MSC Cruises' New Island Paradise

An image of the predicted layout for Ocean Cay island. MSC Cruises Pics.
An image of the predicted layout for Ocean Cay island. MSC Cruises Pics

MSC Cruises Creates Island Paradise
The cruise company will be opening an exclusive island marine reserve

By Danielle Aihini

MSC cruises, the Geneva-based global cruise line, announced in December 2015 ambitious plans to create an unprecedented and one-of-a-kind exclusive marine reserve island experience in the Bahamas.

The visionary project was officially launched earlier this year in the Bahamian capital Nassau, where Prime Minister Perry Christie and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago signed a 100-year lease agreement that will enable MSC Cruises to occupy and develop a small island and name it Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

The MSC Divina at sea.
The MSC Divina at sea.

Executive Vice President for MSC cruises, Ken Muskat, explained how the Ocean Cay project was developed as part of MSC's ongoing efforts to expand in North America. Already the leader in the cruise industry in Europe, South Africa, and South America, developements made over the past six months have created serious momentum for MSC to become a big player in the North American market as well.

"We will be building 11 new ships over the next 9 years," said Muskat. These new additions will double the current MSC fleet, and allow the company to expand to the North American market.

Some of these new ships will be headed to Miami, Florida, where MSC will have a new home port for cruises to the Caribbean.

Plans in the Making

Over the next two years, MSC cruises will work hand in hand with the Bahamian government as well as top ecologists and biologists to develop the cay. The island was once a sand extraction plant, and MSC’s plans include turning this tiny slice of paradise into a thriving marine reserve that will harmoniously coexist with the local ecosystem, and set a stong example for other cruise companies looking to become more eco-friendly.

MSC aims to transform the local economy base from one of resource exploitation to one of resource conservation, all the while offering a fun and unique experience to cruisers.

In keeping with the company’s commitment to providing absolutely authentic cruise vacations, the island will offer some of the finest beaches in the world, amid an array of Caribbean-inspired experiences.

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An MSC ship cruising near Mexico.
An MSC ship cruising near Mexico.

The family that owns MSC cruises has more than 300 years of seafaring heritage, which has engendered a deep respect for the ocean that underpins the company’s operations today.

MSC Cruises is committed to protecting the waters it navigates. As one of the most ecologically conscious cruise lines in the world, the company will invest approximately $200 million in creating a flourishing natural haven on what was previously a desert island.

At 95-acres in size, and with 11,400 feet of pristine beach front spread across six separate beach areas, Ocean Cay Marine Reserve will be the biggest island development by any cruise company in the Caribbean, and will also offer more beach space per visitor than any other Caribbean cruise destination.

All installations and experiences on the island, which lies just 20 miles south of Bimini and just 65 miles east of Miami, Florida, will be fully sympathetic to the culture and traditions of the Bahamas. A comprehensive landscaping plan will see more than 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs expertly planted across the island. There will be an architecturally faithful Bahamian village, plentiful restaurants and bars offering local specialties, a variety of shops, and an inviting welcome center with an island-themed music gazebo.

Pioneers of the Cruise Industry

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Ocean Cay is the unique and exclusive way it will be available to cruisers. The island will only be open to MSC cruise guests, and the entire stop to the island will effectively be an extension of the cruise experience itself.

"There will be a pier built, so the ships can pull up and dock, and one of the nicest benefits of that is that it is also going to be the first time that any cruise line is offering a nighttime experience as well as a daytime experience, " explained Muskat.

Great for Weddings

"In most cases, the ship will stay docked [at Ocean Cay] until about midnight, cruisers can enjoy the daytime beach experience with snorkeling, scuba diving, and all the water sports, and then you can go back on board and change to then go back out onto the island and have dinner, watch the sunset. It will be great for weddings, and family reunions, and other special events that happen at the island. It really offers a whole new experience now that we can be there during the day and the night."

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Most cruises typically only pause at land destinations for half-day excursions, making the full day berth at Ocean Cay a truly special experience for cruisers.

MSC ship travelling through the Caribbean.
MSC ship travelling through the Caribbean.

There exists nothing quite like Ocean Cay in the modern cruise industry, and this exciting and unique project will certainly make MSC a top contender for vacationers across the world.

Maiden Voyage in Dec 2017

The maiden voyage to Ocean Cay Marine Reserve will depart from Miami in December 2017. Cruises are available on two ships, the MSC Seaside and MSC Divina, and available in 7, 10, and 11 night packages to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Current Caribbean itineraries can take passengers through the Western Islands, stopping at Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel, Mexico. Or, cruisers can choose an Eastern route that stops at Nassau, Bahamas, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. These routes will all include stops to the new Ocean Cay Marine reserve upon its grand opening in 2017.

Devinne Zadravec

Fond of big dogs, stargazing, and foods covered in hummus, Devinne Zadravec is a writer/photographer/explorer from New England. Her favorite hobbies include hiking, yoga and writing. Currently, you can find Devinne hanging with her sisters in her Massachusetts home, or off adventuring, writing, and loving life in some new corner of the globe.