From a photographer's standpoint, Portugal was one of the best places I have ever visited. The sky was always blue, the sun always shining, and the number of striking places to capture with my camera were endless.
For me, the day spent at Disney's private island Castaway Cay is one of the best parts of a Disney cruise. But to ensure that a terrific day is had for all people in your cruising party AND to maximize to the fullest all that Castaway Cay has to offer, be sure to remember my dos and don'ts.
Do pack what you need for the day
Although you can certainly make as many trips as you want back and forth between the cruise ship and Castaway Cay, depending where you are on the island, it's going to eat up a lot of your time if you're constantly making return trips to your stateroom if you've forgotten something. While the island is somewhat small, activities and features are still spread out and let's be honest, on the day your cruise ship is on a private island, you want to be right there, all day, right? And for those traveling with small children or elderly guests, this is especially crucial because it will just be a major PIA (pain in the a**) to have to go back to the ship only to come back off again. So take sunblock, books, toys, baby food, extra shoes-whatever you may possibly need with you the first and only time you disembark the ship.
While the ship doesn't look "that" far away, it's not as close as you think!
Don't forget your stateroom key
I'm not lying when I say that there will be announcements to death on everyone needing their stateroom key to not only get off the ship but to come on board as well. However, I have no doubt that over the years there have still been numerous individuals who made it all the way down to deck 1 only to realize they did not have their stateroom key. So while you're packing your day bag, be sure to throw in your room key. And just like on the ship, your stateroom key is your lifeline on Castaway Cay-you use it to make purchases, drinks, as well as to sign up for any activities.
Do eat at either Cookies or Cookies 2 BBQ for lunch
While meals at any number of the ship's restaurants are still available on the day that it's docked at Castaway Cay, don't even think of going back on board to eat when you have not one but two places on the island that serve an all-you-can-eat bbq lunch. Cookies is the main restaurant on the island while Cookies 2 is located in Serenity Bay, the adults only section. BBQ chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, a vast array of salads, chips, banana bread-this is all part of the feast. And honestly, a bbq spread while on a cruise is just fantastic.
Do "exercise" in ways you can
Let's be honest, when most people go on a cruise, they eat a lot more than they normally do, not to mention many more rich and "sinfully" fattening things as well. So when I was on the ship I almost always took the stairs instead of waiting for an elevator even if it meant walking up five flights. On Castaway Cay there is a tram that takes you to various parts of the island; however, everything is still walkable. When possible, I would say to walk especially since the terrain is all flat. Also, bikes can be rented ($10 a person, all bike sizes are available) and I would highly encourage people to do so. In addition to its healthy benefits, biking on a private island where you don't have to worry about anything (i.e. traffic, other people) is a lot of fun and a perfect way to work off that bbq lunch you just had. We've now rented bikes on each of the times we've been at Castaway Cay.
Don't forget to apply and reapply sunblock
It's the Caribbean...you're that much closer to the Equator...the sun is that much hotter. So especially if you're a fair person, one application is not going to cut it, especially if you spend the majority of the day on the island. I applied multiple times but unfortunately forget to apply on the tops of my feet and came home with a most "awesome"sunburn outline from my flip flops...
Beautiful beach view often means more intense sun!
Do do your shopping at the end of the day
There are numerous places to shop on the island (all selling unique Castaway Cay merchandise), but if you're like us, during the course of the day you'll probably be moving around a couple of times so save your shopping until the end when you're just about to get back on the ship. That way you won't be carting any purchases you made along with everything else you're already carrying.
Don't forget your camera
Castaway Cay is one of those places that offers numerous incredible views you would expect to see on the cover of a travel magazine. So being able to capture it all when you get home is a must. That and you want to be prepared should a certain pirate ever happen to come your way.
So there you have it, my personal Dos & Don'ts of visiting Disney's fabulous Castaway Cay!
Except now there's a fourth...stuffed eggplant. It's just like moussaka but different. And the best part? You're bound to have leftover filling which means more eggplant goodness to go around or if you're like me, you'll just keep it for yourself to eat.
recipe courtesy of Lesley Mackley's The Book of Greek Cooking
Salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef or lamb
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup grated kefalotiri cheese (3 ounces). You can substitute Parmesan or Romano cheese
Cut eggplants lengthwise, from stem, sprinkle with salt and let drain 1 hour. In a saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and cook until soft. Add lamb and stir until brown (once brown drain off fat if needed). Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, wine, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.Remove lid and cook until mixture is dry, stirring frequently. Pat eggplants dry with paper towels. Scoop out pulp. Chop half and mix with meat mixture (reserve other half for another dish).
Preheat oven to 350F. To make the sauce, in a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring, over low heat. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk. Return to heat. Stir until thick and smooth. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in two-thirds of cheese.
Fill each eggplant shell two-thirds full of meat mixture. Place in a casserole dish. Top with sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.