Our family’s favorite single vacation day is a day spent on Disney’s private island called Castaway Cay on a Disney Cruise.
Disney Castaway Cay
When the weather is right, and most days it is, Disney’s private island, Castway Cay is the perfect vacation spot for the day. Each day on a Disney Cruise is unique, and the private island is so wonderful it’s difficult to describe.
Disney has built a brand by providing experiences you can’t get anywhere else and the Disney Island meets those standards by exceeding your expectations!
From a perfectly manicured and safe beach, to snorkeling, a 5K, bbq style food and much more life doesn’t get much better than a day on this Caribbean island.
Our entire family agrees that a longer cruise is better, but if 3 day is your only option then visiting Castaway Cay is what makes a 3-Day Disney Cruise worth it.
We enjoy the beach but don’t want to spend a week on the beach. Going on a Disney Cruise is the perfect way to spend a few days at the beach while having many other experiences on the ship.
How We Spend The Day at Castaway Cay
My son has lots of energy, so getting off the ship early to kick-off the day with the Castaway Cay 5K is perfect. My husband and daughter enjoy a more casual morning and take their time disembarking the ship to meet characters. They enjoy taking in the sights of the island as they ride the tram or walk to the beach.
We always go to the family beach and play in the sand and water with our kids. After working up an appetite we get some drinks and soft serve ice cream as a mid-morning snack.
Then we head to Cookie’s BBQ for a buffet style meal. One of our big tips is not to schedule very much to allow for maximum enjoyment of the day. We talked to a man whose entire day was scheduled to do as many activities as possible. It was clear if he could do the day over again keeping he schedule open to do what seems fun in the moment is a priority.
There is typically a dance party with characters or another fun activity just off the beach that we do for variety. The Dance Parties are fairly small and personal and a great way for kids to get to interact with characters.
After hydrating some more and reapplying sunscreen we may check out other parts of the island.
We have only been on January cruises when the water was too cold to go in for very long. I’m really looking forward to snorkeling on our next cruise.
My husband likes to hike to the lookout tower which is on the 5K course. Renting bicycles would be a fun way to check out the island too, we just haven’t done that yet.
As the afternoon begins to wind down we enjoy spending more time at the beach or napping in a lounge chair under an umbrella. Sometimes we explore to find a splash pad or other activity.
We always board the ship at least 30 – 45 minutes before we are required to. This gives us time to shower and get ready for Pirate Night celebrations!
Tips & Tricks
- The further you walk from the ship and shuttle stops down the beach the more personal space you are likely to have.
- Grab a couple chocolate chip cookies from Cookie’s BBQ, take them to the soft serve machine and make yourself an ice cream sandwich.
- Try the unique soft serve ice cream flavors like banana and mango that we think might change throughout the day.
- Bring your own snorkel equipment to ensure that is well sanitized and so new snorkelers have time to practice at home.
- If you get hot just make yourself an ice cream cone to enjoy in the shade. it’s amazing to do this in the Caribbean, especially when it’s winter in the midwest.
- The pools on the ship are small and people don’t really actively swim in them, so the island is perfect for swimming!
- Pics of name tags and decorations to claim umbrellas and chairs are popular in Facebook groups, but they are not necessary because there are plenty of chairs and umbrellas for all.
- Take the tram to save energy, but if there’s a line and you can walk fast you can get there very quickly. The exception is the adults only beach, definitely take the tram to get there as it’s a at the end of the 5k route.
- The 5K is a great way to move your body after eating so much on the ship. It can be fun to do with kids too.
- A lot of tips say to mail a postcard from the post office that you walk by – if collecting stamps is important to you do it, but know that there’s SO much to do that it’s not possible to do it all.
- By trying to do it all you may miss out on a lot of enjoyment of the day trying to keep up with scheduled events.
- The Dance Parties with charac
Castaway Cay Snorkeling
Snorkeling is another one of my all-time favorite vacation activities. We haven’t had a chance to go because the water was too cold on our January cruises.
We have planned a cruise for earlier in the winter season with high hopes to go snorkeling at Castaway Cay.
There is no cost to snorkel as long as you bring your own snorkel gear. Gear is available for rent on site if needed. Life vests are provided at no charge.
There is a specially area with hidden Mickeys for snorkeling. It is a sizeable area that requires an ability to swim. I’ve seen great reviews for snorkeling in the Facebook groups, so we definitely plan to try.
My kids have never snorkeled so we have searched Amazon for the best reviewed snorkel mask and snorkel fins. We found these masks from Greatever that don’t require your mouth to make contact with any part of it. There is a ring around the edge of a face covering with a full panoramic view.
We bought the first mask to try out as gift for our son. Even though vacation is several months away our goal is to begin collecting the supplies that we will need. This strategy helps spread out the expenses and stay in budget.
Purchasing the equipment ahead of time also gives our kids the summer to practice using it and getting comfortable swimming with a face mask and fins. Learning the ropes at home will make our beginner snorkelers more comfortable. So, when we arrive on the island so we can make the most of our time on vacation!
I was also willing to spend the money on these quality snorkel supplies because it means we don’t have to worry about how well the rental equipment was cleaned and sanitized. To see the snorkel gear at work check out our YouTube video review here.
Towels will be handed to you shortly after disembarking the ship. Grab what you need and keep track of them for the day.
Food is included in the cost of the Disney Cruise. There are fountain drinks and soft serve ice cream available as well. Cookies BBQ is the name of the location where the bbq style food is served from late morning until mid afternoon.
Alcoholic beverages and smoothies are available for an additional charge and are sometimes brought to you by servers on the beach. There are a couple other locations on the island where drinks can be purchased.
We like to get creative and make our own ice cream sandwich for dessert using the soft serve ice cream that’s next to the fountain drinks.
There is no additional charge to participate in the 5K. A medal is awarded to anyone who finishes the race (which is really more of an activity) within an hour or so.
The use of towels, access to shuttles, the beach, many activities, childcare and food are included in the cost of the cruise. Some might say Castaway Cay can be experienced for free on a Disney Cruise as long as the weather is suitable to dock.
We have had excellent experiences not spending any additional money outside of the base cost of the cruise on Castaway Cay. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to spend money on drinks, extra activities, and souvenirs for those who are interested.
Be sure to check the daily Navigator (or schedule) for the day to find out all of the scheduled activities. I also like to ask others with more experience what they enjoy doing to get more tips.
We think of a day on this island with our family as priceless!
Excursions and Other Premium Experiences
In Facebook groups cabanas are a popular point of discussion. Know that there are only a few and they cost at least an additional $500 for the day. Cabanas are a private area with a stocked mini fridge, chairs and shade right on the beach.
There are boat and fishing tours, jet skies, big water bikes, traditional bicycles and more. I would not recommend spending additional money on the first or second trip. There is so much to experience in the base price that I would save upgrades for future trips if desired.
Some of the snorkel equipment for our trip was provided by Greatever Professional Snorkeling and some of it was purchased by our family. As always all opinions are my own.