As you may or not may not be aware, I like Disney and a long time dream of mine has been to visit Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. The catch with this is that you have to be on a Disney cruise ship to visit. So this year I finally did it – I went on a Disney cruise and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. We booked onto the Disney Dream for a 4 night/5 day cruise around the Bahamas in a veranda room. I wanted to write this blog to share some of the tips I learnt booking as a UK resident and generally helpful information. Don’t worry, there will be a follow-up post all about the actual cruise itself and of course all about Castaway Cay.
I researched so much before deciding on who to book with, whether to go direct via Disney Cruise Line or to use a third party. In the end, the benefits of using a travel agent were too tempting and we booked through a company called Dreams Unlimited. I can’t recommend these guys enough. We sent off our initial submission and within a few days, we were booked and had paid and started our Disney Cruise countdown. We had an allocated agent who answered all our queries promptly despite being in a totally different time zone. We chose a third party as I said because of the benefits, they were overall the same price as direct with Disney for the cruise we had our eye on but they offered onboard credit which tipped them massively in our favour. Once we had sorted out the rest of our holiday details they managed to easily add on our transfers to and from the port (more about that later). If (or should I say, when) I come to book another Disney cruise I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.
Again a lot of research went into deciding how we were going to get to and from the port terminal at Port Canaveral. You have a few options, you can drive, Uber/Lyft or get the Disney Cruise Line transportation which runs directly from the Walt Disney World Resort hotels and the airport. The latter seems the best option, right? Well, that’s what we decided but be warned, this is unlike the Magical Express and does actually have a fee for usage. It’s currently $35 per person, per way, which yeah, kinda adds up but as we were staying in the resort either side of the cruise we decided to book and I’m glad that we did. It worked really well, the night before you call reception to confirm for the porter to come and collect your suitcase in the morning. You are sent some luggage tags a few weeks before you travel (do not forget these before leaving the UK) and just put these on your suitcases by the door. The porter was there bang on the time we expected and took our suitcases away. The next time we saw these? In our room on the cruise ship which just blows my mind how organised they are with that. It means so much less stress though not having to worry about lugging large cases around. Do remember to take a small carry on backpack or something with you though with any bits you might need for the first few hours aboard the cruise. All the facilities are open so you may just want to make sure you pack your swimming cossie for some water fun! We were one of the later groups onto the cruise and this is something you may want to consider but this was fine for us. We still had plenty of time to explore before the Sail Away party.
Back at your Disney Resort hotel, the pick-up times vary but this will be confirmed to you at the latest the day before. However, you can always ask at reception. We stayed at Pop Century and got picked up about 11 am. Everyone met in reception where several Cruise Line representatives were waiting to check you and your documentation before you board the coach. It was a relatively quick and painless process and everyone is always in such a good mood, I mean, who wouldn’t be if you were about to head off on a cruise?! A little tip on the coach, sit on the right-hand side because on arrival into Port Canaveral you will get the first glimpse of the ship, and that feeling of seeing her for the first time is priceless.
On the way back using the transfers again we had to be up and off the ship fairly early which meant we missed our breakfast seating,
Disney refer to their excursions as Port Adventures. When we initially booked our cruise we spent ages on the excursions page deciding on what we wanted to do. There are so many options and we did initially book to visit Atlantis when in Nassau, but a few weeks before sailing we cancelled this. I would, of course, love to visit Atlantis but this was our first time visiting the Bahamas and we decided instead to visit some of the historical sights in port instead. Now is the port of Nassau a true reflection of the Bahamas? No, of course not. There’s a lot of very cheesy bars and cheap shops which I’m sure you won’t find in other spots around the island, but go a few streets back and you’ll find something a lot more real. Again, I did my research on this and a lot of the American blogs were insistent to not walk around, but a quick look on Google Maps showed that the places we wanted to see were literally a 10-minute walk away. I will talk more about that in a later post.
There are also excursions on Castaway Cay which can range from going on a boat trip to something as simple as hiring pool inflatables or a bike. Again we decided on just enjoying and relaxing on our first visit, although we did hire a bicycle later in the day for an hour which was plenty of time to explore. It was incredibly easy to add this on, they just use your Key to the World card for charging, although they messed up (in a good way) on ours and only charged for one bike 🙂
A lot of the other things that we maybe would have liked to have booked on the ship itself were sold out by the time our slot arrived for booking. There’s a tier system in place for who can access certain things and with this being our first cruise we were the lowest tier. We did later find out though from talking to others that don’t be put off by the websites, always check in at Guest Services who can usually accommodate most things such as the cocktail masterclass and some people even got last-minute Remy reservations. This is certainly something I will remember for my next cruise, although I am now a proud member of the Castaway Club and therefore will get earlier access to bookings going forward.
This was not only my first time on Disney Cruise Line but also my first ever cruise and I was a bit blown away by how much there is to plan and consider when booking a cruise but I just wanted to give you a rough idea of what to expect. I am sure that I have missed bits out which hopefully I can remember to cover in my future post, but I felt that when researching I didn’t see much information from a UK perspective so I hope this really helps and encourages you to book that dream cruise!