Obrin (RMNAAFA) 2001 Disney Cruise, Day 9

Day 9, Saturday, 3/24/01

I woke up at two in the morning, because the ship was moving, and I wanted it to stop. But, then I was able to get back to sleep, and slept until about 7 a.m. At that point, we were nearing the island, and we all went out on the verandah to watch us come in.

Castaway Cay is a beautiful, pristine island. The waters are an unworldly turquoise color, and the island is mostly covered with lush green trees. Looking from our verandah, we could see several colorful sail craft afloat in the bay. It was quite a sight. After staring in wonder for a while, we went inside, showered, and dressed for breakfast.

Breakfast was basically the same buffet as the day before. It was very nice. Afterwards, we hit the island.

Castaway Cay! The water is 75 degrees, and the air is 85 degrees. We are surrounded by smooth sand and turquoise water. There are some puffy clouds way off in the distance which pose no threat. The skies overhead are a perfect blue. There are palm trees and tropical flowers as the path strays away from the beach inland. The biggest structure on this side of the island (we later learn that Disney houses some permanent help on the other side) are the 1 story huts (covered, but open on all sides) where lunch is served, or the little hut where the snorkels are rented. Other than that, it is an undisturbed paradise. There was an almost indescribable feeling of calm, and a little voice that kept saying "This place is amazing".

On the way to the snorkeling area, we left Nick in Scuttle's Cove. There were games there, and he had some fun in the sand and playing games. But, it was not near the ocean. There seems to be an issue if it's a supervised play area with the water, unless all of the staff are certified for water safety. In any event, after lunch, I went with Nick down to the kid's area of the beach. There is a lifeguard on duty here, and Nick is actually a pretty fair swimmer. I wanted him to be able to say that he had swum in the ocean. I went out with him, but we only got about to his waist, and he insisted on going back. What he had his mind set on was playing in the sand and shallow water of the surf. He had borrowed some beach toys from Scuttles Cove (the Disney people being more than accommodating, as usual). I stayed with him for a little while there, and then went back to join Debbie by the snorkeling area.

Debbie and I snorkeled for several hours before lunch, and again for several hours in the afternoon. This experience was truly the highlight of the entire cruise. The water was extremely warm. Now, Disney has a little snorkeling course set out in the bay, with buoys set as markers every so often. Kind of like one of the marked nature trails in the mountains. We did both the long and short course, and then just did some kicking around on our own. There are many very interesting things to look at in the water, with some of them (like Nemo's sub or the ship's bow with Mickey as the bow piece) being planted by Disney, and others being naturally there. Disney has gone out of their way to make certain there are shelters and cubby holes for small fish throughout this area, so the smaller fish were plentiful. Here and there the bottom was intentionally strewn with masts, an old typewriter, an electric fan, and other remnants of ship wreck. The ship's wheel and bell, and (as I've mentioned) Nemo's sub are things that stick out in my mind.

Also, every so often there was a plaque on the bottom, with some message from the Disney folks. Very cool. Plenty to see down here.

The yellow tailed snapper, which is an electric blue fish with a bright yellow tail, were the most common. But, there were several other varieties, which made the glass bottom boat tour the day before look pretty pale by comparison. There was one very large fish hiding by the bell, which Debbie had to point out to me, because I had gone right by it. It was a reddish brown fish, at least 5' long.
The snorkeling equipment was moderately nice. Although the snorkel and mask did not have valves, they were in fine condition and fit well. Even though the mouthpiece of the snorkel was a good fit, I still gargled quite a bit of salt water. Sure, I meant to, it was good for my sore throat ;^).

When you would pop your head up in the snorkeling area, you couldn't miss the eerie presence of the Wonder floating at dock a short distance away. It was, of course, the largest thing for miles around. It just gave a little sparkle of Disney magic to the whole experience.

I can't say enough good things about our snorkeling experience. There was eel grass growing all over the place, which was cool to look at, but you'd do better to avoid swimming into. The bottom was actually very uneven here. One moment, you'd be in eight feet of water, and the next you'd be in two feet of water over a sand bar. In some places, it was like navigating a maze. This day was perfect in every way.

Lunch was great. barbecue chicken, ribs, burgers, and hot dogs, all very well prepared. You went into one of the roofed huts to stand in a serving line, then made your way to an informal picnic area. The eating and serving areas were covered. For us, this meant a brief respite from the sun, as there was not a cloud in the sky. The informal picnic atmosphere was perfect for the unspoiled setting.

When it was time to return to the ship, Debbie went off to play bingo, and Nick went to the lab. I took a walk around the ship, snapping pictures with the digital camera. I think I got some nice shots of us pulling away from the island at 5 p.m. I was up on deck 9 snapping photos. It is both a majestic and a peaceful site, this enormous ship pulling away slowly from this pristine island. I had a good vantage point to watch the wake created by the thrusters which we so marveled at earlier in the cruise. As the stern of the ship pulled past the dock, there were six or seven CMs standing on the dock, waving with enormous Mickey hands like the ones Nick had bought at Fantasmic! It was a perfect end to a day in paradise.

Again, walking around and taking pictures, I was struck by how beautiful this ship really is. I was dazzled by the huge portals, the open feeling even on the lower decks, the ornate Disney touches (and, of course, the hidden Mickeys). There is beautiful attention to detail everywhere you turn.

Passing by the Buena Vista Theater, where we had once poked in our heads, I smiled at the fact that they are able to show first run movies and Disney classic, and the playbill had a couple of interesting shows, but there was by no means any time to go to the movies.

I went down to get Nick out of the lab for supper, and found they were already over at the buffet. I went over and tried to talk him into having supper with us, but he was very insistent on eating with his shipboard friends one last time. I gave up, figuring he was on vacation, and went on without him. I insisted, however, that he was going to the play tonight.
We ate at Parrot Cay for supper this night. It is a very colorful, happy themed restaurant. The main course was the best I'd had all cruise, and the food overall was tasty and imaginative. I had a kind of seafood stew, and a coconut shrimp appetizer. Both were very good. We sat by a huge portal with the sun setting on the water. It was a great experience. Everyone was snapping pictures, as it was our last night together. I think one of my best pictures of the trip came out of this dinner, with table 29, including the waiters, all together. Steven has given Debbie a nice pair of mouse ears with a couple of colorful plates. Wesley and Steven both asked about Nick. (Gave gratuities to them tonight?) The gratuities were charged back to our room with a form provided by Disney, but a stub let them know how much we had chosen, and we made sure to tell them how much their fabulous service had meant to us. They both gave the impression that they loved doing this job.

Patti told us about a tram driver who she had talked to for a while on Castaway Cay. Patti had gone to the adult beach, while Jan had accompanied Nick, Debbie, and I to the family beach and snorkeling area. The tram driver Patti spoke to said that Disney was paying him about $500 a week, and almost all of that was going into his savings. Disney provided housing on the island, food, and uniforms which he wore to work. So, about his only expense was when he took a boat into town for a night out. Most of the people working the island and the ship seem to feel they are getting a really good deal out of Disney.

Looking back at the shipboard restaurants, Animator's Palette wins for themeing, Parrot Cay wins for food, and there is something nice and elegant about Triton's. There is really a mix of three distinct dining experiences here. I was not disappointed in any of these restaurants. And the service, of course, was wonderful each night.

We had one more wonderful play. I had to laugh at Nick beforehand, because he felt he had to chase down the specific waitress who had brought us that smoothie the night before.

Disney Dreams was a whimsical fantasy and tour de force of Disney classic music and stories. There were a lot of memories welling up of Nick's early childhood and my own. There were some great performances and special effects. The effects spread through the whole theater. Again, I couldn't believe for a moment that a non-Disney ship could match this!

After the play, we were all too tired for words. Nick and Debbie wanted to go to bed, so there was no lab or clubbing tonight. I did one last deck walk in the dark, steaming across the ocean, admiring the power of the ship.

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