Castaway Cay is a private island in the Bahamas which serves as an exclusive port for the Disney Cruise Line ships Disney Wonder, Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy. It is located near Great Abaco Island and was formerly known as Gorda Cay. It is widely believed that The Walt Disney Company owns the island. However, this is officially untrue. The island is, in reality, part of the Bahamas, and Disney has a 100-year lease on the island, which started in 1996. A post office on the island has special Bahamian postage specific to Disney Cruise Line, and a "Castaway Cay" postmark.
History and development
Gorda Cay was once used as a stop for drug runners. There is an airstrip on the island, but it is no longer in regular use nor maintained. Gorda Cay has also been used for filming; the beach where Tom Hanks first encounters Daryl Hannah in Splash is on the island.
Disney is said to have spent US$25 million to develop and outfit the island. Construction took 18 months and included dredging 50,000 truckloads of sand from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The pier and its approaches were constructed to allow the Disney ships to dock alongside, thus removing the need for tenders to get the passengers ashore. To create the mooring site for the ships, workers dredged sand and used explosives to blast coral, and form a 1700-foot (520 m) channel about 35 feet (11 m) deep and ranging from 200 to 400 feet (120 m) wide. The island is still largely undeveloped: only 55 of the 1000 acres (4.0 square kilometers) are being used.
As with many other projects, Walt Disney Imagineering developed a fictional history of the island.
In the 1920s, a joint expedition of three explorers, a sea captain, and their respective families exploring the islands of the Bahamas became stranded on the island after being caught in a storm and settling there. The first of these was paleontologist Cecil "Wormy" Chamberlain, who discovered fossil remains of a prehistoric sperm whale at what is now known as Monstro Point. The second was Chamberlain's protege Max Profitt, who had hoped to find sunken treasure. After discovering a 300 year old galleon, he decided to establish dive trails through the treasure filled reefs instead of taking it for himself. The third explorer, "Doc" E'Lan Vital, had hoped to find the Fountain of Youth, but eventually settled for the relaxing healthy atmosphere of the tropical paradise and established a clinic on the island. Finally, Captain Morton decided after surviving the storm and at the behest of his wife, would not sail again and he and his family would help build up the castaways new homes.
As the castaways met both local sailors and sea pilots, news of their community began to spread and a dock and small air runway was built to connect Castaway Cay to the outside world and keep the island supplied.
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 facilities are maintained like any other Disney theme park, and the shops accept guests' stateroom keys for payment. The food service is operated as an extension of the cruise package. A variety of activities are available to guests including bicycle hire, personal watercraft rental, snorkeling, and parasailing. There are three beaches for guests: one for families, one for teens, and another exclusively for adults, called Serenity Bay.
Two submarine-ride vehicles from the now-closed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride at Walt Disney World lie underwater in the snorkeling area. The Flying Dutchman pirate ship, from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, was on display in the lagoon. As of the final week in November 2010, the Flying Dutchman had been removed and taken to another location on the island where it was being dismantled. The seven-night cruises visit Castaway Cay on Fridays, four-night cruises visit on Tuesdays, and three-night cruises visit on Saturdays. Castaway Cay has facilities for the exclusive use of the ships' crews, including beaches and recreational areas. A staff of 70 custodians, boat captains, drivers, landscapers, and maintenance personnel live on the island and are supplemented by crew from the ship when one is in port. Food and other supplies are brought in by the ships themselves. Seawater is desalinated for drinking with reverse osmosis water processors.