Full Guide to Castaway Cay: Disney Cruise Line’s Private Island in the Bahamas

Shannen Ace

Full Guide to Castaway Cay: Disney Cruise Line’s Private Island in the Bahamas

So we’ve told you all about the Disney Cruise Line ships, but what about Castaway Cay? Disney’s private island is located in the Bahamas, and is a destination on most Disney Cruise Line sailings that leave from Florida. There’s more on the island than you might realize before you get there, so we’ve collected everything there is to know before you go to Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay History

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The island now known as Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”) was first settled in 1783 and was once known as Gorda Cay. In the mid-1900s, an airstrip on Gorda Cay was used for bootlegging and drug running. Eventually, the island was used for movie filming, including 1984’s “Splash.”

Disney Cruise Line purchased Gorda Cay from the Bahamian government in 1997. They have a 99-year lease (good through 2096). Even after purchasing it for use as the cruise line’s private island, Disney used the island to film some of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

Disney spent $25 million developing Castaway Cay, and they have still only developed 55 of the island’s 1,000 acres. Many cruise lines own private islands, but Castaway Cay was the first where the ships can dock directly at the island, so guests don’t need to be tendered to land.

Castaway Cay has about 140 permanent residents who keep the island running. When a ship docks, the Cast Members onboard also go out to work the island.

Disney Cruise Line is committed to preserving the island, writing on their website that “Disney Castaway Cay researchers are restoring the health of coral reefs by transplanting long-spined sea urchins and fostering their growth. Disney Cruise Line Crew Members help protect and monitor endangered loggerhead sea turtle nests on Disney Castaway Cay.”

There are solar panels backstage that fuel water heaters on the island, and Disney Cruise Line recycles 7,000 pounds of used cooking oil each week to power a fleet of Bahamas Waste Management vehicles.

Disembarkation & Embarkation

DCL Castaway Cay pump house Josh DAmaro dock sign
D’Amaro Dock sign on the Castaway Cay Pump House

When disembarking and re-embarking, guests 18+ must present their photo ID and Key to the World card (your stateroom card key).

Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult from their own stateroom when disembarking at any port of call. A parent or guardian may complete a “Traveling with Minors” form during online check-in to allow another specified adult to accompany their child off the ship. On the ship, they may complete a Debarkation Authorization for Minors Form at Guest Services to allow the child to leave the ship on their own. Guests under 18 leaving the ship on their own need a photo ID and Key to the World card at every port except Castaway Cay, where they only need a Key to the World card.

Castaway Cay Basics

Disney Magic docked at Castaway Cay

After disembarking, Cast Members are on hand to give out beach towels, so you don’t need to bring a towel from the ship. There are towel drop-off and pick-up bins at all the beaches. There are also outdoor showers by the bathrooms at each beach.

Though Castaway Cay is part of the Bahamas, resident Cast Members do speak English.

Castaway Cay will usually open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 4:45 p.m. Youth programs and other offerings may end earlier in the afternoon so Cast Members have time to go from the island to the ship to prepare for the evenings.

Select sailings dock at Castaway Cay overnight for two days at the island. Hours may be different in those cases.

Disney Cruise Line will soon honor Castaway Club members who have sailed with the cruise line 50 or more times with a new commemorative display on Castaway Cay.

Post Office

DCL Castaway Cay Daisy meet and greet post office
Daisy meet and greet in front of the post office

There is a post office on Castaway Cay operated by the Bahamian authorities. It’s located on the dock and may not be open every day, but guests can still mail letters and postcards using the drop box outside or with Guest Services on the ship. Stamps can also be purchased from Guest Services. Letters mailed from either the island or the ship will be delivered with the Castaway Cay postmark. It may take several weeks for delivery.

Transportation

DCL Castaway Cay Serenity Bay tram

Guests can walk the entirety of the developed part of Castaway Cay, but there are also trams available for easier transportation. There are four tram stops and two tram routes. The first route goes from the dock to Scuttle’s Cove — near the front of the family beaches — and then to Pelican’s Point, about halfway down the family beaches. The second tram route goes back and forth between Pelican’s Point and Serenity Bay, the adult beach. If you’re at the Pelican’s Point stop, make sure you get on the right tram. The Serenity Bay tram has a sign for the beach on it.

Characters & Photo-Ops

Mickey Mouse on a beach of Castaway Cay, with the Disney Magic ship docked behind him
Mickey meet and greet on the boat beach

Characters usually come out in the mornings on Castaway Cay, but exact meet and greet times will be listed in the Disney Cruise Line app. They often appear in front of the post office, at the beach close to the second tram stop, in front of Mt. Rustmore, and on the dock. You’ll usually see Mickey & Friends — in special beach outfits — Captain Jack Sparrow, and Captain Hook, and Mr. Smee.

DCL Castaway Cay Mt. Rustmore 2

Mount Rustmore is a landmark made of four buoys, each painted and decorated with a different face: Mickey, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy. The round Mickey buoy has a pair of mouse ears, while the Goofy buoy has a tower representing his hat.

Photographers will usually be stationed at character meet and greets, in front of Mount Rustmore, near the ship, and at other select picturesque locations.

Family Beaches

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There are two family beaches, side by side, separated by Pelican Point. Both family beaches have views of the dock and ship. There are lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beaches, or you can reserve a cabana.

Snorkeling Lagoon

The 22-acre snorkeling lagoon is part of the main family beach. This is where you can rent snorkels (more on that later) and go diving to look for some secret treasures. In addition to various “sunken” boats and submarines, here are some of the things you can look for underwater:

  • Mickey statue
  • Minnie statue
  • Prince Eric statue
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant vehicle
  • The Nautilus

Snorkeling Lagoon has two trails swimmers can follow. The Discover Trail is for novices while the Explorer Trail is for more experienced snorkelers. White buoys mark some of the best underwater finds.

Pelican Plunge

DCL Castaway Cay Pelican Point sign
DCL Castaway Cay Pelican Plunge

Pelican Point is an overlook between the two beaches, named in honor of the island’s native pelicans. Here, guests can visit Heads Up Bar and the Pelican Plunge. The Pelican Plunge is a pair of twisting water slides on a floating platform. One is more “intense” than the other, but they’re both appropriate for kids and drop you off in the lagoon.

Scuttle’s Cove

DCL Castaway Cay Scuttles Cove registration sign

Scuttle’s Cove is the Castaway Cay equivalent of the Oceaneer’s Club on board — and kids will see the same Cast Members here at Scuttle’s Cove as they do on the ship. You check kids in and out of Scuttle’s Cove just like you do with the Oceaneer’s Club.

Cast Members will have a day of activities planned for kids that you can see in the Disney Cruise Line app. These may include sand castle building, soccer, capture the flag, and scavenger hunts.

Monstro Point is also part of Scuttle’s Cove. This is a “whale dig site” with giant whale bones.

Teen Hideout

The Teen Hideout is a lounge space for teens ages 14 to 17.

Serenity Bay

DCL Castaway Cay Serenity Bay entrance airplane

Serenity Bay is an adults-only (18+) beach on the opposite side of the island from the dock. Just like the family beaches, there are lounge chairs and umbrellas. You can also reserve a cabana at Serenity Bay.

Massages are also available at cabanas next to Serenity Bay. You’ll want to book these ahead of time using the Disney Cruise Line app, as they’re very popular.

Recreation & Port Adventures

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There are various recreational activities, games, and port adventures available on Castaway Cay. Note that if there is adverse weather, some experiences may not be available or may be canceled and refunded.

Near the Family Beach is the In Da Shade Game Pavilion, a shaded structure where guests can play table tennis, foosball, billiards, and basketball. There’s also a beach sports area to play tetherball, volleyball and soccer. Sping-A-Leak is a water play area next to the beach sports.

Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure is a snorkeling experience with stingrays. It’s $59 for adults (10 and up) and $48 for kids (5 to 9). The experience is an hour.

Rentals

Various equipment is available for rent. Bike rentals are available for $15/hour. You can ride your bike (or walk) down the airstrip and two nature trails. The bike rental stand is near Pelican Point.

DCL Castaway Cay Mickey stock featured
Mickey on the boat beach

Between the family beaches and the dock is the boat beach. Right next to the dock is Marge’s Barges & Sea Charters Dock. You can rent various watercraft for 30 minutes at a time, including kayaks ($20-$25), paddleboats ($20-$25), a 2-person aqua trike ($30 for ages 5+), and a stand-up paddleboard.

At Gil’s Fins and Boats, guests can rent snorkel gear, kayaks, paddle boats, aqua trikes, and other water equipment. Snorkel gear is also available at Flippers & Floats, along with fins and inner tubes. At Serenity Bay, float rentals are available from The Windsock Hut.

Snorkeling gear rentals are $38 for adults and $22 for kids. Float and tube rentals are $15.

The Castaway Cay Getaway Package includes snorkel equipment for the day, a float or inner-tube rental for the day, and a bicycle rental for one hour. This package is $50.00 for adults and $30.00 for kids.

For $95 / $73, the Castaway Cay Extreme Getaway Package includes snorkeling, float or tube rental, bicycle rental, and Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure.

Parasailing, fishing, snorkeling by boat, glass bottom boat, and other port adventures are also available.

2-day rentals and packages are also available for longer stops at Castaway Cay.

Pricing is accurate as of October 5, 2023.

Disney Castaway Cay 5K

DCL Castaway Cay 5K start sign

The Castaway Cay 5K used to be at a set time in the morning, but now guests can complete the 5K in their own time. It is free to participate. There are still signs at the starting point and throughout the path, which goes down the airstrip, to direct guests who are running. Finishers can visit Guest Services to collect a (rubber) medal, and merchandise is available to purchase.

Observation Tower

dcl castaway cay observation tower

The observation tower is where the two nature trails reconnect in the middle of the island. The tower is 40 feet tall and has 47 steps. At the top are binoculars, which you can use to look around the island and at the ship in the distance.

Dining

DCL Castaway Cay Heads Up Bar at Pelican Point

Basic food and drink are included as part of your Disney Cruise Line dining package, so you only need to pay for specialty items and alcoholic drinks on Castaway Cay. Lunch is provided at Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Too BBQ by the family beaches, as well as at Air Bar BBQ by Serenity Bay. There are various shaded seating pavilions.

Bars all over the island serve specialty cocktails, beer, soda, and other drinks. At the first family beach is Conched Out Bar. Head’s Up Bar is on Pelican Point. And at Serenity Bay is Castaway Air Bar. Servers can deliver drinks straight to your seat on the beach.

dcl castaway cay olafs summertime freeze statue

Lastly, Olaf’s Summertime Freeze is near Pelican Point, between the two family beaches. It offers frozen drinks and souvenir Olaf cups.

Shopping

There are two Disney shops on Castaway Cay. She Sells Sea Shells and Everything Else is at the front end of the family beach, by Scuttle’s Cove. Buy the Seashore is near Pelican Point. There are also some Bahamian retail shops with various artisan goods, in a row next to In Da Shade.

Key to the World cards can be used to charge purchases to your room at Disney-run stores both on the ship and on Castaway Cay.

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