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Sunkissed Adventures Family Travel Blog
This has always been my favorite private island out of Coco Cay, Great Stirrup Cay, and other private islands. Disney just does it right. There is no need to wait for a tender boat as Disney ships pull right up the the dock! It's even easier to get around. Castaway Cay has a tram that will bring you to two different stops on the island so you don't have to spend your time walking long distances!
Beyond "the beach" there are tons of activities scheduled on the island as well as trails to explore, music to dance to, watersports, etc. On this trip we chose to rent bikes and explore the bike trail. There were bikes for all sizes and bikes with child seats as well. My only complaint was that there was no place to store your belongings safely. The attendant pointed to a wooden box that we could leave our bags in, but that wasn't good enough for me.
We set off on the bike trail. We had a bit of bad luck... My husband's bike's brakes were locked in position on the back wheel. At first he thought maybe it was just a slight uphill path, but it turns out it was a broken bike. He wasn't happy! We pointed it out to the attendant when we got back. I hope they fixed it. So the bike trail is off the runway/landing strip. About half way around is a tower that overlooks the island. Once you get up to the top, it really helps you understand how big the island is!
We chose to relax on Castaway Family beach. We allowed my son to pick out one beach toy in the store on the island. He didn't choose a beach toy but some Cars toys. They were bouyant enough to double as beach toys and regular toys for when we got home! We met up with our dinner tables mates and the kids played nicely together for about 2 hours. We then left the beach area for lunch and bike riding.
We had lunch at Cookies BBQ. There was a wide variety of food available for all tastes. Lines were never unreasonable because the pavilion had 4 places to line up. Food was good, but I wish there was another starch. Mac and Cheese always goes good with ribs, dogs, and burgers. Plus kids tend to favor mac and cheese as well!
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We didn't do everything there was on the island, so I can't speak from experience with it all. Here are some photos of other things to do.
My son is on the cusp of Nursery versus Big Kids Club for most cruise lines. We took this cruise in early January and he turns three in early March. A couple weeks before the cruise he also mastered potty training. With all that stated, I knew he would still be required to be in the nursery. It's not safe to have an "almost" three year old in the same space as 12 year olds! I also believe that the cruise lines set their age groups set for specific reasons, they are not arbitrarily picked out of a hat. So we had him placed where Disney recommended, even though it cost us $9 an hour. It was well worth it to have a little it of kid-free time on our vacation.
When we first boarded the ship we went right over to the nursery to be sure that all of the online registration information carried over. We had to fill out a few more forms in the nursery and they gave my son a band to wear for the duration of the cruise. If you've stayed at a Disney Resort in the last few years you'll recognize the band as a Magic Band. If you choose to keep the band at the end of the cruise it costs $12.95 and unlocks special features on the Disney Infinity game. My son was required to wear the band at all times... Yeah, right! It stayed on for about 10 minutes before he pulled it off. (You can see it on his wrist to the left). So we kept it in our bag at all times. When he would go in to the nursery program we'd strap it to his ankle. The band has all of his information stored on it. If there were an emergency, the nursery staff members will scan it and it tells them exactly which muster station to bring him to and who he belongs to! Each time we brought him or picked him up we had to give our secret password, sign papers and swipe the Magic Band.
We had a very good experience with the nursery program. My son went on three different evenings after dinner, he also went once during the day so we could attend the mixology class, and we dropped him off one more time during the day so we could explore the ship a bit. Hubby headed to the gym and I went to the future cruise desk to ask some questions.
The ladies in the nursery were always happy and friendly. They knew my sons name after his first visit. Each time we dropped off or picked up we saw 3-4 cast members in the nursery with the children. They definitely keep to adult to child ratio low. My son would specifically ask to go to the kids club each day. This was a good sign to us, he liked it!
The nursery does have an option in which they will feed your child lunch or dinner if they are present during the set hours for meals. So if you wanted to head up to a specialty restaurant or take some time for the spa, your child won't go hungry! We did not use this option because we wanted our son to experience the fun of the dining rooms. If it were a longer cruise I would have definitely considered it. Our table mates at dinner use the meal service one night when they went to Palo rather than the main dining room. They said it was very convenient.
I reserved approximately nine hours of nursery time before the cruise. While on the ship we were able to adjust by adding and subtracting from certain days and times. I was also able to drop in one day with him, they checked their system and they had space for him. Our table mates also had their daughter drop in one night without any problems with availability. I am going to assume that cruises over any type of school holiday or break may be more crowded!
it's a small world nursery photos
Just like Disney World, a Disney Cruise has plenty of character meet and greets! At first glance, the lines look long. I was not looking forward to standing around waiting to meet these characters. Fortunately, the lines move quickly because multiple Cast Members manage each line. There is always a cast member there to take a picture with your camera, as well as a ship photographer, and someone who is managing the line to ensure it runs smoothly. The characters are around 3-4 times throughout a 5-day cruise. The characters are almost always in the atrium on decks 3, 4, and 5. The "most popular" characters always tend to be on deck 3, the main floor of the atrium. Some characters even showed up at events in the D Lounge.
Castaway Cay also offers character meet and greet opportunities. The two most common locations are the Post Office, which is located to your right after you get off the ship. The other location is typically Mount Rustmore. On my last Disney cruise we had the opportunity to meet Captain Jack Sparrow on the adults only beach! An interesting side note about the post office: It's Real! You can mail a letter from Castaway Cay, it will take about a month to receive your mail back at home.
Disney Cruises offer a unique dining experience. They offer something called Rotational Dining. At the beginning of the cruise you'll find your dining rotation on your Key to the World Card AKA, room key. What happens is, you rotate through the three main dining rooms throughout your cruise but your wait staff rotates with you. So they still get to know your preferences, names, and build a relationship. We were on a five-day cruise we we ate in two of the dining rooms twice. Our rotation was ACCLA, or Animator's Palate, Carioca's, Carioca's, Lumiere's, and then Animator's Palate one final time. At first glance the order of the rotation looks odd, but it's done so to ensure nothing is missed. Night two was the optional "dress-up" night and night three was Pirate Night. I purposely left out Palo because we did not dine there on this trip. I briefly mentioned it in my Adults Only post from the other day if you're interested in more information.
The top-deck buffet is located on level nine. I have always been impressed with Disney's buffet when comparing it to other cruise lines. They always have items that other cruise lines don't, like crab legs, prosciutto, and many more! There are even self-serve soda fountains located throughout the buffet. PS: Disney doesn't charge for soda/pop. The decor is light and beachy. There are windows everywhere with nice views, well... if you have nice weather. We didn't!
Poolside- Daisy's De Lites, Pete'sBoiler Bites, and Pinocchio's Pizza
Out on the pool deck there are all-day options available. Daisy' De Lite includes lighter fare such as fruit, salads, and fresh made paninis. Pinocchio's Pizza serves up 5-6 different type of pizza or a custom pizza based on the ingredients in the display case. Pete's Boiler Bites always offered burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, fish etc in one window. The other window had Lamb & Chicken Schwarma. I had a tasty Gyro Pita one day while we used the Aqua Lab.
This is my favorite dining room on all ships. The show is different on Magic/Wonder than it is on Dream/Fantasy, which is nice! I've experienced both shows and enjoyed each for their own unique attributes. I don't want to give away too much here because it's just an all around fun experience! The menu is Pan-Pacific with some standard options as well. Click on the first photo on the left and it will enlarge the image, you can use the right and left arrows to view the others after.
This dining room was added/converted back in October's dry dock. The space used to be the Parrot Cay dining room. personally, I think I preferred the style of Parrot Cay over Carioca's. Parrot Cay was vibrant and full of tropical color. Carioca's is quite plain with a few splashes of color around. The new decor just screams that it's missing something! Carioca's is nice for lunch though. We ate here on embarkation day. They have a buffet set up at the front of the room and it's MUCH less crowded than the Cabana's Buffet upstairs.
We ate dinner in here on "dress up" night and Pirate Night. The first night was the traditional Carioca's menu which is South American inspired. Our waiters Franklin and Francesca were amazing. They made us napkin hats (Minnie and Peter Pan) and Franklin did a magic trick for our son!
On Pirate Night every dining room gets the same themed menu and same choices. The children's menus turn in to pirate hats and the wait staff runs a parade and game of limbo down the main aisle.
Lumiere's hosts a la carte/ sit down breakfast each morning for anyone who wishes to skip the buffet. This was the dining room in which we only ate once. The dinner menu is French inspired and the room's theme is Beauty and the Beast. At first glance it looks fairly plain, but there are are lot of Beauty and the Beast details hidden about. At one point during dinner they have people from the "village" come through searching for the anyone who has seen the Beast!
Cookies, Cookies Too, and Serenity Bay BBQ
People hear Disney and automatically think KIDS! Yes, Disney cruises are great for kids, but did you know they offer MANY different activities and spaces for adults only?? From Dining, bars, a pool, beach, etc there are plenty of places to escape from your children and have a moment with your significant other or other "mature" friends! I'm going to give you a run down of all the adults only spaces and review one of the activities we took part in.
Quiet Cove Pool
After Hours District
Within the After Hours district you'll find Keys- the piano bar, O'Gills Pub, and Fathoms night club. These are adult only spaces at night. During the day, they offer things like Coaster Crafting, Bingo, and trivia. We took a Mixology Class in Keys on the first sea day. (I will review more below)
I also saw wine tastings, whiskey tastings, cooking demonstrations, and many more adult only activities!
Palo is the 18+ specialty restaurant onboard. It does have an extra cost to it. We did not take the opportunity to dine there on this trip, but I did in 2012 when I cruised on the Dream. The food is delicious and views are spectacular! If you are interested in a bit more about Palo, you can visit my old entry from when I sailed on the Dream HERE. As with on the Dream and all other Disney ships, Palo is located on the top deck with a large expanse of windows to watch the sunset if you time your dinner just right ;)
Disney is well known as an entertainment company, so it should not come as a surprise to you that their entertainment options are enjoyable, vary widely, and cater to all ages! I will break down the entertainment onboard in sections below.
We did have the opportunity to see Twice Charmed, a new rendition of the Cinderella story. Theatrically is was great. The singers were wonderful, costumes were beautiful, and the set was impressive. Personally I just was not a fan of the story line. Essentially the step-sisters place a spell on Cinderella and go back in time to re-do the night of the ball to ensure she does not have her chance with Prince Charming. I will leave it at that for anyone who may see the show. I don't want to spoil the experience!
The other show we saw was Disney Dreams. I loved this one. It was a medley of Disney Animated classics from the 90s. These were the Disney movies I grew up on! Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and more. They threw in some Frozen for the "new school" Disney fans and kids. I was quietly singing along with many of the songs. The performers were top notch, they sounded like the actual characters from the movies when singing.
Pirates IN the Caribbean
Every Caribbean and Bahamas sailing on a Disney Cruise Line ship includes a deck party. No other cruise line's deck party can compare! You will see people dressed in basic pirate gear, like us, to full pirate costumes! Earlier in the afternoon your room attendant will leave bandanas in your room. Even the dinner is themed on that evening, no matter which dining room you are in, everyone has the same menu for Pirate Night. The deck party starts a bit late for the young ones, 9:45pm. It begins with songs and dancing on decks nine and ten. Mickey does an impressive aerial stunt and then around 10:15pm they shoot fireworks off the ship. It's an impressive show! These aren't small time fireworks, they are professional and the shows goes on for a good amount of time. After the fireworks they have a pirate buffet in Cabanas, the buffet on deck nine. We kept our son up late on this night so he wouldn't miss the experience. Hey, it's vacation and we wanted to take it all in!
Disney always seems to have the edge in many aspects of their cruises. The staterooms fall in that realm. The typical Disney Cruise Line stateroom is larger than the typical cruise room. Not only are they slightly bigger, but they also have the split bath concept!
On both of my Disney cruises I had an oceanview room. On the Disney Dream I had an oceanview guarantee and they assigned the room about 3 weeks before my cruise. We had a handicapped accessible room at the rear of the ship, it was probably 3-4 times the size of a regular room and somewhat triangular! This time, on the Magic, I had a Category 9A. I picked the room this time and it was perfectly mid-ship. We were two rooms away from the mid-ship stairs & elevators which was very convenient.
The room had a lot of storage options. The desk/vanity area had 10 storage drawers, to the right of the desk was a tall cabinet with two large drawers and a double-door cabinet, and then next to the closet was another set of 5 drawers. Of course, there was also the closet to hang clothes. Suitcases fit nicely under the bed with plenty of extra space.
If privacy is a concern for your family, you'll be happy to know that the curtain between the bed and sofa is fully functioning. We closed ours nightly to create a separate room for our son so we could watch a little bit of TV before going to bed. The sofa bed was a quick and easy switch, we didn't need our room attendant to help us because the back of the sofa folded down and the bed was there! My son loved having his own little "room" in our room!
Overall Disney's staterooms have a fresh clean feel to them. Everything was in tip top shape. The television programming is strictly Disney and two news channels, Fox & BBC. They played two feature movies throughout the day at set times. Everest and the Walk. We saw bits and pieces of each throughout the trip. There was a channel playing Disney cartoon movies over and over as well as channels with Disney Junior, Disney cartoon shows, and the regular Disney Channel you see at home. Our one complaint was that closed captioning was not an option in the stateroom. My husband is hearing impaired and was disappointed that they did not have that as a standard setting on the TVs.
A few days ago we returned home from a Disney Magic cruise. We spent five nights onboard the newly re-imagined ship going to Cozumel, Mexico and Disney's private island Castaway Cay. I had been on a Disney cruise in 2012 with my mom, but my husband and son had never been on Disney Cruise Line. This was to be a new experience for them both. Going in to the cruise I was a bit nervous about going on the "oldest ship in the fleet." I am happy to report that the Magic did not disappoint. If I had not already known that it was their oldest ship I would have never known it was more than a year old. Everything, in our experience, was in tip top shape.
Over the next week or two I will be posting pictures, reviews, and tips on the following areas:
Hi! I am Nicole Perry, owner of Sunkissed Adventures.