While my Hoosier hometown was being battered by sleet and snow and near-zero temperatures, I was strolling on a sunny sandy beach and enjoying the perfumed scent of blooming flowers.
All it took was a cruise aboard MSC Seascape with a stop at the cruise company’s private island, Ocean Cay. Hard to believe that this beautiful spot was once an industrial wasteland in the Bahamas, an artificial island built by dredging in the late 1960s.
The “island” was a former sand extraction site littered with rusting industrial junk. Coral reefs surrounding the island had been severely damaged. But MSC saw the potential and came onboard.
MSC Cruises bought the island and spent years transforming it into the beauty it is today. To date, MSC has spent $400 million to create Ocean Cay Marine Reserve. It has removed 1,500 tons of scrap metal and waste. It also planted 75,000 native plants and shrubs and 4,600 trees to the 95-acres island.
More than 400 coral reefs were relocated and the waters surrounding the island are now a protected coral nursery spanning 64 miles.
To make it entirely self-sufficient, Ocean Cay has a water treatment plant and solar panels. MSC calls it “A sustainable destination where guests can connect with nature.”
Just 65 miles south of Miami in the Bimini chain of islands, the island started welcoming visitors in December 2019. MSC’s long-term goal is for the island to become a base for marine biologists to conduct research into coral restoration.
Not a Tourist Trap
What I liked most is what Ocean Cay doesn’t have. No theme park. No pesky salespeople standing outside shops hassling cruisers to stop and buy. No cars or trucks on busy roadways. No one on the island except MSC workers and Seascape passengers.
Just 2 miles of pristine beaches and budding beauty. In fact, eight beaches are spread out over the island.
Passengers are invited to spend the day snorkeling, paddle boarding, scuba diving, swimming, climbing the lighthouse and relaxing on the beach. Yoga sessions and beachside massages by the Spa at Ocean Cay are available.
Plus, it is such an easy walk from the ship to the island. The ship is docked at the Ocean Cay pier. No “tender” is needed to get from ship to shore.
If you want to go back to get something from your ship cabin, that errand is not difficult or time consuming. Ocean Cay has food and drink stands but if you want to return to the ship and dine in one of the wonderful Seascape restaurants, it is simple. Then you can return to the island.
Ocean Cay a Good Reason to Book Cruise Again
On our cruise, the Seascape was at Ocean Cay only from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. but I was told that some cruises stay until late at night or even overnight. That way, passengers can enjoy sunset dinners on the beach, a spectacular lighthouse light show, after-dark water activities and stargazing adventures.
Someday I would like to return to see what those night activities are like and how the new landscaping has matured. From what I’ve heard from other passengers, the fact that Ocean Cay was on our weeklong itinerary was an important stop.
Pamela and Tom Mitchell of Miami say that Ocean Cay was one of the main reasons why the couple chose this particular MSC Seascape cruise.
And they weren’t disappointed. “It’s even more beautiful than we thought it would be,” Pamela says. “It is truly an island paradise.”
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
See sailings here: All MSC Cruises (cruisecompete.com)