Castaway Cay (pronounced key) is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. Castaway Cay is a stop on most Disney Cruises leaving from Port Canaveral and Miami and let me tell you, it’s as pretty close to a little slice of heaven as you’re going to get on this earth. It’s literally the place on this earth that I’m the happiest.
Disney. Private Island. Bahamas. Cruise. All of the above things point to the fact that Castaway Cay is a pretty sweet place to hang out. Some Disney Cruises include two stops at Castaway Cay – how awesome would that be?
10 Tips to help you get the most out of Castaway Cay
Whether you have one day on Castaway Cay or two, you’ll want to make the absolute most of your time there. It will go by all too quickly, as most really awesome things do.
If you’re an experienced cruiser, you know that the ship’s amenities are wonderfully uncrowded when the ship is at port. You have your pick of deck chairs, spa appointments, and the lines are nonexistent.
Get off the ship. Don’t miss Castaway Cay. You might just have to trust me on this one. When we were in the planning phase of our first Disney cruise, I mentioned to one of my Disney Cruise veteran friends that we “might just stay on the boat” while at Castaway Cay and the look of horror on his face was epic. Now that I’ve experienced the magic myself, I completely get that look.
2. Know what you need to take off the ship with you
Your Key to the World Card (AKA your room key) is required to re-board the ship. You can use it on Castaway Cay to charge purchases you make on the island to your stateroom. Food, soft drinks and soft serve ice cream are included in the cost of your cruise but you’ll pay extra for alcohol, certain non-alcoholic specialty drinks, souvenirs, and equipment such as floats and snorkel gear.
Other than that, you’ll need whatever you’d normally take to enjoy a day at the beach: sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and sand toys. If you forget any of the above, they’re available in the gift shops on the ship and on Castaway Cay. Beach towels are provided on Castaway Cay so no need to bring your own or take the bath towels from your stateroom.
If you have younger kids who enjoy playing with sand toys (buckets and shovels) I recommend you pack a couple of things in your luggage and take your own. They sell sand toys on the island but they are more expensive so grab a few fun things from Amazon before your trip and save some money.
3. activities and port adventures
There are so many cool things to do on Castaway Cay. If you want to sit in a beach chair and zone out all day, that’s cool. There’s no prettier place to do it.
But, if you’d like to be more active, you have your pick of options. You can rent paddleboards, bikes, jet skis, and other equipment or book a tour or experience. Check out what’s available here and then book before you sail. You can also book a spa treatment on Castaway Cay. My husband and I did a couple’s massage on the beach and it was lovely.
There’s a booking window for when you can sign up for on-board activities and port excursions so if there’s something you have your heart set on doing, make sure you sign up as soon as your window opens.
- First time cruisers – 75 days
- Castaway Club Silver – 90 days
- Castaway Club Gold – 105 days
- Castaway Club Platinum/Concierge – 120 days
My husband and I enjoy snorkeling but we bring our own masks and fins with us. Snorkelers on Castaway Cay are required to wear a safety vest, which you can borrow free of charge at the same place you rent masks and fins.
4. Youth activities moves to the island
Disney’s Oceaneer Club is the on board club for kids 3-12. My kids absolutely loved all aspects of the Oceaneer Club and I can’t say enough good things about it.
If you want to know more about it, you can check out my comprehensive post on Disney Cruises for more info. But THIS IS THE COOLEST PART: when the ship drops anchor at Castaway Cay, the Oceaneer Club moves to Scuttles Cove on the island. There’s a splash pad in Scuttles Cove, although you’ll probably want to pull your kids out to enjoy swimming in the ocean and the fantastic water slides. You’ll also currently have to pull your kids out of Scuttles Cove for lunch. In club meal service is something that has yet to return after COVID-19.
Edge, the tween club, and Vibe, the teen club, currently have two-hour meetups on Castaway Cay. Check your navigator (Disney Cruise Line app) for times. Kids attending Edge and Vibe don’t need to be signed in and out and can come and go as they wish, so if you have expectations of meeting up at a particular time/place on the island, make sure you communicate that to your older kiddos.
5. Getting Around
Castaway Cay is about three miles long and two miles wide. There’s a free tram that runs around the island. You can also rent a bike.
There’s also a walking path that runs from where the ship is docked to the family beach area. It’s a 10-15 minute walk with lots of photo opportunities. I don’t recommend walking all the way to the adult beach, Serenity Bay, although you can if you want to walk off some of that cruise food.
6. Photo Ops
The magic of posing for pictures with your favorite Disney characters doesn’t get old. I remember the first time I got my picture taken with Minnie Mouse at the Magic Kingdom as if it were yesterday…and trust me, friends, it was way longer than yesterday.
Your favorite Disney characters are in nautical attire on board the Disney cruise ships – except for pirate night when they’re wearing…wait for it…pirate garb. If you’re visiting the Disney Parks before or after your cruise then you’ll get tons of amazing photos with your favorite Disney friends, but the pictures on board a Disney cruise are just extra special. Mickey, Minnie and your other favorites will be in bathing suits on Castaway Cay which makes for some really fun pictures you won’t get any place besides Castaway Cay.
Our most recent Disney Cruise (May 2022) had the times of character greets listed but didn’t list the characters, as previous cruises have, so who you meet up with might be a little bit of a surprise.
7. Eat Early!
Food, soft drinks, and unlimited soft-serve ice cream on Castaway Cay are included in the price of your cruise. There are three places to grab lunch, which is served buffet style: Cookies, Cookies Too, and Serenity Bay BBQ.
The restaurants start serving lunch around 11:30 and close around 2 p.m. so when you see people start lining up for lunch, follow the herd. Fare includes burgers, dogs, chicken, ribs and some sort of fish. On our most recent visit, grilled salmon was on the buffet, although I’ve seen mahi mahi on previous visits. Sides include a variety of salads, chips, and deserts.
We didn’t eat at Serenity Bay BBQ on our most recent visit and stuck to the family beach with our kids, but in the past, the adult beach has also served grilled ribeye steaks.
There are still dining options on board the ship if you’d rather but the food on Castaway Cay was very good and I don’t recommend skipping.
8. Serenity Bay has earned its name
Serenity Bay is the adults-only beach on Castaway Cay and it’s aptly named. It’s delightful and I recommend checking it out if you’re able to.
The family beaches are great but there’s an element of tranquility on Serenity Bay that’s pretty awesome if you’ve got older kids who can fend for themselves for a bit or younger kids who are happy in Scuttles Cove.
It’s essentially the same beach but the water is less stirred up and it’s blissfully quiet. There are also hammocks. And quiet. Did I mention quiet?
There are cabanas available for rent on both Serenity Bay and the Family Beaches. They’re notoriously difficult to book because there are not very many and they are in high demand. Refer to the activity booking window above to see when you can book.
Disney Cruise Pro Tip: If a cabana or any activity, either on board or on Castaway Cay, is fully booked prior to your cruise, check with Guest Services once you’re on the ship. I’ve also heard other cruisers walk off the chip and check for availability once they’re actually on the island and get lucky. You never know when someone will decide to cancel.
9. Shopping on Castaway Cay
I’m not a souvenir person but I encourage you to take a peek in the shops on Castaway Cay. The Castaway Cay merch is only available on the island, and, if you’re a pin collector, then you’ll want to get the exclusive pins that are only sold on the island. Castaway Cay pins can often be used as leverage for hardcore pin trading for something you really want.
10. Drinking on Castaway Cay
There are four bars on Castaway Cay that serve a variety of tropical drinks and beer in aluminum bottles. You can also purchase beer packages on the ship, which may be a decent deal. We bought the a beer package, which included 6 aluminum bottles of beer and an insulated bag for $56.
This worked out to be cheaper than buying beers on the island and we liked the cooler.
11. Do the Castaway Cay 5K – it’s free!
On our first Disney Cruise in 2017, the Castaway Cay 5K was organized much like any other road race. There was a signup process and a designated start and finish time.
On our most recent Disney Cruise (May 2022) the procedure had changed somewhat. There was no designated start time and the announcement that piped into our stateroom from the cruise director the morning we docked at Castaway Cay invited participants to go at their own pace and run the race at any time during the day our ship was docked at Castaway Cay. The announcement also said biking was acceptable if guests preferred to do that instead of running or walking.
I’m guess that this might be due to COVID-19 or smaller passenger loads since not as many people are cruising right now. As the ships get fuller, I’m guessing the race in its more structured form may come back.
There used to be clock timing and two water stops along the 3.1 mile course. Since we didn’t do the Castaway Cay 5K on our most recent cruise, I’m not sure if they still offered water stops or if runners were responsible for their own hydration. If you plan to run the race, this is a good thing to ask. There’s still the medal at the end which is actually made of rubber. I still display it with the rest of my race hardware, though.
I have heard a rumor – have not been able to confirm – that Disney is no longer giving medals on Castaway Cay. I’m still trying to verify.
If you want additional memorabilia you can purchase Castaway Cay 5K tee shirts and such on the island.
Related reading: Review of the Disney Wonder
One advantage to running the Castaway Cay 5K is that you’re the first people off the ship. If you have kids that are too young to run the 5K (minimum age is 10) you can walk your kids off with you and check them into the Oceaneer Club/Scuttles Cove on your way to the start line.
Enjoy your day at Castaway Cay
The pictures in no way do this place justice. If you’re tantalized by the lovely white sand and crystal clear blue water, it’s a thousand times better in person.
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