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If you’ve ever been on Disney Cruise or are planning on going on one, Castaway Cay will come up over and over again. Snorkeling in the clear blue water is a highlight for many cruisers. When Shaun and I were there, we went snorkeling as soon as we got off the ship and had the water to ourselves for almost an hour. It was a bit chilly at first, we quickly got used to it. Honestly, I was so mesmerized by the fish and all the props out in the water, I totally forgot how cold it was. They have buoys to show you where all the “wrecks” are so you’re not just wandering aimlessly. It wasn’t till we got out of the water that I realized we had been snorkeling for an hour and a half. The time just flew by! This was the first time either of us had been snorkeling. When we first started planning our cruise, I just planned to rent snorkeling equipment when we got to Castaway Cay, but the closer we got to the trip, I started to second guess renting. I started doing some research on snorkeling sets and here’s what I found out.
What You’ll Need
Snorkeling gear is pretty basic. You’ll need a mask, a snorkel, a set of flippers, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your snorkeling set keeps water out, is comfortable enough to wear for an hour, and will last for many trips to come.
For one, you’ll want a mask with a silicone skirt on it. The mask is very tight on your face to keep water out. Silicone contours to your face while plastic digs in-ouch! Also, get a mask with a tempered glass lens. It’s shatterproof and less likely to fog. Don’t want to miss all the beautiful sights because of a foggy mask.
Bonus Tip: Dip your mask in the water before you put it on to help with fogging!
Your snorkel will attach to the side of your mask. There isn’t much to worry about as far as fit goes here, but there is one thing you want to look for. Get a set that includes a dry-top snorkel. Shaun and I got two different sets and this was the big difference between them. Shaun kept getting splashes of ocean water in his mouth when a wave would hit him. Even when I dove a little with it in my mouth, nothing went in my snorkel. Not sure about you, but I didn’t need a mouth full of ocean water.
Finally, you’ll need some flippers. Well technically, you can go without them, but unless you’re an Olympic swimmer, you’re going to want them. You have to swim against the tide, and It’s quite the workout. GET THE FLIPPERS!
Ok, so you’re buying the flippers. What do you need to look for? First, you will have to pick a size. Don’t get too worried about this. I was right on the line between two sizes and really worried about it, but the flipper straps were extremely adjustable. I was able to tighten mine up so they were nice and snug. If you get ones with the quick release strap, you can get them on and off without having to readjust each time.
Why Buy A Snorkeling Sets
So you say, I can rent all that stuff at Castaway Cay. Why would I buy my own? I have three reasons why I bought our snorkeling equipment and I think you should too.
First, let’s think about how many people visit Castaway each week. Ships come in almost daily and each carries several thousand people. How many of those people do you think rent snorkeling equipment? I’m not sure, but I’m going to guess it’s a lot. So every person that has rented that snorkel before you have been swimming around with it in their mouth for an hour. Ummm….gross!
Now I understand that they sanitize it between customers, and Disney is known for their cleanliness, but I don’t even like wearing rented bowling shoes. My snorkeling set has been worn by one person–Me! I still washed it after I used it to get the ocean water off, but it gave me peace of mind knowing that only I had used it.
Second, I couldn’t believe how much the snorkeling sets were. When I first started planning our cruise, I just assumed it would be more economical to rent, but that wasn’t true at all. For a good quality beginner’s set, I paid $5 more than if I had rented at Castaway! Five dollars to have my own set that I could use whenever I wanted! Which brings me to my third reason–future trips!
Even before going on this trip, Shaun and I thought we would probably want to do more cruising. In fact, we loved it so much, we hope to do a yearly cruise. Next time though we would like to try snorkeling in some other places in addition to Castaway. Snorkeling is now a free activity. Our first trip paid for the snorkeling sets. Plus some of the places we would like to snorkel, I would be hesitant to rent just because I’m not sure they would be as thorough as Disney in cleaning the equipment. Because I know I want to do more snorkeling, buying made sense for us.
Why Rent A Snorkeling Sets
I do have one reason some people may not want to buy. You do have to pack and carry the sets around. Shaun and I took one large suitcase and two-day bags on this trip. I didn’t have any trouble fitting the snorkeling sets into the suitcase. They are long because of the flippers, but they are also very flat. I just threw them on top of everything else and they fit fine.
At Castaway, we did carry them around all day. I put them in my large beach tote and Shaun put all our sunscreen, phones, and other stuff in his backpack. They are a little big, but not heavy at all. It could be a little cumbersome if you have a family’s worth of snorkeling sets. One way around this would be for one person to take them back to the ship after you snorkel.
What I Bought
I got our sets off of Amazon. I shopped around quite a bit and like I said earlier the decision to buy was made pretty close to the trip. The two-day shipping got them there a few days before our cruise. The set I would recommend is the Seavenger Diving Set. It has a tempered glass mask with a silicone skirt, dry-top snorkel, and easy-adjust flippers, and the cost was only slightly above renting.
This set comes in a variety of colors so each family member can keep track of their own set. I chose red because I have a red polka dot bathing suit and I wanted it to match. That’s probably not important, but ya know. Everything comes in a quick-dry, mesh bag for carrying and keeping everything together.
I did get a couple of extra things to add to the snorkeling sets just for added comfort. First, I got a pair of neoprene socks for each of us. I had an unfortunate incident at Disney World in November when a pair of shoes I’d worn a lot suddenly started tearing my ankles apart when it rained all day. Hoping to avoid a similar incident on our cruise, I thought the extra cushion of the socks would be helpful. I didn’t try the equipment without the sock, but my flippers were so comfortable with them that I will be wearing them from now on.
One thing Shaun and I both agreed on was that it took a little while to get used to breathing through your mouth while underwater. It just felt backward to take a big gulp of air with your face submerged. I had these nose plugs on under my mask and it really helped me. In fact, I had taken them off to talk to Shaun in the middle and dropped them in the ocean. After that, I had trouble not exhaling from my nose which broke the seal on my mask at times. I’ll be getting a new pair before our next trip.
Whether you choose to buy or rent, snorkeling at Castaway was a little slice of perfection for me. From the clear waters to the hidden Mickeys and old Disney World submarine, Disney has even managed to add magic even to the ocean. To hear an overview of our cruise on the Disney Dream, head over to our cruise trip report, and sign up for my newsletter to read other Disney fans’ trip reports.