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Enjoyed your review of Castaway Cay and I think you make some excellent points. We visited there as part of a week-long cruise on the Disney Wonder in 2002. My mother is a cruise agent, so I’ve been on quite few cruises over the years and, as such, a lot of cruiseline-owned beaches. I have to say that we were very impressed with Castaway Cay in general, and Serenity Bay in particular. I think some of your negative impressions may have been colored by the shortness and hectic nature of your trip. If I had been in your situation, I probably would have rather been exploring the ship in the precious little time I had as well. But after five or six days on the ship and touring other locales, we found Castaway Cay a very well laid out and relaxing conclusion to the trip.
Moreover, as an adult couple traveling without kids, Serenity Bay was a revelation. It was infinitely better than any out island beach run by the so-called “grown up” cruiselines. Just getting there is a hassle, as you pack yourself into a hot, cramped tender, ride in and discover an overcrowded beach full of screaming kids and exasperated adults where chaos reigns. At Castaway Cay, you just step off the boat and there’s a tram to take you to the beach that best fits your desired experience. Is it authentic? No way. Is it relaxing? YES. We could have stayed there for days. And I’m not sure if you experienced this, but a buffet of fresh grilled fish (I know you don’t like seafood), fruit, and other items was set up right on the beach when we were there so we did not have to resort to Cookie’s BBQ or the other admittedly lackluster food service options.
Your authenticity argument holds some sway with me, but we need to keep context in mind. This is Disney. Moreover, it’s a cruise on a huge, ridiculously luxurious ship. Expecting to step off of it into an unedited Caribbean experience is somewhat unrealistic.
You also make some excellent points! What you say about the hectic nature of my cruise is very true. I wish I had more time to spend on the ship as well as on Castaway Cay, and I think that if I had visited other ports prior to this one, I would have enjoyed it more as a change of pace. Instead, it replaced the “real” places I’ve grown used to visiting on cruises, making it seem all the more fake.
I didn’t see a buffet at Serenity Bay, but I did smell some food. Perhaps it just wasn’t ready yet. Sounds like I missed out there.
And yes, it is Disney. I didn’t really expect it to feel authentic, but a few items really just made it seem phony, rather than an idealized “fantasy” version of the Caribbean. I love Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and even New Orleans Square. I know they’re not real life, but they have their own flair and charm. Castaway Cay just seemed like somewhere that was trying hard to be a real Caribbean island with real island destinations and history, but ultimately falling short of getting there. But again, had I experienced the real world on a stop or two prior to hitting Castaway Cay, I may have appreciated the Disney-fied version of the Caribbean more.
With all that said, I greatly enjoyed my time at Magens Bay on St. Thomas during a Royal Caribbean cruise far more than my time at Serenity Bay. I took a truck to get to Magens Bay (the equivalent of Disney’s trams, though over rougher terrain). Once I stepped foot there, it was like heaven unfolded in front of me. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, dead quiet, and real. Given Disney’s ability to create amazing environments, I thought that they would have been able to craft a man-made beach to look as beautiful, if not more so, than Magens Bay. Castaway Cay itself is not beautiful. The ocean views are, but the Disney-created areas are not quite up to what I thought they would be.
Thanks for this–but a curious article. I kept waiting for the “bad stuff”, and while you do have some interesting observations, nothing sounds too bad a Castaway Cay! Well, I’ll find out myself as I’ll be there next Tuesday for the first time! So this was a helpful article.
I am looking forward to getting a bike and riding around and exploring a bit. I know that Castaway Cay is not a “real” island, but it looks beautiful and sounds like a great place to kick back and relax.
None of it was “bad,” it’s just not Disney-perfect. The atmosphere is a bit off, many of the activities cost extra, and the food is not good. It is beautiful and is definitely a great place to relax. Just don’t get your expectations too high.
Fantastic article/photos/video. I’ve been to Castaway Cay but this makes me feel like I am seeing it for the first time. I agree that the fact that many of the extras cost more money is annoying, but overall I hold a bit higher opinion of the place than you do. I will definitely need to check out the snorkeling on my next trip in December, if I can brave the cold water.
there is a saying if the food does taste good then don’t eat it and ask the chief what is wrong with the food.
Excellent review as always Ricky. Though I did want to make one observation about the lack of authenticity on Castaway Cay. A few years back I was on a cruise and we went to the nearby beach in St Lucia. I fell asleep on the beach next to my wife (fiancee at the time) because it was soooo relaxing. We woke up and realized, someone stole my camera and my shoes (yes, my shoes)! Curiously (and thankfully), my wallet was unmoved, which I can only assume meant they didn’t see it. Anyway, sometimes a little phoniness is just the thing on a vacation because reality can leave you barefoot and lacking in vacation photos.
Yikes! While it’s terrible that happened to you, it makes a great point about real versus Disney. Castaway Cay is certainly a safe place where guests can leave their belongings lying around without any worries. Clearly the same is not true about other ports of call.
I described my amazing experience at Magens Bay in a comment above. But I also had a horrible experience stepping foot off the same cruise in Curacao, a place I will NEVER visit again. It was brutally hot and Michelle and I were inexplicably stranded on a shadeless bridge that moved laterally while we were on it to allow boats to pass through the channel. No one spoke English on the bridge and we had no idea it was going to do that, so we were stuck without explanation or refuge from the blistering sun for 10-15 minutes while we waited for the ability to step foot back onto land. All that happened within minutes of leaving the cruise ship and we were ready to immediately turn around and go back on board. But we didn’t, instead opting to recover for a few minutes and push on to see the city. Well it turned out that Curacao offered us nothing more than duty-free shopping and $1 T-shirts, so we gave up and left.
I would gladly visit Castaway Cay every day for the rest of my life than ever come anywhere near Curacao again.
Loved reading the tour of Castaway Cay, but I have to respectfully disagree with some of your negatives . . . the main reason we LOVE Castaway Cay is the fact that it is soooooo clean, and no one is trying to sell you something, or braid your hair or whatever. The food at Serenity Bay is yummy, sorry to hear your food experience was not what we had. The bike trails are great fun, and long enough that everyone spreads out that you feel like you have them all to yourself. Also, the fact that you don’t even have to leave your lounge chair and someone will bring you another frozen concoction, priceless. Oh yeah, and the clean bathrooms 🙂
Thanks for reminding us of why we love DCL and Castaway Cay so much!!
I would like to offer a perspective of an 18 year old.
Me and my family have cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney ships for as long as I can remember. Having been on many islands I have to agree with some fellow posters that Castaway Cay is by far my favorite. Now I do agree with you on some points of the excursions being a bit more pricy then some of Disney’s competitors. I have grown up on Disney Cruises and as a child I loved the “kid club” activities that are specifically set aside, these activities always gave my parents an excuse to sneak away to Serenity bay!
The authenticity of the Island is not a big factor for me. Royal Caribbean Cruises prefer to dock at an island and leave the guests to explore, the problem is I always seem to feel rushed. Between getting a taxi driver to take us to a beach (the haggling begins here), Islanders pushing items on you, and getting lost on the island itself(which has happened many times!), I much rather prefer Castaway Cay even if it is manufactured peace!
Next disney cruise I will be able to try Serenity Bay, I hope its as peaceful as I hear it it! 🙂
Great points. As I wrote above, it may have been that since Castaway Cay was the only stop on our short cruise, it seemed extra fake to me. Had we made a few other stops first, it likely would have been a nice, clean change from all the real islands.
Hey there, I LOVE these pictures and videos! Looks absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait for my turn to experience it! My question is about your camera and your equipment. I’m looking to expand my collection, and by ‘expand’ I mean get a good camera. So if you could tell me what kind of camera and what type of lense your using? I know some but not much about cameras. I was looking for something like this, where you get what you actually see and not the persons head. I was wanting something like that, but I started looking at cameras when I thought about the fireworks at MK. I wanted to be able to enjoy it again and again. What got me thinking was this video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6pTRcVuoRA&feature=mh_lolz&list=FL4TmrbdUM3eY
I saw it and at first you think it’s a toy model and very well done animation, and then you realize that it’s real. If you could give me an idea of what kind of equipment this was shot with, I would really appreciate it! Thanks. Find me on twitter: _Think_Tink_
I’m glad you enjoyed the photos and video above. I used a GoPro HD Hero to shoot on the island (and underwater). You can find it here: http://t.co/TKqOzRW
The video you linked to above was shot by Disney. I’m not sure what specific equipment they used but I know that it was individual still photos edited together to form the video. The technique to make real life look miniature is called “tilt shift” photography and can either be achieved with special lenses or after by editing the photos to blur certain areas.
Interesting! Thanks! So that camera you used is naturally wide angle and water proof?
Yes and yes. 🙂
awesome! Very helpful! Thanks so much!! =]
One more question, are the still shots taken with that as well? or is that just video?
The still shots on the island were also taken with the GoPro camera. The still shots on the ship were taken using a different camera.
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being a hot tub and 10 being the waters in titanic. How cold is the water honesty? My family is going in January and I was just wondering.
The ocean is probably about a 7 in January. It’s extremely cold when first entering it, but you can get used to it. Just don’t stay in too long or you’ll come out shivering.
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Hello! Information you posted was greatly appreciated. Pictures were amazing as I WON’T be snorkeling! We are excited about our cruise on Disney Fantasy this Nov and was wondering about the island, this really helped put my mind at ease. You mentioned about the cabanas…I am just wondering when and where do your reserve the cabana on Serenity Bay. I have two people who can’t be in the sun for too long.
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