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Tales of a Castaway Cay Cabana Convert

This is the time of year when I start dreaming of tropical beaches, citrus sunsets and colorful umbrella drinks. January and February are my least favorite months, and I can’t be alone in that. Lately, my thoughts have been wandering to the paradise that is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, only accessible via a Disney Cruise Line ship.

The Disney Wonder

The Disney Wonder docked at Castaway Cay

More specifically, I’ve been dreaming of my private cabana on Serenity Bay, the adults only beach on the island. It took me seven years of cruising Disney before I finally bought into all the hype. For years I thought they were an over-the-top extravagance that couldn’t possibly be worth the high price tag. Less than five minutes after setting foot into our precious piece of real estate for a day, I knew my past thoughts had been misguided. Wayyyyy misguided.

Serenity Bay Cabana 25

Cabana 25 on Serenity Bay

Getting a cabana on the island had never been on my radar, partly because they are almost impossible to get but mostly because of the high costs. As of now, Serenity Bay cabanas are $399 for up to 4 guests before tax. Family beach cabanas are $599 from September 25, 2018-March 17, 2019 and $649 from March 18, 2019-September 24, 2019. These prices are also before tax and are for up to 6 guests. On both beaches, you can have up to 10 guests in the cabana for an additional charge of $50 per guest over the number already included in the price. Not exactly cheap!

So, how did I get from there to here? It’s pretty simple, actually. I mainly wanted a more comfortable beach experience for my parents, my mom in particular. They are both in their seventies, and over the years I’ve watched as my mom has increasingly struggled with the beach. It’s harder for her to walk on the sand, and the beach chairs hurt her back. She also is sun-sensitive. While there are plenty of umbrellas on both beaches, getting full coverage from the sun is easier said than done. In 2017, my parents stayed on the beach just long enough for lunch to be served. It was hard to watch them not enjoy this highlight of the trip. I thought a cabana might be the answer and rationalized the cost by thinking of it as an all-day excursion. Per person, it’s really not that much more than other all-day excursions. Disney math at its finest!

Sign at the entrance of the private cabana area

So, after I made up my mind I wanted one for our 2018 cruise, how on earth was I going to get one? Let’s first break down why they are hard to get. First, there are only 24 of these beauties on the island (numbering goes up to 25 but 13 doesn’t exist); 20 are on the family beach (one is a double sized Grand Cabana at, you guessed it, an even higher cost) and 4 are on the adult beach. So, there aren’t a lot to go around. Second, Disney has a tiered system for booking activities, cabanas included, based on number of cruises you’ve taken and room category. Concierge guests (top room categories) get first dibs at them. There are more rooms in this category than there are cabanas. Often, they are all snatched up by this group first. Then, Platinum (10+ cruises) cruisers get a shot, followed by Gold (6-10 cruises), Silver (1-5 cruises) and finally, the newbies can try.

As a Silver cruiser not staying in Concierge, my chances were slim-to-none. As expected, they were all gone when it was our time to book. I stalked the site daily for cancellations to no avail. My next plan was to immediately go to Guest Services after boarding the ship and get on the wait list.

On the day of embarkation, something magical happened! We were on our way to the port when we learned of a change in our itinerary. We were supposed to go to St. Maarten, but due to a storm in the Caribbean, we weren’t going to make it. Instead, we would be making two stops at Castaway Cay. Thank you, Mickey! Many people were disappointed to miss St. Maarten, and I can totally understand that. I was elated, however! Immediately my brain went to the cabanas. A surprise stop meant all cabanas were available for the bonus stop, and I was determined to get one. Or so I thought.

I went straight to Guest Services when we boarded, thinking I would just book one right there on the spot. Not so fast! I learned that the cabana list is owned by the Concierge staff on board. That means Concierge guests still get first dibs. The Concierge staff would call me if there were any available after they were offered to their guests.

A few hours later, we got a call that there were two left, and one had my name on it! Success! Later that night, we received our wrist bands and cabana check in information.

Castaway Cay Cabana Wristbands

Our wristbands! We were official!

The next day, we docked at Castaway Cay for our bonus stop. We could not get off that ship fast enough to head to our private slice of paradise! Upon arrival at Serenity Bay, we headed straight for cabana check in. We were greeted by our cabana host for the day and taken via golf cart to Cabana 25. They were clearly expecting us as we found our name on the welcome sign.

Welcome Sign

What a warm welcome!

Our host showed us around our cabana, where we found very comfy chairs and loungers, a ceiling fan, changing area, bar menu, snack basket, fridge stocked with sodas, water, fruit and cold towels, outdoor shower, floats and tubes, a hammock and sunscreen. The most important feature was the button to push in order to call our host. All was included in the cabana cost except drinks on the bar menu.

Cabana 25

The back entrance to Cabana 25

Inside the Cabana

The cozy interior of the cabana

Cabana Interior

So inviting!

Cabana Lounge Chair

Super comfy lounge chairs

Cabana Lounge Chair

Another comfy chair. I tried them all out.

Cabana Ceiling Fan

It was a little chilly so we didn’t end up using the ceiling fan. It would have come in handy on a warm day, though.

Castaway Cay Bar Menu

If we wanted something from the bar menu, our cabana host was a push of a button away.

Snacks

Snacks

Stocked Fridge

Fully stocked fridge

Floats and Rafts

Floats and rafts right next to the cabana

Personal Hammock

We had our own personal hammock.

Complimentary Sunscreen

Complimentary sunscreen

We lounged around the cabana for a bit before taking a walk on the beach. It was kind of chilly that day (March) so the water was much too cold to enjoy. We went back to the cabana where we agreed it was nice to be shielded from the cool air. I found a sunny spot on the cabana porch and relaxed in the sun until it was time for lunch.

Beach Selfie

The obligatory beach selfie

We called our cabana host to come get us for lunch. Within moments he arrived to whisk us off in the golf cart. While we could have brought lunch back to our cabana, we chose to eat there. After lunch, I picked up my favorite drink there, the Konk Kooler, and we headed back to our tiny home.

We decided we could almost live there, it was so nice! Before we knew it, they were announcing that it was time to leave. Our cabana host came to collect us, and we enjoyed the biggest surprise of all! The cabana host drove us back to the ship, past the customs check, and dropped us off right at the gangplank. No extra walking for my mom! She was all smiles! It was then that I realized this was the first trip to Castaway Cay that my parents were able to enjoy the island for the entire day. Mission accomplished!

Happy Parents

Seeing how much my parents enjoyed the day made it all worth it.

Four days later, we got another call from Concierge. One of their guests had cancelled their cabana for the second visit, and they were calling to see if we wanted it. Without much hesitation, we wholeheartedly said yes! The next day, we got to do it all over again in Cabana 22.

Cabana 22

We got Cabana 22 for our second day.

Cabana 22

The back entrance to Cabana 22

We are now cabana spoiled! I’m happy to say that we’ve already secured Cabana 25 once again for our next cruise. We are Gold this time, and we got lucky. I found a Platinum cruiser on our cruise who kept monitoring the available inventory for me until our booking window opened. I knew there was one available on the adult beach, and I was laser-focused on getting it! Luckily, I had fast fingers and a fast internet connection. We can hardly wait to visit our little haven in paradise once again.

Cabana 22 Sign

We are looking forward to once again calling Cabana 25 home for the day.

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–Castaway Cay 5k and a PR, Well Maybe Sort Of

If you’ve been reading along, you know that strangely enough the thing about this cruise I was looking forward to the most was the Castaway Cay 5k.  On Tuesday of the cruise, the day had finally come.

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island that most of their cruises sail to.  It is gorgeous!  The water is so blue, and the sand is pristine!  There is plenty to do on the island.  There is snorkeling, a sting ray interactive area, water toys, character experiences, parasailing, a glass bottom boat tour, and even a water slide.  There is yoga on the adult beach (Serenity Bay), and massage cabanas for those who want to indulge on the beach.  Then there is my most anticipated activity, the 5k.

Our personal Navigator for the day (a printout that tells you everything that is going on) said we should meet in Evolution at 8:15 am.  Running also were my dad, my brother-in-law, and 2 of my nieces.  So at 8:15 we signed in, were given our bibs, and Briana (a member of the activities crew) went over the course map with us. 

We all met in Evolution to get signed in for the 5K.

We all met in Evolution to get signed in for the 5K.

Ok, this is not a great picture but they had the course map on the big screen.

We all got bibs, and they say runDisney!

We all got bibs, and they say runDisney!

My dad was wearing his t-shirt from the Mickey’s Happy Haunted 5k Trail Run from last year, which got Briana’s attention.  She ran the 10 miler last year.  When dad told her I ran the 10 miler also as well as Princess this year, she came looking for me.  She is planning on running Princess in 2014 as part of the brand new Glass Slipper Challenge.  From that point on, she kept calling dad and me her runDisney family.  I thought that was really fun.

So about 8:45, we made our way as a group to the gangplank to exit the ship.  We walked all the way to the second family beach.  It felt like a long walk, but that is pretty typical of runDisney races.  At one point during the walk to the start, my brother-in-law said, “Is this 5k almost over?”  I thought it was a good warm-up, though.  I like to walk for a bit before I start running.

We got to the start and I had the bright idea to go ahead and buy our 5k shirts.  The gift shop is right next to the start.  I’ve read that many people have their family members buy them while they are running, and if you wait until you finish they may be out of your size.  Since none of our family members who weren’t running were planning on getting off the ship before we would be done, that wasn’t an option for us.  So I grabbed the shirts and went to pay, thinking I’d be in and out in 2 minutes.  The Cast Member was super friendly and talkative, wanting to know EVERYTHING about our trip so far.  I told her we were about to start running and I needed to get to the start.  Then she proceeds to tell me ALL the reasons she can’t run.  Yeah, yeah, let’s pick this up!  I was about to be left behind.  She was SUPER careful to make sure they were folded perfectly in the bag, too!  Well, needless to say, the other runners took off while I was walking out of the store.  They have a box by the start for everyone to put their belongings, and I still had to do that, too.  So, not only was I the last one to start, there wasn’t anyone in sight when I started.  I wish I had checked the clock at the start to see just how far behind I was, but I didn’t.  I’m going to estimate 90 seconds.

It wasn’t too long, though, before I was passing people, mainly the walkers.  Then I had my dad in sight, who was mostly walking.  I wanted to catch up to him, but every time I was almost to him, he would take off running, putting more distance between us.  He can actually walk faster than I can walk/run so with him adding some running in, it was almost impossible.  Then came the first water stop.  Dad was stopped at it, and he spotted me.  I stopped to refill my water bottle, and I was sure he would wait on me.  But noooooooo!  Dad, you’re KILLING me!  I’m 38 years old.  I’ve been running for a year and a half.  I’ve completed 2 half marathons and a 10 miler in the last year.  I have on expertly fitted running shoes and tech running clothes.  And I’m being smoked by a 69-year-old man who doesn’t run or walk regularly, wearing 10-year-old Reeboks, khaki shorts and a cotton t-shirt.  That was a lesson in humility.

The course takes you down the air strip,  has you make a loop through the 5000 foot long bike trail, finish off the air strip to Serenity Bay, circle back and make another trip through the bike loop, then head home.  It’s pretty clear to go counter-clockwise through the bike loop the first time, but for the second loop, some were going clockwise and some counter-clockwise.  I was in the clockwise group and met my brother-in-law and one of my nieces heading the other direction.  He indicated that he thought I was going the wrong way.  I told him I didn’t think it mattered and continued on.  At this point I vaguely remembered Briana mentioning that if you do something wrong, it could add a half mile to your trip.  I couldn’t remember what that was, and I started questioning myself.  The bike loop is marked in feet by thousands in both directions, and I had just passed the 2000 feet mark.  I decided to try to estimate another 500 feet and turn around and head back the other direction (remember the bike loop is 5000 feet, so by my estimation I would be at the 2500 feet mark and doubling back would equal 5000 feet).  I have no idea how close I was, but I don’t think I could have been that far off. 

I headed to the finish and the clock said I had a PR by about a minute and 20 seconds.  Since it’s not a certified course, I got stared late, and I got turned around, I have no idea how accurate this was.  We all collected our medals, and I got a pic of Briana. 

Briana gave us our medals!

Briana gave us our medals!

We retrieved our belongings and headed to find a spot on the beach for the day.

Me after the race, with my medal and the ship

Me after the race, with my medal and the ship

Dad and I after the race

It was really a lot of fun!  I kept hearing about how hot this run can get, and it would have been much harder had the sun been out.  It was overcast all day, though, with a good breeze blowing.  It was very enjoyable.  Plus, with this run, I can now call myself an international runner.  The experience exceeded my expectations, and if I ever get the opportunity to go on another Disney cruise that stops at Castaway Cay, I will do it again for sure!

Have you ever done a 5k on vacation?  Where was it?

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Things I Like Thursday–Konk Cooler

I’m getting ready to go on a Disney cruise aboard the Dream in a couple of months.  This will be my second cruise on the Dream, and lately it’s been on my brain a LOT.  I’ve been thinking about all the things I didn’t get to do last time that I want to do this time.  I’ve been reflecting on what I did last time that I want to repeat.  I’ve also just been reminiscing about the last trip in general.  A highlight of most Disney cruises is a trip to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.  For me, no trip to Castaway Cay would be complete without the famous Konk Cooler.  What is a Konk Cooler? It’s only one of my top 5 cocktails (ooooh, future post idea!).  I crave the thing, but it’s über fattening so it’s more of a once-a-year treat.  No, I don’t go on a Disney cruise once a year (I wish).  I have, however, adapted my own recipe from other recipes I’ve found on the internet for it. 

Konk Cooler

1 can of Welches frozen passion fruit juice blend concentrate, thawed

1 can creme of coconut (Lopez is what I use, and it’s on the cocktail mixer aisle)

1 cup orange juice

3/4 cup light or golden rum

3/4 cup coconut or pineapple rum

Blend all ingredients in a blender until well combined.  Pour into another container.  Add a cup of the mixture back into the blender and blend with enough ice to make it your desired consistency.  A cup of the mixture will yield about 2 drinks, and this recipe makes about 5 cups so the total yield is about 8-10 drinks.  The leftover mixture (if there is any) will last in the refrigerator for about a week.

Konk Cooler-aka paradise in a glass

Konk Cooler-aka paradise in a glass

I added quite a bit of ice to this one because I like them extra thick.  I also like to serve it in this fun glass.  I think it adds to the tropical feel of the drink.  One more thing.  I make mine with Tortuga rum that I bought in Nassau on the last trip.  I only use that rum for these drinks.  I use the golden rum, but light would work, too.  The lady in the Tortuga shop who helped me with my purchase told me golden and light rum can be used interchangeably.  Sometimes I use the coconut rum and sometimes pineapple, but honestly, I can’t tell much of a difference once the other ingredients are blended.

Try it out and tell me what you think!  If you’ve had the original do you think this comes pretty close?

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