Throwing its hat into the ring of private Caribbean island destinations is MSC Cruises with the newly announced Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (rendered above) set to open in December 2017. The opening will coincide with the launch of the line’s upcoming MSC Seaside to be based year-round in the Caribbean, roundtrip from Miami, Florida.
The project was officially launched yesterday on Dec. 16 in the Bahamian capital of Nassau where Prime Minister Perry Christie and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago signed a 100-year lease agreement, allowing the line to occupy and develop the island. Vago said, “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.”
MSC will invest approximately $200 million in the project to make the one-time sand-extraction station a world-class regional attraction. The cay will be developed over the next two years in conjunction with the Bahamian government and ecologists into a paradise with many fun experiences and 11,400 feet worth of fine beachfront. Plans include the planting of 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs and construction of a Bahamian village, restaurants, bars, shops and an arrival center and gazebo.
The line says the island development will be the largest such undertaken by a cruise line. There are others that have been bigger in acreage, such as Disney’s $25 million Castaway Cay renovation at 1,300-plus acres, Norwegian’s $25 million upgrade to Great Stirrup Cay at over 200 acres, and Royal Caribbean’s $20-plus facelist of Coco Cay at over 125 acres. But MSC is investing the most money for any such renovation.
Key to its guest convenience will be a pier that will allow direct access to the port, rare for private islands, and ease of accessibility with walking and running paths, bicycle rentals and other transportation options.
One particularly interesting detail not common to private islands is that it can be visited in the evening time to enjoy shore dining and live music and entertainment in a 2,000-seat amphitheater. Meanwhile, unlike in other ports, the casino and all other shipboard services will remain open onboard.
Among its other features will be six individual beaches including a family beach with a children’s restaurant, play areas and other facilities; a tranquil inland lagoon; a thrilling zip line across the island; a wedding and celebration pavilion; and an exclusive spa and wellness area with private bungalows and massage huts for MSC Yacht Club guests.
“Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and its exclusive offerings will be a magnificent extension of our shipboard experiences,” Vago adds. “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.”
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is located 20 miles south of Bimini and 65 miles east of Miami, Florida. The line plans to break ground on the project in March 2016 and recruit 240 Bahamians in preparation for a December 2017 opening to receive the new MSC Seaside, when she launches the same month, as well as the MSC Divina, also sailing year-round in the Caribbean. The private island will also strategically service the MSC Opera and MSC Armonia set to sail from Havana, Cuba.
For more information on the MSC Seaside, which is available to book now, visit msccruises.com, contact your travel agent or call MSC Cruises at (877) 655-4655.