One of my favorite excursions on any cruise vacation is snorkeling. We have snorkeled through sunken ships and with stingrays in Grand Cayman, beautiful coral reefs in the Mexican Riviera, with sea turtles in St. Maarten, and even off the side of a pirate ship in St. Thomas. So on our recent Disney Cruise, we booked a Catamaran Sail and Reef Snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas. While it was a great experience and the catamaran ride was quite enjoyable, my family actually preferred our snorkeling time at Castaway Cay.
The large snorkeling area at Castaway Cay is full of little secrets to discover without the constraints of time and crowds of people you will find on a typical snorkel excursion. There are a few tips, however, that will make your under-the-sea time a more magical experience.
Know When to Go
You are usually in port at Castaway Cay for a full day of your trip. With so much available to do on the island, you are going to need every minute of it. If you intend to do some snorkeling, you want to try and make it one of the first things you do on your day. My family was among the first in the water the day we were there, and for a good while, we were among the few in the snorkeling area. Obviously, it was nice avoiding the crowds and not having to swim around other guests trying to see all the underwater sights, but we didn’t understand the real value of our early arrival until other swimmers started showing up. Our crystal clear water became cloudy quite fast as the crowds began to descend upon us. This was mainly a problem closer to the shore where people were entering the water, which leads to our next tip.
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Know Where to Go
Don’t stick too close to the shore. Be adventurous. Many of the more exciting discoveries are a good ways out, closer to where the ship is docked. Without giving away any surprise discoveries, there are plenty of hidden Mickeys, sunken treasures, and classic Disney relics to be found on your adventure. If you are new to snorkeling and are apprehensive about getting too far from the shore, just be aware that there are lifeguards on duty, it never gets much deeper than the average swimming pool, and there is netting across the bay with the attempt to keep out larger and more frightening fish.
Snorkel equipment is available for rental on Castaway Cay from Gil’s Fins and Boats or Flippers and Floats. If you are a seasoned snorkeler and wish to bring your own equipment, you can do so and save the cost of renting. Either way, make sure you have a life vest. Everyone, including experienced swimmers, is required to wear a life vest while in the snorkel lagoon. Vests are included with rentals, and available for free if you have your own equipment. They are inflatable dive vests and can be completely deflated if you want to dive down, but they must be worn.
Beware the Sea Lice
So, this one is interesting. Prior to our visit to Castaway Cay, I had never even heard of sea lice or jellyfish spawn. We read about it on the various boards, and reactions seemed to be mixed as to whether or not they presented an actual concern. We did get into something that felt like a small bite or sting in a couple of areas while we were snorkeling. After our day on the island. we also noticed a few spots that may have been the resulting rash from a sea lice sting. It wasn’t overwhelmingly painful, but it did cause irritation for a few days. Apparently, the severity of a sting varies from person to person.
Here are my 2 recommendations about the sea lice:
- First, there are products you can buy to help protect yourself against jellyfish and sea lice. The most popular seems to be a product called Safe Sea Lotion. If you would rather play it safe, this is the way to go.
- Second, I am pretty sure I can pinpoint when and where we got into an issue with the sea lice. Toward the shore area of the snorkel lagoon there are patches of seaweed on the bottom. I tried my best to avoid stepping directly into these patches. Once you are far enough out to float above them, they are no longer a problem. At one point, trying to help one of the kids make it back to shore, we did traipse through one of the patches stirring up the cloudy water and, I assume, the sea lice. That is when I think I was stung. If you can manage to avoid these areas, which again is much easier in the mornings before the crowds stir up the water, you will probably not have an issue.
Know When to Say When
I love to swim, and I love to snorkel even more. I could have easily spent most of the day out there and still not wanted to come in. It is important not to lose complete track of time though. Take some breaks so you don’t get exhausted, and remember to stay hydrated. It is easy to forget when you are submerged in the ocean that you are also getting a decent workout, burning calories and losing water. It is very easy to get dehydrated and not even realize it. This is another good reason to snorkel early. Get out there for a couple of hours and discover all the lagoon has to offer and then wander over to Cookies Too BBQ for some amazing food and refreshments for lunch and, of course, more of that self-serve ice cream you’ve been eating all week on the ship. Don’t forget, Castaway Cay is essentially an extension of the ship. All the food services on the island are included.
The bottom line is that the snorkel lagoon on Castaway Cay is a great place for both beginners and seasoned snorkelers to discover a little Disney magic under the sea. If you are determined to snorkel on your cruise, you don’t have to book a separate excursion. Enjoy the snorkel lagoon, and check out some of the other excursions available at your ports of call.