Inside Look: MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
MSC Cruises has debuted its own private island destination, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Set in the Bahamas, just south of Bimini, this slice of paradise features two miles of pristine sandy white beaches, crystal blue waters, and numerous activities perfect for a fun-in-the-sun day.
Ocean Cay is a little different from other cruise line private islands. This destination was developed with sustainability in mind and aims for guests to develop a stronger appreciation for the environment. To create Ocean Cay, MSC added more than 75,000 plants and shrubs and 5,000 palm trees, 95% of all species native to the Bahamas. All the man-made facilities of the island are low-impact and have been developed to minimize the impact on the environment. The island is powered by a solar farm and has a zero-impact water recycling system. While you won’t find huge water parks, character meet and greets, roller coasters, or over-the-top attractions on Ocean Cay, you are still guaranteed a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime experience during your time in port.
With Ocean Cay’s close proximity to Florida ports, the island will be included on most of MSC Cruises’ Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries. MSC has built an on-site pier at Ocean Cay, eliminating the need for a tender to the island and giving guests easier access on and off the ship. MSC will dock at Ocean Cay for the day, but the line plans to incorporate overnight stays with select itineraries. As such, MSC has developed a range of nighttime events and activities on the island like Junkanoo parades and beach parties, or evening paddleboarding.
Cruiseline.com recently spent a day exploring all that Ocean Cay has to offer. We were pleasantly surprised by all of the activities and things to do on this island paradise! Here’s a look at what you can expect if your next voyage with MSC Cruises includes a day (or overnight) at this island paradise.
Water, Water, Everywhere!
There are a total of seven different beach areas on Ocean Cay. The North and South Beaches are located on each side of the lagoon and offer calm waters perfect for swimming. Sunset Beach (the largest beach area) is a stretch of picture-perfect white sands and blue waters that look straight out of a postcard. Lighthouse Bay is the closest beach area to the ship. It features lounge sofas and several beach bars. On the north side of the island is Paradise Beach, home to the Spa at Ocean Cay and Ocean House Beach, a dedicated area for MSC Yacht Club guests.
Whether you want to spend the day lounging in the sand with a cocktail in hand or enjoy water sports, there’s no shortage of adventures! As a note, not all activities on Ocean Cay are included and some rentals or excursions are an additional cost. For those interested in a water activity, the excursions desk is found in the main pavilion as you step off the ship.
A sample of water-based activities on Ocean Cay includes jet ski tours around the island, the ‘Rum Rendezvous’ catamaran sail, and scuba diving lessons. MSC offers floating mats, kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment rentals. If you are looking to chill out on the beach there are several complimentary beach chairs and couches dotting the shoreline, as well as rental options for large private cabana areas.
A View from Above: The Lighthouse
One of the first things you will notice when you reach Ocean Cay is the standout red and white lighthouse on the southwest side of the island. This area is one of the central hubs of Ocean Cay, complete with a beach area, full-service bar, and a winding path offering panoramic vistas. In addition, MSC offers an excursion where guests can climb up the winding 165-step spiral staircase for a complete 360 view of the island.
The lighthouse offers a fun, entertaining light show set to music complete with a Junkanoo parade at night. So kick-off your shoes and dance the night away on the beach!
Take a Bite Out of the Bahamas
Dining options at Ocean Cay operate the same as on the ship. There are a variety of included and extra-cost eateries. If you purchased a beverage package for the ship, it will also work on Ocean Cay. One of the things that struck out as we explored the island was that you were never more than a stone's-throw away from a spot to grab a cocktail or bite to eat!
Seekers Food Court is the central eatery on the island, serving a wide variety of buffet items inspired by the Bahamas. This area offers a large shaded seating area perfect for escaping the midday sun.
There are also a number of food-truck style eateries named the ‘Beach Shack’. These quick-eat options serve up locally-inspired fares like seafood ceviche, lobster grilled cheese, grilled octopus salads, and other seafood eats.
At the Smiling Fish and Coffee Bar, you can cool off and enjoy a frozen treat between all of your activities. We tried the specialty iced coffee, the Ocean Cay Coco-Nilla Latte, a sweet iced beverage featuring expresso, vanilla flavoring, and coconut milk.
Ocean Cay Village & Marina
Ocean Cay Village is the island's central area, just steps away from the dock. This area is home to the Marina, where most of the water-focused rentals and activities are based. In addition, the Village is home to a number of boutiques selling local gifts and wares from the Bahamas and a variety of MSC Cruises and Ocean Cay branded merchandise. You will also find several Beach-Shack stalls ready to serve you a delicious bite to eat.
Super Coral Program & Facility
The MSC Foundation recently broke ground on Ocean Cay for a research facility that will support the organization’s efforts in researching and studying coral. This Super Coral program was created as a response to the emergency of coral reefs approaching an increasingly imminent extinction from climate change and pollution. MSC partnered with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Nova Southeastern University to bring this program to life.
Together, MSC, graduate students from the university, and other experts will “research, develop, test, and refine methods to reverse the decline in coral reefs in the 64-square-mile marine reserve around Ocean Cay.” From their research and testing, the program’s goal is to pioneer the rebuilding of damaged coral reefs with coral species resilient to environmental threats.
The MSC Foundation will create materials and a space at Ocean Cay where cruise guests can learn more about the emergency facing coral reefs worldwide and how the public can take action.