Gathering up camera gear from my cabin to go ashore at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, I heard singing and loud clapping. That sound is certainly not unusual on a cruise ship. Music can be found throughout most of the day and night on cruises.
But this singing and applause was coming from the island itself. Opening my balcony door, I spotted the singers immediately. Lined up on both sides of the walkway from the MSC Seashore to the island were the ship’s crew members.
They were singing and welcoming passengers to the unusual and beautiful island. It was almost as though passengers were making a red carpet walk as crew members sang and applauded.
The song was the 1961 standard “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. Only this musical rendition had a distinct Jamaican touch.
Ocean Cay would be the last stop on our seven-night cruise and I was looking forward to touring the private island that is only for MSC Cruises. What was once an industrial trash dump is now a beautiful Bahamas island preserved as a Marine Reserve.
Just a few years ago, Ocean Cay was an industrial wasteland. It was a former sand extraction site littered with rusting industrial junk. Coral reefs surrounding the island had been damaged. In total, it was an ugly site but MSC saw the potential and came onboard.
To date, MSC has spent $400 million to create the Marine Reserve including removing the waste and adding 75,000 native plants and shrubs and 4,600 trees to the 95-acre island. More than 400 coral reefs were relocated and the waters surrounding the island are now a protected coral nursery spanning 64 square miles.
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.
What Ocean Cay Doesn’t Have
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 Seashore passengers.
Just 2 miles of pristine beaches and budding beauty. In fact, eight beaches are spread out over the island.
Different from other cruise line private islands, Ocean Cay is a Marine Reserve. MSC calls it “A sustainable destination where guests can connect with nature.”
Passengers are invited to spend the day snorkeling, paddle boarding, jet skiing, 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 Seashore restaurants, it is simple. Then you can return to the island.
On our cruise, the Seashore was at Ocean Cay only from 9 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. Already, flowers are blooming and the water is crystal clear. Ocean Cay was a beautiful way to end our Seashore cruise.
Thanks MSC Cruises and All Things Cruise for the wonderful adventure.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
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