With just one year to go until Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve receives its first guests, MSC Cruises marked an important milestone in the island’s transformation with the planting of the first trees. With the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserveproject, MSC Cruises is transforming a former industrial sand extraction site into a flourishing marine reserve and private island destination exclusively for MSC Cruises guests. With uninterrupted 360° horizon views of crystal blue waters and some of the most spectacular white sandy beaches in the world, this island paradise will be an unforgettable highlight in MSC Cruises’ Caribbean itineraries.
With the landscaping work underway, MSC Cruises has planted the first of over 75,000 native shrubs and plants – which will include over 60 types of indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs – to create a lush, tropical environment. The next phase in the redevelopment of Ocean Cay Marine Reserve will include the construction of over 100 environmentally friendly structures, such as bars, restaurants and housing for employees and staff who will live on the island. Work will also shortly be underway on the lighthouse – set to become an iconic landmark of the island and a focal point of the evening’s entertainment for guests.
One of the island’s most distinguishing features will be a pier that allows ships to dock alongside the island so that guests can simply walk on and off at their leisure throughout the day and evening. MSC Cruises has designed each aspect of the island to create an authentic, immersive Bahamian experience that will allow them to immerse themselves in this beautiful environment.
Among all of this, the stunning ocean access will undoubtedly stand out as the highlight of the island experience. MSC Cruises is in the process of recreating the seabed surrounding the island, which will soon be repopulated with a great variety of vibrant marine life. A year from now, guests will have the opportunity to discover the ocean in all of its natural glory through swimming in the warm shallow waters, snorkelling or diving or taking a boat trip out to one of the neighbouring deserted cays.
During the island’s clean-up, over 500 tons of historic industrial waste and scrap metal have been removed, with the final underwater debris clean-up about to begin. To create a solid foundation, over 500,000 tonnes of sand and soil have been moved and work has been carried out to shape the island itself. A shallow water lagoon will be created in the centre of the island to provide a fun area for families to relax and enjoy the day. The island will feature eight world class beaches each with a different character and ambience. The beaches are formed from aragonite sand, which is distinctive not only by its stunning white colour but also because it plays a key role in the growth of the coral reefs by maintaining the pH levels of the water.
With the ambition of creating a protected paradise and restoring the natural coral around the island, MSC Cruises is working in close collaboration with environmental auditors, Bahamian environmental experts and other entities to ensure that best practices are followed. Plans are underway for a marine laboratory to be situated on Ocean Cay, which will research climate change-resistant coral in hopes of providing insights to similar island habitats.
The Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve project has been developed to create a positive long-term impact both on the environment and in the communities of the Bahamas. MSC Cruises has been sourcing materials locally wherever possible, and by project-end, around 800 Bahamians will have been directly and indirectly involved in the construction of the island. Up to 140 Bahamians will be recruited for permanent operational jobs on the island covering a range of different roles including management, technical staff, island attendants, lifeguards and rescue divers. Local vendors will also provide resources for the many shore excursions offered to guests.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open November 2019 with four MSC Cruises ships calling at the island on different days.