Storytelling takes center stage on Disney Cruise Line, and not just onboard its cruise ships. Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, called Castaway Cay, is part of the enchantment as well.
On most Disney cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean—including the three- and four-night inaugural season sailings of its newest ship, the Disney Wish—you’ll stop for a day at Castaway Cay. Whether you’re traveling with kids or without, there’s plenty to do on the island, including snorkeling in crystal clear water, swimming with stingrays, zipping down water slides, sipping cocktails on the beach, enjoying a lively BBQ, and even running a 5K.
Here’s what is (and isn’t) included when you visit Castaway Cay on a family cruise with Disney Cruise Line, plus which activities are best for everyone in your group.
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Arriving at Castaway Cay, Disney’s Private Island
While Disney Cruise Line has five ships, only one docks at Castaway Cay per day, so the small island is never overcrowded. Once the ship’s captain makes the all-ashore announcement, guests are permitted to disembark and head straight for the white sandy beaches.
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Guests who are registered for a specific excursion or who plan to run the Castaway Cay 5K (a free 5K in which participants receive a bib and a medal, just like all other runDisney races) are typically permitted to leave the ship first, starting at around 8:30 am. Otherwise, guests can get on and off the ship throughout the day at any time.
What to Bring to Castaway Cay
While Disney will provide most of what you need at Castaway Cay—beach towels, lounge chairs, and the like—you will need to bring a few things with you off the ship. The two most important items to carry with you when you disembark are your photo ID or passport and your cabin key card.
You’ll also want to bring beach essentials like sunscreen, a beach bag, sun glasses, a hat, and a coverup. Fresh towels are provided on the gangway just after you set foot on the island.
Getting around Castaway Cay
Just beyond the pier is a complimentary tram that will take you to the family beach area. From there, you can hop on another tram to the adults-only beach, Serenity Bay, if that’s where you plan to hang out at for the day. You can also choose to walk to any of the destinations. The way is well marked, and Serenity Bay is about 20 minutes from the ship on foot.
What’s Included at Castaway Cay
Every guest at Castaway Cay has complimentary access to the tram, towels, lounge chairs, hammocks, beachside BBQ, unlimited ice cream, and multiple beaches. The Pelican Plunge water park and Spring-a-Leak splash pad areas are also free to use. If you bring your own snorkel gear, you can also enjoy the snorkeling lagoon off the family beach for free; otherwise, you’ll need to rent snorkels on the island to enjoy the lagoon.
What’s Not Included at Castaway Cay
While your BBQ lunch, unlimited ice cream, and the optional Castaway 5K are all included when you visit Castaway Cay, many of the extra activities cost an additional fee. For example, if you want to rent bikes, tubes, floats, banana boats, Aqua Trikes, or snorkel gear, those are all extra and can be charged to your cruise cabin.
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All alcoholic drinks are also an additional cost because Disney does not offer a drink program like most other cruise lines. Adults looking to get pampered at the beach can rent a cabana at Serenity Bay or have a massage overlooking the ocean for an additional fee. Port adventures such as fishing, parasailing, and sea kayaking cost extra as well.
While there’s no wrong way to do Castaway Cay, it’s best to arrive at the island with a plan. Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App to see the schedule of activities, meals, and characters greetings on the island well before you arrive.
Family Areas at Castaway Cay
Family Beach and Snorkel Lagoon
Castaway Cay’s Family Beach is the best spot on the island for families with kids—and by “kids” I mean every age from toddlers to teenagers.
There are plenty of lounge chairs spread out over two distinct parts of the sandy beach, most of which are shaded by colorful beach umbrellas. Arrive to the island early if you want your pick of the best beach chairs, or again after the free BBQ restaurants (more on these later) close at 2:00 p.m.
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Castaway Cay’s Family Beach is a good spot for those who aren’t strong swimmers, because the waves are small and gentle. This is also where families can snorkel together to spot colorful sea creatures and a few well-placed “sunken treasures” that should delight Disney fans.
Pelican Plunge Water Park and Water Slides for Big Kids
Pelican Plunge is a fun play area located just off the beach. There are two water slides that can only be reached by wading into the sea to reach the platform, and both slides zip you back out into the ocean, so participants should be relatively strong swimmers. Pelican Plunge also has a giant dump bucket and water cannons to play with.
Spring-a-Leak Splash Pad for Toddlers and Little Kids
Toddlers have their own splash pad at Castaway Cay. Called Spring-a-Leak, it’s a fun spot for little kids who don’t know how to swim yet to splash and play in an area that’s brimming with dripping pipes and water misters.
Snap a Photo with Disney Characters
There are opportunities to see (and snap a photo with) many of your favorite Disney characters all throughout Castaway Cay. Mickey and the gang can be spotted regularly, and oftentimes Captain Jack Sparrow will make an appearance at the adults-only beach area, Serenity Bay. If you time your return the ship just right, you may even catch a few costumed characters on the dock.
Is There a Kids Club on Castaway Cay?
Adults looking to spend some time at Serenity Bay will be happy to know there is a children’s activity area on the island. Scuttle’s Cove is overseen by the same kids club counselors from your cruise ship. You do not need to make reservations for your children to visit Scuttle’s Cove, but your kids will need to already be registered at one of the youth clubs on the ship to participate.
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The kids club on Castaway Cay is for ages three to 12. Teens who want to spend time with their new friends can go to Teen Hideout on Castaway Cay, which is exclusively for teens up to age 17. Teens can also sign up for a half-day Castaway Cay shore excursion called the Wild Side Teen Adventure, a snorkel-cycle-speedboat adventure led by adult counselors.
Adult-Only Areas at Castaway Cay
The adults-only beach at Castaway Cay is called Serenity Bay. To reach it, you take the free tram from the pier to the Family Beach, then switch to a second tram to complete the trip. You can also walk to Serenity Bay on a well-marked paved path. It’s about five minutes by tram or 20 minutes on foot.
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There’s an adults-only bar with a large deck that overlooks the glittering waters at Serenity Bay. Here adult libations are strong and tropical, enhancing the beach’s laidback island vibe.
Dining Options at Castaway Cay
There are multiple dining options for families and adults at Castaway Cay, so there’s no need to go back to the ship for lunch.
Cookies BBQ and Cookies Too BBQ at the Family Beach
Just off the Family Beach at Castaway Cay is Cookies BBQ. A short distance away is Cookies Too BBQ. Here groups can dine together on everything from hot dogs and burgers to chicken and ribs. The two quick-service BBQ restaurants also serve cold sides like pasta, potato salad, and fresh fruit.
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Both locations serve the same menu, but are located a short walk away from each other to serve the two large sections of the Family Beach. Free unlimited soft serve ice cream stands are nearby and make for a perfect post-lunch snack.
Serenity BBQ in the Adults-Only Area
The adults-only beach also has its own lunch spot, Serenity BBQ. The menu is basically the same as at Cookies and Cookies Too, with ribs, chicken, burgers, and all the fixins taking center stage. However, Serenity BBQ also serves up ribeye steaks, which is exclusive to the adults-only area of Castaway Cay.
Bars at Castaway Cay
There are four bars located around the island, each of which has a similar menu. Three are located near the Family Beach area and one is situated in the adults-only area.
The signature drink of Castaway Cay is the Konk Cooler, which is a mix of rum and tropical juices. Most of the drinks on the signature menus include rum, but if you prefer another spirit each bar is fully stocked, so just let the bartender know what you like.
How to Plan Your Day at Castaway Cay
While there’s no wrong way to do Castaway Cay, it’s best to arrive at the island with a plan. With the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App you’ll be able to see the schedule of activities, meals, and characters greetings on the island well before you arrive.
If visiting Castaway Cay is a priority for you, just be sure to check each itinerary for the dates you’re looking at for your vacation. While most Disney Cruise Line vacations do make stops at Castaway Cay, some do not, and you don’t want to be disappointed after you book your cruise.