Castaway Cay 5K: We Try It on a Disney Cruise

The finish line of Disney's Castaway Cay 5K

If you're taking a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean, chances are you'll make a stop at the cruise line's private island Castaway Cay, a highlight for many travelers who adore the white sand beaches, water toys, bars and shops. Passengers who want a hit of adrenaline, though, can run the Castaway Cay 5K and still have plenty of time for the beach. We tried the fun run while sailing on Disney Dream.

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What It Is

The 3.1-mile out-and-back event is free and family friendly; it's open to walkers and runners ages 10 and older. The race takes place first thing in the morning on the island, winding its way along a paved path that takes you past the beach and through tall grasses. The vibe of the event is fun and casual: Participants get race bibs, and the race has an official clock, but there is no chip timing.

Our Experience

We are avid runners, and we typically stay active while cruising, so we thought the Castaway Cay 5K sounded like a perfect plan for our cruise on Disney Dream. We woke to rain and cool temperatures on the morning of our day at the island and were ready to can it, but the idea of running a race on a tropical island won out.  We grabbed our gear and headed to the designated onboard meeting place, where we joined 90 or so other early-morning (8:30 a.m.!) risers who were participating.

We received instructions and bibs before heading off the ship as a group. Despite the rain, the first order of business was a group photo -- with Goofy, of course. He showed up in his tracksuit just as we left the ship. For all his stretching, though, he never made it to the start line. Photo complete, the peppy staff of two led us to the line, a 10-minute walk away.

The event was casual, and, despite the official clock at the start/finish line, it was not designed to be competitive. In fact, it drew a wide range of participants, from the large group of walkers to the ultra-jock who couldn't seem to find his shirt throughout the whole cruise. Kids mostly ran with their parents; many said it was their first 5K race.

The route was simple: a quick jaunt to a landing strip, a loop around a bike path, out to the adults-only beach turnaround, another loop around the bike path, then back to the start/finish line. The trail was paved and flat. In true Disney style, props along the route -- cannons, "old" crates and heavy bundles of rope -- blended with the natural abundant foliage. At the halfway point, our two guides served water and surprisingly inspiring support.

For our effort, we were awarded certificates, signed by The Mouse himself. Participants also are awarded medals.

Happy runner in Disney's Castaway Cay 5K

Worth a Try?

It's free, so the risk even if you hate it is low. You're on the Castaway Cay 5K course early enough to avoid the hottest time of the day, working up a sweat that will soon be cleansed by a dip into the inviting blue waters. The steps just clip past as you breathe in the salty island air and take in all the beautiful scenery. Best of all, by 10 a.m., you'll have seen parts of the island most other passengers will never explore. If you enjoy a little activity on your cruise, this is a no-brainer.

Things to Note

You don't get a T-shirt for doing the Castaway Cay 5K, but you can purchase one at a shop near the finish line. Ours was $22, and many participants bought enough "finisher" shirts for the whole family. Leave your GPS running watch in the cabin; you won't need it because there's not really a need to be competitive. We stopped for pictures along the way and never paid attention to our finishing time. The camaraderie among participants is fun and surprisingly strong; you share a sense of accomplishment -- doing something different and special.

--By Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor

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