As the 130,000-ton Disney Dream sailed into Disney’s Castaway Cay after its razzle-dazzle christening last week, the ship’s VIP guests headed ashore for sun in the fun. Many travel agents and consortia executives toured the Bahamian island’s new facilities to view an expanded family beach, new rental cabanas, the new Pelican Plunge water platform and a new buffet dining venue.
With a maximum of 4,000 passengers (including third and fourth berths), Disney Dream is far larger than Disney Cruise Line’s two other ships, so the line has added the new facilities to help spread guests around the island. The goal is to avoid onerous lines and retain a “laid-back” island experience.
“I was blown away by Castaway Cay,” said Drew Daly, vice president of sales performance, CruiseOne & Cruises Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FL. “The beaches were perfect and [the island has] the most pristine clear blue water.” He said the new island additions are good selling points for the trade.
To reach the new 700-foot-long family beach area, clients should board the complimentary tram at the Kargo Handling Tram Stop and get off at Pelican Point Tram Stop. That’s one stop beyond Scuttle’s Cove Tram Stop, the island’s original family beach area. Trams are wheelchair accessible; clients should head for the first tram car. The driver will pull down an access ramp.
Disney staff at the Pelican Point information desk will answer questions and help guests to secure complimentary strollers and beach wheelchairs, available on a first-come, first-served basis. What’s a beach wheelchair? Essentially, it’s a wheelchair with big tubular tires that move easily through the sand.
Just steps away from the information desk is a sports area with tetherball, volleyball and soccer. Also nearby are a new “Buy the Seashore” shop with beach gear and sundries; a new bicycle rental shop; restrooms; and the new “Flippers and Floats” for rentals of snorkeling gear, tubes and floats.
The sugary sand beach with lounge chairs is just beyond. Disney provides beach towels for guests to take ashore.
The most spectacular new feature at Pelican Point, though, is the Pelican Plunge water activity platform. On this 2,400-square-foot platform, guests zip down an enclosed corkscrew slide, zoom along a 140-foot-long open slide into the ocean and shoot several water cannons at targets. In addition, a giant bucket fills up and dumps water on willing participants below.
“I really like the [concept of] Pelican Plunge - and really love that it's a float out in the water, as opposed to taking up precious space on the beach,” said Michelle Mangio, a Disney specialist and owner, Magical Escapes Vacations, Attleboro, MA.
For younger kids, Pelican Point’s separate “Spring-a-Leak,” a water jet play area boasts “leaking pipes.” During Travel Agent’s visit, kids aged from 2 to 10 were shrieking with delight as they ran in and out of multiple water jets.
Disney built Cookie’s Too BBQ as Pelican Point’s family buffet dining venue. It serves the same food as the original Cookie’s in the Scuttle’s Cove family beach area. Food is prepared by Disney and brought from the ship to shore.
On the menu? Clients can chow down on fresh watermelon, salads, corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue ribs, chicken, humongous chocolate cookies, banana bread and soft-serve ice cream.
Dispensers provide free soft drinks and water. The Sand Bar is the place to buy tropical drinks, cocktails, wine and beer. To dine, clients may sit on long picnic tables in the covered Grouper pavilion or at tables with umbrellas in a sandy area.
For clients who want their own private island space, 17 new family cabanas can be rented in an exclusive limited-access area that oozes Bahamian charm. The small wooden cabanas have a living room area under roof and a patio deck that’s open to the sky and overlooking the beach.
“Many of my clients are excited about all the updates,” said Mangio. “Several very much like the idea of the private cabanas to rent for the families, to be able to get out of the sun and enjoy some privacy when desired, and just have a nice place to all gather throughout the day.”
The comfortable cabanas have an island style sofa, multiple chairs with cushions and several loungers. All cabanas have a private hammock and easy beach access. One family cabana is wheelchair accessible.
Cabana amenities? Clients who rent the cabanas will discover a mini-refrigerator stocked with sodas and water, a snack bin, a fresh fruit bowl, a safe to lock up valuables, a selection of magazines, beach towels and face towels “cooled” in the mini-refrigerator. Children will discover a small bucket of sand toys. Guests push an electronic button to call for assistance from a cabana attendant.
Dining? Right now, clients who want lunch during their cabana rental period must leave their cabana and head for the buffet at Cookies Too. If cabana guests desire to purchase alcoholic drinks, they may order those from beach attendants roaming the public beach area behind the cabanas or, alternatively, at the Sand Bar.
According to one Disney representative giving travel writers a tour of the cabanas last week, the line is evaluating the potential for meal or drink delivery options to cabana guests.
A new public restroom facility is easily accessible just beyond the entrance to the cabana area. The cabanas themselves do not have restrooms.
The cost to rent a family beach cabana is $499 daily for up to six people. Up to 10 may share a cabana, with an additional charge of $50 per person for more than six people. Once the cabana is reserved and confirmed onboard with Port Adventures, guests receive wristbands for access.
Disney Dream will call at Castaway Cay once — and sometimes twice — on three-, four- and five-night itineraries from Port Canaveral this year. For an island tour including videos, visit www.visitcastawaycay.com.
All photos by Susan J. Young