Castaway Cay: it was awesome, like everyone else has said. WAAAAY better than Royal Caribbean's private island. So much more to do. We snorkeled out beyond the swim area (lots of fish, no coral, but two sunken boats and some sunken Disney characters) and rode bikes. Disney even puts up water stations along the bike trail! The roped-off swim area did get murky but if you went way out (with life vests), the water was super clear. Snorkel equipment was of good quality too. Didn't visit the adults only area, but rode past it -- wondering what the $500/day cabanas looked like on the inside! This is a place you can easily get sunburned -- be careful. There are thousands of beach chairs and umbrellas along the long beach, so there was plenty of space for everyone. The lunch was OK, wished I'd gone back to the boat for lunch -- but way better than Royal Caribbean's lunch offerings on Coco Cay. And they had the ice cream stations there too! Plenty of bathrooms, shopping, things to rent for fun -- an awesome day!
Costa Maya: we had contacted the Tropicante (Steve Uhl) to enjoy some beach time, but found we were a bit late and he was booked. However, he advised us to come anyway, and we were somewhat expecting a hotel with a beach front available to tourists. It wasn't. The most valuable thing that happened that afternoon is that our daughter saw the poverty that many Mexicans live in. Tropicante appeared to be a small restaurant (in a long row of rundown buildings) with some chairs/tables/umbrellas in a somewhat narrow strip of sand and palm trees out front. You are given a table and a menu, and there are lounge chairs available, snorkeling gear, and kayaks available to rent. I didn't really talk to anyone who understood English well, so when it looked like rain was imminent, we paid for our drinks and left by taxi. My advice: swim in the nice big pool in the shopping area right off the dock -- perfect for kids and adults. Largest pool I saw the whole cruise. Found some cool souvenirs there too.
As part of the catamaran tour/snorkel (highly recommended), we went to a private beach area owned by Fury and had about an hour to spend there -- there were bathrooms, food/drinks, lounge chairs, big inflatable slides in the water, rubber floating mats, kayaks, paddle boards, and horseback riding (for a fee). My daughter loves horses, so we went riding. A little sad -- the horses didn't look all that healthy or taken care of, and it was hot, no food or water for them in sight. Took a ride through the jungle, through standing water on a rocky path which was really tough on them, and kind of gross. There were ducks in this really dumpy enclosure back in the woods - also sad. But eveyrthing else about the beach was really nice -- except for the $11 hamburgers. We laughed and walked away. Thankfully, it was over around lunchtime so we went back to the ship for lunch.
Cozumel: Totally enjoyed the Fury Catamaran and Snorkel tour. We motored out to where we could snorkel, drifting along in a pretty significant current. It was nice to just float along and see amazing fish and eels hanging out around these rocky piles on the sea bottom, in about 10-15 feet of water. Saw lots of cool fish and coral in ~45 minutes and our daughter finally got the hang of snorkeling. My daughter and I get seasick and were worried about the boat, but it was really stable and we had no problems.
Cozumel: Totally enjoyed the Fury Catamaran and Snorkel tour. We motored out to where we could snorkel, drifting along in a pretty significant current. Saw lots of cool fish and coral in ~45 minutes and our daughter finally got the hang of snorkeling. My daughter and I get seasick and were worried about the boat, but it was really stable and we had no problems. Husband enjoyed the free beer on the way back to the ship.
Caution: bring food! There is no food offered during lunch time and we were all starving and had to buy snacks in Hell (heehee). The tour drove by a few places of interest probably only to Caymanians, then to Hell for a 20 minute stop (very bizarre, but kitschy and cute tourist trap), but the driver was really nice and shepherded us around so we wouldn't miss the boat to Stingray City. Bathrooms were there and much appreciated!
AWESOME! Part of the Island Tour was a short boat ride out to a sandbar where you stand in water about waist deep and stingrays move around you. Really amazing how unafraid they were. We were able to touch, hold and feed them, as well as pay $25 for 9 pictures they took of us holding them. My daughter wanted nothing to do with holding a dead squid so a stingray could suck it out of your hand, but my husband and I thought it was really cool. The stingrays even bump into you trying to find out if you have food. Well worth the money and this was a cruise highlight for me. Totally beautiful there, took some amazing photos. Bring underwater camera - snorkels available.
Part of the Island Tour was a trip to a Sea Turtle Farm where you could touch and hold little sea turtles. Our daughter LOVED that. They have a really large collection of sea turtles of all ages and they took the time to explain all about them. You end up in the gift store, so bring cash. Don't ask for a free gift coupon from your driver -- it was a cheapie key ring with the name of a business that had nothing to do with the Turtle Farm.