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Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve was added to the list of private Bahamas locations operated by several cruise companies in 2019.
The island — which got a lot of attention from the outset since it was adopting a different strategy than other similar projects – launched in late 2019 after multiple construction delays and a few stumbling obstacles.
MSC Meraviglia, MSC Divina, and the new MSC Seashore are among the ships that presently visit the island. MSC Seaside and MSC Armonia were also frequent visitors prior to the cruise industry collapse. The island is accessible by ship from both Port Miami and Port Canaveral.
Of course, the lineup is continuously changing, much like the island itself, depending on which ships are stationed where.
To Tropical Paradise from a Dumping Ground
Ocean Cay is a small island in the Caribbean. MSC Marine Reserve is one of the most unusual beginnings stories you’ll ever hear. The region has been utilized as an industrial dumping site for decades. Where others may have seen an environmental disaster that needed to be ignored, the MSC team saw a challenge that they eagerly welcomed.
The task of regaining the island would be difficult. Excavators would discover tons of scrap metal to remove for each piece of old equipment or rubbish recovered from the earth.
As a result of the delays, the island’s inauguration date has been pushed back from 2017 to late 2019. The island is now again teeming with aquatic life, thanks to the rubbish removal.
By late 2021, however, the island had not only begun to welcome visitors, but it had also hosted the christening ceremony for MSC’s newest ship, Seashore, which was presided over by none other than actress Sophia Loren.
The MSC Seashore has arrived in Ocean Cay.
It’s where it’s at.
One of the factors that has contributed to the popularity of many cruise line-owned private islands is their closeness to Florida… particularly considering how many ships depart from the Sunshine State’s ports.
Ocean Cay is around 50 miles off the coast of Florida, therefore this is the situation. This implies that guests on MSC’s ships may stay on the island until late at night and still arrive in PortMiami in the morning.
Ocean Cay is 22 miles south of the Bimini Island cruise terminal, where Virgin Voyages and Carnival Cruise Line ships dock, and lies immediately to the south of North Cat Cay.
Getting to the Pier
The fact that visiting ships drive up to a pier is one of Ocean Cay’s most enticing features. In other words, there’s no need to return to the island in a tender boat.
Because the cruise company owns the island and built it from the ground up, they have complete control over the surroundings. While many private Caribbean locations have traditionally required passengers to use tender boats, guests to Ocean Cay may disembark the ship straight onto a pier, just as they would in cities like Nassau.
Ocean Cay, MSC Meraviglia
When ships dock at Ocean Cay, they usually back into the slip with the starboard side of the dock facing the dock. MSC Cruises owns and operates the island, therefore the cruise line is in charge of everything. This means you won’t be bombarded by taxi drivers and souvenir sellers as soon as you get off the ship. (The same cannot be true for photographers, who will be there to take photographs that you may subsequently purchase.)
Because Ocean Cay is actually a stand-alone island, unlike some other locations, you do not need to carry your driver’s license or passport with you when you depart – simply your keycard.
Ocean Cay’s weather
Because it is located just off the coast of South Florida, you may anticipate similar weather to that of Miami. In the winter, it may be as cold as 60 degrees, while in the summer, it can be as hot as 90 degrees. The sea breeze helps to reduce the humidity, but natural shade may be difficult to come by since the island is still relatively young as a tourist attraction and hence lacks a lot of flora.
In the winter, the water temperature is 77 degrees, while in the summer, it is 87 degrees.
If you fear the temperature will be too hot for you during your vacation, try renting one of the island’s numerous cabanas.
Unless you wish to provide a tip to island employees or a crew member working at one of the bars, there’s no need to bring any money ashore. The cruise card is accepted everywhere on the island, for anything from beverages to shopping, since it is owned and run by MSC.
If you’re interested about the local money, the Bahamian Dollar ($BSD) or the United States Dollar ($USD) are both readily recognized.
How to Get Around
While the island is extremely walkable, getting around it may take some time. Whether you want to avoid walking about in the heat, have mobility challenges, or just don’t feel like exerting too much energy, MSC has a tram system set up with stops at several sites of interest.
Those staying in the Yacht Club, MSC’s ship-within-a-ship enclave with dozens of facilities, will be met by private golf carts upon disembarkation and whisked straight to a secluded part of beach reserved exclusively for Yacht Club guests.
On the island, there is lots of shopping, and you don’t have to go far to find it. Several shops in Ocean Cay Village offer anything from tee shirts to shot glasses, as well as plush animals. They take your cruise card here, so you won’t need cash or a credit card.
MORE: 15 Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve Visitor Tips
What Should You Do?
During the Working Day
With nearly two miles of sandy white beaches, soaking up the sun and enjoying a refreshing plunge in the crystal blue seas is an obvious way to spend the day here. While Ocean Cay lacks the ziplining and waterslides featured at some other cruise lines’ exclusive destinations, there is still much to do here, with a strong focus on the natural environment.
The Tours and Activities Pavilion will greet you as you exit the ship. If you’re trying to schedule a last-minute activity, here is the place to go.
Some trips are likely to sell out immediately, while others will have lots of openings. If there’s an excursion you’re interested in, keep checking your MSC app or the shore excursions desk during your journey.
Our advise is to book it rather than risk finding out later that it is no longer available.
Kayaking experiences, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, jet ski rentals, spa treatments, climbing the lighthouse, playing games in the sports area, or just resting on the sands of one of the numerous beaches are just a few of the activities available on the island. If you want to tie the knot or renew your vows while you’re on vacation, there’s even a wedding pavilion on the island.
On Ocean Cay, a view from the top of the lighthouse.
Because there are so many beaches and lagoons on the island, it’s important doing some study before you travel to find out which one is best for you. Bimini Beach, North Beach, South Beach, Seaker’s Family Beach, Lighthouse Bay, Sunset Beach, Aurea Paradise Sands, and the Ocean Cay Lagoon are among the eight beaches.
Ocean Cay’s Family Area
If you have small children in your vacation group, Seakers Family Cove is the place to go. The region provides a range of family-friendly activities, such as sand castle building competitions, treasure hunts, and challenges for the whole family to participate in. You’ll also discover the Family Lagoon and, more conveniently, the Seakers Food Court, which serves both American and Bahamian favorites and is completely free.
Ocean Cay at Night
Despite the fact that it’s becoming increasingly frequent, Ocean Cay was the first private island to provide after-dark activities. Many sailings include overnight stays or visits that extend until 1 a.m.
(It’s worth mentioning that even if the ship stays overnight, visitors are expected to spend the night aboard – they are not permitted to stay on the island.)
Ocean Cay comes alive at night with the Bahamian Junkanoo Parade, live music, and a light display, as tranquil as it is during the day. The lighthouse that serves as the island’s anchor is illuminated by millions of LED lights that, although unnoticeable during the day, turn it into a focal point after the sun sets. The celebration proceeds late into the night, with a DJ blasting songs and glow paddle-boarding on the beach.
Food and Beverages
Aside from Seakers (which is basically Ocean Cay’s version of an island buffet), there are many food trucks providing a range of alternatives.
Meanwhile, the eye-catching lighthouse has a bar with comfortable seats (both in the sun and shade) at its foot, and Springer’s Bar, an original Bahamian hangout, is located in the harbor.
Are you looking for some soft-serve ice cream or coffee? Go to the Smiling Fish, which is vividly colored. And, owing to a number of beach bars, you’re never far from a tasty treat to help you cool down on a hot day.
Ocean Cay’s Final Thoughts
MSC Cruises not only gained a spot at the “private destination” table with Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, but also established its island as really unique. The cruise company has worked up with colleges and experts to help restore the coral and marine life surrounding the island, which is a nice touch. Sea turtles arrived to the beach in late 2021 to deposit eggs and nest.
Ocean Cay, although a little more low-key than Royal Caribbean’s Fantastic Day at CocoCay, has everything you need for a perfect beach day.
The pier, which enables bouncing back and forth between your ship and the island as simple as stepping down a gangplank, also gets high marks for its after-dark entertainment. The new private island of MSC Cruises is a great victory for both the cruise line and its passengers.
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