With just under four months to go until Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve welcomes its first cruise guests, MSC Cruises — the Swiss-based, world’s largest privately-owned cruise line — revealed more details of the unique experience that awaits visitors. The vision for the island is to immerse guests in the natural beauty of their surroundings in the Bahamas.
Ocean Cay is founded on a deep commitment to ecological principles – beliefs that shape everything from how venues are built and how the island is run, to the kinds of activities featured on the island. Work is underway to design opportunities for guests to learn about the protection of the oceans and the importance of preserving coral reefs through dedicated edutainment programs.
The Bahamas is renowned for its beautiful blue waters and white sandy beaches, and its oceans are home to a diverse ecosystem that needs to be safeguarded for a promising future. As part of the development of Ocean Cay, MSC Cruises is working to establish the roadmap for the restoration of marine resources, including habitats and species present in the area. This will include the restoration of endangered corals, and the implementation of other conservation and educational programs.
The island is situated within protected waters spanning 64 square miles, but the ambition is to further extend this parameter to ensure an even greater impact. MSC Cruises’ guests will have an incredible opportunity to discover the wonders of the ocean in this special part of the world.
To better understand conservation needs and map out key environmental initiatives, MSC Cruises commissioned a Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) that provided a short term overview of the waters around Ocean Cay.
MSC Cruises has placed a priority on the restoration of coral in the waters surrounding Ocean Cay. An integral part of the marine ecosystem, coral needs to be protected as they maintain biodiversity, provide a habitat for marine life and protect coastlines. Now that the waters around the island are protected and it is no longer an industrial site once used for sand excavation, the seabed is returning to normal. The hope is that the coral will again begin to thrive. Plans are underway to establish a coral nursery on the East side of the island with the goal of propagating even more coral, particularly the more endangered varieties.
The recent survey established that there are three types of coral that can be found in abundance — primarily Agaricia agaricites known as lettuce coral; Porites astreoides commonly known as mustard hill coral or yellow porites; and Siderastrea also known as massive starlet coral. These species are more capable of withstanding harsh temperature conditions and siltation than other species. Also found around the island during the assessment is the critically endangered Acropora palmata known as Elkhorn Coral. Four distinct colonies of this species were observed along the rocky shoreline of these cays. Over time these corals will become candidates for restoration in the coral nursery.
The Ocean Cay team is already seeing an increase in marine life in the area, and the REA identified 88 different species of fish around the island as well as lobster, sea turtles and rays. An important feature of the ecosystem in this region that was assessed is the queen conch, Lobatus gigas. The conch is a large sea snail and lives in the seagrass beds around Ocean Cay and helps to keep the water clean from algal produced by seagrass. The conch is one of the most important fishery species in these waters and a symbol of The Bahamas. However, conch populations have seen dramatic declines in recent years and some of the few remaining breeding populations are those within marine protected areas in The Bahamas. Ocean Cay is a productive conch habitat, and steps will be taken to ensure the protection of the conch to thrive.
In addition to paving the way for the future of the island’s ecosystem, work is well underway to finalize the guest experience and welcome the new guests in November. Every aspect of the island is being developed with the vision of creating a truly memorable experience founded in the core philosophy of the island – the discovery of nature. You can find out more about the restoration of Ocean Cay here.
The environmental philosophy of the Ocean Cay guest experience has influenced the choice of water sports. Guests will not find the typical motorized water sports but instead a range of natural ways to enjoy the ocean. This includes stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and kayaking, allowing guests to take in the uninterrupted horizon by getting out on the water.
For those who wish to discover the marine life close-up there will be the opportunity to book a snorkeling & secluded island getaway. This trip to the nearby cay will allow guests to either snorkel on their own or for an enhanced experience, follow a snorkel guide while they point out all of the colorful and exotic marine life in the area. After snorkeling, guests are then taken to a private beach on the remote cay for swimming and relaxing in the water. Space is limited, so guests should book in advance.
For those who are a little more adventurous, scuba diving will also be available with PADI qualified instructors. Guests just looking to get a taste of diving, can book a Discover Scuba Diving class to try it out in shallow waters with a PADI instructor.
Located at the Northern tip of the island in a stunning location with incredible ocean views is The Spa at Ocean Cay. This unique new luxurious spa concept has been created exclusively for Ocean Cay and is designed to immerse guests in their natural surroundings, providing a contrasting experience to the authentic Balinese MSC Aurea Spa on board MSC Cruises’ ships.
The Ocean Cay spa offering will stay true to the environmental principles of the island and the products used will be from AVEDA, a beauty brand known for its natural products and environmental commitments. Guests looking for head to toe pampering can choose from different massage options and then simply relax in the stylish treatment room, listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the ocean breeze. A range of very special on-trend fitness sessions will also be available for those looking to find their inner zen. For instance, guests can choose from morning beach yoga, SUP yoga on paddle boards and sunset yoga.
As a family company, MSC Cruises offers an award-winning family offering on board its fleet, which will extend to Ocean Cay. The island has been designed to offer a family friendly experience with the Seakers Family Cove, a paradise for kids with a shallow lagoon to play in and a beautiful sandy beach for games. All of the beaches on the island will be monitored by lifeguards.
The MSC Cruises Kids Club staff will organize games and activities throughout the day at the Seakers Family Cove. The activities featuring the new DOREMI Explorer mascot are designed to facilitate natural discovery and include childhood games such as sand castle contests, kite building, treasure hunts and a family sporting challenge. There will also be dedicated teens programs including an activity in which teens learn to create content to inspire others with the beauty of the island.
The Seakers Food Court is conveniently located close by for families. Serving American classic dishes and kids’ favorites, the buffet will be complimentary for guests. Other dining options available on the island include food trucks and guests can also easily return to the ship throughout the day to take advantage of the full range of dining options on board.
After a day spent unwinding and relaxing, one of the highlights of the visit to Ocean Cay will be the evening entertainment and activities. After a stunning sunset when the night falls, the area around the iconic 98 ft. red and white lighthouse will come to life. Guests will be able to enjoy a breathtaking light show that can be enjoyed from the bar, and those craving a more chilled atmosphere can watch from the beach, sitting around one of the fire pits. A traditional junkanoo parade — inspired by the historic Bahamian festival and consisting of a feast of colorful costumes, music and dancing — will get people in the party mood.
Guests will also be able to appreciate the natural environment in the evening. The remote nature of the island means that guests can enjoy an evening of unbelievable stargazing under the Bahamian sky with an astronomy-themed stargazing experience. Guests will enjoy a welcome drink as the astronomer guide, using state of the art computerized tracking telescopes, finds the most striking star clusters, planets, nebulas and galaxies on display that evening.