Cruise lines eye reopening of private islands in the Bahamas

The Disney Dream at Castaway Cay.
The Disney Dream at Castaway Cay. Photo Credit: David Roark/Disney

With the passing of Hurricane Dorian, cruise lines were assessing, and gearing up to reopen, their private destinations in the Bahamas.

At Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay, the line said that it needed to evaluate the pier and ship channel before reopening the island to passengers. It also will clean up some landscaping and make minor repairs to the roof of one small covered pavilion area.

Holland America Line said its ships were to return to Half Moon Cay on Oct. 21 as scheduled, and Carnival Cruise Line will be back on the island Sept. 12. Holland America said there was minor beach erosion that will be cleaned up, but no structural damage. “The horses and stingrays are doing well,” it said.

Princess Cruises said initial reports “show only cosmetic damage and beach erosion” on  Princess Cays, its private destination on Eleuthera.

Norwegian Cruise Line said Thursday it was still assessing the situation at Great Stirrup Cay.

As reported previously, Royal Caribbean said it would reopen Perfect Day at CocoCay on Sept. 7, after survey teams decided it was feasible.

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Big Changes Coming to Disney Magic

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Exciting new things are coming to Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic for families that love to hit the open seas.

At Rapunzel’s Royal Table, passengers will be treated to an all-new dining experience inspired by the beloved story of Disney’s Tangled. The restaurant will feature characters, live entertainment, themed menus, special activities and a parade to cap off the evening.

All of the themed events at Rapunzel’s Royal Table compliment Tangled: The Musical, an original production running during each Disney Magic sailing.

Families travelling with teenagers know how fickle they can be, but the crew at Disney Cruise Line has redesigned a portion of the ship specifically for teens ages 14-17, dubbed the Vibe.

The Vibe features a new coffee and smoothie bar, video and virtual reality games, DJ spin-off activities and more in an urban loft environment. The area will be monitored by trained Disney counsellors.

For the parents and guardians of the group, the Cove Cafe is a place for adults only where they can enjoy coffee and tea or get wild with wine and a cocktail. The Cove Cafe also hosts adult beverage tastings at select times.

Other changes announced include the addition of Club Disney Junior in Disney’s Oceaneer Club, a redesigned Rainforest Room with steam and hydrotherapy in Senses Spa for adults and more.

The new enhancements will debut on the Disney Magic ship starting March 9, 2018, on sailings from Miami. The four- and five-night sailings visit Key West, the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

The Disney Magic will be repositioned to Europe for the summer season on May 14, 2018.

Disney’s Magical Private Caribbean Island

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Imagine having your own private island.

Well, Disney has done just that with its enchanted Castaway Cay. This tranquil retreat is just for Disney cruisers and embodies the perfect island paradise.

I’ve often said I’d take a Disney cruise just for a stop on this magical isle. The rest of the family heartily agreed after we returned from our 3-night sail on the Disney Dream, celebrating our grandson’s birthday.

The cruise itself was one fantastic experience. Food, service, staterooms and entertainment were all top-notch Disney-esque.

Our first port of call was Nassau— a fun place we’ve visited in the past—teeming with Bahamian and British flavour, miles of spectacular beaches and stretches of vivid coral reefs perfect for snorkelling.

Excitement, however, started to build as our ship slowly approached Castaway Cay. The tropical island hideaway located just 225 nautical miles from Port Canaveral, Florida is a stop on all Disney’s Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.

There’s no shortage of things to do here. (Actually, we found it impossible to do it all in a day.)

Ships dock right on the island, allowing Disney cruisers to disembark directly onto the pier. A short 15-minute walk leads to unbelievable amenities, including our first stop: powdery white and sandy Castaway Family Beach. The beach area is quite extensive with points and coves along the shoreline.

Trams are available for those who need them (or want to get to the beach faster) and traverse all Castaway Cay amenities. Beach towels are provided by cruise line members at the pier, so no need to pack those in your suitcase or beach bag.

Beach and Water Fun

After securing our chairs and umbrellas, the kids scurried to the bay’s turquoise crystalline waters. Snorkeling is available to those wanting to explore the Caribbean’s undersea marine habitat in Snorkeling Lagoon just off Castaway Family Beach.

Two submerged submarines from Magic Kingdom’s retired 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction add an element of adventure for intrepid snorkelers.

We found it impossible to resist Pelican Plunge, the 2,400 square-foot floating platform with two bending twisting water slides dropping squealing riders directly into the lagoon. A giant “bucket dump” of water delivering hundreds of gallons brought more anticipation and laughter. Four water cannons provided sharp-shooting fun with floating nautical targets.

Game pavilions near the Family Beach offer a variety of sand and shaded games like volleyball, tetherball, foosball, ping-pong, pool, shuffleboard and basketball. And there are also places where each age group can hang out with their peers that include planned activities like Teen Hideout or Scuttle’s Cove kids club for the younger cruisers.

Inner tubes, snorkel masks and fins can be rented from Gil’s Fin and Floats or Flippers & Floats on the beach, while kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards and Aqua Trikes can also be rented for use in this water wonderland.

Hammocks are located beachfront and very popular with visitors. And while my husband was clowning around in one with our grandson, that wily, notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow snuck up on them, grabbed our camera and started snapping photos.