MSC Cruises has received approval to expand and upgrade the cruise line’s popular private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, in the Bahamas. According to the June 2023 Economic and Financial Developments Report from the Central Bank of the Bahamas, the project will cost $100 million and will complete the planned Phase II of the development.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve Phase II Confirmed
Speculation has been strong that Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will soon be receiving a massive development and upgrade, following the cruise line’s announcement that the private island would be closed for six weeks, from April 7 through May 22, 2024.
When the cruise line notified guest of the temporary closure, it only stated that “Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will be temporarily closed to MSC Cruises Guests from 4/7/2024 to 5/22/2024 in order to make necessary guest experience enhancements and support the island’s future growth plans.”
Now, the June 2023 report from the Central Bank of The Bahamas has noted the approval of a $100 million project for the island, completing Phase II of the development.
Listed under “New Foreign Investment Projects” for Bimini, the westernmost district of the Bahamas, the reports notes that MSC Cruises has been “approved to expand and upgrade the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve cruise destination.”
Both operational and guest experience upgrades are part of the upcoming project. On the operational side, the cruise line will be installing new storm and drain management systems, three new buildings for staff housing, and a solar farm for sustainable power.
Guests will be able to look forward to new entertainment areas, a private yacht club, and “other amenities” as yet undefined.
It is possible that new pavilions and beaches will be prepared, as well as new bars, game areas, dining options, cabanas, and more. Refurbishment and refreshment of the island’s existing facilities is sure to be completed during the closure as well.
Undoubtedly, MSC Cruises will make announcements in the coming weeks and months as new projects are confirmed and get underway.
Cruising to Ocean Cay
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is a private destination exclusively for the use of MSC Cruises’ guests, and visits are scheduled on all of the cruise line’s Bahamas itineraries as well as part of both Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean cruises with ships sailing from Miami and Port Canaveral. Even ships on Bahamas sailings from New York visit the distinctive island.
Because of the upcoming closure, more than 30 cruises will not be able to visit the tropical destination. While MSC Cruises could potentially have allowed visits even while the upgrades were underway, doing so might have diminished the experience for guests and could have slowed the progress of the expansion.
At this time, the 139,400-gross ton MSC Divina is the last ship scheduled to visit the island before the closure, with a call from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, 2024. The island’s closure begins the next day.
If the project does not experience delays or setbacks, the first ship to return to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve following the expansion should be the 171,598-gross ton MSC Meraviglia, bringing 4,428 guests (or up to 5,642 travelers if fully booked) to enjoy the new upgrades and enhanced features on Thursday, May 23, 2024.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve first opened in December 2019, offering guests a unique and exclusive destination as well as reinforcing MSC Cruises’ commitment to conservation.
The restoration of the 95-acre island included protecting and restoring corals and planting more than 75,000 native shrubs and plants, including 60 types of indigenous trees, grasses, flowers, and shrubs.
The restoration projects have been tremendously successful, as Ocean Cay welcomed its first loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings in 2021 and in July 2023 celebrated the rebuilding of coral beds surrounding the island through the Super Coral Program.
In special recognition of conservation efforts, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve was also recently recognized as a Hope Spot by Mission Blue, an organization dedicated to marine environment conservation.
The designation notes the island’s restoration, diversity, and potential for ongoing conservation, which hopefully will be continued with the upcoming project.