Editor’s Note: Below is a first-hand account from the Disney Dream’s first U.S. cruise in more than a year, setting sail on August 9th. Please keep in mind, with this being the first reopening cruise, the experiences mentioned may change as Disney is constantly evaluating and evolving their policies. For more from the Disney Cruise Lines return, be sure to check out our other articles.

During our August 9th Disney Dream Cruise (first post-pandemic closure cruise), we spent two days at Castaway Cay and they were quite different from each other. The first was sun-filled with balmy breezes while the second was wave after wave of tropical showers until about 2:30 p.m. when the sun shone until “all aboard” at 4:45 p.m. And while we had back-to-back days at Castaway Cay we didn’t stay docked at the island overnight.

It's always fun to watch the ship dock at Castaway Cay

It's always fun to watch the ship dock at Castaway Cay

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Among the noticeable COVID protocols, a virtual queue to get off the ship (when demand requires it) so too many people don’t end up trying to get off at once, face coverings are required onboard the tram as well as in the island’s shops and restrooms and while queued for Cookie’s dining locations. Along the beaches, chairs were more widely spaced and signs requested they remain where found. They also offer a virtual queue for debarkation during higher volume time periods to reduce crowding around the gangway. But none of this, or even the less than perfect weather, kept Castaway Cay from being that little piece of Disney paradise that’s the highlight of the Disney Cruise.

Tram waiting area

Tram waiting area

 

Let's go to the beach!

Let's go to the beach!

 

Castaway Cay – Day One

As always, characters were plentiful along the walkway from the ship to the main activity area of the island. Excited for a day at Castaway Cay, I woke early and enjoyed watching all the docking activities along with the debarkation of Mickey and friends. Then we had a leisurely breakfast at Cabanas with an aft view over paradise and were then able to simply walk off the ship.

Making our way from the Disney Dream to the island’s activity center, we stumbled on Captain Jack, Goofy, and a few others. As mentioned above, face coverings are required onboard the tram. In addition, the trams were also seated every other row and the Cast wipes down the handles between loads.

 

Jack Sparrow is always engaging

Jack Sparrow is always engaging

A socially distanced meet-and-greet with Chip 'n' Dale

A socially distanced meet-and-greet with Chip 'n' Dale

Gideon was signed up for Youth Activities at Scuttle’s and while masks were required during check-in, once inside the large outdoor play area, they could remove their face coverings. Scuttle’s Cove was open until 1:00 p.m. on the island.

Doobie and I made our way to the snorkeling area by way of some quick window shopping and a restroom break. We opted to purchase a 2-day package for snorkeling, biking and float rental. It was about the same cost of these items purchased separately for a single day and we wanted to have the option for the second day. This package is listed on the app as only available for advance pre-purchase.

Be sure to check the Castaway Cay shops as some of their merch can't be found on the ships

Be sure to check the Castaway Cay shops as some of their merch can't be found on the ships

 

The snorkeling was amazing!

The snorkeling was amazing!

Castaway Cay is a great introductory snorkeling experience. We toured most of the area discovering its unique Disney-themed treasures and enjoying the undersea wildlife. We spent about 75 minutes total in the main snorkeling area and saw just about everything.

Then it was off for a quick bike ride up to Serenity Bay for a brief peek and a few pictures before picking up Gideon for family lunch at Cookie’s. Then we got a couple of floats (which remain self-service, just grab the one you like from the location) and did some swimming in the family beach area along with a ride on Pelican Plunge before heading back to the ship for dinner at Palo.

 

Lunch at Cookies

Lunch at Cookies

According to Gideon, this Cookies cookie is one of the best he's ever had

According to Gideon, this Cookies cookie is one of the best he's ever had

 

The family beach was very quiet on this cruise

The family beach was very quiet on this cruise

 

Pelican Plunge

Pelican Plunge

Preparing for Palo, I discovered that I nearly paid dearly for my rookie mistake of not applying sunscreen thoroughly to the back of my legs before snorkeling.  Thankfully they didn’t completely roast so I wasn’t uncomfortable but they were about as close to toasted as I’d ever want and I had to be sure to keep them well moisturized.

Castaway Cay – Day Two

On day two, Gideon woke up early to watch debarkation. Then, we again had breakfast at Cabanas and checked out the Youth Activities Open House on the ship before heading over to Castaway Cay. Our plan after checking in Gideon at Scuttle’s Cove was more biking, but the frequent downpours changed that plan. And honestly as much sun as I’d had the day before I wasn’t disappointed by the change in weather. Instead, we took pictures around the island and discovered a new favorite spot for my non-beach loving spouse who typically stays on the ship. Heads Up Bar can be reached with absolutely no sand walking required and it provides a picturesque spot to enjoy frozen drinks from the nearby Olaf stand (where they still give samples) if you’re not seeking an adult beverage.

Luis was very friendly and had great suggestions

Luis was very friendly and had great suggestions

Doobie's new favorite Castaway Cay location

Doobie's new favorite Castaway Cay location

Serenity Bay was beautifully serene even with the periodic rains. We opted to try the adult dining zone where we enjoyed red snapper, very tasty Caribbean veggie patties (Doobie said it was one of his favorite vegetarian items the whole cruise), banana bread and a wide array of fruit.

 

The adult beach BBQ

The adult beach BBQ

They called this a Vegetarian Caribbean Patty, and it might've been the best thing I had on the cruise

They called this a Vegetarian Caribbean Patty, and it might've been the best thing I had on the cruise

Soon it was time to pick Gideon up from the Youth Activities location. Due to lightning in the area, the kids were pulled into a covered outdoor area, so that’s where we found him playing Pictionary. Back on the ship, Gideon did a Cabanas lunch and swimming while I went to the stateroom threw Company Clips on the TV and began packing. Then it was back to the Kids Club for Gideon while I met up with Doobie in the upper deck Forward adult zone for sail away and Cove Cafe beverages.

But there's always room for more when you get back on board

But there's always room for more when you get back on board

 

Doobie relaxing on Deck 4. There is no better spot on the ship.

Doobie relaxing on Deck 4. There is no better spot on the ship.

Then, I was off to finish up the packing as the luggage needed to be set outside by 10 p.m. and I still hadn't had a chance to ride the AquaDuck at night. Meanwhile, Doobie went to see Jungle Cruise in the Buena Vista Theater. When Gideon’s time block was over, we had a quick chicken tender dinner since they do not offer food there and snuck in a few more AquaDuck rides before Doobie stopped by to take Gideon back to the Oceaneer Club before he went to Enchanted Garden alone. Gideon and I opted to skip our final night assigned location of Enchanted Garden as it has a tendency to make us both uncomfortable. I think it is mostly the ivy decor as I don’t even enjoy it while docked. So when he took Gideon back to Youth Activities, I re-rode AquaDuck until it shut down due to area lightning around 9:00 p.m. Just enough time to sneak my wet clothes into a large garbage bag I bring for such an occurrence and into the luggage outside the door for pick-up.

The dessert at Enchanted Garden (recommend by our great server Cromwell, but I didn't get the name) was the best sweet Doobie had on the cruise

The dessert at Enchanted Garden (recommend by our great server Cromwell, but I didn't get the name) was the best sweet Doobie had on the cruise

Doobie and I met up at the forward shops – MainSail, Whitecaps – and did a bit of last minute browsing. Then it was back up to the top deck. The last night on the ship is always remarkably quiet, I suspect due to the early morning debarkation. Maleficent was screening on the FunnelVision to a gathering of about 10. We saw only one or two other couples at the table around the pool as I enjoyed a few slices of roasted butternut squash pizza snagged from the quick service . We stopped by Vanellope’s to say a final farewell to Enrique who had bonded with Doobie over a passion for Hamilton and musicals in general.

As we strolled an empty Deck 4, I suggested we return to our verandah where I could devour the peanut butter bar I forgot I purchased from Vanellope’s. With Gideon’s late night Youth Activities block nearly at its end, we strolled through the adult district taking in a bit of the violinist Justin before heading into PINK. While sipping the Pomegranate Passion and enjoying the piano playing of Bernadette, the ship’s cruise director and assistant cruise director strolled by and ended up stopping to chat for a bit. We were delighted to talk with them about our experiences and they were actively engaged in discussing our praise and our challenges during this first cruise back from the prolonged COVID delays. Cruise Director Jimmy is also very clearly excited about the coming Disney Wish. He gushed about how much more prevalent Disney stories and storytelling will be evident throughout the new ship. It was hard not to ask all the questions spinning around in my head but he was very guarded as he discussed the coming ship so I respected that and held onto them but it was SO hard. I really, really want to know more about the Figment and Elliot sketches that flashed by in one of them.

Some great relaxation time in PINK

Some great relaxation time in PINK

With Youth Activities and the top deck eateries operating hours coming to end we grabbed a few slices of pizza for Gideon to snack on in the room if he was hungry after we picked him up. I always find the last night of my cruise to be so hard. Debarkation is so early so I don’t want to stay up too late, but I also feel compelled to squeeze out every last minute of the experience. But as I sat in our stateroom waiting for Doobie and Gideon to arrive I was feeling content. Even with the unique circumstances Disney provided a quality experience. Their hospitality shone through as always, meals were tasty, activities were varied, and characters were far more plentiful than I’d anticipated. While we have a cruise booked for next year I’m hoping we’ll sneak in another before then. I absolutely loved this sea and Cay experience and would repeat it in a heartbeat.

Stay tuned for more from our experience upon the Disney Dream’s return.

Laughing Place recommends MouseFanTravel.com for all your Disney Cruise travel planning