Ocean Cay

10 facts about MSC Cruises’ new private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

MSC Cruises has unveiled ambitious plans to create a £134 million marine reserve island experience in the Bahamas.

MSC Cruises will join other cruise lines that offer guests access to their own private islands or resorts.

Disney Cruise Line has Castaway Cay, Royal Caribbean has Labadee and CocoCay, Holland America Line has Half Moon Cay, Princess Cruises has Princess Cays, and Norwegian Cruise Line has Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye in Belize.

Here are ten facts about MSC Cruises' new private island Ocean Cay.

1. A marine reserve

Its full title will be "Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve", but it will no doubt be referenced as "Ocean Cay" by most. The island lies 20 miles (about 32 kilometres) south of Bimini and 65 miles (about 105 kilometres) east of Miami, Florida.

The island will span 95 acres (38.5 hectares) in size, and will boast 1.5 miles (about 2 kilometres) of pristine beachfront spread across six distinct beaches.

MSC Cruises claims Ocean Cay will not only be the biggest island development by any cruise company in the Caribbean, but it will also be the only marine reserve island experience.

A comprehensive landscaping plan will see more than 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs, such as Jamaica Dogwood, Red, Black and White Mangroves and Beach Morning Glory planted across the island.

2. A former sand extraction station

The island is a former sand extraction station. MSC Cruises will invest $200 million to transform this into a thriving marine reserve and Caribbean tourist destination.

MSC Cruises call it a transformation from "resource exploitation to resource conservation."

Construction should start in March 2016 and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve should open to guests in November 2017.

3. A pier

A purpose-built berth and pier on the seafront will be constructed to avoid the bottleneck caused by the need to use tender boats to transport passengers to the island.

Getting around should be straightforward as a network of walking and running paths will be added. Rent bicycles as well as other forms of "stress-free transport", whatever those are.

4. Dedicated family beach

MSC Cruises are a very family-friendly cruise line, and it is great to see this philosophy on the island.

A dedicated family beach, complete with a kids' restaurant, fun play areas, and other handy facilities will keep children and their parents happy.

Ocean Cay

An artist's impression of Ocean Cay

5. Private MSC Yacht Club sanctuary

MSC Yacht Club guests will continue to receive VIP treatment off the ship as the north-west corner of the island has been set aside as an exclusive spa and wellness sanctuary, with private bungalows and massage huts.

Non-Yacht Club guests can find instead tranquillity at the charming inland lagoon instead.

6. A zip wire

Thrill seekers can rejoice in the knowledge that the island will offer its own zip wire.

From the image above the island doesn't have any tall peaks that look like a great place to start a zip wire from, so I wonder if the lighthouse at the south-western tip will be used for this purpose?

A variety of must-have water sports and beach games will also be available for fun seekers.

7. Weddings

MSC Cruises offers symbolic wedding packages aboard its ships.

On Ocean Cay they will be installing a pavilion for weddings and celebrations, suggesting there may be land-and-sea combination packages that might follow.

8. Onboard services will remain open

MSC Cruises has said that the ship and all onboard services will continue to be open when docked at Ocean Cay, including the casino.

Even so, there will be an architecturally faithful Bahamian village on the island with plentiful restaurants and bars offering local specialities together with a variety of shops.

9. Stay late in the evening

The benefit of having a pier is that passengers can come and go as they please. MSC Cruises will use this to their advantage and offer nightlife on the island.

Plans include live music and entertainment hosted in a purpose-built 2,000-seat amphitheatre, restaurants and bars.

MSC Seaside itineraries have already been updated to include a call to Ocean Cay. Calls will be from 9 am to 11.55 pm. 14-night back-to-back cruises from Miami on MSC Seaside will include two calls to the private island.

MSC Divina will also call at the island during its sailings from Miami. MSC Opera and MSC Armonia will join the pair in including Ocean Cay on itineraries sailing from Havana, Cuba.

10. It will take two years to construct

The project was originally going to take two years to construct and was due to open one month ahead of MSC Seaside's launch in Miami in December 2017.

The official ground breaking ceremony takes place on 6 October 2016. Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will now open in October 2018. Calls to the Reserve scheduled between December 2017 and October 2018 will now divert into Nassau.

The project is expected to cost a cool $200 million (£134 million).

The company plans to recruit 240 Bahamians in various roles over 2016 and 2017. In addition, the company will open a crew training school in Nassau to provide local staff for the growing number of MSC Cruises ships sailing the Caribbean.

What are you most looking forward to doing at Ocean Cay? Let me know in the comments below.

(Image credit to MSC Cruises)

Upcoming mini cruises


    • Good question. MSC reckons it offers a range of accessible tours and excursions, although the details are locked behind a login screen and I don’t have a cruise booked with them at the moment so cannot see. You might have more luck – details here. If you find any, could you share the details here as I’m sure others will appreciate that information too?

    • At this stage I’m not sure. I’ve read reports that the food and drink on the island will come with a fee, but passengers can head back onboard the ship as a free alternative (for food, and where the passenger has a drinks package).

      To quote MSC Cruises directly, “To minimize waste while on the island food and drinks will be served primarily on the ship, where all restaurants, buffet and bars will be operating regularly. Remember, the ship is docked at the island and you can come and go at any time. On the island itself there are several options including a few bars, buffet and informal food carts – not included in your standard cruise ticket or on-board beverage package; but you can upgrade your on board beverage package to include unlimited drinks on Ocean Cay. “

  1. Instead of going to Atlantis Hotel in Nassau, will the Ocean Cay Marine Reserve have water animals such as dolphins or seals to see or to play?

    • Good question. The term “Marine Reserve” makes me wonder, but I am sure the cruise line will carefully consider whether they will have any animal attractions. With the current movement against captive animals, I expect the island itself won’t have such attractions. If the surrounding waters are rich in marine life then I could see sightseeing excursions being offered.

    • They will not have animal attractions. But will offer glass bottom boat tours, snorkeling, diving with instructor, water floats and jet skis

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