By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Members: North American travel Journalists Association
American Society of Authors and Journalists
Over the years cruise lines plying the Caribbean have added a stop along the itinerary that does not involve shopping, jewelry, liquor purchases or group touring. They’ve bought, rented, captured or otherwise taken control of small islands in the blue waters of the Caribbean.
Most lines have been content to ad a few amenities and for the most part let passengers frolic in the warm waters, relax on the beach and gorge themselves on hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and cole slaw.. Not too bad.
Disney Cruise Lines has never let the obvious control its direction. As with its parent company it seeks to add options for its passengers that make a good trip great. So it is with Castaway Cay, the private island in the Bahamas where all Disney ships cruising the region stop for a day of fun and down time.
While many of the huge liners must anchor offshore because of shallow water and tender passengers to the beach, Disney has created its own wharf and passengers debark right onto the island.
Once on Castaway Cay they can opt in for snorkeling, parasailing, power water sports or…simply sit back and relax.
The island has several beaches, each separate from the other. A shuttle will take guests from the ship to any point they want. If they want activity, there is a location for that. Seeking total downtime, a beach exists to provide that.
Central on the island is a very large covered picnic area where food is provided in comfort and out of the broiling sun. Yes, there are a few spots where souvenirs are sold, but it is low key.
A day on Castaway Cay is equal to a week’s vacation.
Disney Cruise Line has grown to be a major player on the international sailing scene. It began when Mickey was a tot and Disney didn’t own a ship. It collaborated with a small line declaring it to be the “Official Cruise Line” for Disney. They later switched to another line and finally commissioned the first ship built for Disney Cruise Line giving them total control over accommodations, amenities and everything else.
With four modern liners (Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy) under the Disney banner the line now cruises from the Mediterranean to Alaska and countless points in between.
Without forsaking its warm weather ports and sailings from Port Canaveral with side trips to Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World, the itineraries now offer home ports in Venice Italy for cruises to the Med. Stops will include the Greek Isles, Crete and Sicily.
The European cruises run from May through August and offer an overnight in Venice to see the beauty of that magical city. Other ports include Katakolon, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini, Corfu and Catania.
Also for the first time Disney will home port a ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico for sailings to the Southern Caribbean with stops in Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and the island that lays claim to be the friendliest stop, St. Kitts. The Kiticians make it a personal task to put the best foot forward and make everyone feel at home.
The north isn’t ignored with cruises to Alaska from Vancouver, BC.
The United States’ northernmost state is a destination not to be missed. Alaska should be on every vacationer’s bucket list. Watching huge chunks of ice calve (fall into the water) from gigantic glaciers, whale watching from stateroom or deck and spotting bald eagles flying overhead provides an unmatched experience.
One of the major benefits of cruising is that your hotel goes along with you. There’s no need to pack and move every night or so. Food on board is without equal and the ships provide evening’s entertainment suitable for the entire family.
Adults aren’t ignored on Disney. While the line provides arguably the best family cruise experience, there are shows and activities designed for adults; although you won’t find the likes of such foul-mouthed comedians such as Andrew Dice Clay. Hey, you never know when a kid might be passing by.
The line also goes one step further to make the ship’s family friendly…they forsake the mega bucks a casino brings in. The reason: they don’t want mom or dad spending all day or night hitting the tables or the slots and ignoring the younger set.
No one seems to miss it or mind.
Some adults have expressed concern that with a cruise line focused on children and families, it might not be for them. Not true. Children are involved in age-appropriate activities and never seem to be under foot day or night.
Port activities are a way to broaden the perspectives of both adults and children to other cultures without overburdening them.
Cruises are also pretty much the most economical way to travel. You know from the outset what the trip is going to cost and there are myriad options available to fit your purse. Your hotel is included (the ship), all meals, entertainment, snacks, and much more.
Additional expenses would come at your option in choosing land tours. But that is at passengers’ discretion. Check out the two web sites below for additional information.