So yes, the Disney Cruise Line is pretty awesome. The ship has so many activities. But, of course that is only half the fun! We also had some ports of call in the Eastern Caribbean, a place of sunshine and relaxation.
Of course, paradise has suffered a lot in the past year. Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean in September 2017. It was an extremely powerful and catastrophic hurricane, the strongest storm on record to exist in the open Atlantic region. It devastated several islands, including ones we visited. Our cruise was the first cruise to include Sint Maarten and St Thomas in its itinerary since the storm. I felt a weird sensation as I realised I would be one of the first tourists to see the aftermath of such destruction. I would also be one of the first to contribute to the normal life these islanders seek.
Our first island stop was St Martin/Sint Maarten. The two names of this island reflect the fact that it is part of two different countries. The island is split about 60/40. The larger part is Saint Martin which is an overseas collectivity of France. Its capitol is Marigot.
We spent most of our time in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island. The ship docked at Philipsburg and we walked over to a coach to go on a little drive through this side of the island. It was sad to see the destruction that Hurricane Irma caused. You could see the damaged houses and the abandoned shops. However, I felt hope because our tour guide explained that people like us are helping the island get back on its feet.
The coach stopped by the waterside and we loaded up on a boat. We cruised around the Great Salt Pond for about 45 minutes. We enjoyed some Caribbean music along with some rum punch! This is a great introduction to the Caribbean, as the skies are inevitably blue as can be and the people are so carefree.
Afterwards, we headed back on the coach to drive around the French side of the island. We stopped at a couple markets. The island’s French side is known for its nude beaches, clothes, shopping (including outdoor markets), and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.
In contrast to the French side, St. Martin’s Dutch side is known for its festive nightlife, beaches, jewellery, drinks made with native rum-based guavaberry liquors, and casinos. My mother bought herself a brand new watch and also gifted me one as well! We felt really good about supporting the locals. We tried to spend as much as we could! On our way back to the cruise ship, we stopped at a stand to try some of that famous guavaberry liquor by treating ourselves to a Guavaberry Colada!
The island of St Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands, a US territory. Hurricane Irma impacted the island, though not as intensely as St Martin. Our big activity of the day was snorkeling! The snorkeling company said that we were their first group since the storm, so again I felt incredibly privileged. We loaded up on a catamaran and set for Turtle Cove.
After some wonderful snorkeling we got to relax at Honeymoon Beach. Victor and I were quite hungry by this point and took the opportunity to try some locally made food. As luck would have it, there is a small food shack where expats prepare freshly caught fish including the most delicious fish tacos!
We headed back to the ship to shower, change, and rest up a bit after all the fun in the sun. After a bit of downtime, we headed back out to go explore the capital of Charlotte Amalie which is by no means a small place. We explored all the different jewellery shops (there are so many), as well as the more touristy spots. We even bought a Caribbean specialty: rum cake! You can’t go to the Caribbean without trying some. Rum cake is exactly what it sounds like, but it particularly important in the Caribbean because of the rum. Rum is king, and so these cakes are really a product of the islands.
Making our way back to Florida, we left the Caribbean and found ourselves in the Bahamas. After another day at sea, we stopped at our last port of call: Disney’s very own private island! Castaway Cay is the ‘perfect’ island in that the beaches are perfectly white and everything you could ask for is within your grasp. Fun fact: Castaway Cay was the first private island in the cruise industry where the ship docks alongside so guests do not have to tender to land. This is great because this means you get to reach your fun faster!
As you can probably guess from the name, the island is developed in the theme of a castaway community, with buildings made to look as if they had been improvised after a shipwreck. The main beach here is the Castaway Family Beach. But, there is also Snorkeling Lagoon for snorkelers, Sports Beach for just that, sports, and Serenity Bay, an adults-only area.
Besides the beaches, there is a lot to do on Castaway Cay. You can rent snorkel gear, kayaks, paddleboats, and lots of other water equipment. You can even organise some Port Adventures ahead of time, like fly-fishing, boat tours, and parasailing.
It’s also fun just to walk around and see what you find. There are two types of shopping: Disney and local. At the Disney shop you can purchase all sorts of fun Disney Cruise merchandise and beach gear. At the local shops, you can buy locally crafted souvenirs including some wonderful paintings. Victor and I purchased one for his mom. Around the island there are some fun snack and drink spots, like Olaf’s Summertime Freeze. You can try out some delicious frozen drinks!
As a break from the sun and sand, Victor and I went with my Dad for a drink at the Heads Up Bar. It’s themed around fishing villages and, here’s a secret, it’s never crowded! You walk out onto a pier of sorts and you get some of the best views of Serenity Bay and the ship.
Castaway Cay treated us so well. It was great to take a break from the Cruise ship food and have freshly made BBQ on the island. We also had fresh Bahamian fruits! The island is a strange place, sure, but I love it and so did the whole family! I will always have wonderful memories of this place.
While the weather at Disney World was not ideal, this certainly not the case in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. The sun always manages to come out. The lifestyle is carefree, the people are wonderful, and the environment is nothing less than beautiful.
This marks the end of my Disney Cruise adventure. Up next are some European trips.