I felt a smidgen of worry about going on a Disney Cruise: It was a complete unknown. I relied on the known to plan my Disney vacations. With 30+ trips to the Land of Mickey Mouse under my belt, I knew Walt Disney World well. I could navigate its every corners and plan for every day.  I knew how to come up with an on-the-spot plan if things went awry or if we needed to escape the crowds.

Cruising was a horse of a different color.

It felt unwieldy: the ship, the rooms, the floor plan, the activities? How could I expect to master them they way I had mastered the Magic Kingdom?

I had never been on a Disney Cruise before, let alone a cruise ship. In fact, I had eschewed all-things-cruise, lumping that style of vacation into fodder for boozy “ugly American types” who looked for the cheapest way to sail around and stay drunk all day.

I associated at-sea vacations with intestinal viruses topped with visions of backed up toilets and broken-down electrical systems.  (I know this is attitude is a crappy thing to admit: I feel as if I have to come clean about it for you to understand the magnitude of my shift in consciousness.) The sensationalism of modern-day cruise ship news had turned me off entirely.

That was until I heard about the Inaugural Castaway Cay Challenge. As a runDisney fanatic, I wanted to do all the races (and to possess the shiny medal).  The call to run was close to pavlovian: I wanted to be one of the select 800 (if eight hundred can ever be considered exclusive) who could boast about “having done the marathon AND the island race.”

It was salivatingly special and I was hot-to-trot to sign up and book my trip.

The Inaugural Castaway Cay Challenge 2015 was a combination race offered to Walt Disney World Marathon participants. Runners who had signed up for any of the WDW weekend races (The 5k, 10K, 1/2, Full, Goofy or Dopey Challenge) were eligible to sign up to run the 5k race on Castaway Cay on January 14, 2015.

Lucky runners who had waded into the shallow end of the vacationing pool with Marathon Weekend could option to go deep: a runDisney vacation topped with a 5-day runDisney CRUISE vacation.

It felt like (and was) the ultimate in vacation decadence.

My husband was an easy sell.

“I loved the idea of taking a cruise.  I didn’t have all that negative cruise baggage like you,” he said to me.

It was true: his positivity was the gentle push (dare I say supporting evidence?) of our need to take this running cruise. I swiped our credit card and hit the Disboards and Mousesaver expert’s page to read up on all-things-Disney-Dream.


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Marathon weekend 2015 came and went with much success. We ran the 13.1 miles with our team from Maine and celebrated our triumph sweetly.

That joy was punctuated (she said with a wee bit of a maniacal laugh) by the knowledge that we would stay on after everyone else had to say, “Goodbye!”

Our friends made their way to the airport as we climbed aboard the Disney Cruiseline bus. It was packed with other gleeful runners and their families.

Our medals clanged around our necks as we passed the time to the ship launch in Port Canaveral. We swapped stories and excitement over what was to come.  Yes, there were other veteran cruisers, but NONE who had done the Castaway Cay Challenge. The race course and on-board offerings would be new to everyone.

The magic that awaited us had just begun.


Next up: How I missed my grand boat embarkation from excitement and confusion and why it is crucial for your 1st time, to get a stateroom with a view.