In the next of our Disney Cruise Line series, I share the new protocols for debarking the ship to enjoy the island. There are also some hidden Mickeys that are often times missed. Finally, let’s look at where to find characters throughout the day.
Before we dive into today’s topic, allow me to mention the previous articles in my series. I recently shared information on how to check in and book activities, the Embarkation Process from Port Canaveral, Florida. I followed that up with a presentation on what occurs after you embark on your Disney Cruise.
Table of contents
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island situated in the Bahamas. The island is an exclusive port for many Disney Cruise Line itineraries which travel to the Bahamas.
The proper way of pronouncing “Cay” is “key.” This is a common mistake as you do not pronounce the word as it sounds!
In 1997, The Walt Disney Company agreed to a 99-year land lease (through 2096) for the cay from the Bahamian government. This gave the company substantial control over the island.
Castaway Cay was the first private island in the cruise industry where ships docks directly on the island. Currently, there are seven cruise lines who have their own private islands as ports of call.
75% of Castaway Cay island is undeveloped – meaning that guests do not have access to the undeveloped areas. This preserves the naturalness and conservation of the island. 140 Cast Members that live on the island to care for it and the needs of the passengers.
Over the years, Castaway Cay island has become quite the favorite port of call for many guests. It docks right at the island, allowing cruisers to simply walk off the ship directly onto a beautiful island with its luscious tropical feel, white sands and its majestic turquoise waters.
Disney has become quite obsessed with virtual queues with attractions such as Ratatouille, Rise of the Resistance and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. Just hearing the words “virtual queue” makes my blood pressure rise!
In order to disembark a Disney Cruise ship at any port, you must currently utilize the virtual queue system. The picture below illustrates how the Virtual Queue appears on the DCL app the night before and the day of your port experience.
Ashore time to Castaway for our sailing was at 8:30 am. Therefore, our earliest Virtual Queue offering was 7:30 am. It was very easy and not nerve wracking to join the queue. Everyone who joins the queue will receive a debarkation group!
One thing to keep in mind is that guests who are Concierge Level do not need to join the virtual queue. Instead, you meet one of the Concierge hosts in the lobby and they will escort you down the elevator to the gangway!
As I knew I would be writing an article explaining the new process, I joined the virtual queue anyway to see how long it would take to disembark the ship.
I joined at 8:33 am with 254 groups ahead of me. It also provided me with an estimation time of what time we should expect to disembark.
At 8:47 am I received a notification that there were only 3 groups ahead of us, and that we were able to make our way to the gangway. One minute later our group had been called!
Not too bad for joining the queue at 8:30 am, an hour after the virtual line had first opened! There is no rush to wake up early (it was our first full day of vacation) just to join the virtual queue.
Stepping Foot On the Island
When disembarking for Castaway Cay, guests present their Key to the World card to be scanned to be allowed off the ship.
As you disembark the ship, there are cast members passing out complimentary towels as well as selling bottled water and beer packages. You will also find Disney photographers available to take pictures for you.
As we were sailing during the Merry Time cruises, Castaway Cay was adorned with holiday décor Check out this gorgeous Christmas tree!
Additionally, the snowman family, which is my personal favorite, is another wonderful photo op steps away from the ship.
As we continue the walking path, on the right side, we noticed two signs on a building. Each sign is dedicated a Disney executive. The signs are popular conversation pieices! The names on the signs were Bob Chapek: Master Ship Builder and D’Amaro Dock: Trawling Co.
Pretty, neat, right? This is one of the hidden Mickeys that I like to point out because it can easily be missed!
When Bob Iger was Disney’s CEO, he had his own sign as well but instead it read: Captain Bob Iger. Interesting, right?
Castaway Cay Post Office
As we continued down the walking path, we found ourselves near a functioning post office on the island. The Post Office is not always open, so check with Guest Services prior to disembarking the ship.
However, the magical experience of this particular post office is that it sells special Disney Cruise Line stamps and postcards. Additionally, they are mailed with the Castaway Cay postmark.
Keep in mind that the post office only accepts cash and does not accept the Key to the World cards. Lastly, as the island is on island time, it takes weeks or even months for postcards to arrive to their destination!
Currently, there can only be one party at a time inside the post office. Additionally, if the post office is closed, there’s no need to fret. Guests can drop off letters at Guest Services aboard the ship!
By this point on your walk, you have walked over the huge sign welcoming you to Castaway Cay!
Transportation On the Island
There are a couple of ways to get around the island. One is on foot, and although the 15 minute walk to the family beach is quite the mesmerizing scenic route, it is a different story when it is extremely humid in the summer months!
Luckily, this is when the tram becomes your friend! Currently, guests are asked to wear face masks while onboard the tram at all times. Additionally, cast members direct guests to the waiting area for the tram so that a crowd does not form.
The first tram stop will take you to the family beach area and is nicely situated next to the kids youth club on the island! There is also a teen beach located at the west end of the Family Beach.
A great tip for families with children is to take advantage of the beach wagons that are provided. They are complimentary on the island and are first come first served. They are located near the first tram stop, on the left side of the path.
These were a lifesaver when our girls were young! We’d plop them into the wagon along with the sunscreen, towels, and sand toys.
Beach wheelchairs are also available. They have special wheelchairs with big balloon tires that can travel on sand. They are available at the rental facility at the family beach. At the second tram stop, they are available next to the cabana check in as well as at Serenity Beach. They are limited and first come first served.
Characters Around the Island
Prior to the pandemic, Mickey and his friends, decked out in their beach attire, greeted Guests throughout the day at various locations around the island.
Times were noted on the DCL app on the Daily Navigator.
Many guests enjoyed capturing their magical vacation moments with Mickey and his friends with the cruise ship in the background.
The above picture is from our first cruise from 2015 after I had run the exclusive Castaway Cay 5k. More info on the run in the next article!
Another favorite picture spot is at Mt. Rustmore which portrays Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and Donald. In fact, it is the most photographed location on the island!
Currently, with the new protocols in place, guests can find characters throughout the island at random places. We saw Captain Hook waving to us as we passed by while riding the tram to the Family Beach stop.
However, there are no specific character meet n greet times provided. The DCL app will indicate where characters will be located, but it does not specifically note which characters.
You must take your photos and interact from a distance.
The only character that we noticed that had an actual line for a traditional meet and greet with distancing was with Captain Jack Sparrow.
Minnie and Mickey were near the volleyball court which made it hard to snap a picture from the tram. They were quite visible to guests walking along the walkway but very far in terms of getting a selfie.
I took a picture from the walkway and then cropped it to look like I was up close!
Although characters are not doing traditional meet and greets, they continue to provide fun interactions with guests. They enjoy playing in the sand and building sand castles.
As I was walking back to the ship I noticed that Goofy and Donald were building sandcastles in the sand. I must have stood watching them for about ten minutes because they put on quite the performance.
Even though the characters were building sand castles they would stop to interact with guests and pose for pictures. They were at a safe distance from guests.
I enjoyed the fun interactions, but I do admit I miss capturing hugs with characters and my kids!
One day, they will return to traditional meets and there will be enough hugs going around to make Olaf giddy with joy!
For the next article I will focus on the beaches, activities, merchandise, dining and many other wonderful amenities that can be found on this beautiful island!
What are your thoughts regarding the virtual queue to disembark at ports such as at Castaway Cay? Do you miss traditional character meet and greets? Tell us about it in the comments below or on our Facebook page.