1. Disney Magic Transatlantic Cruise: Day Eleven – Castaway Cay

    To say that I was excited when I woke up would be an understatement – after many years, today was the day that I would finally get to visit Castaway Cay. Despite waking early for the whole cruise, I had set my alarm clock to be on the safe side so I could watch our arrival. At 6:30am I went out onto our verandah and it was an incredibly beautiful morning and in the distance we could see land for the first time since leaving Funchal a week earlier.

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    The most incredible advantage of having a stateroom on the starboard side of the ship if you are on a cruise that visits Castaway Cay is the amazing views you get of the island. After worrying about the possibility of bad weather and being unable to dock, I could not believe how perfect the weather was that morning.

    We could see so many other people out on their verandahs and when we finally docked, the “When You Wish Upon a Star” ship horn blasted to announce our arrival.

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    Once we had docked we headed to Cabanas to get some breakfast as it was still early and lunchtime seemed a long way off. Cabanas was probably the busiest I had seen it the whole cruise and from the windows we could see people already racing off the ship towards the beaches. We were in no hurry as we had nothing booked so were happy to let the crowds go ahead. After breakfast we went back to our stateroom to get our bags and headed down to Deck 1 where we could disembark and step onto dry land for the first time in a week. There were two gangways you could use to disembark – one forward and one aft – and beach towels which were available on the dock.

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    Instead of taking the tram along with everyone else from the ship to Scuttle’s Cove, we decided to walk as there are so many opportunities to take photos along the way. Also at this time of day, the blue skies were perfect and being hurricane season in the Bahamas, who knew how long they would last and what weather the afternoon would bring. You should never think “I’ll take that photo later” as you never know what will happen.

    Despite the humidity, the walk to Scuttle’s Cove was easy and we were able to get all the picture perfect shots of the ship and Castaway Cay that we wanted.

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    We had timed our disembarking off the ship and arrival at Scuttle’s Cove and Mount Rustmore so we would be able to see Minnie, Pluto, Mickey and Goofy in their beach outfits in quick succession. There was only a few people in line ahead of us for each character so we did not have to wait long at all.

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    After having a look in the She Sells Seashells and Everything Else gift shop, we went to the drink station close to Cookies BBQ for some cold drinks and a sit down in the shade as it was so hot and humid before we headed out to the snorkelling lagoon.

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    As we had brought our own masks and snorkels with us, all we needed to do was to collect a snorkel vest which are available free of charge on the beach. One thing that I can’t emphasise enough is how important it is to use high factor sun protection. I was using both SPF 30 (the lowest I buy) as well as SPF 50 for all of my back, legs and shoulders whilst snorkelling. I can’t imagine the people who had already burnt themselves to a crisp whilst onboard had much fun on Castaway Cay as the sun was so strong. Later that day I saw two people with some of the worst sunburn I’ve seen in a long time.

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    One thing I will say about the snorkelling lagoon on Castaway Cay is that you have to swim out a lot further than what it looks when you are standing on the beach so I spent a lot longer in the water than I thought I would. The current in the water that day was incredibly strong and swimming against it was hard work and at one point I will admit that I did wonder if it was worth the hassle. But I’d been looking forward to this day for such a long time so there was no way I was going to give up so easily – especially as I bought as a mask and snorkel as well as an underwater camera especially for it.

    There are buoys floating on the water to indicate where all the different points of interest are in the lagoon. The underwater statue of Mickey Mouse is the furthest from the beach so I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finally got there. It took me ages to find Minnie but in the end I asked one of the lifeguards who pointed in the direction that I needed to swim.

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    Whilst I was swimming back towards the beach, I heard some music start playing and our Cruise Host shouting into a microphone once again. I quickly realised that the Character Dance Party was just starting near one of the gazebos which I had been planning to watch. However it was the exact same music that had been playing on both the other dance parties during the cruise so instead of rushing back I took my time and then relaxed on one of the hammocks on the quiet beach.

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    We were both hungry so decided to walk towards Pelican Point and Cookies Too BBQ whilst exploring a little more of Castaway Cay along the way. This was also a perfect time to get a photo of Mount Rustmore as all the character meets on the island had finished for the day. It only took a few minutes to walk to Pelican Point which was made even more pleasant with some amazing Mango Ice Cream!

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    Once at Pelican Point we looked around the Buy the Seashore gift shop where I bought a postcard and magnet. Before the cruise, I thought I would end up spending a lot of money on Castaway Cay but there wasn’t anything else that caught my eye except for the Olaf decorations but I already had one at home that a friend had bought me the previous year. I also stopped myself buying an Olaf souvenir cup at Summertime Freeze but I did love the Olaf statue at the side of the building.

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    There was only a few people in line at Cookies Too BBQ so we did not have to wait long to get some lunch. The food mainly conisted of burgers so if you do not eat meat, the choice is not great. However I did enjoy what I had though I would not get the chilli again as it had no taste. It was also great to sit in the shade whilst eating as the temperature was very hot being the middle of the day.

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    As it was so quiet on this side of the island, we decided against going to Serenity Bay as there were so many adults without children on our cruise, we figured that’s where they all were. It was great to be able to enjoy the family areas of Castaway Cay when they were peaceful and quiet which we know for sure will not happen on our next cruise on the Disney Dream – we’ll go to Serenity Bay then instead.

    Our next stop was Pelican Plunge for which there was no lines. After swimming out to the platform, you have the choice of two slides. We went on both of them but I was surprised at how fast the enclosed one was as looks can be deceptive. They were great fun but the water is a lot deeper than what you think it’s going to be.

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    One of my best tips for Castaway Cay is to bring some dry clothes to change into. There are showers on the island which are heavenly especially after being in salt water for so long earlier in the day and also to cool off from the heat. You can also then drop any towels into the containers nearby so you do not need to carry them around anymore.

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    After showering and changing, we walked to the Heads Up Bar near Pelican Plunge to get a cocktail. It was Happy Hour which we were not expecting so we ended up only paying $8 for two Strawberry Daiquiris. The best thing about the Heads Up Bar is the incredible view over the snorkelling lagoon back towards the ship. We probably spent about an hour here enjoying the view with a cocktail in hand.

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    We started a slow walk back towards the ship taking as many photos as we could along the way as well as stopping for another ice cream and cold drink. Once again it seemed like everyone was taking the tram back and we were the only ones walking.

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    After showing our passports to the Bahamian officials we reached the dock where the crew were handing out cold towels to everyone which felt incredible. I walked alongside the ship taking some more photos of the Disney Magic before boarding. There were quite a few grey storm clouds forming in the sky so I was happy to get back to the ship when we did.

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    We had been left some Mickey luggage tags in our stateroom which we were not going to use as we would be doing the Express Walk Off the next day and carrying our own bags off the ship.

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    The grey clouds outside were growing and it looked like there was a storm approaching when I was sitting out on our verandah. Shortly afterwards the rain started. It did not last for long so we headed up to the open decks just as the rain started again, only a lot heavier this time – the decks were quickly getting flooded. We took shelter in one of the covered areas of Deck Nine by Quacks with some pizza as I was still hungry after not having too much to eat at lunchtime.

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    The rain once again lightened off and the “When You Wish Upon a Star” horn sounded just before we left Castaway Cay. We watched sailaway from Deck 10 and the grey clouds along with the bit of blue sky and turquoise sea made for a fascinating sight. We were not outside for long though as the rain started again but once we had sailed through the storm, it became calm outside again once more.

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    We decided to start packing our cases before dinner. As we were not flying straight home after the cruise, it made the job of packing a lot easier as we could throw most of our belongings into our suitcases without having to worry too much as we would be unpacking it all the next day when we got to Orlando. It’s only when you go to pack that you realise how much you brought with you and how much you’ve acquired during the cruise!

    We also watched the debarkation presentation on the television which was followed by a cute video of all the crew singing and dancing to “I Have a Dream” from Tangled. The show on the final night of the cruise was Disney Dreams and right now, I simply cannot remember why we did not go to see it.

    We had let Claudine know that we did not want our stateroom turned down on the last night due to our clothes and bags being out everywhere so she knocked at the door to hand us a huge envelope containing a gift from Disney Cruise Line which was a limited edition lithograph by Don “Ducky” Williams called “Mickey’s Sweet Dreams of this Transatlantic Voyage.” The envelope also contained a certificate of authenticity as well as a letter from Captain John. The letter did have one small error though – it said we had cruised from Barcelona to Port Canaveral instead of Miami. Oh how I wish that would have been true as Port Canaveral would have been so much easier for us the following day.

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    After getting ready for our final evening we headed to the lobby atrium where both Minnie and Mickey were out before dinner. There are no Shutters photographers out on the last night to take photos so lots of people don’t go to see the charcters – not even to take photos with their own cameras. This makes it easy for the rest of us as there are no lines and the atmosphere is even more fun and relaxed than during the cruise. Some of my favourite photos were taken on the final night of both Disney cruises I have sailed on.

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    We walked past Mickey’s Mainsail and Sea Treasures – both of which were packed with people doing some last minute shopping. A lot of items that we had bought sold out during the cruise so I’m happy that I got my shopping when I did instead of leaving it until the last night when there was not much left. Shutters was also packed full of people spending ridiculous amounts of money on photos. You could buy yourself a decent camera for what one of those photo CD’s cost. As we still had a few minutes to kill before dinner, we took a final walk outside on Deck 4.

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    Our final dinner was in Carioca’s and it was the Till We Meet Again menu. I had loved this menu on our Alaskan cruise so was happy to see some of the same items again. I had the Tomato Caprese as well as the Grilled Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon followed by the Lobster Bisque and for my main course, I ordered the Sweet and Sour Tofu. We finished the bottle of Rosa Regale that we had started the evening before and I had the Celebration Cake for dessert.

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    After the meal, it was time to celebrate the incredible dining team as they paraded around Carioca’s carrying the flags of all the nationalities of the crew onboard the Disney Magic to the sounds of It’s a Small World. We then sadly said our goodbyes to James, Jasmine and Sudhir as well as handing them their tip envelopes. I seriously do not have enough words to even describe how amazing they were for the eleven nights we had spent onboard with them.

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    After leaving Carioca’s we headed to Deck 4 of the lobby atrium ready to watch ‘Til We Meet Again. It was a busier than what I expected it to be but still far from packed. At 10:00pm our Assistant Cruise Director Carly introduced the Walt Disney Theatre performers as well as the characters and princesses who then split up around the atrium for you to be able to get any last minute pictures with them – Donald Duck came and stood near to us so I got a photo with him. I was also happy that I was able to say a massive thank you and goodbye to the amazing Patrick who was one of the crew that we had spent so much time talking to during the cruise as he was helping people take photos.

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    On our Alaskan cruise I had remembered feeling incredibly sad once all the characters had disappeared after ‘Til We Meet Again as you then know that your cruise is nearly over. Yet on this cruise, I had no sad feelings at all at this point, just happy ones. I think it was a combination of having had a fantastic time onboard, having another cruise booked (which we did not have last time) as well as wanting to be back on dry land again after eleven nights at sea.

    Another thing that I absolutely loved on the last night of our cruise is when walking back to our stateroom, all of the corridors looked amazing as people had taken down all their horrific homemade door magnets and the rest of the tat they insist on hanging from the door which just looks incredibly cheap and tacky. I do not understand why they still allow this as I think it completely ruins the look of the ship and causes a lot more work for maintenance – I saw them several times on this cruise having to repair the decorative fish hooks outside the rooms.

    After finishing the last of our packing, we were both ready for bed. Captain John had already announced earlier that day that we would be arriving in Miami about 3:00am so there was no way I was waking up at that time to go up on deck especially as it would be pitch black outside. We did set an alarm for the following morning as we wanted to be off the ship as early as possible. Despite the long day, it took me forever to fall asleep. In only a few hours time, our long awaited Transatlantic cruise would be over and normality would return.

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