Walt Disney World & World Travels

Posts Tagged ‘Castaway Cay

There’s a lot going on with Disney Cruise Line lately.  The most recent announcements include a new show,  new activities for kids and a joint announcement from DCL & Adventures by Disney.

Premiering March 27, 2010 on the Disney Magic is the first show all about Disney villains.  A description of the show from Disneycruiseline.com:

“Villains Tonight!” begins as Hades and his faithful sidekicks, Pain and Panic (“Hercules”), welcome new souls (the audience) to the Underworld. But instead of a frightening realm, guests will discover that Hades has turned the Underworld into an upbeat and happier place. The lively fun comes to a halt when The Fates arrive and predict that Hades will lose his position as Lord of the Underworld if he doesn’t ramp up the evil factor.

Worried by the news, Hades checks his Evil-O-Meter and discovers it is running dangerously low. So he comes up with a plan: He’ll conjure up the very best of the worst – the most powerful Disney villains – to help him replenish the world of evil. What ensues is a comical journey as Hades, Pain and Panic embark on a quest filled with wacky antics and amusing musical numbers featuring everyone’s favorite Disney villains and their sidekicks.

“Villains Tonight!” features a “Who’s Who” of the Disney villains, including Disney’s newest crook, Dr. Facilier from “The Princess and the Frog.” The show also features classic divas and scoundrels like Ursula (“The Little Mermaid”), the Evil Queen (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), Captain Hook (“Peter Pan”) and Scar (“The Lion King”).

During “Villains Tonight!,” the 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre becomes a hilariously wicked world through the use of elaborate sets and special effects, extravagant costumes and a fun-filled, contemporary musical score.

This past week came the announcement that kids will be able to “customize” their activities on their vacations.  No longer will activities be divided up by age, now they’ll be more “interests” centered.  Cooking, puzzles, computer games….kids will play with kids interested in the same things they are.

The last big piece of news is great for those that have wrestling with the idea of a Disney Cruise or an Adventures by Disney vacation.  “Mediterranean Magic” is the best of both worlds:

Adventures by Disney and Disney Cruise Line® present an extraordinary new way to experience the Mediterranean. Disney Cruise Line Guests can now enhance their 10- and 11-Night Mediterranean Cruises with the extra magic of an Adventures by Disney vacation! Combining our personal service and expertise in guided travel across the world with the enchantment of a Disney cruise, the Mediterranean Magic brings you an exquisite selection of unique onboard activities and premium shore experiences designed to immerse you and your family in the cultures and sights of the incredible Mediterranean region.

As part of our world-renowned Disney Difference, our Adventure Guides serve as VIP hosts and expert tour guides, overseeing every aspect of your journey. We’ll handle the details so that you can relish some of the Mediterranean’s most captivating cities! We have thoughtfully planned every excursion and taken care of all port meals so that you can truly enjoy every shore experience and spend your time together as a family having the time of your lives.
What’s Included?
All shore experiences and meals, onboard and onshore photos and gratuities, a night of adult fine dining and wine tasting at Palo, private receptions and special activities on board the Disney Magic!

If that’s not enough, here’s a quick reminder of things previously announced:

Everyone is looking forward to the new ships; the Disney Dream will set sail in January 2011 and the Disney Fantasy is scheduled to debut in 2012.

New itineraries are popping up.  This spring the Disney Magic will make a Trans-Atlantic sailing and then spend the summer sailing the Mediterranean.  While the Magic is gone, the Disney Wonder will be changing up her usual schedule and sailing on some 5 night cruises.

2011 will begin the first time Disney has cruised to Alaska!   In April 2011, set sail from Los Angeles, CA to Vancouver, Canada as the Disney Magic repositions for it’s Alaska cruise season.  From May – September, spend 7 nights cruising from Vancouver to Alaska.  In September, the Magic will reposition back to Los Angeles for 7, 8 and 10 night Mexican Riviera cruises.

Castaway Cay is undergoing some pretty cool renovations!  The new playset out in the water is coming along nicely and there will be more facilities added to the island in anticipation of the Dream & Fantasy’s arrival.

This is the perfect vacation for everyone in your whole family from 1-92. With all that’s going on, it’s a perfect time to book your Disney Cruise Line vacation!

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!

To add to the previous post, here is a video of the expansion plans!

I’ve been waiting for this news.  Castaway Cay is AWESOME,  but if you’re going to be bringing more people there with a bigger ship, then you’ll need more room for them.

What am I talking about?   In preparation of the new ships Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy; Castaway Cay is getting a makeover.  It actually looks to be a major expansion and overhaul more than just a makeover.  A few of the headlines: new/expanded family beach area, another picnic shelter for the buffet lunch, a new teen hideout area, new water play areas –in the water and on land!   More information

As I said, I’ve been waiting for this announcement.   I saw signs of this in July; there were large construction vehicles/tools on the island and some work was starting.  While I’ve been fortunate to visit Castaway Cay during some lower crowd times, I can see how it could get very busy.  Bring in the new ships and more than double the amount of people….It was going to be crowded.  The great thing is, this island has plenty of room for expansion and the ability to leave much of the island undisturbed.

This is very exciting news.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out!    Hmmm, sounds like a good reason to book another 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.

Rise & shine it is Castaway Cay day!  I watched the phone yet again waiting for Mickey to tell me it was time to get up.   The phone rang, room service knocked; time to start the day.

Jon, Jason & I went for breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet while Meg (not a breakfast person) got ready for the day on the island.  I love buffet breakfast, so many choices!  A few of the choices here: egg “mc muffin” type sandwiches, waffles (with cherries, chocolate sauce & whipped cream) hashbrowns, sausage & bacon, cereal, omelet station, fruit, pastries…… A little of this, a little of that and before you know it; a full tummy.   We got our food, ordered our omelets and found a table outside overlooking the island.  Our omelets were delivered to our table a few minutes later.  It was a very good, filling breakfast!

Sunscreen? Check! Room keys/ID? Check!  Excursion tickets? Check!  Time to check out Castaway Cay!!!  I think this is what the kids have been looking forward to the most.  Off the ship, take the tram and then pictures with Lilo & Stitch.  Pretty cool so far.  Check in at Scuttles Landing, the kids club on the Island.  The counselors tell me that we can check Jason in whenever, for any part of the day.  Excellent!  Now it’s time to check in for our excursion.  We are doing the ‘Extreme Getaway Package’: snorkeling, sting ray adventure, biking & floating.  Here’s your “tip of the day” snorkel 1st!  First thing in the morning, before the bottom gets all stirred up; go snorkeling.  Jon is the only one of us that has snorkeled before; so I’m pretty sure we were quite the sight on the beach trying to get our gear on.  You’ve never seen people have this much trouble putting masks on.   Ok, swim vests, flippers, masks; we’re set and off into the crystal clear water.  The water is very shallow for quite a ways out; it’s taking a lot of effort to get out.   Then, a fish swims by Megan and another through her legs…..that’s it; she’s done.  She was willing to try snorkeling, but we knew it wasn’t her thing……she has a fear of fish and these got way to close for comfort!  Meg heads in to the beach and we make our way further out.  This is really cool!  It took a little while to get “used to it”, but WOW!  The fish are beautiful!  All sorts of stuff to see down there!  It was time to head in and check in for our Stingray adventure (this is the only part of the excursion that has a set time).   You learn about stingrays in the “classroom”  and then go into the water.   Meg was pretty excited about this, she loves Mr. Ray in Finding Nemo.  For the record, the rays have all had their stingers removed and are checked frequently so there’s no concern of getting stung.  The stingrays know that when they see their plate (it’s a Mickey head), it’s time to eat.  We were told how to hold the food between our fingers and to put our hand down flat on the plate; then the rays swim up a ramp and right over your hand taking their dinner as they go.  I’ll say that it’s a little freaky at first.  The rays have a smooth/rubbery feel, their eyes are on top of their head and mouth is underneath.  They eat like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up the food.  That’s why you need to keep your hand perfectly flat, or your finger will appear to be sticking up like the food to be eaten.  Time to feed the rays; poor Meg didn’t realize that there would be fish in the ray beach…..Jason didn’t keep his hand as flat as need be and got what is called a “kiss” from a ray.  Unfortunately it broke the skin and bled, so we needed to get out and get that bandaged.  Meg was happy to leave the fish infested water.  It was a really neat experience and I’m sure it turns out better for other families 🙂

The teenager has done her “family time” and heads off to join the other teens on the island, with a ticket for her bike & float rental and explicit orders to be on the ship and in the room by 5pm.  Jon, Jason & I decide it’s time for some food–hey we haven’t eaten in hours.  Off to Cookies BBQ for the cookout lunch.  Burgers, hotdogs, BBQchicken,and BBQ Ribs.  They also had salad, chips, cookies & ice cream.  Good lunch, but I tell Jon not to eat too much here; I want to take him out to Serenity Bay where they also serve lunch for just the adults.  

After lunch we took Jason over to Grouper’s Game Pavillion where the kids club was hanging out for awhile.  We signed him in there so that he could have some time out of the sun & water and have fun playing with the other kids.  Grouper’s is cool, picture a picnic shelter with a tall roof.  In there they have ping-pong tables, foosball, shuffleboard, giant checkers and basketballs.  Lot’s of stuff to do and it’s right next to the Sports Beach.  What’s a sports beach?  Well, there are sand volleyball courts of course but there is also tether ball and soccer fields.  Talk about getting a good workout!  Play some sand soccer and you’ll feel the burn- doubly if you forget sunscreen.

With the kids off doing their own things, it was time to take Jon out to Serenity Bay.   Serenity Bay is a wonderful place on the island for those 18 and over.  No kids, no games, no whining or crying; just beach chairs, hammocks, a bar and servers that deliver to your chair.   We hopped on the shuttle and enjoyed the breeze for a few minutes.  It was really getting warm out!  First things first, time to eat our real lunch.  A little thing I learned on my agent cruise, the food is a little different at Serenity…..still have burgers, chicken & ribs (very good ribs) but ribeye steaks instead of hot dogs.  They also have fantastic salads, nice light & refreshing.  Even though this is for adults only, don’t worry they still have the cookies & ice cream 🙂   We shared our picnic table with a nice older couple (from Orlando)  they gave us a few suggestions of where to snorkel at Serenity Bay beach and told us about the plane engines that had been dropped out there a few years ago to form a reef. 

It was time to go find some beach chairs and do some snorkeling.  Very very warm outside now, time to get in the water.  There were some very cool things to see out here, lots of fish and other creatures.  There was one fish, that Meg would have had a heart attack if she’d seen.  As it was, Jon heard me scream and we  both had our heads in the water.  This was a big fish, I mean really big!  About 5 feet long and it was grey/silver in color and yes it scared the daylights out me when I saw it.  When he was done laughing at me, Jon took some more pictures and then we decided we were tired.  Time to stretch out and enjoy a frozen concoction.   Our server on the beach was our server in the Cadillac lounge, so she knew us & we knew her.  That’s one of the things I really like on the cruise, getting to know everyone.  She brought me a Konk Kooler, the signature drink of Castaway Cay.  I want to say it’s dark & light rum, colada mix, orange juice and maybe passion fruit juice, what I know for sure; it’s YUMMY!   Unfortunately it’s so hot out, it’s not cooling me much.  We decide it’s time to head back and see what Jason is up to and maybe we’ll run into Megan. 

We took the tram back and when we got off, we heard the announcement that 2 for 1 Konk Koolers and Mai Tais at the Conched Out Bar.  Well you don’t have to tell me twice!  After we refueled we headed to Scuttles Cove to get Jason.  He’d had fun but was ready for more snorkeling.  I was wiped out and ready to sip my drink, so we found some lounge chairs on the family beach and the boys took off to snorkel.  I enjoyed the quiet and my drink and then went down to the water because if I haven’t mentioned it yet; it’s hot out!  We’re well past warm, it’s hot!   This is my 1st time in the water at the family beach and a few observations; the bottom is soft & smooth, very sandy (much rougher/rockier at Serenity) and it get’s deep quick.  I just people watched while floating, it was very relaxing.  I loved watching the lifeguards (they have stations all over out in the water)  when it was shift change/rotation time, a lifeguard would climb down from there station hop on a surf/boogie board and paddle over to the next station.  That lifeguard would do the same and so on.  I just enjoyed watching them, it was pretty cool.  Jon and Jason then came to join, having decided they were done snorkeling.  They returned the snorkel equipment and got our floats/tubes.  Jon & I wanted floats, Jason insisted on a tube (inner tube).  Here is my next Tip of the Day for you; don’t let the kids get the tubes.  They’re huge, very difficult to get on & stay on, especially out in the deeper water.  It was a frustrating lesson to learn.   Once we gave up on the tube, we started to relax again.  Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the ship.  We stopped to get a couple of souveniers; looked around for Megan but didn’t see her, decided she could get her own souvenier later on the ship.  When we got back to the gangway, Captain Hook was there to welcome us back.  

One last Tip, when we swiped our keys to get back on the ship I asked the Cast Member if they could tell me if my daughter had come back.  They looked and were able to tell me who came back & when.  So I knew exactly what time she returned to the ship.  Nice peace of mind for a mom that was starting to worry.

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!

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