MSC Cruises, the Geneva-based global cruise line – number one in Europe, South America and South Africa – has unveiled ambitious plans to create an unprecedented exclusive marine reserve island experience in the Bahamas.
The visionary project was officially launched yesterday afternoon (December 16) in the Bahamian capital Nassau, where Prime Minister Perry Christie and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago signed a 100-year lease agreement that will enable MSC Cruises to occupy and develop the island to be called Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
Over the next two years, MSC Cruises will work hand-in-hand with the Bahamian Government and ecologists to develop the cay, a onetime sand extraction station, into a thriving marine reserve that will harmoniously coexist with the local ecosystem. This is a project that will transform the local economy base from resource exploitation to resource conservation.
In keeping with the company’s commitment to providing absolutely authentic cruise vacations, the island will offer some of the finest beaches in the world, amid an array of Caribbean-inspired experiences.
The family that owns MSC Cruises has more than 300 years of seafaring heritage, which has engendered a deep respect for the ocean that underpins the company’s operations today. MSC Cruises is committed to protecting the waters it navigates. As one of the most ecologically conscious cruise lines in the world, the company will invest approximately $200 million in creating a flourishing natural haven from a desert island.
MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago commented: “This is a natural progression for our company, which is growing very rapidly, and we are thrilled about providing this totally new experience for our guests in the Caribbean.”
“Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and its exclusive offerings will be a magnificent extension of our shipboard experiences. We ensure every decision we make keeps each of our ships true to the promise of our brand, offering the authenticity and quality our guests expect. This is what made us the leading brand in many of the markets we operate, including across Europe, South America and South Africa. We will apply the same thinking and attention to detail to our Caribbean offering, of which this exclusive marine reserve will become a cornerstone, because we know our guests will be amazed by this industry-unique experience.”
At 95-acres in size and with 11,400 feet of pristine beach front spread across six distinct beaches, Ocean Cay Marine Reserve will be – by a large margin – the biggest island development by any cruise company in the Caribbean. In addition, as the only marine reserve island experience, it will offer a multitude of key distinguishing features.
For example, a purpose-built berth and pier right on the seafront means that MSC Cruises guests will be able to step off the ship straight onto the island. Since a unique part of their visit will be the island’s night life in particular live music and entertainment at the 2,000-seat amphitheatre, and many restaurants and bars, guests moving at leisure between ship and island will be especially convenient. In addition, the ship and all on board services – including the casino – will stay open while berthed at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
All installations and experiences on the island, which lies 20 miles (32 km) south of Bimini and just 65 miles (104.5 km) east of Miami, Florida, will be fully sympathetic to the culture and traditions of the Bahamas. 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, expertly planted across the island. There will be an architecturally faithful Bahamian village, plentiful restaurants and bars offering local specialties, a variety of shops and an inviting arrival center with island-themed music gazebo.
For MSC Yacht Club guests, an exclusive spa and wellness sanctuary with private bungalows and massage huts has been designated to the northwest corner of the island.
Also, getting around the island will be a breeze, thanks to a network of walking and running paths, bicycle rentals and other stress-free transport options.
Other highlights such as must-have water sports and beach games include:
· A family beach with kids’ restaurant, play areas and other useful facilities
· A charming inland lagoon for absolute tranquillity
· A thrilling zip wire crossing the island
· A pavilion for weddings and celebrations
MSC Cruises plans to break ground on the development in March 2016 and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open to guests in December 2017.
The Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve project will offer a permanent MSC Cruises presence in the Bahamas, for which the company plans to recruit 240 Bahamians in various roles over 2016 and 2017. The cay will be ideal for all MSC Cruises ships serving the Caribbean region, notably MSC Divina and the under-construction next generation ship MSC Seaside (launching December 2017), both sailing from Miami, plus MSC Opera and MSC Armonia, sailing from Havana, Cuba. In addition, the company will open a crew training school in Nassau to provide local manpower for the growing number of MSC Cruises ships sailing the Caribbean.
In the meantime, on December 15 MSC Cruises announced the opening of sales for the inaugural season of MSC Seaside. Guests aboard MSC Seaside’s maiden voyage from Miami will be the first to visit the island and revel in the location’s abundant offerings.