Last weekend, I spent my Saturday soaking up the sunshine at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. The fam and I had sailed away a couple of days prior from Miami aboard the Disney Magic on a four-night Bahamian cruise. While the ship made a stop in Nassau, we stayed aboard the ship, a much more pleasant option than venturing into town. We also had a day at sea, which was a pretty rainy one for the bulk of the morning but our Captain took us a little off course to find some sunshine later in the day. That was Super Bowl Sunday and many guests were parked in front of a screen watching the event, while our family found ourselves able to explore an even less crowded ship that we had been enjoying. The Disney Magic’s normal guest capacity is just over 2,700 passengers. Our sailing had 1,035 passengers and 1,037 crew!
Sailing right now, while modified to support COVID safety protocols, is a blast with fewer guests. While I selfishly love the low crowds, I know that isn’t sustainable for any cruise line long term, so I hope that the sailings come back closer to regular capacity in the coming months. I believe Disney is still restricting their sailings to a maximum of 70% of guests but that information isn’t published anywhere to confirm. With the newest ship in the fleet, the Disney Wish, taking its inaugural voyage in July, I think the goal will be to get back to as close to 100% as possible before then.
I last sailed with Disney in September, on the Disney Dream. The COVID protocols are pretty similar now to what they were then but some of the processes feel more streamlined. While you still do have to wear a face covering indoors at all times (unless in your own stateroom or actively eating/drinking), it does feel like we are sliding into what will become the ‘new normal’ for a while. With all guests age 5 and up required to be fully vaccinated to sail and all guests required to take a COVID test prior to being allowed to board, the comfort level felt good while sailing.
Our dinner server also let us know that they are tested ever other day, which seems insane, and also are required to wear face coverings. The overall feeling from the crew is that they can’t wait for the ships to be back at capacity and they wish the CDC didn’t push the negative stance they seem to hold with regarding to cruising. While the CDC finally announced that they lowered their warning level from ‘very high’ to ‘high’ for cruising a few days ago, it really should be lowered further in my opinion. The cruise lines are doing so much more to keep guests safe than is even being done in your own hometown. Disney’s cleaning processes had always been stellar but you can tell that they have stepped those up even further now. Social distancing in theaters is strictly enforced (and great for the guest!) and tables in the restaurants have been spread farther apart to allow for more distancing there as well. The buffet at Cabanas is no longer self-serve, which is amazing as far as keeping other guests’ grubby paws out of the food and the serving utensils from getting sticky and dirty. Even the ice cream is served by a crew member and that’s just fantastic! No more spills around the ice cream machines, long lines while you wait for the guest in front of you to figure out how to work the machine, etc. Love it! The one thing I do really miss though is pin trading with the crew. However, we made a pin ribbon and hung our trading pins outside of our stateroom door so other guests could come by our stateroom and trade with us! That was fun and gave us a little taste of the trading that we were missing.
We spent a lot of time enjoying the variety of entertainment offerings onboard during this cruise. We watched movies on the funnel, participated in several animation classes, made origami, tried our hand at trivia many times, took photos with characters, and watched as other guests took part in some of the family game shows. We won Marvel Trivia and did well on some of the other trivia games but man, competition is fierce!
One of my favorite things about sailing with Disney is seeing the Broadway-style shows that are performed most evenings. On our sailing, we enjoyed Tangled and Believe. Both were excellent and gave us back the live entertainment that we have missed during the pandemic. During dinner each evening, shows are performed in the main dining rooms as well. On our last evening, we dined at Rapunzel’s Royal Table and were treated to a show with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. This restaurant is beautiful to begin with but with the lanterns in the ceiling mimicking the lantern festival from the Tangled movie, it becomes truly a magical experience.
Oh! Another unique form of entertainment aboard Disney’s Bahamian and Caribbean cruises are the fireworks at sea! It is always a blast to head up to the top deck in the evening to watch the fireworks explode overhead while adrift in the ocean.
Our day at Castaway Cay was incredible, as always. Even though it started off on the dark and stormy looking side, the end of the day brought beautiful blue skies and a rainbow as we sailed away from our island paradise. On Castaway Cay, guests have free access to plenty of beach chairs, loungers, and umbrellas to use during the day on a variety of different beach areas. A treat that you can purchase is a rental of a private cabana for the day. These cabanas are extremely hard to book and typically booked up by guests staying in concierge staterooms on the sailing or guests who have sailed with Disney many times before (called Castaway Club members.) Castaway Club members are divided into three levels: Silver (cruised at least once with Disney but less than 5 times), Gold (cruised more than 5 times but less than 10), and Platinum (cruised more than 10 times.) We are Platinum members but I actually just lucked into a cancellation of a cabana about four days before our sailing. I wasn’t planning on getting a cabana since they are fairly pricey (generally in the $600-$800 range) but saw that the weather was looking iffy for our island day. When a cancellation popped up, I grabbed it. While these are a splurge, they are truly worth it for the experience. Your own cabana with comfortable furniture, a changing curtain, freshwater shower, hammock, sand toys, sunscreen, safe, upgraded towels (that you don’t have to carry from the ship!), free sodas/waters, cool washcloths, floats and tubes, and the private beach area make this upgrade worth every single penny. For those of us who can get sunburned in the rain, this is such a dream come true.
Each evening, we ended the day with a fun towel/blanket animal and some delicious Dove chocolates on our stateroom bed. Funny how when you get home, there are no more towel animals or chocolates. Hmmm… Those stateroom hosts truly do help make your vacation all the more special!
You know the saying though, all good things must come to an end. We flew back home to Virginia, where we had narrowly missed yet another snowfall, and started dreaming of our next adventure.