Disney unveils Castaway Cay additions

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Disney Cruise Line is preparing for a population surge on its private island.

The upcoming doubling of its fleet entails bigger ships and thus more passengers waiting to play for a day on the shores of its 1,000-acre resort.

The expansion plan calls for more than just setting out hundreds of additional lounge chairs and extending the dock.

“We’re out here undertaking the improvements for the new ships,” says Mark Cole of Walt Disney Imagineering. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t step back and say ‘What opportunity do we have to make this one of the most magical experiences at sea?'”

Among the amenities on tap for Castaway Cay: an expanded family beach, more water-based recreation, more convenient eating options and 20 private cabanas — from which guests literally can flag down a bartender.

Guests here currently have many relaxation options — snorkeling, bicycling, hiking, a ray-interaction experience, massages and welcoming beach umbrellas and chairs. The Flying Dutchman ship used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest rests in the lagoon. Another unique-to-Disney amenity is that passengers walk straight from the ship to the dock — no tendering necessary. The atmosphere maintains a natural island theme with only low-key references to Disney characters.

One of the goals of the construction, set to be finished by next summer, is to spread out the guests, who usually hit the first patch of sand they see.

“It’s just human nature when you go to the beach,” Cole says. “They want to claim their place so the kids know where they’re coming back to.”

Disney is adding a tram stop farther down the coastline from its current hub to encourage folks to settle there. A new eatery, bar, bathrooms and merchandise outlets, similar to those already in existence, are being built nearby. To complement the current food outlet named Cookies, another restaurant with the same menu is planned. Its name will be Cookies Too.

“If I’m going to go from 2,700 guests to 4,000 guests, transportation is a critical piece,” says Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz.

The expansion of the 1,000-foot family beach by 700 feet will be achieved by the relocation of the stingray experience and teen getaway area.

The majority of the private cabanas will face the family beach, with a handful at Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach. The floored structures will have covered areas, decks, refrigerators, dining tables and chairs, lounge chairs, lockable storage and outdoor fresh-water showers. They’re designed to hold six people.

Cabana rental rates have not been set, Disney officials say, but there will be at least three tiers of service available, including one with a personal host.

“On the front of the cabana is a flagpole,” says Ozer Balli, vice president of hotel operations for the cruise line. “You can actually raise a flag — depending on your package purchased — to get the attention of your bartender.”

Several new island elements sport water features:

• Pelican Plunge will be two corkscrew slides floating on a deck in the lagoon, just a short swim away. “The beauty of Pelican Plunge is that it’s for all ages: 6, 16 or 60,” Balli says.

• Disney storytelling will be evident with the Spring-a-Leak area, an all-ages play area designed to look like an island structure blown away by a “strong island breeze.” (“Hurricane” might be too strong a word.) Amid all the fountains and water jets will be the leaning remains.

• A 200-square-foot wet deck with geysers — shaped like a captain’s wheel — will be added to Scuttle’s Cove, the area for children’s activities.

About 10 percent of the island has been developed.

“I think we’ve taken full advantage of the island where we think it makes sense,” Holz say. “This is our intent, to be very responsible in terms of developing the island and making sure we do that in an environmentally friendly manner.”

“You want to preserve the local fauna and flora, it’s an important thing.”

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