Summary of attraction: Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”) is Disney’s own private island in the Bahamas for its cruise ship guests. Located near Great Abaco Island (formerly known as Gorda Cay and once a stop for drug runners), Castaway Cay was developed in the theme of a castaway community with buildings made to look as if they had been improvised after a shipwreck. It’s largely undeveloped, as only around 55 of its 1000 acres are used. Disney cruises to the Bahamas and Western and Eastern Caribbean all stop there for the day, with some making two visits depending on the length of the cruise.
Pros to visiting: Although one is not required to get off the ship while at Castaway Cay, simply put you’ll have a great time if you do. There are a total of three beaches-two are described as family beaches (open to everyone), and the third, Serenity Bay, is exclusively for adults 18 and older. Everyone is given a towel upon stepping off of the ship and on the beaches themselves there are beach chairs and umbrellas. The beaches at Serenity Bay were stunning, almost Eden like. And unlike in other Caribbean areas such as Cancun, Mexico, there were no waves at Castaway Cay, just gentle, flowing waters that were of the most crystal blue colors I have ever seen. There were a variety of activities for visitors (rent snorkeling equipment, massages beach side, swim with sting rays), but D and I kept it simple and just rented bikes. Although they’re advertised as being $6/hour for rentals, we were never charged (we biked for around an hour). There is a clearly marked four kilometer (2.5 miles) trail that is both flat and easy. It traverses the length of the now defunct airstrip (a reminder of the island’s seedier past) and also goes to the island’s lookout tower, which offers incredible views of the island and docked ship. A delicious picnic-style lunch is offered at two locations on the island, Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Two, offering dishes such as hamburgers, hot dogs, Jamaican Jerk chicken and a variety of hot and cold salads.
Cons to visiting: Shopping on the island is not extensive contrary to Disney billing that it is. I found there not to be a lot of Castaway Cay themed merchandise at She Sells Sea Shells, the larger of the two stores on the islands. This is not a con per se, but the sun and temperatures on the island are very hot, so just plan accordingly.
Conclusion: Castaway Cay is truly a unique place because essentially you have the chance to spend a whole day at a private island in the Caribbean without the hassle of having to arrange transfers from the port’s docks or pay large sums extra to have it arranged for you. The first Disney cruise I went on I spent maybe an hour on the island; I found it to be too hot, the sun too intense. This time I spent the bulk of the day there taking full advantage of all there was to do. Our Disney cruise was memorable, but it was made especially so from our port of call at Castaway Cay.