Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the newest private island in the Caribbean, has officially opened, welcoming its first guests as passengers disembarked from MSC Divina, the first ship to visit the island.
Nestled in the Bimini island chain of The Bahamas, Ocean Cay is a marine reserve painstakingly rehabilitated after years of use as an industrial sand extraction location.
MSC Divina docked Thursday morning at the island, located just 65 miles from Miami. It’s proximity to MSC Cruises US hub enables longer stays ashore, including night-time activities such as lightshows and traditional Bahamian Junkanoo parades.
Captain Scala, the master of MSC Divina, shared pictures on social media of the ship’s early morning arrival at the island.
He also shared a celebratory picture from the bridge wing with the local pilot after the ship was made fast alongside for the first time.
“MSC Divina has officially docked on the Ocean Cay Marine Reserve! Welcome MSC Cruises, guests and crew – all dreams come true!” he said.
Ocean Cay has been designed with conservation in mind, the cruise line has rehabilitated the endemic marine life through coral restoration, and implemented best environmental practices and plans for scientific research and education programs.
This is reflected in the on-shore island experience as well. Highlights for example include snorkelling shipwrecks and stargazing, and while there is a lighthouse that serves as a bar, lounge, attraction and entertainment venue, there will be no wild and messy beach parties.
Instead of waterparks and wild thrill rides, Ocean Cay offers up spa treatments, cabanas and eight beaches, with food trucks serving complimentary bites and a traditional beach buffet called Seakers.
Several tiki bars will serve drinks (included if you have an MSC drink package), and the most popular is bound to be a local Bahamian-owned bar called Springer’s, with views of the marina.
The opening of the island to cruise passengers marks the end of a years-long development program. Ocean Cay was intended to be launched in December 2017, but was subsequently delayed three times, the most recent in November, 2019, when MSC said the environmental rehabilitation was proving more difficult than anticipated.
“We determined the ongoing environmental due diligence and related highly complex operation will require additional time,” the cruise line said at the time. “Our work on the island is an ongoing process as our commitment to protect, restore and conserve this beautiful cay is part of a multi-phased effort.”
Four MSC ships will sail to Ocean Cay from Miami: Meraviglia, Seaside, Divina and Armonia. Other ports of call on these sailings include Nassau on short sailings and a wide variety of Caribbean ports including Ocho Rios, Cartagena, Costa Maya, San Juan and more on longer itineraries.