It is best to book excursions early on the Disney Cruise website. If you wait to book excursions until you arrive on the ship, you’ll be disappointed to find that most everything is already sold out. Online booking windows are different depending on how many Disney cruises you have taken. When your window arrives, stay up until midnight and book what you want online immediately. Here are the different Castaway Club member levels and when you can begin booking excursions, spa appointments, and adult restaurants:
If this is your first Disney cruise: booking opens 75 days before your cruise
Silver Castaway member: after 1 cruise – begin booking 90 days before your cruise
Gold Castaway member: after 5 cruises – begin booking 105 days before your cruise
Platinum Castaway member: after 10 cruises – being booking 120 days before your cruise
Once you arrive on the ship, Disney handles the rest. You will receive tickets the night before your excursion telling you what time and where to meet on the ship. Then you and you excursion group depart the ship together and a Disney staff member will lead you to your excursion transportation.
Even though booking excursions through Disney, or any cruise line for that matter, is more expensive than booking directly through the excursion provider, it is better because the ship will not leave without you if you are late getting back to the ship after your excursion.
Nassau is not the safest island which we discovered the first time we visited and saw local men walking with machetes and homes with barbed wire fences around them. I recommend sticking to the downtown shopping/tourist area or the excursions provided instead of walking around the island aimlessly.
Atlantis is a great place to visit and there are a few different excursions to choose from. A cheaper excursion is called Atlantis Beach Day and includes the bus transfer, tour of Atlantis, use of the lagoon, the aquarium, the private Atlantis Beach and lunch with a beverage. A much more expensive Atlantis excursion includes use of the aforementioned areas and lunch plus access to the water park. The water park is usually very crowded with children and since we are a child-free couple, we always opt for the cheaper excursion to avoid the masses of kids.
A small bus will take you to Atlantis, which is about 20 minutes away, and whenever you feel like returning to the port, the bus will also take you back. It runs every 30 minutes.
When you get off the bus, you’ll be met by an Atlantis guide who will show you around the premises and then you are free to enjoy yourself. Our guide told us this sculpture is worth one million dollars. Around this sculpture are a few shops and past that is a casino that is beautiful but usually pretty dead during the day.
You’ll then be shown the man-made lagoon that you are welcome to swim in. At the top right of the picture you can see a tiny man-made beach and this is where you enter the lagoon for a swim. There are some beach chairs and umbrellas for your use.
The private Atlantis beach is gorgeous with crystal clear water. Only Atlantis hotel guests and cruise ship passengers who have paid for Atlantis excursions may use this beach so it is never crowded.
Atlantis has an impressive aquarium that is the largest in the Caribbean. Below is Stingray Lagoon. Most of the rest of the aquarium is underground.
We opted to have lunch at the outdoor food vendor that had some tables near the swimmable lagoon. I ordered fish and chips and my husband had a hamburger and fries. We both thought our food was a good sized portion and very tasty.
Atlantis is definitely a unique resort with a lot to offer. We enjoyed our visit and highly recommend it.
GRAYCLIFF CHOCOLATE FACTORY
We loved our excursion to Graycliff! The transfer bus ride is short at about 10 minutes and when you arrive you are met by a very friendly girl who will be with you for the remainder of the excursion. It is important to pay attention to everything she says because at the end of the day she will ask some questions and whoever knows the answers wins free chocolate! After meeting her, the first thing everyone must do is don these funny blue caps and yellow dresses.
You’re then taken on a tour of the chocolate factory and it is explained how they make all their chocolates (pay attention). Then you move into a classroom for some hands-on fun. In front of you are various ingredients including a strawberry, a large marshmallow square, assorted nuts, coconut shavings, small chocolate chips, and of course, a cup full of chocolate so you can make some chocolate creations. The instructor will lead you through making different chocolates using the ingredients in front of you and it is truly so much fun making a mess like a little kid!
After making all the smaller chocolates, you end by creating a chocolate bar! You must shine your mold by wiping/polishing it by hand before pouring chocolate into it and the more you polish it, the shinier your bar will come out. There is sort of a contest to see whose bar is shiniest.
At the end of the excursion, you are given a very nice wooden box to put all your treasures in to take back with you onto the ship.
The Graycliff Chocolate Factory Tour is cheap compared to most of the other Nassau excursions and is so much fun that we highly recommend it to everyone!
CARIBBEAN QUEEN SNORKEL TOUR
There is an option to take a snorkel tour by catamaran that goes to the same place as the Caribbean Queen, but it is $10 more per person. The Caribbean Queen isn’t as pretty as the catamaran, but we’re glad we chose it because it was a wonderfully fun excursion, and for beginners like us, we felt completely comfortable the entire time. Also, they accept a smaller amount of people for the excursion which means the water isn’t packed with people. About 10 minutes before our boat left to return back to the port, the catamaran arrived and we couldn’t believe how full of people it was. After seeing that, we were so glad about choosing the Caribbean Queen!
The Caribbean Queen is docked near the cruise ships and it was only a five minute walk to get to it.
You can sit where you like and a 25-45 minute boat ride to the reef begins. There were only 35 people onboard.
The boat has 3 levels. The top is where the captain always is. For the initial sail, no one is allowed up here, but once the boat has stopped at the reef, you are free to come up here.
The middle deck is where all the seating is and where you enter and exit the water from. The lower deck has bathrooms. During this ride out to the reef, island music is playing and a clipboard gets passed around and everyone has to fill in their name.
After everyone has signed the clipboard, all the snorkel equipment is handed out. They provide everything: the mask, fins, and an inflatible life vest. There were a lot of beginners on the boat so the instructor explained how to snorkel and told us that if anyone was nervous, you could take one of the floats and place it under your tummy so that all you had to do was float in the water and place your mask in the water a little bit.
The picture below shows how far from land the reef if. When you are in the water, you are reminded to stay over the reef. The reef is behind the boat which is where you must stay. Swimming to the front of the boat is not allowed. You also can’t swim too far out to the side. The water is about 10 feet deep.
The stairs go down into the water which makes it easy for beginners who don’t want to jump in.
You get about an hour in the water and the entire time there is an instructor in the water with you and the other instructor stays by the stairs to keep an eye on everyone. As you can see, there weren’t too many of us so we felt we had plenty of room to swim around. The water was completely clear and we could see down to the reef below that had all sorts of fish. There were small ones and big ones and although they occasionally came near people, we were never actually touched by any fish. Some people were experienced enough to dive down but you are not allowed to touch the reef.
The picture below is of the catamaran excursion. It arrived about 10 minutes before our boat left the reef. We could not believe how many people were squeezed onboard and in the second picture, all the people in the water with red floats are from the catamaran. We were so glad we chose the Caribbean Queen instead.
During the return ride to the port, water and bags of chips are offered for a dollar or two each. The instructors point out what you are seeing in the harbor including homes owned by Beyonce and Jay Z, Chuck Norris, Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp, Tiger Woods, and Oprah Winfrey.
You also pass by Atlantis.
I was terrified to go snorkeling for the first time since I don’t like being in the open water, but we really loved this excursion and thought it was well worth the money.