Pillaging an Abandoned Disney Resort

Like a pirate outdoing himself during an initiation trial, I rampantly pillaged the abandoned island hotel. Here, on the island, there were no rules. Instead, there was my crew and a bonfire to fuel.

About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to act as a crew member on a 100 foot sailing vessel. I spent one of the best months of my life sailing around the Bahamas fulfilling the dream of every person who has ever watched Steven Spielberg’s classic Hook.

About halfway through the sailing adventure, something magical happened.

After taking one of the early shifts on anchor watch, I ventured into the bridge as the captain was taking over the morning shift.

“Where we off to today?”, I said with a grin that only child-like curiosity could spawn.

He returned the smile and explained that we were off to an abandoned Disney resort. I looked at him with complete bewilderment.

A Blunder in the Bahamas

The captain explained that several years prior, Disney had invested millions of dollars into a small nearby island. The plan was to make that island one of the stops for the major Disney cruise ships.

After completing construction of a beautiful hotel, several elaborate docks, multiple island excursion properties and a full featured outdoor theatre, it finally came time for the first cruise ship to arrive.

Fortunately, that never happened.

scuba-divingApparently, the crew who was in charge of measuring the waterways failed to accurately calculate the effect of tides. The result was that the billion dollar cruise ships could not get close to the island without risking serious damage. The management looked into the cost of building a longer dock and into ferrying cruise passengers but both proved cost prohibitive due to the local weather cycles and the location of the already constructed island resort.

So what did Disney do? Not wanting to spend more money on the failed project, the company simply cut its losses. Instead of deconstructing everything on the island and shipping away the goods, the company just abandoned the whole resort!

The fully stocked hotel, the state of the art outdoor theatre and all of the items on the island were just left there and written off as a loss. The loot included jet skis, small boats, expensive generators, industrial kitchen equipment and everything else needed to operate a resort!

Nearly nine months had passed since the island had been abandoned when my crew arrived. That moment was the closest I have come to wetting myself out of excitement.

The first thing I did was look at my friend and fellow crew member and ask him the only reasonable question a person in my situtation could ask, “What should we break first?!”

Wide eyed, he pointed at the theatre. Running as fast as we could, we ran down to the stage and hopped up. There was broken glass all around us as others had already pillaged the lamps.

We broke chairs, kicked set pieces, threw bulbs and climbed all over the place.

This was our warm up.

Screaming, singing and laughing out of control, we pillaged everything in sight. It was a feeling better than losing my virginity… and far less awkward.

I looked back at my friend, “What should we do now!?”, I unintentionally screamed at him.

Like maniac pirates we ran into the wooden hotel. Our devastation continued. We tore into painting, flipped an industrial refrigerator and broke fancy looking windows. I ran crazily down the long hallways and attempted to break into all of the rooms.

In a rare moment of sanity, I looked out a cracked window to see what the adults were doing. Maybe I had gone too far? Was what I was doing wrong?

Through the window that I had just shattered, I saw the group of adults ripping apart a gazebo and throwing the wood pieces into a pile. They were in the process of making a massive bonfire out of pieces of the hotel!

YES!

This was a place for living boyhood dreams, not a place for proper adult supervision.

It Gets Even Better

That day I learned several things. First, pillaging makes you really hungry. Secondly, coconuts are extremely delicious and fun to cut down with a machete. Thirdly, coconut milk is an incredibly fast acting laxative. Lastly, abandoned island resorts do not have working plumbing or anything else that resembles toilet paper.

Cleaning myself in the nearby sea, I spotted something odd in the distance. Right before the horizon was an enormous boat tied to a ridiculously fancy and large ship. I later found out that the boat was a dinghy and the ship was Octopus, Paul Allen’s world famous super yacht.

Putting on snorkeling gear, I swam out to see what I could find around the island. (The yacht was out of swimming distance.) Within 10 minutes of starting my mini-exploration, I found a school of wild dolphin. Overloaded, I swam with them completely ignoring the salt water that was filling my gaping smile.

Between rampaging, snorkeling and exploring the ship that Disney had intentionally sank for Scuba divers, I absorbed enough happiness to last me decades.

That night, I sat with the rest of the crew. We were all completely exhausted and overwhelmed by the events of the day.

To my left was the bonfire the adults had built. It was nearly two stories tall and raging. To my right was my friend buried up to his neck in the sand. Apparently, he used his time on the island to dig an incredibly big hole in the beach. (A fair use of time in my opinion!)

Together, the crew and I used our friend’s precarious position to turn him into an anatomically correct sand-mermaid.

Thus ended, the first perfect day of my life.


This story gets even weirder when you start researching the history of the island. According to my research this past week (which is almost 10 years after the visit), the island was called Treasure Island (not to be confused by Disney’s other abandoned island, Discovery Island). The best estimate that I can find is that Disney spent 30 million on it before abandoning the property.

The strangest part of this whole story is that for as interesting of a place as Treasure Island is, there is very little information available about it online. There isn’t even a wikipedia article. There is however, pictures! Check out the following sites for more details:

P.S. The photos in this post are NOT from my time on the island. The post image (the dock) was taken during another one of my favorite adventures, a spontaneous trip to Belize. The second photo, me scuba diving, was taken the same week as visiting the island but not at the same time.

8 comments… add one

  • Lee Kennedy Jul 24, 2013

    Why…why is your life so much better than mine?! That sounds like every boy’s dream. How long did you stay there? I feel like I’d want to bring like 10 people and spend a week and see what kind of Lord of the Flies shenanigans we could get into…

    • Danny Dover Jul 24, 2013

      Damn, I didn’t make the Lord of the Flies connection when I was there! (Maybe too young? Maybe too dumb? Probably both.) That would have made for some fun situations and photos.

      I was there for only about a day. In hindsight, I would have stayed there much longer. The whole experience was surreal and I don’t think any of us were thinking straight. :-p

  • Erin Jul 24, 2013

    Pillaging an abandoned tropical island paradise? DUDE! Next time, invite a sista!
    Great post. Great life. You inspire me. :)

    • Danny Dover Jul 24, 2013

      Thanks Erin! Just subscribed to your blog. Looks like you are living the dream yourself :-)

  • Simply Paul Jul 24, 2013

    Danny I love the fact that even when Disney get it wrong that they still manage to make people’s dreams come true. Like you I dreamed of being a paste like Hook or Long John Silver, but in reality destroying and pillaging things just isn’t me.

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