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5 Things to Love About MSC Cruises’ New Private Island

 

MSC Cruises has charted a new course for private cruise destinations in the Bahamas.  

Instead of following the long-established template of creating a resort-style playland with waterslides, swim-up bars, splash zones, and wave pools, the cruise line has designed its new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve with an eye toward restoring and preserving the marine environment. 

MSC Cruises’ New Private Island

MSC Cruises and a team of scientists and environmental engineers undertook the ambitious project over the course of three years. Ocean Cay, which sits just 65 miles from Miami and is located in the Bimini chain of the western Bahamas, opened to cruisers in December 2019. 

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Panoramic View
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Panoramic View

Ocean Cay is a former sand excavation industrial site that operated for decades and had a detrimental effect on the marine environment. Coral and seagrass suffered greatly, and wildlife departed from the cay and the surrounding waters.  

MSC and its partners got to work removing 1,500 tons of scrap metal, installing rock systems at the shoreline and planting 77,000 new plants and trees on the 95-acre island. With the cleanup and other improvements to get it ready for cruise visitors, the result is a rebirth as a new destination that travelers can enjoy while gaining a better understanding of the importance of marine conservation. 

Cruise Addicts visited Ocean Cay during a cruise on MSC Divina and discovered five reasons to love MSC’s private island in the Bahamas. 

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Lighthouse.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Lighthouse.

Uncrowded and Idyllic Beauty 

Ocean Cay offers unfettered beauty, with pristine sand and views of blue waters offshore at every turn. Miles of white-sand beaches include access to lagoons, bays and the Caribbean Sea. You can find uncrowded spaces to relax all over the island at the eight named beach areas. Bimini Beach is on the Caribbean Ocean; Seakers Family Cove offers a secluded retreat; Sunset Beach and Lighthouse Bay are great for swimming, and Aurea Paradise Sands is a great spot to get a massage treatment while enjoying ocean views.  

Loungers are available, but umbrellas come with a rental fee. Cabanas also are available to reserve for the day.

View of MSC Divina from the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Lighthouse Bar.
View of MSC Divina from the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Lighthouse Bar.

It’s Also a Marine Research Center 

This is not a showy amusement park-style cruise destination. No zip lines. No waterparks. And no swimming pools.  

Instead, it’s a place of relaxation, recreation – and research.    

MSC is building a Conservation Center on the island, which will serve as an active base for coral education and research. Scientists and students from colleges and universities in Florida and around the world will work at Ocean Cay, and visitors will be able to interact with these passionate conservationists and learn about the wildlife and ongoing restoration and research projects. 

MSC Cruises says that the unspoiled beauty of the ocean and beaches is at the heart of the Ocean Cay experience, and the eco-friendly and sustainable practices on the island as well as designating the surrounding waters as a flourishing marine reserve are built around a commitment to protect the destination. 

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, MSC Cruises’ private island in The Bahamas.

You Can Play in Blue Waters 

Stunning blue waters envelop Ocean Cay, making for ideal places to cool off with a swim or laze about on a floating mat. Active pursuits include snorkeling, kayaking or standup paddleboarding. Equipment is available for rent.  

Rays, tropical fish and even sharks can be seen in the waters around the marine reserve, a protected area in the ocean that covers 64 square miles around the island. It is expected that more wildlife (fish and birds) will appear as the seagrasses continue to improve and the palm trees and other foliage grows. 

A boat ride to a shipwreck for snorkeling is a popular excursion. Certified divers can also book a scuba experience at Ocean Cay. Jet skis are also available to rent to tour the waters around the island. 

A food truck at the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
Several Beach Shack food trucks are also placed throughout Ocean Cay, serving up burgers, hot dogs, salads and pizza.  

Shopping, Dining, and Drinking 

Ocean Cay Village greets cruisers as soon as they step off the ship at the pier and stroll onto the island.  

The Bahamian village offers shops and boutiques where you can buy souvenirs and other items. Springers Bar is the main bar, located just past the welcome center. You can also find beach bars set up close to the waterfront areas. 

You’ll enjoy indulging at the nearby café and The Smiling Fish gourmet ice cream shop. 

Seakers Buffet is a large facility with tables in the shade. You can find traditional American barbecue favorites and a range of Bahamian cuisine. Several Beach Shack food trucks are also placed throughout Ocean Cay, serving up burgers, hot dogs, salads and pizza.  

Lighthouse light show at the Ocean Cay Marine
MSC ships stay late into the night at Ocean Cay, and the line offers a lively traditional Junkanoo Parade with music and dancing that ends up at the beach for a Lighthouse light show. The tower lights up the night with a dazzling light-and-song display.  
MSC ships stay late into the night at Ocean Cay
MSC ships stay late into the night at Ocean Cay

The Lighthouse Show and Junkanoo Parade 

The variety of daily activities includes things like kite flying, yoga, and water aerobics sessions. The iconic feature on the island is the Lighthouse, which offers an excursion to climb up the 165 steps and 115 feet for the best views over Ocean Cay. Drinks and bay views are available at the Lighthouse Bar, which features a large deck space. 

MSC ships stay late into the night at Ocean Cay, and the line offers a lively traditional Junkanoo Parade with music and dancing that ends up at the beach for a Lighthouse light show. The tower lights up the night with a dazzling light-and-song display.  

The party lasts for a few hours, as a DJ plays music and passengers line dance and sit around fire pits on comfy bean bag chairs on the beach.  

Yes, this private beach from MSC Cruises definitely has a special kind of feel. 

The line’s four North America-based ships – MSC Armonia, MSC Divina, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside, make stops at Ocean Cay on different days each week.

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