Disney Fantasy, Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point, June, 2024

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 16, 2024, 3:12 PM | comments: 0

Our 27th cruise was a no-brainer. Last year Disney announced that they were building a second "private" island, and there would be an inaugural cruise that would stop there twice. It would also include a stop at the existing island Castaway Cay, be on the Fantasy (our favorite with sister ship Dream) and it would be out of Port Canaveral. That last part is important because, going forward, only itineraries out of Fort Lauderdale will go to the new island. Also, Fantasy normally rotates through the Caribbean itineraries, and honestly, most of the ports in the tropics feel the same. But three beach days? Sign us up!

We decided to sail with Internet friends, a guy I've known virtually for like 20 years, but only met a handful of times in real life. He has two teenage boys, so with an intersection of interests, including cruising on DCL, it just kind of made sense. Cruising with others is generally more fun, especially if there's no intention to do everything together. You also don't risk ending up at a dinner table with a woman who describes squatting on the side of the Beachline to take a pee on the way in (true story). It also meant having an opportunity to split the cost of a cabana, which at $900 doesn't make sense for three people. Even better, it was on the new island, kind of "first" if you don't count the media/VIP trip a few days before.

Embarkation day was a special kind of swamp-ass humid. I was kind of worried, because the ship felt crowded. There were some rooms left the week before, surprising for an inaugural cruise, but the adult deck was mobbed and getting a cocktail was a slow affair that day. Simon went to do teen stuff, Diana found a place to read, and I took a delightful nap. Just before dinner, I wandered into the La Piazza bar and had a quiet drink. After dinner, we took up residency in Skyline, happy to see one of the bartenders from our December 2022 cruise was still there!

The next day was at sea, which involves a familiar ritual. Breakfast, walking loops on the promenade deck, probably trivia or some other activity, mixology before dinner, chilling on deck 4 after dinner. I especially value that walk, since the Wish (which does the short Bahamas itineraries we often do) doesn't have a loop, which is super lame. Mixology gave us entirely new stuff, which was mostly good, but it wasn't super hands-on the way it has been with other bartenders. Our at-sea day on the last day was very similar to this, though with no-shows at mixology, we ended up consuming much of the "extra" beverage.

Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point is a really terrible name, and no one is really sure what to call it for short. The after-cruise survey, interestingly, just called it Lighthouse Point, which kind of makes sense, since that's what it was called before Disney bought it. The first look at the island, South Eleuthera, is a little intimidating, because there's a half-mile-long pier that you have to traverse before passing through the security checkpoint on land. This is necessary because the reefs make it impossible (well, environmentally irresponsible) to dredge out a dock right up on the coast. To compare, on Castaway Cay, the distance from midship to the tram stop is about 900 feet, or 0.17 miles. There's no question that people are going to complain about this. We don't use the tram on Castaway, so we're typically walking 0.6 miles to our usual spot on the beach. But there's something about this that feels different, and not just from the chafing in a wet suit on the way back.

But this first stop, some of us didn't even go into the meat of the island. For unclear reasons, they plopped the cabanas right there near the trams and checkpoint, so that's where we went. We're pretty lucky, because we were able to work the network for this reservation, which would be hard to get normally, let alone on an inaugural visit. Despite the distance to the rest of the property, they have some basic bar service and lunch to feed the folks in these 20 cabanas. The buildings themselves seem pretty much like those on Castaway Cay, as best I can remember from 10 years ago. There is comfortable furniture, a stocked beverage fridge, snacks, fruit, towels, beach toys and a fresh-water shower. Because of the tides (or so they said), they don't have a one-to-one ratio of umbrellas and beach chairs, which I know isn't going to go over well. We were one of the first there, so we quickly commandeered a bunch to sit at the water's edge. We barely saw anyone, really, so it felt very private for the seven of us. I do enjoy exclusivity, so this was excellent.

The basic drinks available included mojitos and rum-soaked Dole Whip, and they weren't screwing around with the pours, fortunately. The supply of canned water and soda was included, and the boys definitely wrecked the Coke and Sprite stock. The fruit quickly attracted so many flies that you'd not want to eat any of it other than the bananas. Lunch had the same problem, only worse. The amount of flies surrounding and invading the little service building was very bad. They had these little table-top helicopter like devices, and crew waving around napkins, but it didn't really help. I don't remember what all was offered, but I scored some spicy/crispy chicken (think Wendy's, only actually spicy) and some fries. I quickly covered it all with a napkin and went back to the cabana. The rest of our group had already returned, and the flies were overwhelming. I ate the chicken, but if you had to cut anything out in the open, forget it. It was so, so bad. Obviously they understand the problem, but it sucked for everyone.

Lunch aside, I spent the day doing mostly nothing in the water, in a chair by the water, on the chaise longue (not "lounge," Disney!), in the water and in a chair by the water. It was so quiet and peaceful. Unlike Castaway Cay, there's nothing keeping wildlife in or out, or blocking the waves, so it's far more dynamic in this spot. A little octopus or squid or something washed up between our chairs, and before I got to see it, it was gone. Fortunately, the sand crabs were everywhere, and I love how they, uh, crab walk. We concluded our time there by getting a golf cart ride back to the ship, a perk that I didn't expect.

Next day was Nassau, which I think I've been to at least 20 times, and only left the ship once, which was enough. We always book brunch at Palo, since it's free for platinum/pearl status. I'm not a fancy food eater, but the food is always extraordinary, as is the service. They have a chicken parm that impossibly doesn't seem fried, sitting on life-changing risotto. I could eat it every single day.

Castaway Cay was the next port, and we were really slow getting out of bed and moving. Simon has reached true teen status and is out later than we're up, most of the time. When we did go down, Simon took the tram, whereas we got our steps. The problem is that he didn't get off the tram, as he stayed on for a later stop where the teen club is. The bigger problem is that he didn't tell us, he had a bag with some of our stuff, and the wifi once again was down so we couldn't message him. The rain was closing in as well, so things were generally not looking great. The food is notoriously terrible on this island, and I don't know how they don't see it and change it. I realize I'm high-maintenance, only eating poultry, but dry-ass chicken doesn't require a master chef to see. A previous head server indicated we could special order stuff in advance, so I asked for that same spicy chicken I had on the other island. I got it, but it was cold. Simon finally showed up, and by that time I was just kind of deflated, and we headed off the rain, returning by 1. Unfortunate for an unusual day where all-aboard time was 6.

The return to Lookout/Lighthouse the next day had similarly dire looking weather, but fortunately it stayed dry. It was also a little windy, which mostly helped mitigate the problem with the flies. No VIP treatment this time, so we boarded the tram for the one-mile ride to the main area. It was really, really well done. There are very heavy awning structures over many buildings and eating areas, and a network of decks pass over an otherwise rugged landscape. There are some freshwater slides and splash areas for kids. Oddly, there are pockets of umbrellas and chairs behind the big dune that lines the beach, and you can only get to them by going over the dune from the decks and then back over the dune.

Our group set up camp at the northern most part of the family beach, close to the small handful of adult-only cabanas and dining area. Curious that the family cabanas were isolated, while the adult ones were not. We had lunch over there, and a live, local band was playing there. Many of the people working there are local to Eleuthera, so it isn't just crew. Lunch was basically the same as what they had over at the cabanas, only without the flies, because of the wind I think. As best I can tell, it was all stuff that was generally better than the Castaway food, though Simon for some reason wouldn't eat the burgers, and with no hot dogs either, he eventually returned to the ship earlier than the rest of us.

The beach itself is stunning. Right about the point at which you can't touch the bottom is where the coral reefs begin, so if snorkeling is your thing, this will blow your mind. We even saw a ray swimming around. The water is impossibly clear. But the biggest win, to me, is that there are real waves here, something Castaway sorely lacks. What I love most about the ocean is the sound of surf and the waves kind of tossing you around. It kind of tires you out, but I find it deeply therapeutic. It was so great. Overall, I think Disney completely nailed it, without going overboard like Royal Caribbean. And the only thing that costs extra is alcohol.

The property is definitely not done though. Bike rentals weren't available, because there was no bike trail. The nature trail out to the actual lighthouse was also not done. It looked like a lot of landscaping wasn't done yet, and I even noticed some missing signage where only sign brackets were.

We had a solid dining team, which is typical despite some recent experiences. The crew in the Skyline bar was every bit as great as those in previous years. We never did close the bar, not like we often did in Europe, but in addition to our cruise-mates, we met a lot of interesting people and enjoyed many beverages.

Overall, it was a great week, and it feels like it went by too fast. The new island is lovely. I'm also excited to have another family to cruise with.


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