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Monday, February 11, 2013

Where is Disney's Castaway Cay (Key) in the Bahamas?

Disney Dream docked at the manmade harbor at Castaway Key - Disney's private 1000 acre island in the Bahamas.

If you take a cruise on any of the 4 Disney ships - you will spend a day at Castaway Cay (pronounced Key). If you dream of sun - warm sand - clear blue waters - palm trees - and warm temperatures - in a completely controlled environment - you will love this place. For years cruise companies would ferry customers from foreign port to foreign port - it did not take Disney long to realize that they could avoid port fees and have the tourists put even more money in their corporate pockets. 

Many tourists spend a few days in Disneyworld - then board a Disney bus that drops them off at the Disney gang plank to one of their many fine ships. Finally - they set foot on this private Disney Island to complete the Trifecta.

The island is about 200 miles east of Miami. It is midway between Freeport - Grand Bahama and Nassau - New Providence Island. They are the two main stops on a visitor's tour of the Bahamas Islands. 

My first trip to the Bahamas was in 1976. One could board a plane at the Allentown Airport at 6 PM and get a free 12 hour trip to Freeport as long as you had $500 in your pocket and you changed it into casino chips. The next morning at 6 AM many of the passengers returned to the ABE terminal with most of the money left behind in the Bahamas. 

There are separate beaches for families - teenagers only - snorkeling only - and even a serenity beach for adults. That beach leans more toward grayheads - I did not see any nude bathing.

Castaway Key is a 1000 acre private island about 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. Disney bought the island in 1996 - and dumped $25 million into it to make a beautiful destination offering all sorts of family fun - protected by a cover charge of anywhere from $350 to several $1000. About 3000 visitors go onshore - 3 times a week - so any crime is the guests eating their own. Lulu and I found our deal on the net - we paid $325 - after rebates.

A harbor was created by dredging out a channel and using the material to set up a breakwater. Disney did not have to apply for any zoning permits nor environment impact statements. 

Castaway Key was named Gorda Key up until Disney bought it. It has a colorful history which included heavy use of the 2400 foot runway for smuggling drugs.  Now tourists taxi up the runway turned into a tram road used to ferry passengers from ship to the many beaches. 

There is evidence that real pirates in the 1700s would hide in the coves waiting for ships carrying silver and gold back to Spain from Mexico. A 70 pound bar of silver was found here - one wonders if it was planted by Disney to give their "pirates" street cred.

Lulu and I loved the 80s temperatures - the bright sun - white sand - Bahama breezes - clear water - especially when all our friends and family back North were experiencing 2 and 3 feet of snow. While they were shoveling snow we were snorkeling and swimming with schools of colorful fish.

The logistics of the island are amazing. They have a tourist area but also a private area for the help. 70 people live there permanently. They have 3 diesel generators for electricity and have 2 desalting plants to make fresh water our of sea brine. Thanks to satellite radio - television - and internet - they have all the comforts of civilization - minus relatives and major sporting events. The Disney ships have plenty of room to keep the island refrigerators stocked. 

Lulu and I also visited a private beach in Haiti owned by Royal Caribbean. It was very nice too - but it is a piece of the larger country - fenced off by barb wire. Locals are not allowed and the guests are not allowed to visit inland. It was very similar to Disney's but having a "private island" has a certain cache.

Castaway Key - black dot is adult beach - orange dot is the dock - red dot is private town for workers - magenta dot is the snorkeling area - green dot is the teen beach - blue dot is the 3500 runway now used as a tram road.

About 200 miles east of Miami is Castaway Key - Disney's private island.

As one gets older one seems to become more cynical. I do not want anyone to think I am running this place down. Lulu and I both loved it. It is so nice visiting places and just a half mile away is a ship as nice as any 5 star hotel with all your clothes hung up - with the finest food - fantastic room - and super security. We liked Castaway Key so much - we returned to the beach right after we went "home" for a noon room service lunch and watched a basketball game on ESPN.

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