I have always said there are two types of people out there – those who get excited about running a 5K on Thanksgiving Day and those who think you’re joking when the former suggests it. I am proudly a member of the Turkey Trot enthusiast club and because of that, I’d be the first to sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K on my next Disney Cruise too.
And even if you are one of those who could not imagine their holiday ruined by 3.1 (sometimes cold) miles, I ask that you not disregard Disney races because no one does races quite as magical as Disney.
Why runDisney Races?
So you ask why Disney races are worth it even if I’m not an avid runner, especially one that requires me to run on vacation? Well first off, you don’t have to run. Walking is entirely allowed and sometimes even necessary.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island that is exclusively for Disney Cruise guests. Even seasoned runners can struggle in the Bahamian heat so there is absolutely no shame in walking.
Secondly, I repeat that the Castaway Cay 5K is on a private island. Can you imagine how beautiful the course is? I find that the miles go by much more quickly when I love the scenery. And also, because it is a private island you don’t have the massive crowds other races do, especially the ones at the Disney World park, because the amount of people who can participate is limited to those on the ship.
If you aren’t a regular runner but want to participate in this unique shore excursion that no other cruise line offers, you won’t be the only one. Disney races, in general, aren’t for the elite of the elite. This isn’t Boston.
Disney races are definitely more for the “everyman” and are about fun, not competition. And there is nothing like the camaraderie of a runDisney Race with Disney Cruise Cast Members and other passengers along the race route to cheer you on. Afterward, you share a sense of accomplishment with the other participants and earn a much-deserved beach day.
Also, unlike regular shore excursions, or Port Adventures as Disney Cruises likes to call them, there is no additional charge to participate in the Castaway Cay 5K. A great workout, beautiful scenery, and the Castaway Cay 5K medal for free? Sign me up!
How Do You Sign Up?
Prior to last fall, you could not sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K prior to boarding the ship. Disney Cruise Line guests can now pre-register for the 5K via their My Cruise Reservations > My Plans > Add Activities component for Castaway Cay days. However, the options to book the Castaway Cay 5K are not necessary where you’d expect them to be, under Port Adventures. The Castaway Cay 5K options are listed under Onboard Fun. If you do not pre-register, you can register once you are onboard the ship with Guest Services as long as space is available. Guest Services will ask for your name and room number to register you.
Regardless of how you register, the night before the race, a letter, and a ticket similar to what you would get for any other shore excursion will be delivered to your stateroom. On the ticket, it tells you when and where to meet on the ship the day of the 5K prior to disembarkation. They give a quick presentation about the race route and specific instructions about what to expect.
Your ID will be checked so be sure to bring your key card with you, you’ll be given your bib and then you all proceed to the start line together.
What About My Kids?
On a Disney Cruise, it is likely to be a family vacation with young kids right? They don’t have to be left out of the Castaway Cay 5K run. Runners as young as 10 can register for the race to get a commemorative race bib and medal. Runners under 10 are allowed on the course with their parents but they do not get the bib or medal.
If you don’t want your younger children participating in the event, you will have the chance to drop them off at Scuttle’s Cove before the Castaway Cay 5K starts.
Scuttle’s Cove is Castaway Cay’s kid’s club so adults can enjoy the 5K or just adult time while on the island. They offer supervised child care and lots of fun activities. It features a 1,200-square-foot soft wet deck area that provides fresh-water fun with an array of pop jets, geysers and bubblers, and Monstro’s Point—a giant whale-bone excavation site.
To take advantage of Scuttle’s Cove while running, bring them with you to the pre-race meeting on board the ship, you will then be allowed to disembark first to take them to Scuttle’s Cove prior to the race start.
Race Day and the Race Route
The morning of the Castaway Cay 5K, per the ticket and letter you received the night prior, you will head to the meeting place on board the ship to hear instructions and ask questions if you have any. This is the meeting to bring your children to if you want to drop them off at Scuttle’s Cove prior to the start.
After disembarkation as the group heads toward the start, if you’ve carried anything with you off the ship that you don’t want to hold on to during the race, there are lockers available to store your stuff. It is recommended, though, to not bring anything you don’t need while running because, after the race, nothing will feel better than going back to the ship for a shower and a quick cool down. After that, you can enjoy the rest of the day on Castaway Cay with your sunglasses, sunscreen, and whatever else you need with you for a private island day.
The Castaway Cay 5K route starts at the island’s airstrip, goes through a forested bike path, and then a quick turn around at Serenity Beach (the adults-only beach) before going back through the bike path again to the finish. The bike path is the only part of the race that is shaded so be sure to lather on the sport sunscreen and the path is regularly used by other passengers who are not participating in the race so listen closely to the pre-race instructions about where to run on the bike path.
There are two water stops along the course and because you are in the Caribbean and it will be hot and humid, staying hydrated throughout the Castaway Cay 5K is incredibly important. After you cross the finish line, Cast Members will be waiting to award you your exclusive Disney’s Castaway Cay 5K medal and a certificate of completion signed by Mickey Mouse.
This is my favorite part of any race I participate in and usually my biggest motivator – the medal. If a race doesn’t give out a medal, I don’t sign up because I basically collect them.
A Castaway Cay 5K finisher’s medal is included in the free price of the race registration along with a commemorative race bib and it is definitely a collectible. If you are interested in other race swag, shirts, and other Castaway Cay 5K items can be purchased at the Buy the Shore Souvenir Shop.
Although the free registration gets you an exclusive Castaway Cay 5K medal, for an additional charge, a Premium Package option is also available where participants receive a Disney Castaway Cay 5K cinch sack, water bottle, and hat.
Castaway Cay 5K Challenge
In your google research of the Castaway Cay 5K, you may have come across the Castaway Cay Challenge. This is slightly different. Although the 5K takes place every time a Disney ship docks at Castaway Cay, the runDisney Castaway Cay Challenge happens every January after Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
Marathon weekend of 2021 is January 6-10. To complete the Castaway Cay Challenge for 2021, you must run a race at Disney World during Marathon Weekend and this can be anything from a 5K to a full Marathon Then on the 4-night cruise that departs Port Canaveral on January 11th, participate in the Castaway Cay 5K. You will then have completed the Castaway Cay Challenge
In addition to the Castaway Cay 5K medal, you will receive a special Castaway Cay Challenge medal that changes every year and a participant t-shirt. The Castaway Cay Challenge is perfect for those planning and Land and Sea Adventure with Disney which Disney makes incredibly easy and convenient.
If you’ve ever cruised, you know how indulgent cruises can be – all you can eat food and snacks and drink, three-course dinners, lots of lounging, etc. I am a firm believer that you should enjoy your once or twice a year (if that) vacation to the fullest but the beautiful private island Castaway Cay 5K with family and fellow passengers is the perfect way to indulge guilt-free.