The Walt Disney Company has many amazing firsts in the entertainment and tourism industry ... but this just might be the most impressive. Disney Cruise Line is the first cruise line to have its very own private island. Disney Castaway Cay is 1,000 acres of gorgeous views and houses more activities than you can check off of your list in one visit. Hop along with us as we share all you need to know about this one-of-a-kind retreat.
All About Castaway Cay
While the first settlers arrived on the beautiful Bahamanian island of Gorda Cay back in 1783, Disney didn't find their way there until 1983 when they used its clear blue waters and white sand beaches to film the 1984 romantic comedy, "Splash." Cut to 1996 when Disney Cruise Line signed a 99-year lease with the Bahamian government to turn Gorda Cay into Castaway Cay and use it as its own private island where it could easily dock and guests could spend an entire day in paradise. Disney took it upon themselves to build a dock so that guests could easily walk off the ship and onto the island (removing the need for a tender boat) and a 1,700-foot channel that's around 35 feet deep and between 200 and 400 feet wide so that ships could reach the aforementioned dock. All in all, the island's renovation took 18 months and cost over $25 million dollars.
While that's the real-life history, here's Disney's own fictional storytelling for the island: "Three explorers set sail to the scattered islands of the Bahamas in search of fame and fortune. They brought along their families and a diverse crew. Through mild mishap and extreme good fortune, they located the objects of their desire–sunken treasures and the secret of youth. Though castaway on this island, they had no desire to leave due to the breathtaking beauty of this tropical paradise. Visitors to this island can still see the original structures built by the explorers and take part in many of the same pleasures our castaways enjoyed years ago. Disney Cruise Line welcomes you to the island paradise of your dreams, Castaway Cay.”
Ports of Call
If you book either a Bahamian or Caribbean Cruise with Disney Cruise Line, you're one of the lucky froggies who gets to visit this gorgeous island! Depending on the cruise, Bahamian itineraries dock at either Nassau, Bahamas and Castaway Cay or just Castaway Cay. There's also a Bermuda and Bahamian Cruise that takes you to King's Wharf, Bermuda, Nassau and Castaway Cay. Aside from Castaway Cay, ports of call on Caribbean cruises include:
- Cozumel, Mexico
- Costa Maya, Mexico
- George Town, Grand Cayman
- Tortola, British Virgin Islands
- St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
- Falmouth, Jamaica
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Philipsburg, St. Maarten
- St. John's, Antigua
- Roseau, Dominica
Castaway Cay Beaches
Whether you're looking for some fun in the sun or simply to soak up some rays, Castaway Cay has a spot just for you. The island is home to three different beaches, each with its own unique features.
The largest of the three (and the closest to the ship), this pristine beach is lined with colorful umbrellas. Each one provides shade to two adjustable lounge chairs and two beach chairs. There are even some hammocks scattered around for your use, as well. Whether you want to sail, paddle, kayak, swim or snorkel, this beach truly has it all! You can even rent a tube and just float the day away. (If you want to spend some time on Family Beach, immediately head here after you disembark. It fills up fairly quickly!)
Tucked away in its own cove at the far side of the island, Serenity Bay is the 18 and up adults-only beach. If you're looking for some peace and quiet, this is the beach for you. Here you'll find the same umbrellas, lounge chairs, beach chairs and hammocks as the Family Beach but none of the tadpoles. There's even a massage cabana for open-air massages under the swaying palm trees. Head off the boat bright and early to join in on a morning yoga class just steps away from the calm, turquoise waters. This is one of the many fitness classes included in your cruise and a great way to take advantage of all the island has to offer! Serenity Bay is the perfect place to grab a drink, crack open a book and float your cares away in blissful tranquility.
If you're looking to get active, head to the Sports Beach for some beloved beach pastimes, including volleyball, tetherball and soccer. You'll find water equipment rentals here, as well.
Castaway Cay Activities
Guests receive a handout the day before leaving for Castaway Cay that includes port adventures and excursions, as well as their pricing, timeframe, age levels and activity level. You can book packages ahead of time at the Port Adventures Desk on the ship or start checking out the packages for your cruise up to 120 days prior to your ship's departure.
Rentals and Activities
From the land to the sea (and even the sky!), there are tons of different activities and equipment available to rent around the island. Here's a list of some of the fun things you can do during your day:
- Water cycling
- Paddle boating
- Fly fishing
- Water skiing
- Glass-bottom boats
- Power catamarans
- Hobie Cats
- Aqua trikes
- Sand toys
Pelican Plunge is a water play area adorned with two waterslides (one open, one closed), a giant bucket dump that sprays hundreds of gallons of water and water cannons you can shoot targets with. The catch? This 2,400 square foot is floating in the ocean, so frogs and tadpoles alike must be able to swim to play here. To ride the waterslides, you must be at least 38 inches tall. Anyone under 48 inches in height must don a complimentary life vest.
This water play area is perfect for toddlers and younger tadpoles. Water sprays everywhere on this splash pad due to dripping pipes, broken plumbing and hissing misters.
Located on Sports Beach, Teen Hideout is a club exclusive to cruisers ages 14 to 17. Teens can enjoy their own slice of paradise, lounging here without any adults present.
Be sure to bring your autograph book because character meet-and-greets abound on Castaway Cay! Be on the lookout for pirate-themed characters at the post office, Chip 'n' Dale at the dance party at Cookie’s BBQ and Captain Jack Sparrow at Serenity Bay. The Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy) appear randomly around the island in front of iconic backdrops like Mt. Rustmore and even more characters appear on the dock as you head back to your ship in the evening.
Looking for a place to drop off the tadpoles so you can enjoy some rest and relaxation? Head on over to Scuttle's Cove, a childcare center for tadpoles ages 3 to 12 where your little ones will be supervised all day long by Disney counselors from the ship. This complimentary kids club features a 1,200-square-foot soft wet deck area with pop jets, geysers and bubblers and a giant whale-bone excavation site.
In Da Shade Game Pavilion
Located near the Family Beach, this shaded structure offers a variety of games such as table tennis, foosball, billiards and basketball. This area is supervised by Disney cast members so you can feel at ease letting your tadpoles have some fun on their own!
She Sells Sea Shells...and Everything Else! and Buy the Sea Shore are where you need to go to find beachwear, hats, souvenirs and collectible pins with the Castaway Cay logo that you won't find anywhere else — even on the ship! Merchandise can be sent directly to your stateroom to free up your arms for more important things (like swimming, riding a bike, holding up a drink, hugging the tadpoles ... we could go on and on!) If you're looking for more something a little less Disney, check out Bahamian Retail for authentic Bahamian arts and crafts.
Snorkeling in the Castaway Cay Lagoon off Castaway Family Beach is one of the most popular activities on the island. Rent your gear at Gil's Fins and Boats or Flippers & Floats and head toward the Discover Trail if you're a novice or the Explorer Trail if you're a little more experienced. The lagoon is pretty fun, large and offers a variety of fish to see with plenty of visibility. Keep an eye out for sunken treasures and even a hidden Mickey!
There are several excursions available for an extra cost that allow you to see the island in a whole new way. Tours range from 30 minutes to a few hours to all day for the getaway packages. Soar 600 to 800 feet over Castaway Cay on a parasail or climb aboard a glass bottom boat for a guided tour of the island's reefs. One of the most exciting excursions, though, is the opportunity to get an up-close and personal experience with more than 60 stingrays at Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure. This hour-long encounter is for frogs ages 5 and up and gives you the chance to feed, pet and even snorkel with these majestic creatures. It even includes a fun info session led by a marine specialist with interesting facts about stingrays.
If you're looking for a bit more privacy during your day in paradise, look into renting one of three different types of cabanas available on Castaway Cay.
- Family Beach Cabanas: These cabanas cost $549 (October through February) or $599 (March through September) for up to six people. If you want to include more people, it costs $50 extra per person for a maximum of 10 people. The Family Beach Cabanas come with snorkel equipment, sand toys, free float and tube rentals, a one-hour bike rental, a safe for valuables and a call button for cabana service.
- Grand Family Beach Cabana: This cabana costs $899 for up to ten people. If you want to include more people, it costs $50 extra per person for a maximum of 16 people. The Grand Family Beach Cabana comes with snorkel equipment, sand toys, free float and tube rentals, a one-hour bike rental, a safe for valuables and a call button for cabana service.
- Serenity Bay Cabanas: Located on the adults-only beach, these cabanas cost $399 for frogs aged 18 and older, for a maximum of four people. If you want to include more people, it costs $50 extra per people for a maximum of 10 people. The Serenity Bay Cabanas don't come with the same beach amenities as the other cabanas.
All cabanas come with indoor and outdoor cushioned seating; a freshwater shower; a hammock; a mini-fridge with unlimited soda and bottled water, fresh fruit and damp washcloths for cooling off; snacks (chips and granola bars); plush towels; Coppertone sunscreen and aloe care; and a selection of magazines.
Castaway Cay Dining
Just as onboard the ship, food and nonalcoholic drinks are included your Disney Cruise package. There are a few places to grab food on the island where you'll find delicious island fare and familiar favorites.
- Cookie's BBQ: Outdoor dining that serves burgers, barbecued chicken and ribs
- Cookie's Too BBQ: Family lunch buffet that serves all-you-can-eat barbecue, along with salads, flatbreads and ice cream
- Serenity Bay BBQ: Dining option located on the adults-only beach that serves burgers, ribs, chicken, fish and something you won't find anywhere else on the island, ribeye
- Conched Out Bar, Heads Up Bar, Sand Bar, Castaway Air Bar: Frozen specialty drinks, cocktails, and beer
Castaway Cay Tips
- Don't froget your stateroom key! If there is one thing to remember when you head ashore, it's to bring along your key. Most other items can be purchased on the Cay.
- Stroller rentals are FREE on Castaway Cay! There are also wagons, joggers and all-terrain wheelchairs with specialized all-terrain tires perfect for trekking across the sand.
- Don't bring cash or credit cards with you. Your Keys to the World card will work on the island, and there's no sense risking sensitive financial items.
- Don't spring for bottled water. There are water stations throughout the island with free access.
- Don't bother filling up on food onboard the ship! With so many delicious options on the island, take advantage. But, be sure to take advantage early, as the restaurants do shut down mid-afternoon.
Fun Facts About Castaway Cay
- "Splash" wasn't the only movie filmed here. Part of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was filmed on the island too!
- Two submarine-ride vehicles from the now-closed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride at Walt Disney World lie underwater in the snorkeling area.
- The Post Office accepts USD and mail is sent with an exclusive Castaway Cay stamp. You can also use your Keys to the World card.
- Besides only developing what is necessary, Disney Cast Members monitor and protect the nests of loggerhead sea turtles, an animal that is on the endangered species list. They are also working to restore the coral reefs. Part of their plan to be more green is to use solar panels positioned in backstage areas. Since sunlight is an abundant natural resource in the Bahamas, they can harness more than enough power to run the island!
- In 2019, Castaway Cay won the Cruise Critic's Cruisers' Choice Award for "Top Cruise Line Private Island" for the fourth year in a row!
Have you visited Castaway Cay? What is your favorite part? Be sure to drop us a comment below!