Castaway Cay vs. Perfect Day at CocoCay: Smackdown!

castaway cay perfect day cococay smackdown disney royal caribbean
Disney's Castaway Cay vs. Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay - Photo by Disney Cruise Line & Royal Caribbean

They’re barely 100 miles off the coast of Florida, and are two of the most popular cruise destinations in the Bahamas. But much like the cruise lines that sail there, the private island paradises of Castaway Cay and Perfect Day at CocoCay each offer a different and unique experience. We’ll break down what you need to know about each destination and help you make the right choice for your family’s next cruise vacation.

Getting There

Castaway Cay is exclusively accessible via Disney Cruise Line ships. Every Disney Cruise itinerary sailing in the Caribbean and Bahamas will spend at least one day at Castaway Cay. Castaway Cay was the first cruise line private island to feature a pier for the ship to dock, so passengers can walk right off the ship to start the fun. Disney Cruise Line sailings are priced higher than other cruise lines, and offer, unsurprisingly, a very “Disney” experience. While there are plenty of things exclusively for adults on board, kids largely rule the day. If Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy (and hundreds of their young fans), aren’t your thing, Disney Cruise Line probably isn’t the right choice for you.

Perfect Day at CocoCay is accessible via many Royal Caribbean sailings to the Bahamas and Caribbean. Some cruises even spend two days at the island (though not an overnight stay). Previously only accessible by tender, a pier was added during the island’s “Perfect Day” conversion in 2019, allowing for two ships to simultaneously dock there. Royal Caribbean stops at CocoCay on various 4 to 9-night itineraries sailing from PortMiami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, and Baltimore. Royal Caribbean cruises are typically priced lower than those on Disney Cruise Line, with a 6 or 7-night cruise often costing less than a 3 or 4 night Disney cruise. Royal Caribbean is ideal for active vacationers and families with teenagers who look for adrenaline-fueled activities like rock climbing walls and surf simulators, but the demographics onboard do skew older than a Disney cruise, making it the better choice for adults looking for a more traditional cruise experience.

One note on getting around once you’re ashore: Castaway Cay is much larger, and involves more walking (or, in typical Disney-style, a free tram ride) to get around the island. Perfect Day at CocoCay is more compact, and all activities and destinations are within a few minutes’ walk from the ship.

 

Our Pick: Perfect Day at CocoCay. The variety of more affordable cruise itineraries sailing to CocoCay make it a much more accessible destination for cruisers.

 

Beaches and Water Features

Castaway Cay offers separate adult, family, and sports-focused beaches for sunbathing and activities. Pelican Plunge, a floating water play platform, features two water slides that deposit riders right into the lagoon, and a “bucket dump” that cools down cruisers with hundreds of gallons of water every few minutes. The Spring-a-Leak water play area lets kids explore the remnants of a washed-away beach dwelling with leaking pipes and misters. At the boat rental shack, water lovers can rent kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards, and aqua trikes.The Snorkeling Lagoon offers exciting underwater exploration for novices and experts alike.

The centerpiece of Perfect Day at CocoCay is the the extra-charge Thrill Waterpark. Here, cruisers can ride 13 water slides (including the tallest in North America, Daredevil’s Peak), splash in the largest wave pool in the Bahamas, swim in the Adventure Pool, and relax in a private cabana. Outside of the waterpark, the freshwater Oasis Lagoon and Beach offers a swim-up bar and underwater music, and Chill Island Beach includes loungers, umbrellas, and swimming coves. Opening in early 2020, the Coco Beach Club adds luxurious private cabanas including some over-water, an infinity pool, and private beach. Also opening in early 2020, the sports and activity-focused South Beach will offer volleyball, beachside basketball, and more. Glass bottom kayaks, snorkeling gear, and more are available to rent.

 

Our Pick: While Castaway Cay’s variety of beaches is impressive, we have to give the nod to Perfect Day at CocoCay. Thrill Waterpark is truly a game changer and resets the expectations for cruise line private islands.

 

Kids Activities

Castaway Cay features Scuttle’s Cove, a kid’s club offering supervised activities including water play areas, a wet deck, and Monstro’s Point, a whale bone exploration site. For older kids, the Teen Hideout accommodates 14 to 17 year olds with their own space to lounge, relax, and socialize. There’s also several opportunities to visit with the Disney characters for both the young and young-at-heart.

Perfect Day at CocoCay offers the Splashaway Bay kid’s water area and Captain Jill’s Galleon for water fun and exploration; both are located outside of the Thrill Waterpark, so there’s no extra charge. There’s no supervised child-care options, so parents will have to stay with younger kids during their visit, though responsible teens should be able to explore on their own.

 

Our Pick: Castaway Cay. The dedicated, supervised activities for younger kids and the teen-focused hangout shine, giving parents a chance to break away from the family and enjoy some adult beach time.

 

Adult Amenities

Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay is an adults-only oasis with a private beach, dedicated bar and dining facility, open-air massage cabanas, and more. For active adults, exploring the island by bike, snorkeling, and sports and games are also available.

Perfect Day at CocoCay lacks an adults-only area, though the extra-charge Coco Beach Club is likely to attract fewer young families and kids. Some amenities, like a swim-up bar, are oriented to adults, but the focus is on family fun.

 

Our Pick: Castaway Cay. The dedicated adults-only area on Disney’s island gives it the edge here.

 

Family Activities

While the adults-only and kids-focused areas on Castaway Cay shine, there are many opportunities for families to have a beach day. Castaway Family Beach is designed for young and old alike; In Da Shade Game pavilion offers up basketball, table tennis, and more; and Sports Beach offers more opportunities for active families.

Family togetherness and fun is where Perfect Day at CocoCay really stands out. With no age-dedicated beaches, there’s plenty of space for families. Activities like the Up, Up and Away tethered balloon ride and the Zip Line are perfect for families with older kids.

 

Our Pick: Perfect Day at CocoCay. What Royal Caribbean’s island lacks in adult and kid-specific areas, it makes up for in family amenities and opportunities for families to have fun together.

 

Dining

Castaway Cay offers three barbecue-oriented, complimentary dining facilities: two open to all visitors and one in the adults-only area. There’s at least one dedicated bar in each of the island’s areas. Olaf's Summertime Freeze, serving up frosty concoctions, is a particular standout. Soft drinks are free on Castaway Cay, as they are on all Disney ships.

Perfect Day at CocoCay also features three beach barbecue-style dining facilities, two of which are open to all passengers and one exclusively to ticketed Thrill Waterpark guests. And as a welcome feature to many passengers, the ship’s Ultimate Drink Packages work on CocoCay.

 

Our Pick: Tie. Both islands have a comparable number of dining facilities, and the quality matches up, too. Castaway Cay gets a slight edge in bars. But given CocoCay’s more modest size, you’re closer to food on Royal Caribbean’s island, since you may need to walk some distance or ride a tram to grab a bite on Castaway Cay.

 

Extra Costs

Castaway Cay offers some “extra-charge” opportunities, most notably boat, pool float, and snorkel rentals, massages, shopping, and excursions like parasailing and stingray tours and private cabanas. But the island’s primary features are included at no extra charge.

It’s necessary to purchase tickets to visit the headline attractions on Perfect Day at CocoCay, including Thrill Waterpark, the Up, Up and Away tethered balloon and the zipline. Private cabanas are also available here at an extra charge.

 

Our Pick: Castaway Cay. Though you’ll pay more for your Disney cruise overall, you’ll likely spend less out of pocket on Castaway Cay.  While they are arguably worth the cost, paying for Perfect Day at CocoCay’s attractions can add a significant amount to your onboard folio. Look for discounts and package deals ahead of your cruise to hopefully save a bit of money.

 

Overall

 

Our Pick: Perfect Day at CocoCay gets the nod, though it’s not as close as we thought it would be. Castaway Cay set the early standard for cruise line private islands and held the crown for many years, but Royal Caribbean is beating Disney at their own game here — at least when it comes to families wanting to vacation together. If you’re cruising with kids and want to each have your own beach day, Castaway Cay is the better choice, but for thrill seekers and families wanting to spend time together, CocoCay has a significant edge. Though it’s necessary to purchase admission to Thrill Waterpark to get the ultimate “Perfect Day,” you’ll still likely spend less overall for a 7-night Royal Caribbean cruise and the water park ticket at CocoCay than for a 3 or 4-night Disney cruise. And even if you don’t splurge on Thrill admission, your family is likely to have just as good a time on CocoCay as on Castaway Cay, for a fraction of the cost.



Join The Discussion

Have you ever been to Castaway Cay or Perfect Day at CocoCay? What was your experience?

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