A newspaper in the Bahamas is reporting that a passenger from a Disney cruise ship drowned while visiting Disney’s private island Castaway Cay.

According to reports by the Tribune, on Thursday afternoon, a 38–year-old man from New York who was a passenger on board the Disney Wonder moored at Castaway Cay drowned while swimming. 

Castaway CayThe details of the incident are unknown.

Disney is known for having trained lifeguards at its private islands, at least for areas where children swim. In a 2008 publication entitled Walt Disney Report on Safety, Disney states that it trains over 1,200 lifeguards a year, including on its cruise ships. Here’s what Disney states:

"Lifeguard Training"

"Together, the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Cruise Line® train more than 1,200 lifeguards a year to monitor activities at these venues."

"Our lifeguards must complete a thorough training program that exceeds most U.S. standards and includes both a water-skills test and up to 24 hours of basic training in water rescue techniques, CPR, basic first aid, oxygen administration and the use of AEDs. After completion of basic training, lifeguards must also perform four hours of in-service training each month, undergo eight hours of recertification training every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world’s premier aquatic safety service providers."

Disney used to not have lifeguards on its cruise ships but recently paid a large multi-million dollar settlement after it was sued when a young child nearly drown on the Disney Fantasy which had no lifeguards.

The last drowning I recall on a cruise line’s private island involved a very tragic death of a 3 year old  girl who died at Holland America Line’s private destination Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  You can read our article about that event here – Tragedy on HAL’s Half Moon Cay: A Mother’s Perspective.

March 1 2015 Update: There was a second incident the following day when the Disney Fantasy was visiting Castaway Cay.  Passengers have contacted me and said that they observed the Coast Guard take someone away whoa needed medical attention while snorkeling. Some passengers said they saw a man with an IV medevaced in a helicopter. 

March 3 2015 Update: The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas reports that "a second passenger in four days has died while vacationing on a Disney cruise to The Bahamas. A 56-year-old American man was discovered dead on Sunday morning onboard the ship at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island."

March 4 2015 Update: Disney confirms that there was a second incident involving a passenger swimming in Castaway Cay. Disney told the Tribune newspaper that the passenger was from the  Disney Fantasy, who was also found unresponsive at the family beach on Friday. “The guest was wearing snorkeling vest and gear and was discovered unresponsive in the water at the family beach by a lifeguard. They brought him ashore and they gave him life saving measures and he was ultimately transported to hospital in Miami.”

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Photo Credit: "Castaway Cay beach" by Soprano For Now – Disney Magic at Castaway Cay 1. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

  • Mary

    Hi- We were passengers on this cruise and witnessed this terrible event take place. However, the passenger was on the Fantasy Ship and was on the last stop of the 7 night cruise. Very sad situation.

  • Janice

    How is passenger on the Fantasy doing? He was incubated when airlifted by US Coast Guard. Hope he makes it through. Prayers for him and his family

  • Michelle

    On Friday February 27th we visited Castaway Cay as our last stop on our Disney Fantasy 7 night cruise. We witnessed a young boy maybe around 9-12 yrs old being pulled from the water after being found face down and unresponsive after snorkeling. They worked on him for at least 15 minutes doing CPR before rushing him to the ship. He was later medevaced off the boat right before the ship left Castaway Cay. We were later told by a boat employee that he did not survive. This event keeps playing over and over in my mind! I cannot image what his parents, friends, and family are going through! Our thoughts and prayers are with them! It’s so shocking that two separate tragic incidents happened days apart!!

  • anonoymus

    The man that drowned on Castaway Cay was our Employee. We are devastated by this. Was there anyone on the Disney Wonder who can tell us what happened. Any information would be so helpful. Thank You!!

  • Friend of the victim

    Hi Mary, would you mind sharing with me what you witnessed?

  • anvonymous

    Two tragedies within a day apart how horrible. That poor boy and his family. Prayers to them.
    The man that drowned the day before from the Disney Wonder was our employee. We are shocked and saddened by this. We are just wondering if anyone has any information because his family doesn’t speak English and we are having a hand time understanding them as to what happened. He was like part of our family and please if anyone witnessed this tragedy any information would be so helpful,
    Thank You

  • close friend

    Anyone on the Disney Wonder no what happened to the man who drowned at Castaway Cay. Did anybody witness what happened to him?

  • Heather

    I was there when it happened. His wife ran up to me & my friend wanting help. Once we realized what she was saying we jumped up to help. My friend jumped in the water to help look for him & I ran for a lifeguard. The staff & lifeguards were there within minutes. They were quick to act &, from what I saw, did everything to the best of their ability.

    My friend & an older man were searching for him while I ran for help. They found him about the time the lifeguard got there. He was in a patch of seaweed so they couldn’t find him immediately. We weren’t sure how long he was under before she ran to us for help. We were both reading & hadn’t been paying attention.

    He was already gone when they pulled him out & wouldn’t let any of us near him or his wife. They continued working on him for a long time, even as they put him in a vehicle & drove off.

  • Cruiser

    I had just gotten out of the water in the snorkel section of a different swim area/bay when I heard the call over the lifeguards’ radio for someone ‘unconscious and not breathing’. My husband and oher kids had stayed in the water while my little one and I got out. As we returned walking to the ship, we saw the golf cart carrying the staff doing cpr (at this point maybe 20 minutes had passed?). A second cart followed with the doctor on his phone and a third with I presume, the family. Then I saw the staff returning to the island after bringing him onboard the ship and they were visibly distraught. We had gotten out of the water seconds before and I thought the water had become rough. I had to work even in my life vest to return to shore and was fatigued. At one point, I thought about alerting a guard as I kept getting pushed back from the shore trying to return. We had swam in the morning and conditions had been calmer.

    I was so sad when I heard the boat was delayed waiting for Bahamian officials as we knew then they hadn’t been able to revive him.

    Please let your coworkers’ family know we prayed continuously for them and am so sorry. For their loss.

  • Chriss

    My sister and partner in their late 50’s were on castaway with us two years ago. Disney cancelled trips due to inclement weather warnings, and yet they hired out tfloating devices which my sister and her fiancée used on serenity bay. Suddenly I could not see them and panicked and called lifeguards, they were slow to respond but eventually found the, floating out on the currents, they were out there for ages screaming for help, they said one minute they were enjoying the shallow waters floating and the next the current picked them up and took them out, both needed treatment for shock and got no empathy from staff, they were sent a bottle of wine to their room and an official took a statement. Our question was where are the lifeguards? Where is the clear signage for warnings,? They need to take responsibility if they are taking vacationers to a so called private island. My sister put in a complaint and concerns as it ruined their holiday with the stress it caused. No response was made. I am concerned about adults with cognitive impairment or disabilities as there are NO lifeguards on serenity bay and still aren’t despite the warning and near misses and tragedies.

  • H

    As a lifeguard I feel for both the family, and the staff members who were all involved. Tragic incidents like this can be prevented but people are very quick to point the finger at the guard first. People seem to think on a cruise or vacation that nothing bad will happen and they let their guard down. I am in no ways pointing fingers or making excuses- but i used to lifeguard at a big water park and people often think lifeguards are babysitters for their children and they are not! Drownings happen in seconds, especially in the ocean and many things can contribute to it. However you must be responsible for your children, and make sure they don’t go where they can’t swim or handle, they are supervised, and they have the proper equipment if needed. I feel for the family and for the staff, and hope that precautions were made on both ends so this never happens again

  • Brian Bednarski

    I am a gold member with Disney Cruise Line and really love Castaway Cay. I notice no life guards on the adult beach but thought nothing of it. Then in Sept 2016 I seen very serious Life guards with water craft watching and warning. Now I know why>>> Having a watchful eye on the beach now is a good thing.