Monday, 17 June 2013

Our Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy - Ports and Excursions

This post follows on from my review of our cruise on the Disney Fantasy, and it's a more detailed look at the ports that we stopped in and what we did there. Our cruise was the 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary B, beginning in Cape Canaveral, Florida and stopping in Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), Costa Maya (Mexico), Cozumel (Mexico), Castaway Cay (Disney's private island in the Bahamas) along with two sea days.

Grand Cayman was our first stop. We had to take a tender boat to the port, which ran smoothly. We were here for the beach, and so we went straight to the taxi rank to find a taxi. It was very easy to arrange, the taxis were in fact small shuttle buses carrying several parties at once. We paid $20 each way for the four of us and a ten minute or so drive took us to a lovely beach, part of the 7 mile beach which runs along the coast. The beach was absolutely beautiful, sheltered calm water for swimming, and white sand full of coral. We stayed for a couple of hours, which was plenty for us in the heat, and then easily caught a taxi back to the ship.

Disney Fantasy Cruise Grand Cayman beach
The 7 mile beach on Grand Cayman - beautiful water for swimming

My Mum and Dad took one of the Port Adventures organised by Disney, and my Mum has kindly written up an account of the trip for me.

Discover Native Cayman and the Saltwater Forest. This cost $62 per adult.

We met in a lounge on the cruise boat just after breakfast and were escorted efficiently to a minibus in a group of about 20 people. From there we were taken on a short drive around the main town. The bus driver/guide was very knowledgeable and gave us information about the island and pointed out items of interest (there were not a lot!). We were met at the boat by a young marine biologist who knew her stuff and was able to answer any questions we asked.

The boat was large with a flat deck near to the water line, with plenty of room to walk about and soft drinks were available. On the first part of the boat trip we mainly saw the huge geckos which were everywhere on the banks, then we went into the mangrove forests along the sides of the coast, where there were a few fish but mainly jelly fish, which she brought up in a bucket so we could touch them, the first time I have seen a jelly fish so close. We learnt a lot about mangrove trees but to be honest there was not a lot to see! The boat trip took about one hour.

Back at the minibus we went a bit further into the island but again there wasn't a lot to see apart from a magnificent road system, and it was bizarre to see the English road signs as it felt like being at home. The next stop was at a small settlement called 'Hell' at a shop selling tee-shirts with predictable slogans (I've been to Hell and back) but also had restrooms we could use.

 The last stop was on the beautiful 7 mile beach for about 30 minutes (it would have been useful to have worn swimsuits and taken towels). The whole trip took about 4 hours and no food was provided so it was a good idea to take cookies etc. from the boat.

Was it worth the cost? We had expected a bit more, but we saw all there was to see and we are not likely to go there again so we were glad to have taken the tour.

Our next port was Costa Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. We all booked a Port Adventure for this stop - The Chaccohoben Mayan ruins. It cost $75 per adult and $59 per child (under 3 were free).

This Port Adventure filled our entire time in port as we didn't stop here for very long, and we specifically chose a tour suitable for families. There was a bit of confusion at the port as a number of tours were all leaving at once and we lost sight of the person leading our group. We ended up in the right place though. It was about an hour's drive away on the bus, then the tour itself took about an hour and a half. It was quite a lot of walking for our 4 year old, and bumpy for the pushchair although we managed. The tour was very informative and engaging, and the ruins were fascinating. There were toilets and shops at the entrance/exit, and Ram bought a coconut drink - a coconut with a straw in it!

Here's what my Mum had to say about the tour:

We met in the theatre on the boat and were escorted along the dock, but there were so many people that it was a bit confusing and it took us a while to find our coach. There were about 50 of us in the group and the journey there, through very uninteresting countryside with nothing to see, took about one hour. At the site we were given a few minutes for a bathroom stop.

 The ruins were spectacular and the guide was very interesting and knowledgeable. It was very hot, about 98F (37C) so it was essential to take lots of water, and the total time at the site was about an hour and a half. We were ready for the air-conditioned coach and the one hour drive back. Worth the trip to see something unique.

Chaccohoben Mayan Ruins Disney Fantasy Cruise
The Chaccohoben Mayan Ruins

Next we stopped in Cozumel, which is a small island off the coast of Mexico. For us, this was another beach stop. This time we took a private taxi to the beach which cost us $12 each way and was easy to arrange once we'd found the taxi rank at the port. We specified that we wanted to visit a public beach, but we were actually dropped off at Paradise Beach which was a private beach resort. This was fine, we just walked through the resort, turned left and found a nice shady spot on the empty public beach right next door. We knew that we'd only be there for a couple of hours so it wasn't worth it to us to pay - from memory they wanted a couple of $ just to be there, plus extra to hire sun loungers, and then to spend a particular amount per person on food and drink to use the facilities (swimming pools, various slides and things anchored out to sea).

The beach itself was sandy, but in the water it was rocky and the sea was quite rough so it wasn't really suitable for swimming, certainly not for the little ones. They still enjoyed playing in the sand though.

Our final stop was Castaway Cay, Disney's own private island in the Bahamas. The Disney tour organisers certainly know how to end your cruise on a high, it was absolutely perfect. It's a short walk to the beach (a tram is available), and the beach is large, with plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas. We hired an inflatable ring, it disappeared while we were eating lunch but was easily replaced, and the sea was calm for swimming with plenty of lifeguards. There was a water play area for children with fountains and jets of water, and a waterslide for older children. Our children also enjoyed the whale dig - excavating a whale skeleton buried in the sand.

The food served at lunchtime was a barbecue, with a very limited vegetarian selection (although to be fair we were asked at dinner the night before if we would like to order special food, we declined, knowing that a day on the cruise with a little less food would do us no harm whatsoever!).

Disney Fantasy cruise Castaway Cay
Swimming at Castaway Cay

We spent almost all the time that we had available at Castaway Cay, and we could easily have spent another day here too. My parents enjoyed another Port Adventure, and here's what my Mum had to say about it:

Castaway Cay Walking and Kayak Nature Adventure. This cost $64 per adult.

Once off the boat we met at Martha's Barges which was easy to find, and were taken by our guide on the tram to Serenity Bay where we were given life vests and the opportunity to use water stations and the restrooms. There were about 20 people in the group. We walked through the island on a metalled road for about one mile but there was not a lot to see apart from some native vegetation. The guide was knowledgeable and was able to answer questions about the island and its history.

We were taken down a 'Private' access to a secluded beach where another guide was waiting with the kayaks. We were able to leave any bags safely on the beach. Bare feet or beach shoes are best as you will be wading in the water, and it is best to wear a swimsuit with cover-up and make sure to use plenty of sunscreen. We were given some basic instructions on how to paddle the kayaks, but they are suitable for beginners or experienced canoeists. We set off two to a kayak in convoy into the bay and paddled for about 30 minutes, quite hard on the shoulder muscles but we were never too far from the beach and the water was completely calm so not too difficult.

Back at the beach we had about 30 minutes to swim and sunbathe, then after the walk back we were in time for the lunchtime BBQ at Serenity Bay, and an afternoon on the beach. We didn't see much 'nature' as such, but the canoeing was great, and it was wonderful to be in such a secluded setting.

My parents also reported back that the adults only area of Castaway Cay was lovely!

We had a wonderful time on the cruise, enjoying a part of the world that none of us had visited before. You can read my general post about the cruise here, and I have also written a post about the practicalities of taking this cruise with small children.

No disclosure necessary, we paid for this holiday ourselves.

2 comments:

  1. Ah this is wonderful. I absolutely love Castaway Cay - you've made me relive some wonderful Disney Cruise memories, thank you! x

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