Castaway Cay, formerly Gorda Cay, is an ultra-tidy 1,000-acre splash of sun and sand located near Great Abaco Island. Owned by the Walt Disney Company, the island is used exclusively for passengers of its cruise line -- though alert cinephiles may also remember it as the spot where Tom Hanks finds his mermaid (Daryl Hannah) in "Splash." Before becoming one of the cruise line's most popular ports of call, it was a haven for pirates and, subsequently, smugglers. (An airplane runway that runs down the spine of the island is no longer used, though it remains a busy thoroughfare for bicyclists, pedestrians and trams.)
Ships dock directly on the island at the Arrival Plaza, from which you can either hop on a tram to traverse the island or walk along well-marked trails.
Leave it to Disney to ensure that everyone -- including teens (Teen Beach), solace-seeking adults (Serenity Bay Beach, a sprawling expanse of white sand tucked on the island's northwest edge), active volleyball junkies (Sports Beach) and families (Castaway Family Beach) -- has his or her own play area. Pelican Plunge, is a 2,400-square-foot floating platform packed with rope swings, water slides and a "bucket dump" that deluges fun-seekers with hundreds of gallons of water. Off the beach, a play area called Spring-a-Leak includes a massive fountain area that the little ones can play in, while an observation platform located amid the forest offers a bird's-eye view of the environs. (It's a long haul from the main drag, so prepare for a hike, or rent a bike.) Chill at a beach bar, get a rubdown in one of the massage huts, hit the game room for some Ping-Pong, or simply nab a hammock and take a nap. For those who want to flex the spending power of their key cards, shore excursions include parasailing, a Stingray Adventure and fishing; in addition, 20 for-fee beach cabanas come replete with chaise lounges, dining tables, refrigerators, non-alcoholic beverages and mucho privacy.
Cabanas on Castaway Cay can be found on Castaway Family Beach and the adults-only Serenity Bay Beach. Each 325-square-foot cabana is furnished with comfy seating, a beverage refrigerator, a safe, a ceiling fan, eight plush towels, cooled face cloths, magazines and sunscreen. Outside, you'll find chaise lounge chairs, a freshwater shower and private hammock. Fresh fruit, snacks and unlimited bottled water and soft drinks are included. Adult cabana users may purchase an alcoholic beverage package, as well. On the family beach, the rental price of $499 for up to six people (including infants) includes the use of snorkeling equipment, float or tube rental, sand toys and one hour of bike rentals. The price for seven to 10 people is $50 per person ages 3 and older, with no charge for children younger than 3, though they are still included in the party size.
On Serenity Bay Beach, cabanas cost $399 for up to four people and come with the use of a float or tube rental and one hour of bike rentals. The price for five to 10 people is an additional $50 per person.
Nonalcoholic beverages, beer, mixed and frozen drinks -- including the island's signature Konk Kooler -- are offered at the island's four watering holes, including the Sand Bar and the Conched Out Bar, located on the busier beaches. Heads Up Bar, offering specialty drinks, cocktails and beer, is located near Pelican Plunge. For something a little more sedate, consider the Castaway Air Bar on Serenity Bay.
There's no chaotic straw market on Castaway Cay. Instead, expect a few shops offering Disney merchandise (including Buy the Sea Shore and She Sells Sea Shells) and an area offering Bahamian crafts.
Food is complimentary island-wide at two spectacularly clean, well-laid-out, covered dining spaces. Cookie's BBQ is an outdoor eatery with burgers, barbecued chicken and ribs, while Cookie's Too BBQ is a family lunch buffet with all-you-can-eat barbecue, island-spiced rotisserie chicken, burgers, grilled fish, fresh salads, flatbreads and ice cream.
You'll fork over extra for booze, souvenirs, water sports equipment (paddleboats, kayaks, sailboats, snorkel gear) and shore excursions like the Stingray Adventure, Watercraft Ski Adventure and Walking and Kayak Nature Adventure. One cool extra fee: The island has its own post office with a special Disney-themed postmark, though you'll need cash to pay for stamps. (Your key card will work everywhere else.)