Just 65 miles south of Miami in the Bimini chain of islands lies a tropical, Bahamian paradise called Ocean Cay. The 95-acre island is owned by MSC Cruises and was set to start welcoming visitors in December 2019.
Because of its proximity to Miami, guests can enjoy the island’s many offerings even on three and four-night cruises. Though it may be small, Ocean Cay is a well-thought-out island experience that is truly unique in the world of cruising. Here are four things you need to know before you go.
1. Ocean Cay is a Marine Reserve
Differentiating itself from other cruise line private islands like Royal Caribbean’s newly developed, Cococay, Ocean Cay is the opposite of a theme park island. MSC calls the Marine Reserve “A sustainable destination where guests can connect with nature.” I call it an impressive commitment to environmental stewardship in the middle of The Bahamas.
As Ocean Cay was being developed, 7,500 tons of scrap metal and debris were removed from the island and transported to a licensed waste contractor in the US. In its place, 75,000 trees, shrubs and plants were brought in that are native to the region to restore the island’s original beauty. More than 400 coral reefs were relocated and the waters surrounding the island are now a protected coral nursery spanning 64 square miles.
Ocean Cay’s guiding principles include sustainable operations as well with an on-island solar farm managed by a smart grid and an island-wide ban on single-use plastics (bring your refillable water bottle!). Guests are encouraged to join the eco-revolution while in port too by signing up for dedicated programs about ocean sustainability and coral preservation. There are even plans in the works to create a marine laboratory on the island to research coral that are resistant to the effects of climate change.
2. Guests can enjoy Ocean Cay after dark too
Another defining feature of Ocean Cay are its late-night port calls. Not only can guests experience amazing beaches and stunning vistas during the day, they can also see the island come to life after dark with many of the island’s calls staying until nearly midnight!
You can enjoy a romantic picnic on the beach at sunset followed by a traditional Bahamian Junkanoo parade and a spectacular lighthouse light show. Don’t miss the Glow Night-time Stand-Up Paddle Boarding where guests can glide under the starry sky on an LED equipped board lighting up the crystal-clear waters.
The kids will love Captain Doremi’s educational Stargazing Adventure where they’ll learn about the mysteries of the galaxy while immersed in entertaining stories and riddles. There’s plenty for adults to enjoy into the evening as well with beachside firepits and several watering holes around the island featuring live music and DJs.
3. There’s a beach for everybody on Ocean Cay
With 8 different beaches on the island–each offering unique ambience and amenities–guests who visit Ocean Cay are sure to find a sandy shoreline that suits their beach vibe. Sunbeds on all beaches are free of charge, while umbrellas and cabanas are available for a fee. Here’s an overview of some of Ocean Cay’s spectacular beaches:
North & South Beaches – Said to have the most spectacular views on Ocean Cay, this duo of beaches is separated by a tranquil lagoon, the perfect protected swimming area to float the day away.
Paradise Sands Beach – Located next to the Ocean Cay spa, choose to enjoy a massage or facial treatment in an oceanside cabana taking in the sound of lapping waves as you ease into total relaxation.
Family Lagoon Beach – A shallow water beach, this protected cove is perfect for little ones to splash around in. It’s also conveniently located next to the island’s food court in case hunger strikes.
Snorkel Beach – This is where the action is! With kayaks, paddleboards and snorkel & scuba gear available to rent here, there’s no shortage of ways to stay active if sunbathing isn’t your thing.
4. The island is considered an extension of the ship
One of the biggest benefits of visiting a cruise line owned island is that everything is just logistically easier. Getting on and off the ship is a breeze with no line ups for ID checks and no tender required to get into shore. You can head back to the ship anytime to eat, change your clothes or even take a nap!
Although there are many complimentary activities and dining options on Ocean Cay, your onboard cruise card lets you conveniently pay for any non-inclusive items the same way you would on the ship. Swipe it to pay for food, drinks, ice cream and souvenirs in the gift shop. The only exception is the traditional Bahamian market which is cash only. MSC’s onboard packages for alcoholic beverages and wifi extend to Ocean Cay too, allowing you to enjoy a cocktail while you share the day’s amazing experiences with your social networks.
For your next visit to Ocean Cay, consider MSC’s other island experience, Coral Cay, just a short ferry ride away. The small island can be rented out for private events or weddings of up to 30 people. Say hello to your own private island for a day!
If you want a cruise line island experience without the zip lines and waterslides, Ocean Cay could be just the slice of paradise you’re looking for. I hope you found this guide useful in learning what MSC’s spectacular private island is all about!