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Disney Lookout Cay aims to keep it authentic in The Bahamas

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Disney Lookout Cay's Junkanoo parade, long sweep of family beach, colorful T's at Disney T'ings, the long pier and Bahamian Mickey
A colorful Junkanoo parade led by some famous 'characters' (with mouse ears) got everybody into the spirit of the new Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera during Friday's first ship call.

The performers, in a blaze of brilliantly feathered, fringed and sequined costumes, playing goombay (goatskin) drums, horns and cowbells, snaked into the Goombay Cultural Center, an open-air pavilion with a curved, sweeping roof. This is Lookout Cay's focal point, with the show culiminating on stage there including a dancing Daisy and Donald Duck and Minnie and Mickey Mouse.

Long sweep of beach

But the real showstopper is the dazzling turquoise water gently lapping a long sweep of powdery pink sand. There's a generous family beach, with the adults-only (18 and older) Serenity Bay at the far end. A separate family cabanas area is in its own cove.

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Lookout Cay's family beach

Rather than creating a fictional story for Lookout Cay, Walt Disney Imagineering is offering cruisers an opportunity to relax and experience the landscape and culture of The Bahamas via art and music, said Kevin Thomas, creative director.

That's where the Junkanoo comes in, with two parade performances a day. And there's music in places (like along the pier) arranged by Bahamian Victor Johnson, who said it was daunting to add a local flair to the 'perfect songs of Disney,' incorporating, for example, the Chip 'n Dale's song into a 'rake and scrape.'

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Landscaping includes many native plants and, at right, Andret John's elaborate wood carvings embellishing a restroom door

 

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More Andret Johns artistry

The trove of Bahamian art ranges from beach paintings in the cabanas by Eleutheran Kevin Cooper (who said a six-pack of Kalik helped his muse) to murals by Dorman Stubbs, composed while he played music ('Because I want to have a symphony going on in my paintings'), to sculptures and Andret John's elaborate wood carvings embellishing even the most prosaic places like restroom doors. 

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Suspended fish sculptures

Different from Castaway Cay

In the water, there are no slides or artificial structures. This is meant to be a tranquil beach experience. Umbrella loungers are set back, away from the shoreline.

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Family water play area Rush Out Gush Out

Waterslides are found upland in the Rush Out Gush Out family water play area. And Sebastian's Cove, dedicated to younger kids (ages 3-10) has gushers and spray zones, and children can douse each other with plastic buckets or play in the little islands of sand.

It's all quite different from DCL's popular Castaway Cay.

Lookout Cay's pier is much, much longer and the destination is more spread out — over 900 acres, with only 16% of the site developed, leaving most of the land in its natural state.

Think of that long pier as a nature bridge

The long trestle pier looks almost endless when the ship comes alongside, and it takes a good 10 minutes or longer to walk. (Passengers with mobility issues need to go to guest services aboard ship to request a trolley.) Ships dock far away to minimize coral disturbance; dredging would have been detrimental.

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Cruisers get their steps in on Lookout Cay's long pier, which the conservation programs manager calls a 'nature bridge'

People are 'walking over pristine marine habitat. It's a bridge. It allows you to interact with the environment without impacting it,' Bradley Watson, conservation programs manager for DCL in The Bahamas, said. Using the native limestone, fish habitats were created along the trestle piles.

Music is piped in along the walk but so far there's no signage or seating. 

From the pier landing — where there's a security area, the charter boat marina, a reception plaza with a few kiosks and the nearby family cabanas beach — visitors hop on trolleys for about a 10-minute ride to the main development. No walking is allowed.

At the moment, the tram path, bordered by chalky limestone, is quite dusty so the drivers are going slower than they will in future. A DCL spokesperson said that dust is from the construction and will settle in time.

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Shells and colorful stones stud a walkway leading from the Goombay Cultural Center tram stop

'Nature was the inspiration'

'Nature was the inspiration' for Lookout Cay, according to Walt Disney Imagineering's Thomas, from the seashell pattern atop the pavilions to the elevated pathways that minimize impact to the site.

Landscaping and plantings include native buttonwood, sea oats and satinwood, as well as non-native species like oleander and bougainvillea.

Nature trail and bike path

The nature trail is a work in progress, leading to the remnants of a lighthouse that gives Lighthouse Point its name. Watson aims to use storytelling to 'make conservation a highlight of the nature experience,' with a handful of characters (activated by a QR code on signage) based on nature elements like Queenie, the queen conch, and Lizzie, the bright blue Auber's (or Cuban) ameiva lizard.

Part of the trail is accessible, and part isn't (it's marked). The western path stretches half a mile, the eastern is a bit shorter and roundtrip it's 0.9 mile.

There will be a separate bike path, too, opening soon.

A map of Lookout Cay is well-hidden in the DCL Navigator app. In future, a spokesperson said, printed maps will be made available on site, along with signage.

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The Junkanoo parade is a highlight

'They got it right,' says Junkanoo expert

There are organized family games and character appearances at the Fun in the Sun Beach Bash, and bike rentals and snorkel rentals are available.

At the Goombay Cultural Center, a workshop where visitors can make a Junkanoo headpiece and other crafts is led by a local school teacher.

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Photo opp with a Junkanoo performer in the Goombay Cultural Center

Junkanoo costumes are all handmade, noted Warren Andrew Pinder, co-chair, National Junkanoo Committee, who was a consultant for Lookout Cay. They're put together using cardboard, crepe paper and other elements on hand. (He quipped that Elmer's Glue sells more in The Bahamas than anywhere else.)

'They got it right,' Pinder said of Disney's Junkanoo elements, adding he was 'extremely happy to see the presentation for the guests.' As part of their research, Imagineers went to Nassau Bay Street for the Junkanoo parades.

'I'm proud that the millions who'll visit Lookout Cay will get a taste of Junkanoo,' Pinder said.

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True-True BBQ, one of three dining venues at Lookout Cay

Dining and drinks

Three dining venues — True-True BBQ, True-True Too BBQ and Serenity Bay BBQ (for adults) — serve the same menu of burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and sides (potato salad, coleslaw, fries) plus Bahamian dishes like grilled mahi-mahi with mango, marinated chicken with pigeon peas and rice, barbecued ribs, rotisserie chicken and plant-based curry stew.

Other choices include grilled salmon, rice bowls and sides of grilled broccoli, corn on the cob and yucca fries.

Apart from the main buffet lines (a mix of served and self-serve areas) are kiosks with water, self-serve beverages and soft-serve ice cream. 

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Dining pavilions are shady and breezy but it was tough to find a seat in some places during Friday's first ship call

Diners sit at round tables in big pavilions that are shady and breezy. Disney Magic was carrying 2,400 passengers on this trip, including several hundred influencers, trade partners and media. At times on Friday afternoon, it was tough to find a seat at True-True Too BBQ and Serenity Bay BBQ (there was more space at True-True BBQ), and little tabletop fly spinners didn't seem to make much difference.

Conservation manager Watson said insects are part of a healthy nature environment.

Four open-air bars are also housed in pavilions that have restrooms and outdoor shower facilities. A signature drink, Eleuthera euphoria, has Goslings Spirited Seas Rum, pineapple smoothie and Dole Whip Pineapple.

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Plenty of outdoor showers are available

On a hot day, Sandsational Smoothies was very popular, serving chilled drinks like peaches & cream iced tea, guava strawberry colada and spicy watermelon limeade ($6 each) and frosty pineapple pleaser (Dole Whip pineapple, marshmallow cream, graham crackers) and mango float (Dole Whip Mango, coconut milk, pineapple juice, mango pearls), among others ($6.50).

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A Mabrika Cove family cabana, left, and, at right, a Serenity Bay (adults area) cabana

Cabanas

The 20 family cabanas stretch out on Mambrika Cove, close to the pier and tram dispatch area, while adults area Serenity Bay has its own six cabanas including one grand cabana with a larger deck.

All are made of wood with windows that open, decks with cushioned loungers and a breezy Caribbean feel. Each has a mini-fridge and a touchscreen for ordering food and drinks and a selection of music. 

T'ings

In a retail area, there were long lines Friday at Disney T'ings, with Disney fans scooping up T-shirts, hats, plushies and almost anything with Lookout Cay on it. Treasures of Eleuthera sells paintings, art prints, notecards, jewelry and straw bags.

Hair plaiting is available nearby.

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Looking up from the family beach toward the Goombay Cultural Center

Eleutherans are welcome

According to Disney's agreement with the government of The Bahamas, Eleutherans may visit Lookout Cay; they go through security like everyone else and wear wristbands; if they wish to dine, they purchase a wristband for that, and they may rent equipment.

A DCL spokesperson noted the island is long, with most people live to the north (the nearest town, a small one, is 45 minutes away). Since Eleuthera is ringed with beaches, a lot of non-cruise visitors aren't routinely expected.

Vive la différence!

Cindy Moeller of Florida-based Moments of Magic Travel has been a Disney cruiser and fan for 17 years, even before she became a travel advisor. She liked Lookout Cay's 'Disney details ... around every corner,' from the 'beautifully constructed' cabanas to the kids' play areas and 'delicious food,' plus the 'beautiful sand and the crystal blue waters' and the 'immersive Bahamian cultural touches.'

Moeller co-administers a Facebook group with more than 18,000 members and is found on Instagram at @CindyMOMT.

Much like the differences in experiences between each of the five current ships, she said, Castaway Cay and Lookout Cay have 'unique characteristics that will bring value to both first time and repeat guests alike.'

Moeller's planning to go back to Lookout Cay on two more cruises this year and looks forward to seeing the destination evolve.