrophobic. The inside cabin would be fine for those who aren’t bothered by claustrophobia and are a great choice for families that need 2 cabins or the the Cat 5 Deluxe Family Stateroom with Verandah.
Documents: Your cruise documents will arrive when they arrive…..don’t worry, arrival a few days before your trip is not unusual.
What should you know:
*The kids clubs are amazing! Even if you think your kid(s) won’t want to go much, register them while you’re still in the Cruise terminal! You’ll be surprised how little you see your kids on this trip because they will be busy having the time of their lives! After touring the kids clubs, I wish I could go there!
*Even with kids, choose 2nd seating for dining. Yes you’ll be eating a little later, but (1) you’ll never go hungry on the ship as there is food available all the time! (2) you’ll have more time in ports before needing to be back on the ship and (3) the new Dine & Play allows the kids to dine with you, have their food brought quickly and then the counselors will pick them up at the restaurant. They go play in the clubs & you enjoy the rest of your meal child free!
*The Vista Spa offers specials through out the cruise, check your navigator for each day. They also offer a day pass or cruise pass for the Rainforest Room. Great way to enjoy the relaxation of the spa with out the pricier “treatments”. Go to the Spa to purchace the pass. No charge for fitness equipment or exercise classes but make sure you bring your gym shoes or you won’t be allowed to participate.
*Gratuities can be pre-paid before you sail, which is very convenient! You’ll get envelopes & tickets with your servers’ names on them for you to hand out the last night of the trip. Better than worrying about having cash for that.
*Don’t pack the credit card you’re going to use for your room charges. You’ll need it in the cruise terminal when you check in. If you forget and have the credit card in your luggage, don’t worry. They’ll set your Key to the World card up to be paid in cash at the end and you can go to guest services on the ship at anytime and give them your credit card info. If you’re doing a Land & Sea package, you will already be set with your KTTW Card from your resort portion of the trip.
*Carry a day bag for when you get on the ship. Have your bathing suit, sunscreen,sunglasses, camera & your ID, Passport & Credit Card. That’s all you’ll need until your luggage arrives in your cabin.
While it may sound self serving to say this, I strongly recommend using a travel consultant that specializes in Disney and Disney Cruises. Don’t miss out on an amazing dinner at Palo because you didn’t know there was an adult only restaurant on board, a couples spa treatment on the ship or a cabana massage on Castaway Cay or excursions in port. If you have a travel consultant that doesn’t mention any of these options or specials that might apply to your cruise dates, you need to find a new agent immediately! Other than that, relax and enjoy. You’re about to embark on a wonderful experience!
Awaking to the bright flash of lightning and boom of thunder I was a little worried about my upcoming day at Castaway Cay. It was early yet, we hadn’t even pulled in so I held out hope for a nice day.
After we docked but before allowing anyone ashore, I started the morning by going up to Beach Blanket buffet by myself for breakfast. Lots of yummy choices, and I tried most of them : Egg McMuffin type sandwiches (with a slice of tomato), Mickey Waffles (cherry topping, chocolate sauce and whipped cream available), pastries, potatoes, and so much more. As I got to the end of the line, I asked a CM where the coffee cups were. He insisted on getting my coffee for me and on taking my tray for me. He asked where I’d like to sit and I jokingly told him “somewhere dry with a pretty view” –there are outdoor tables and it was still wet out. I would have been happy most anywhere, but he found me a great table with a view of the family beach on Castaway Cay. I really would have been fine carrying my own tray, but loved the service! Food was great! Loved the cherries on the waffle and the tomato on the egg muffin. Coffee was Nescrape, but what’s a girl gonna do, gotta have something to start the day.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s own private island and I wish it was mine! It was raining and dreary when I walked off the ship but Castaway Cay was still amazing. I started my own little tour of the island by walking past the Post Office (anyone know the name of the postmaster? check the trivia area for the answer) along to the snorkeling lagoon where a few brave souls were snorkeling in the rain. I continued on and checked out the Family Beach and the Sports beach. It was still drizzling, so the beach was pretty quiet. I did see a cute little guy having fun playing soccer on the sports beach. Next stop on my walk was Grouper Game Pavillion. This is where you’ll find ping pong tables, billiards, basketball and other games to play–by the way, they’re all free! If you go past the pavillion & sting ray adventure area you’ll come to the Teen Beach. Yep, the teens get their own beach. I did not see it, because only teens & CM’s are allowed but I hear it’s pretty cool. I just continued to walk along in the rain, enjoying my time alone on this beautiful island. The plants & flowers were all gorgeous! I only wish I had been with someone that could tell me what some of the things I saw were. The last part of my walk was along the former airstrip on the island. If you’re ever flying above, you’ll know this is Disney’s island because it says “Castaway Cay” along the runway. I finally made it to the most heavenly place, Serenity Bay Beach. Why is it so serene? It’s the exclusive beach area for Adults 18 & older! I had done my research on the walk out, checked out the family areas & now was looking forward to laying out in the sun on a quiet beach. The beach was quiet, the sun was a little reluctant to shine but eventually came out and it was perfect! Clear water, shells & sea life every where you looked. Brightly colored fish, huge conch shells (with the conch inside), sand dollars and even live starfish. After walking the beach and checking out the water, it was time to lay out and have a frozen beverage delivered. They come to your beach chair, take your order and deliver wonderful concoctions, it really doesn’t get much better than that! Then you realize that you’re getting hungry….your food is still covered on the island. There is a big cookout at Cookie’s BBQ (next to family beach) and for the adults, there’s a cookout at Serenity Bay. We enjoyed steak, burgers, grilled chicken, mahi mahi, ribs, salads, and desserts. I heard great reviews of the ribs & mahi mahi, I loved the steak it was cooked perfectly. The salads; a greek tomato,olive & feta salad was to die for! SO GOOD! Of course, desserts were pretty good to….soft serve ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, yum! —–I believe the “menu” is slightly different at Cookie’s BBQ, no steak or fish, more kid friendly sides.
This little island has something for everyone! Families can spend time together or the kids can go to Scuttles Cove, (the kids program area) and teens off to their beach while Mom & Dad can get a massage in a beachside cabana at Serenity Bay. There are excursions ($) and activities (free) for everyone including a 5k run, Character meet & greets, family whale dig, hula dance and so much more. There is shopping available at: She Sells Sea Shells & Everything else–Castaway Cay logo merchandise and at Bahamian Retail featuring Bahamian Arts & Crafts.
I was a little sad leaving this heavenly little island but I look forward to going back someday!