The beautiful Virgin Gorda, second-largest of the British Virgin islands, is a popular day trip for cruise ships stopping in Tortola. The “plump” shape of the island reminded Christopher Columbus of a reclining woman, or a “Fat Virgin,” which inspired the rather interesting name.
Virgin Gorda has a population of around 3000 people, including celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Richard Branson. A glimpse at the pristine beauty of the island and it’s easy to see why. White sand beaches, crystal blue ocean and a slow way of life are draw cards for those wanting a relaxing vacation or a complete sea change.
A Tour of The Baths is a popular way to see one of the area’s must-see sights – The Baths. Many cruise ships, including the Disney Cruise Line’s 7-Night Eastern Caribbean include this as a port of call option for an additional fee.
To get to The Baths from Tortola, the main port of call where cruise ships dock, it’s possible to go on the cheap and take the local ferry, but I would advise to just pay the bit extra to have the entire trip organised for you so there is zero stress involved. It’s quite a way from where the ferry lands on Virgin Gorda to The Baths and not much in the way of public or private transport options.
The half-day tour to Virgin Gorda begins with a scenic 40-minute cruise along the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. Open-air safari buses await the cruise boat, ready to take its passengers on the short 20-minute drive through Spanish Town to an outlook over Savannah Bay for a photo stop.
It’s only a short drive further to the Top of the Baths, where a local tour guide meets the group and leads us down to The Baths. The path is somewhat rocky but doesn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes, and is easy enough for my 4.5 year old to walk on her own.
The spectacularly beautiful Baths lies at the bottom of the path. There are waves to swim, boulders to climb and beaches to laze on. Paradise.
We journey further through narrow caves and water-filled grottos to find the pristine waters of Devil’s Bay on the other side.
This stunning beach is perfect for families with its gentle waves and soft sand.
The tour ends with a retracing of our steps. Back up to the car park, back on the safari buses, back onto the cruise boat, which speeds us back to our ship, just in time for lunch.
Tour To Virgin Gorda Tips
*Wear comfortable walking shoes as the path to The Baths is rough and uneven.
*Recommended age for the tour is 5 and up. Our 4.5 year old had no problem with the walk or the climb through the caves.
*Take plenty of drink bottles with water. Food from the ship is not allowed off the boat (such as fruit) so eat a hearty breakfast. We did take packaged crackers that we had taken aboard with us and were very grateful we did when our daughter badly needed food and there was nowhere to buy any.
*While our tour notes said a beverage (water, soda or fruit juice) is included, we were served the beverage on the cruise boat back to the ship at the very end of the tour, so taking lots of water is crucial.
*Additional food and drinks can be purchased at the Top of The Baths restaurant.
*Bathrooms/changing facilities and lockers are available at the beach; however, Guests are encouraged to wear a swimsuit underneath their clothes if wishing to swim at the beach as there are limited bathrooms and a long line to use them.
*Bring credit cards or cash for optional extras such as souvenirs.
*Pack a swim suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, additional clothing, hats, cameras, backpacks and towels.
*After swimming in the salty beach water you’ll want to rinse off – which was a problem when we visited as there was no running tap to use and we had to use the rest of our drinking water.
Castaway Cay is a private island in the Bahamas reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line (DCL) guests on Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.
Because the island is only used by guests debarking from the Disney boats, it’s possible to enjoy a fun-filled day without spending an extra cent.
Many of the amenities on the island are FOC for DCL guests, such as tram transport to the different parts of the island, a full buffet lunch and beverage station, several gorgeous beaches, character meet and greets, child care for kids aged 3-12 at Scuttle’s Cove and the two water play areas, Pelican Plunge (more below) and Spring-a-leak, which we didn’t find on our day at Castaway Cove. Don’t have kids? Adults can enjoy Serenity Cove, the 18+ area on the island.
There is so much to do on this island, particularly for families, that many guests say it’s their fave place to stop even on repeat cruises.
Castaway Cay Stingray Adventure
On our Castaway Cay day we booked into the Castaway Cay Stingray Adventure, suitable for guests aged 5 and up. Despite Cheese being not quite 5, it was fine for her to join us.
We checked into Ray’s Stingray Hut straight off the boat and were given a very quick run down by the crew on how to put on our gear (lifejackets and snorkel equipment) and told the rules of how to handle the stingrays during the feeding, which was the first part of the adventure.
Into the water, we gathered around platforms thigh-deep in water and held pieces of slimy fish in our fingers for the stingrays to eat. While we waited for the rays to approach the platform a few of the more curious of the stingrays rubbed against our legs. Don’t worry – the stingrays here to not have stingers, making them completely harmless.
The stingrays caught the scent of food and slid themselves onto the platform to slurp up the food from our fingers, tickling out palms with their rubbery mouths. After the food supply ran out, we donned our snorkels and went for a swim to watch these amazing creatures underwater.
See our Castaway Cay adventures in the video below at 1:42.
Castaway Cay Beaches
The majority of people who visit Castaway Cay are content to just relax on the beach and paddle in the soft waves.
We hired a water tube for some serious floating action. There are several beaches to enjoy, all marked clearly on the island’s map, so while the beaches are busy you’d never guess that a few thousand people were there all at the same time.
The free tram makes it very easy to get between the beaches, and there are also plenty of shaded deck chairs available for lounging.
After the free buffet lunch we walked to the Pelican Plunge to check out the water play area.
It looked a bit scary for our little one, so we contented ourselves with squirting the water guns over the side while watching people climb up and slide down the plunge adjacent.
Castaway Cay Tips
*No need to bring a towel – there are plenty of towels available on the island.
*Do bring sunscreen, hat, water shoes/thongs and a refillable water bottle to fill at the free beverage station.
*Head to the buffet either at the beginning or end of service when the queues are shorter.
*Bring some cash if you’re planning on shopping.
*There is occasionally sea lice in the water – you may want to buy some Sea Safe just incase. We didn’t have any problems with the sea lice.
*Head back to the ship early to ride the Aquaduck with zero queues!
I’m going to be upfront and say Disney cruises are REALLY expensive. Crazy expensive – much more so than a lot of other cruise liners, in fact, that offer similar itineraries. So why choose to spend your time and your money that way? Simply because the experience is unparalleled. We just got back from the 7-Night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy, and can happily say that here are 16 reasons why, for us, a Disney cruise is worth the money.
1. It’s (almost!) all-inclusive
All your food at the main restaurants and snack joints, entertainment, use of facilities and even room services are included in the price. What’s an extra charge? The spa services, popcorn before the shows, snacks from additional cafes not in the main dining areas and alcohol, and gratuity at the end of the trip (it’s charged to the room at a rate of $12 per person per day).
2. The service is impecable
We received some of the best service of our lives on the ship, especially from the servers in the dining rooms. Our head waiter, assistance and dining room head all knew our name and our dining preferences (for example, I’m a fussy vegetarian and my daughter is fussy period), and would be prepared to offer us with alternatives to the menu each evening if they knew we wouldn’t like them. Our amazing servers followed us each night through the dining rotation (there are three restaurants that we rotated between) so we were always greeted with their smiling faces each evening.
3. Mickey is everywhere
It’s fun to make a game of finding all the hidden Mickeys. From tiny nautical Mickeys made out of ropes in the shower curtains to bigger emblems on the ships decks, there are Mickeys everywhere you look in both discrete and obvious ways, but still pulled together so harmoniously as to present an elegant ship for adults rather than a carnival for children. A masterful design.
4. Disney magic is all around
Disney is renowned for making the ordinary magical, and they don’t disappoint on a cruise, either. Little touches like magical pictures that guests can interact with, or a steering wheel set up in front of what looks to be an ordinary painting but turns out to be a pirate ship that you can steer in search of treasure really give the illusion of a bit of pixie dust sprinkled liberally over every element of the ship.
5. See the world with zero effort
One of the big bonuses to taking a cruise is that you get to wake up at exotic destinations without lifting a finger. Everything is so incredibly easy and manageable, which is what we wanted with a young child. On our cruise, we visited Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and Disney’s own island, Castaway Cay. We were offered off-ship excursions at additional costs, or you can also just walk straight off the ship and find your own way around.
6. Incredible entertainment every day and night
Dazzling shows is what Disney does best, and again they bring this to the cruise. Every night there is a new show to see, the highlight on ours being Aladdin. The performers and staging in these shows is just incredible – it’s a standard of quality that you would happily pay to see under ordinary circumstances.
If you feel like seeing a movie on the cruise, you can head into one of the two movie theatres playing brand new or recent releases (on our ship we had Finding Dory the same day it was released globally in cinemas, Jungle Book and the new Captain America movie), or lie in luxury on the pool deck and watch the “Funnel Vision” movie screen playing Disney classics above the pool on the top deck during the day and night.
7. Water play all day
The top desk is all about getting wet! Our number one fave water play activity was the AquaDuck slide, an exhilarating “water coaster” that sends guests clinging to rafts speeding around the ship enclosed in a tube. Kids can also enjoy a more sedate Mickey slide, the Nemo Reef splash area for littlies, the shallow Mickey Pool and AquaLabs for older kids. Adults can sit back and relax in adult-only pools, too.
8. Everything is super high quality
This is Disney, after all, where nothing but the best is good enough. Every detail about the ship is flawless, and I’d challenge anyone to find a paint chip or a carpet stain on the entire boat. The rooms, the food, the facilities, absolutely everything is top notch, shiny and brand-new looking.
9. The kids won’t want to leave kids’ club
There are plenty of options for kids to be entertained while adults take some time out to relax. As well as a nursery for babies, there’s the “Oceaneer Lab” and “Oceaneer Club” for kids 3-12, “Edge” for tweens 11-14 and “Vibe” for teenagers 14-17. Cheese was a great age for the Oceaneer Lab/Club and loved going so much she would request to be dropped off when we asked what she’d like to do. In the Oceaneer Lab/Club, as well as various open play areas, kids are also entertained with games and visiting characters such as Lilo and Stich or Tinkerbell.
10. Activities are endless
Let me put it this way, no one will be bored. Every evening, an activity sheet is released for the next day which is jam packed with options for the whole family. Adults can choose from plenty of 18+ options such as bingo, animation and fitness classes, but the majority of activities are family-focussed, such as character appearances, trivia competitions and even baby racing. Yes, you read that right.
11. The food is top notch
Dining aboard a boat was a major concern of mine, which thankfully we didn’t need to worry about at all. There were both plenty of options, as well as lots of fresh, healthy food to choose from. Each morning and lunch we dined at Cabanas, the buffet restaurant on the top deck, blown away with the choice of food such as fruit, made-to-order omelettes, yogurts, cereals, toasts, bagels, Mickey waffles and more for breakfast, followed by salads, more fruit, and hot food options such as vegetables, pasta dishes, pizza and so forth for lunch.
Dinner each night was served in a rotating restaurant – Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden and Royal Court, where we were presented with a three course menu to select what we would like. While there were always vegetarian options made available, if I didn’t particularly fancy that night’s menu, the kitchen staff were more than happy to either send me a dish from another restaurant, or whip me up something specially in the back.
If we missed our dining rotation or the Cabanas buffet times, there were snack options available on the pool deck most of the day, including burgers, sandwiches, pizza and fruit, plus the 24-hour room service. It was hard exercising off all the food we ate!
12. Free-on demand tv
On a Disney boat, you’d expect a lot of Disney TV, wouldn’t you? In the rooms, Disney TV shows and movies are streamed 24-hours on demand, with a huge variety to appeal to both the kiddies during the day, and adults once the kidlets have gone to bed at night.
13. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Wittout a doubt my daughter’s favoruite thing abut the ship was her transformation into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. You can read about our experience here.
14. Plenty of 18+ only areas
While we loved spending time with our daughter on the Fantasy, we occasionally needed some adult time, so when she was keen to head off to the kids’ clubs we would also happily wander up to the 18+ areas for a drink or just a coffee and would sit happily watching the ocean roll past and chat or read a book without having to listen to other peoples’ children screaming. Bliss!
15. Everything is seamlessly run
The ship is run with what can only be called Disney efficiency. Everything happens exactly when it is supposed to happen, to the very second, and there are no hiccups, no mishaps, no wrinkles in the perfect Disney holiday experience. A Disney cruise is a slickly run machine.
16. Countless character interactions
The numerous character interactions were a big plus for our family and our daughter who is at the age where she likes to throw herself with gay abandon at all Disney characters like they’re a long-lost loved one. Luckily the characters are ready for four-year-old missiles and handle all the poking and whacking with swords with good humour.
I did wonder if, after the first day or so, she’d get bored with seeing the same characters over and over again, but, the geniuses, have outfitted the characters in numerous costumes, so each time we saw them they always looked a bit different (except for Peter Pan, who always looked exactly like Peter Pan in his tights and little green hat). On formal night, for example, the characters appeared in tuxes and sparkling gowns, and needless to say, pirate night was full of eye patches and bandanas.
Every day the times and locations for where the character meet and greets will occur is printed in the “navigator” that is distributed to the rooms each evening with the following day’s activities so you always know where to find your favourite giant plush or princess. Characters often just roam the ship too, so you never know who might start crowing over the balcony (yes, the crowd favourite, Peter Pan, yet again).
The most popular characters have free ticketed events that you can sign up for online before boarding the ship, such as the princess Royal Court, Anna and Elsa from Frozen and the Disney Junior character breakfast.
Compared to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the characters on the boat spend a lot of time with each guest interacting with them personally, rather than it just being a quick photo op. This does make the wait a bit longer, but the characters and also Disney cast members who are managing the crowds, make the kids each feel so incredibly special that it’s worth it.
We’ve just gotten back from our first cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy – a 7-night Caribbean cruise. The cruise was incredibly fun, but there was so much to learn beforehand to really get the most out of the experience. When you’re planning your own Disney Cruise, tips and tricks like these will help you plan your own perfect cruise, before you even get on board.
Book well in advance. Hard core cruisers book a year in advance when the cruise is released. It’s believed they get the best prices then. Booking three months out is considered last minute but cabins are often still available.
Think hard about what cabin/type do you want. We went for middle ship with a verandah as I was terrified of sea sickness. The cabins to the edges and with a porthole or “magic window” are cheaper.
Your advance booking window is determined by your Castaway Club membership level, as follows: First-Time Guests – 75 days prior to sail date; Silver Castaway Club Member – 90 days prior to sail date; Gold Castaway Club Member – 105 days prior to sail date; Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Member – 120 days prior to sail date.
Take note of the day that the activities are released in US time – 12:01 EST and log on during the night to book things like the princess royal court.
Book your activities as soon as you can as the popular ones book up fast. You can easily cancel your activities up to 3 days before departure – including the port activities. Some popular activities, like the Princess afternoon tea, book up as soon as they are released. Others have plenty of spots but you should still book in as soon as possible to get the days and times you want.
Free on-board activities that require booking include the Princess meet and greet, Frozen meet and greet and Disney Junior breakfast (currently only available on 7-night or longer cruises).
Join your cruise Facebook group – search for the ship departure date and name in Facebook. Many of the people in the Facebook group will be frequent cruisers so can answer all of your tricky questions.
Many frequent cruisers hang decorations on their door called “Fish Extenders” and take park in a “Fish Exchange”. Every stateroom has a fish of some kind hanging on the wall outside the door where Disney staff place important communications to you such as excursion tickets and notes. A Fish Extender (FE) is something that you hang off the fish while still allowing the Disney staff to use it for its original purpose. All the people in the exchange buy or make little items and place them in each other’s fish extenders. It’s basically a gift exchange.
Choose your dining rotation when you book your cabin – main dining is the early session which begins at 5:45pm, and second seating, which starts at 8pm. If you book too late you will be placed in late dining like we were and have to request a change and hope it comes through. For your assigned seating time and restaurant rotation, please check the dining tickets located in your stateroom upon arrival.
“Main” or early dining fills up fast. If you’re not sure what dining rotation you want when you book your cruise, choose early as it’s the most popular. It’s always possible to change it to the late session when you board, but rarely the other way around. If you book late (like I did) you might be allocated the late dining session. if this happens, call Disney Cruise Line and request to be put on the wait list for the change.
Both dining session get to see the same live shows at night. If you do “main” or early dining, you will then be able to see the late show, which is at 8:30pm. If you do late dining, you can then do the early show, which is at 6:15pm.
If you aren’t able to get the dining session you want, you can still use several other flexible and included dining options on the ship, including the free 24-hour room service.
If you missed out on your dining session even after being wait listed, there are Disney Cruise Line employees set up in one of the main dining rooms on embarkation day to try to accommodate dining requests (which dining room it is will be listed on the Navigator that you get at the Port).
In case you forget where you’re supposed to eat dinner each night, your dining rotation will also be listed on the Key to the World card as well as the tickets in the room.
Many frequent cruisers place Disney magnets all over their doors, often with their family names and pictures on them. You can make your own or order some on Etsy.
Take note of your Port Arrival time (PAT). Your PAT determine your boarding number therefore when you board the ship. If you do not complete online checking then you will most likely get a high boarding number and sit in the terminal waiting to board the ship. PAT are first come first serve therefore by completing your checkin as soon as it is enabled online, you will have a better chance of a earlier PAT. Note: If you are taking the Disney Cruise Line busses from the Walt Disney World resorts then this is not that important since the buses will not get to the port until after 1pm anyway.
If you buy a disney photo premium package in advance you get 15% off. If you don’t like the photos on board you can ask for a refund. This discount only applies to the most expensive packages, like purchasing all of the digital images. Go to: http://www.mycruisephotos.com/DCL
You are also able to register kids for kids’ club online before boarding the ship. I’d highly advise doing so as it just saves time filing in more forms when you go to drop them off for the first time.
Pack breakables in your carry on bag, plus anything you might need for the rest of the day as it can take a while for luggage to be delivered to rooms.
Put a pair of swimmers in your carry on so you can head straight to the pool when you get onboard.
Be early for everything onboard. If there is a movie, a show, even a character meet and greet, be early, by at least 15 minutes if not longer. If you want to see it, everyone else is bound to as well.
Formal, semi-formal and pirate dress-up nights are really optional. We were travelling a long way before and after our cruise so had minimal luggage space for special formal or dress-up wear, and it ended up not being a big deal at all. We just wore our nicest clothes and they were fine. Some people go al out, however, wearing suits and fancy dresses, and make the most out of the opportunity to get glammed up and have portraits taken.
If you book another cruise onboard you get a discounted rate. The deposit you place down on the cruise is completely refundable so it’s a good idea if you’re strongly considering taking another cruise in the near future.
The water in the cabins is drinkable but a bit funky tasting. I’d advise taking large refillable water bottles with you and refilling them throughout the day at the free beverage station on the pool deck.
There are shops onboard where you can buy most things you might forget, like sunscreen, hats, toothbrushes and so on, but they are on the pricey side. Stock up on your own everything before boarding, including sea sickness medication, just in case. It is possible to get free sea sickness medication free of charge from guest services if you forget to pack your own.
Are you a Disney cruiser? I’d love to add your tips and tricks!
A visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) is a must for little girls who are desperate to be a “princess” for a day. There are BBBs in Disneyland, Walt Disney World and also select Disney cruises. Our boat, the Fantasy, had the BBB located on deck five – a quiet space filled with tulle, glitter and tiny little girls with their faces alight with joy.
The BBB is a gorgeous experience for girls aged 3-12. Reservations are required to guarantee a spot at the boutique. When you book your spot, you can choose the type of package you would like for your daughter. Packages start from the “Crown Package” at $64.95 for hair, face decals, nail polish, shimmery make up, tiara, Mickey Mouse hair clip, BBB sash and a drawstring bag. See end of post for full details of pricing and packages.
Cheese already had a beautiful dress she loved so we took her dress and chose the Crown Package. Our fairy godmother in training let Cheese over to a chair and proceeded to do her hair in her select style of a princess bun (there are several other options available).
Once the hair was up in the perfect princess bun, light make up was applied, tiara and hair clip slipped in, kiddie nail polish liberally brushed on, and, after many layers of hair gel to keep the wispy bits looking sleek, a hearty coating of “pixie dust” (AKA glitter) was applied, followed by a proclamation of “Bibbity, Bobbity Boo!” and a dramatic reveal in the mirror.
Each guest takes home the drawstring bag plus the make up, nail polish and face decals. I really liked how clean and hygienic the boutique was, with each make up, nail polish and face decal set being brand new and sealed for each guest.
When I saw the prices for the experiences I wasn’t sure how a 45 minutes “make over” could be worth the money. It comes down to the beautiful fairy godmothers in training, who guide the girls through the experience, tell them stories, get to know them, and make them laugh and feel special. My daughter was in heaven, not just with the make over, which she adored, but also the attention she received from the wonderful staff in the boutique.
The bun stayed in for the next two days until we went swimming and it needed to come out. It was a devastating moment when we had to take the hair down, which surprised me as she isn’t usually attached to hair dos.
The BBB was a highlight of our cruise, and I will absolutely take her to enjoy the experience again at with Disneyland or WDW and hope that we enjoy the same wonderful time together.
FULL PACKAGE LIST
All prices in USD.
Crown Package Price $64.95 This regal package includes hairstyling, a face gem, shimmering makeup, nail polish, a princess sash and cinch sack. Hairstyle Choices: Disney Diva or Fairy-Tale Princess
Under the Sea Package Price: $99.95 Plucky young adventurers can become little mermaids with the Under the Sea Package, which includes a 2-piece swimsuit and “mermaid tail” wrap. A floral hair clip, necklace and nail polish complete the look.
Please note this swimsuit is currently only available in 2 sizes: large/10-12 and extra-large/14.
Castle Package Price: $199.95 Your little princess will be a vision to behold with hairstyling, shimmering makeup, nail polish, a face gem, princess sash and cinch sack. She’ll also receive a crown, a wand and her choice of costume! Hairstyle Choices: Disney Diva or Fairy-Tale Princess Costume Choices: Princess Minnie, Tinker Bell, Anna, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Elsa, Jasmine, Rapunzel, Snow White and Tiana
Royal Knight Package Price: $19.95 Young Guests who select the Royal Knight Package will be bestowed with heroic hairstyling of gel and confetti as well as a mighty sword and shield!
Disney Frozen Package Price: $194.95 Is your little one free-spirited and fun-loving like Anna or regal and reserved like Elsa? The Disney Frozen Package provides a fun, movie-inspired makeover where kids can become their favorite character from the wildly popular Disney animated hit. The Disney Frozen package includes your choice of the Anna hairstyling with Anna costume or Elsa hairstyling with Elsa costume, plus shimmering makeup, face gem, nail polish, a princess sash, a princess tote and a huggable Olaf plush.
Celebration Package Price: $124.95 Every day is worth celebrating on the Disney Magic and young guests can get in the fun with the Disney Cruise Line exclusive Celebration Package a perfect choice for a Sail-Away Celebration! The Celebration Package includes the choice of a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique hair style, plus shimmering makeup, face gem, nail polish, princess tote and princess sash. The party transformation is then completed with an exclusive Disney Cruise Line Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique tutu and t-shirt.
Captain’s Package Price: $119.95 The Disney Cruise Line exclusive package includes the Disney Cruise Line Sailor Mickey costume, Captain Mickey hat and Captain Mickey plush.