One of the most prized "gets" of a Disney Cruise Line sailing is the rental cabana on Castaway Cay, the company's private island in the Bahamas. Because the cabanas are limited in number (and you're competing with a thousand other families who want their own posh getaway), they not only sell out quickly, but well ahead of your sailing. Not sure what the fuss is about? Read on to learn more about Castaway Cay cabanas and how you can be one of the lucky few to nab one on your next Disney cruise.
There are three types of Castaway Cay cabanas, each with their own pluses and minuses. No matter which cabana you book, you'll receive an envelope with wristbands for all members of your group and information about beverage package options in your cabin once you board.
When you arrive on Castaway Cay, you'll take the tram to the Pelican Point stop and follow signs for "cabana check-in." (If you've booked a cabana at Serenity Bay, which is for adults 18 and older, you'll take a second tram over to that beach; there's a separate check-in.) At both locations, a cabana host will take you to your retreat and orient you.
All cabanas come with indoor and outdoor cushioned seating; a freshwater shower; a hammock; a mini-fridge with unlimited soda and bottled water, fresh fruit and damp washcloths for cooling off; snacks (chips and granola bars); plush towels; Coppertone sunscreen and aloe care; and a selection of magazines.
Cabanas on the Family Beach (both regular and grand) also come with snorkel equipment and sand toys, as well as free float and tube rentals and a one-hour bike rental. (It's these perks that can make the cabanas cost-effective, especially if your family would be buying these all separately.) There's also a safe to store valuables and a call button for cabana service, although this is for restocking your fridge, arranging activities and golf cart service -- not food delivery.
In addition to the prices below, each cabana has a 7.5 percent Bahamian VAT tax added to the cost.
Located off the popular Family Beach (where most of the Castaway Cay action such as snorkeling, swimming and shopping takes place), these 325-square-foot cabanas are popular because, in essence, you have your own private beach away from the madding crowds. The 20 Family Beach cabanas are artfully angled so that none of them directly faces another, which makes them even more private.
Family Beach cabanas cost $549 (October through February) or $599 (March through September) for up to six people. If you have more people in your group, you'll pay an extra $50 per person to a maximum of 10 people.
There's currently only one Grand Family Beach cabana, and it's located at the far end of the cabana row on the main beach, #21. The Grand Family Beach Cabana costs $899 for 10 people. The space is almost twice as large as a regular cabana and can accommodate up to 16 people, with a charge of $50 per each additional person. Because it's the last in the row on the Family Beach, it's very private.
Located on the adults-only beach, the four 325-square-foot Serenity Bay Beach cabanas cost $399 for four people aged 18 or older. The cabana can hold a maximum of 10 adults (again, all over 18) for an additional $50 per person. They do not have the same beach amenities as the Family Beach Cabanas, such as sand toys and snorkel rental. (Serenity Bay isn't really a reef beach.)
Other than a few bags of potato chips, fruit and some Kashi bars, there's no food included in the cabana price (and food delivery is not available). Nor are there alcoholic drinks. Disney sells drink packages for the cabanas, but selections need to be made in advance: by 6 p.m. the day before your ship arrives in Castaway Cay.
The Castaway Cay Thirst Quench package includes six beers (choice of Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Lite), one bottle of sparkling wine (prosecco or Asti Spumante) and one bottle of white wine (house pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, riesling or white zinfandel). The package costs $90, plus a 15 percent service charge.
The Castaway Beverage Escape package includes six international beers (Heineken or Corona), a bottle of Champagne (Taittinger La Francaise); and one bottle of white wine (same choices as above). The Escape drink package costs $131, plus 15 percent service charge.
The Castaway Beverage Adventure package comes with 12 beers, including a mix of domestic and international, and a bottle of Champagne. It costs $132, plus 15 percent service charge.
Finally, you can buy beer buckets (six beers) for $30, plus a 15 percent service charge. Choose from a six-pack of 12 oz. imported beers, 16 oz. domestic beers or 12 oz. Coronas.
You'll need a lot of Disney pixie dust to swipe a cabana. The first people able to book them are passengers booked in a Concierge-class stateroom, as well as Disney's loyalty program Platinum cruisers, who can reserve onboard and shoreside activities within 120 days of the cruise. Gold cruisers are next in line, as they are able to book 105 days before sailing. Often, cabanas are gone before the next loyalty class of cruise passenger, Silver, is able to book at 90 days out.
But all is not lost. Passengers who have reserved cabanas are able to cancel until three days before the cruise departs. If you're dying for a cabana, check back and see if anything has opened up during that time. You can also check for last-minute cancellations at guest services once you board.
The Grand Family Cabana cannot be booked online. You'll have call Disney Cruise Line to reserve.
The Family Beach cabanas are numbered, with the first one located closest to Cookie's Too BBQ, where there's a complimentary lunch buffet. Cabana 1 is also the only cabana that's ADA compatible. There's a lot of debate on Cruise Critic's Private Island forum over which cabanas are best, and it's a situation where you should know what's important to you before you book.
A few guidelines to consider: Cabanas 1 to 14 are on an actual beach, while 14 to 20 are in front of a lagoon that's separated from the main beach by a sandbar; the effect creates more of a pond that might be nice for small kids who are afraid of waves.
The cabanas with higher numbers are newer, and don't have the same lush foliage as the others. They are also farther away from the action, so go low if you want to be closer to food, the bathrooms and other activities. (While you can page the cabana host to come get you in a golf cart, they do not deliver food.)
There aren't any additional perks for Grand Cabana holders, However, it's a long haul back to the restaurants and bars, so you'll want a beverage package if you book this one.
If you're a group of adults traveling without kids, then a Serenity Bay cabana might be your best bet. Cabana 22 is closest to the bar and restrooms.