Running in the Castaway Cay 5k

Disney Cruise Line has leased their own island from the Bahamian government.  Various aspects of Castaway Cay definitely deserve their own posts, but I will only mention that the island is my wife’s favorite vacation spot now that we have children.  The focus of this post is the Castaway Cay 5k.  My wife and I traveled without our children aboard the Disney Magic in early March 2016.  This opportunity allowed us to experience a LOT of things we were unable to on our previous two cruises.

Before jumping into my discussion about the Castaway Cay 5k, I would like to share a bit more about my relationship with running.  The Castaway Cay 5k is truly for ANYONE.  It doesn’t matter if you walk, jog, or run the race.  I witnessed people running a very impressive pace and some folks casually walking and taking in the beautiful Bahamian scenery.  I run, but I do not consider myself a runner.  This doesn’t make sense, but bear with me.  I run six days a week; usually four to six miles at a time.  I do this more for alone time/therapy rather than the fitness.  I do not consider myself a runner because, up until our recent Disney Cruise, I have never participated in an organized run.  Honestly, I would not have done it without the persistence of my lovely wife.  Now, she thinks she has a shot at turning me into a runner.

Registering for the Castaway Cay 5k was extremely simple.  We needed to go to Guest Services for a couple of issues, and were not sure where registration for the race was.  We had thought registration was either at Guest Services or Port Adventures.  The cast member was able to register us for the race within seconds.  When you register, the cast member will give entrants a ticket for participation.  Here is the first thing to keep in mind if you are interested in participating in the race:  Register before the day of the race.  There were people turned away the morning of the 5k for not pre-registering.  123 people were registered for the race.  Another thing to remember is participation in the Castaway Cay 5k is included in your cruise fare!  You read that correctly.  This is a runDisney event that is free!  If you have looked into pricing for runDisney races and challenges, you know how expensive partaking in those events are.  I consider the Castaway Cay 5k an opportunity to maximize the tremendous value of a Disney Cruise Line vacation.  Participants (and some of their family members) met in Fathoms before the race.  There is a brief presentation about the island and course for the 5k.  A map of the race is provided to each participant and projected on a large screen.  The course is discussed, but several people did not follow the course during our run.  See the map of Castaway Cay 5k below.

Disney Cruise Line runDisney Castaway Cay 5k DCL
Map of runDisney Castaway Cay 5k. Getting there (and back) is half the fun!

As you can see, the beginning of the race is near the middle of the island.  Prepare yourself for a nice walk, which is about a mile long.  The cast members jokingly called this a bonus mile.  I feel like it was actually a nice walk, as I have always taken the tram to the beaches.  It was nice to slowly take in some of the island.  Also, there are some terrific photo opportunities along the walk.  The race is loosely organized.  Once it seems like everyone is near the starting point, the timer is started and the race begins.  The course begins on a bike path and moves on to the runway.  During the pre-race presentation, the hosts emphasized staying on the side of the runway multiple times.  After participating in the race, I understand the need to do so.  I need to preface my next comments with I rarely have criticisms of Disney and generally trust their brand and process for distributing their entertainment.  But, Disney has some intense and sometimes distracted drivers for the trams and golf carts.  I don’t know how much it would cost to provide hands-free technology to each driver, but I’m sure it would be a minimal and necessary investment.  That being said, I personally followed directions and had no negative interactions with said vehicles.  However, I witnessed an interesting interaction.  After the runway, racers turn into a bike path loop.  The loop is kind of neat during the first trip.  A lookout tower is located near the back of the loop.  I have never been to the top of the tower, but I have read and heard that there are good views from there.  I guess that’s an excuse to return???  After one complete loop, participants turn right to head toward Serenity Bay.  At the entrance of the bike path loop, there is a drink station setup.  Cold water is available.  If I remember correctly, the station was not established on my entry of the loop but fully functioning when I came out of the loop.  Serenity Bay is at the opposite end of the island as the ship.  Racers turn around near the end of the runway and repeat the course in reverse.  I found the loop to be much more monotonous the second time around.  It is probably my fault as I was beginning to push my pace a bit and just kept thinking about how BIG that bike path loop is.  Again, the water station is setup at the entry/exit to the bike path loop, which participants pass four times.  In typical Disney fashion, there is a shop with runDisney merchandise near the end of the course.  There are Castaway Cay 5k specific items.  They are unique.  If you are a collector, you may want to check it out.

I ran with my cinch sack on.  Don’t make that mistake.  I ended up running with my right hand on the strings for the entire run!

Please email me if you are interested to know how my run went!  justin@adventureisouttheretravel.com (I thought I did well for my first organized run.)

Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC

First Experience Using Disney’s Magical Express

Our family typically drives from North Central Illinois to Orlando or Port Canaveral.  This is for two reasons.  First and foremost, I am terribly anxious about flying and I do not want to couple that with trying to get two young children on a plane.  Second, I actually like driving.  The journey is part of the vacation for me.  I try to make it enjoyable for all of my family members.  Sometimes the love of my life reminds me about the challenges of the longer journey of driving.

My wife and I decided to take a short, three-day cruise out of Port Canaveral.  A few weeks beforehand we received our Disney Cruise Line travel documents.  This elegant booklet is always exciting to receive!  It contains a fair amount of pertinent information that all cruisers should read.  Our booklet included our luggage tags.  These magical little stickers can make your life a whole lot simpler!  Here is how it works: 1. Pack your luggage.  2. Affix the sticker to a handle on your luggage.  3. Drop off your luggage at your airline check-in.  That is it.  Yes.  It is that simple.

We flew from Midway Airport to Orlando International Airport.  At Midway, my wife and I did curbside check-in.  Each of us had a checked bag and a carry on.  Relieving ourselves of the checked bag was surprisingly efficient, and the attendant seemed very chipper for 4:15 AM.  We had a little snag while obtaining boarding passes and checking in at security, but it was very promptly remedied.  I am sure I will find some sympathizers here.  Why does it seem like whenever I fly, I get my bags searched?  Not just scanned-searched and dug around in.  The security person who rifled through my bag seemed like a cool guy though.  We chit-chatted while he admired my Ripcurl trunks and asked me why I needed two extra razors.  He also made a nice comment about my headphones.  After that, we were on our way!  The flight was uneventful.  When we landed, we took the monorail and no park admission was necessary.  A side note and possible tip: there is a Hyatt within Orlando International Airport.  If you are one of those people who likes to arrive a day early to avoid delays, this may be an option to look into.  Most people who arrived with us went to baggage claim in Terminal A.  My wife and I headed straight to Terminal B where the Magical Express check-in is located.  (There are several rental car counters located there as well.)  Disney was experiencing technology failure with one of two computers at the Disney Cruise Line Magical Express counter.  We ended up having one of our longest waits of the entire trip there, and we were third in line.  After checking in, we were directed to board the bus.  The Magical Express bus was very comfortable.  Or, the transition from the airplane to the Magical Express just made it seem like the Taj.  Similar to the plane, one could control the light and air flow directly above.  Unlike the plane, there were several televisions.  On the ride to Port Canaveral, informational videos and Disney shorts were played.  The 45-minute ride went by very quickly!  Magical Express drops passengers off very close to the terminal at Port Canaveral, and there are several porters waiting to assist any families that may need it.  My wife and I only had our carry-on luggage, so we quickly went to the terminal and through security before most of the bus was unloaded.  Here is the coolest part of Magical Express.  After partaking in various onboard activities, we went back to our stateroom.  In the early afternoon, our luggage magically appeared by our stateroom door.  We dropped our luggage curbside in Chicago and didn’t have to touch it until we were in our stateroom!

If you have ever taken a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line, you know how disheartening it is to leave the ship.  There are multiple options for handling your luggage when disembarking.  We were unable to take full advantage of Disney handling our luggage, as we had an early flight.  Disney Cruise Line encourages people in these situations to walk off the ship with their luggage.  After swiftly going through customs, we boarded Disney’s Magical Express.  Again, the buses are located very close to the terminal, so there is minimal walking distance.  The drivers of the buses are amazing.  They are quick to offer a hand with luggage and are very courteous.  The ride back to the airport continues the Disney withdrawal.  And, the sales pitches playing on the televisions do not make the emotions any better.

Unlike utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get to Walt Disney World, there is a fee for transfers to and from Port Canaveral.  The fee can change, so if you are considering using this transportation, ask your agent how much the fee is or check online.  Magical Express is a great way to get to and from Port Canaveral or Walt Disney World.  It offers riders a simple and comfortable transfer and provides some entertainment.  If you are looking for a convenient and relaxing ride, I would encourage you to use this transportation option.

Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC