Pre-COVID Favorite Returning to Disney Cruise Line

The last two years have brought different times to the Walt Disney Company. From closed Disney theme parks and Resort hotels being forced to stop operating to Disney Cruise Line ships sailing with only Cast Members on board, it’s been a very interesting time for Disney fans.

Brighter times have begun to arrive though and feel like a breath of fresh air after the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in July 2020, Disney Parks around the globe started to open to Guests once more. Although not a theme park, Disney Springs in Lake Buena Vista began phased opening on May 20, 2020. Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened their gates for the first time, on July 11, 2020,  after closing on March 16, 2020. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT followed shortly after on July 15, 2020.

But whilst Disney theme parks and Resorts started to open throughout 2020, Disney Cruise Line remained out of operation for Guests to experience and enjoy. It wasn’t until July 15, 2021 that Guests could once again sail with Captain Mickey and Minnie. Disney Cruise Line’s original ship, the Disney Magic, embarked on its Magic At Sea Staycation cruises around the United Kingdom. 


Credit: Disney

Restrictions on Board

Cruises aboard Disney Cruise Line have been on a journey since opening. Whilst restrictions were still pretty tight, Guests were required to wear face masks while indoors. Seating in the bars and up on deck was restricted, with chairs and sun loungers blocked to ensure Guests were separated by a safe distance.

Disney characters waved from balconies or the stairs in the atrium and appeared only at activities that stopped Guests from waiting in line for a photo opportunity. To enter and exit each of the bar and restaurant areas and activities, Guests were required to sanitize their hands. Initially, when in the Walt Disney Theatre, Guests were seated by Cast Members, in every other row, and with a space of 6 seats between each party. 

These are all things that have been lifted gradually since the very first Guest cruise in July last year. Of course, safety remains a top priority whilst onboard a Disney ship for Guests and Cast Members. However, sailing now provides a more relaxed environment than before.


Credit: V Mills

Things still missing from a Disney Cruise

Whilst Disney cruises are returning to their pre-COVID normality, there are still a couple of things missing:

  • The “it’s a small world” nursery is currently unavailable for babies and toddlers to experience.
  • If Guests wish to meet with Cast Members at Guest Services they are required to make an appointment using the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App first.
  • As of now, the Castaway Cay 5K is not an event offered with an official group start by Cast Members.

We’re hoping to see the rest of these offerings resume very soon. The return of the Sailing Away Deck Party, only last week, has provided us with some indication that Disney Cruise Line will bring back these Guest-favorites. We’re anticipating that they will resume in time for the maiden voyage of the Disney Wish in July.


Credit: V Mills

Disney Cruise Line’s running event

The Disney Cruise Line Castaway Cay 5K is a favorite activity for Guests to take part in when visiting Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

When operating as an official event, Guests meet with Cast Members before disembarking the cruise ship. Participation is free; Guests, aged 10 and over,  just need to sign-up ahead of participation, which can be done using the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App.


Credit: V Mills

Disney Cruise Line Guests taking part in the 5K are the first to disembark onto the island, at around 8:30 a.m. Cast Members guide runners from the ship to the start line, which is located near the Bike Rentals. The 3.1-mile course guides runners along the bike trail and airstrip on the island and finishes back at the start line. Previously, runners would receive the Castaway Cay 5K finishers medal, however, this is currently not offered.

Whilst the Castaway Cay is not an official activity currently offered by Disney Cruise Line, Guests are still welcome to complete the 3.1-mile course, at a time that suits them during their time on the island.


Credit: Disney Cruise Line

runDisney Castaway Cay Challenge

Well, now we have some good news! We have finally been given some indication that the Castaway Cay 5K will return to cruises offered by Disney Cruise Line.

Recently, dates have been confirmed for the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2023. The run weekend will take place from January 4 to January 8, 2023. The usual races and challenges are taking place, but with an additional challenge added for runners to sign up for.


Credit: runDisney

The Disney Castaway Cay Challenge is set to take place on January 12, 2023. Guests participating in this challenge will be joining the Disney Wish cruise, sailing from Port Canaveral on Monday following the Marathon Weekend. Beginning at 7 a.m., runners will complete Disney Castaway Cay Challenge by running the Castaway Cay 5K.

Not only will they receive the Castaway Cay 5K Medallion, but also a special challenge medal too. Once completed, runners get to enjoy all that the beautiful island of Castaway Cay has to offer. Think white-sanded beaches, crystal blue water, hammocks to lie in under the shade of a palm tree, and plenty of water activities. What a way to celebrate the completion of a runDisney Challenge!

Registration for the runDisney Castaway Cay Challenge has unfortunately already closed. However, it is worth registering your email on the runDisney website, in case additional bibs come available. Now will be a good time to secure your reservation on the January 9 cruise aboard the Disney Wish, as you’ll need your reservation number to register for the Castaway Cay Challenge 2023, should bibs become available.


Credit: runDisney

News of the return of the Castaway Cay Challenge has got us pretty excited, so we’ll be keeping an eye on the full return of the Castaway Cay 5K. It’s an activity that is very much missed from Disney cruises at the moment.

You don’t get the same magical experience when you are running it yourself! If we have to wait until January 2023 for it to return, we can definitely deal with that. It’s a port adventure that Guests won’t regret taking part in, and get a cool medal to remember it by too!

About Victoria Mills

Victoria is a Disney-loving, tea-drinking, Math teacher from Liverpool, England. Her motto is 'work hard, Disney harder'! Having taken part in the Disney College Program back in 2010, Victoria's love and appreciation for Walt Disney World only grew, and it's the place where she feels most herself - it's home!