MSC Cruises More Details on Private Island Ocean Cay

Beaches at Ocean Cay

MSC’s Ocean Cay is set to welcome guests later this year to its private island experience in the Bahamas, with the cruise line releasing new details today.

Among the features are eight beaches; Seakers Family Cove, a shallow lagoon to play in with a beach for games, monitored by lifeguards; Seakers food court, which will be complimentary for guests; the Spa at Ocean Cay; various evening entertainment including a light show around the 98 ft. lighthouse at the centre of the island, a traditional Junkanoo parade — Bahamian festival and consisting of a feast of colourful costumes, music and dancing.; and shore excursions including stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and stargazing in the evenings.

“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,” MSC said, in a prepared statement.

Ocean Cay (Conrad Schutt)

As part of the development of Ocean Cay, MSC said it 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 said.

MSC also said it had commissioned a Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) that provided a short term overview of the waters around 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,” the company said. “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.

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MSC Cruises reveals details of the private island

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Gallery: First pictures of MSC Cruises’ private island Ocean Cay revealed

MSC Cruises’ new private island in the Caribbean will give guests a “ticket to paradise”, according to chief executive Gianni Onorato.

Ocean Cay, 20 miles off the coast of the Bahamas and 65 miles from Miami, will boast eight “pristine” beaches, seven reserved for different guests, such as families, Yacht Club or Aurea Spa passengers, and one for the crew.

There will also be a sunset beach, lagoon beach and main beach where all water sports and activities will take place. Water sports will include snorkelling to a shallow sunken shipwreck through to scuba diving.

Lectures on the coral life around the island and what MSC has done to clean up and preserve it will be offered, something Onorato felt would be popular with younger guests and children.

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Every Caribbean itinerary from Miami, whether sailing to the Eastern or Western Caribbean, will call at Ocean Cay. Onorato said: “Because it’s so close to Miami, we can stay there until 1am so people can experience it at night and still be back in Miami for 6am the following morning.”

Guests will be able to watch movies under the stars with their feet in the sand.

Food will include a family buffet and a food cart going around the island, but the ship’s restaurants will remain open all day as many guests are expected to go back on board to eat. The furthest point of the island is a 17-minute walk from the ship and “completely flat”, Onorato said.

Deckchairs and some activities will be included in the cruise price, but cabanas, cocktails, island Wi-Fi, and certain sports like scuba diving will be extra. All will be bookable through package upgrades via the MSC app.

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Onorato also revealed there would be a second private island, for groups of 30-40 people, that could be booked out exclusively for the day. He said this would be a perfect upsell for travel agents. Costs for this and other extras would be added to the website at the end of the month.

The island will have three shops; one selling Bahamian goods manned by locals, one selling Ocean Cay-branded merchandise and the other selling MSC items.

Onorato said it was his “dream” to open an island in the Mediterranean but explained that the only location it would be possible to have an island open year-round, off the North African coast, was currently out of bounds.

“We will have to wait, but it is my dream to open a private island in the Mediterranean at some point,” he said.

Special Report: MSC outlines ambitions for the new fleet

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The line’s bosses gave the most detail yet about the project at a Travel Weekly executive lunch. Harry Kemble reports

MSC Cruises’ chief executive is yet to decide whether to name his new fleet of luxury vessels after its current premium offering, The Yacht Club and asked UK agents for their views.

The line confirmed industry rumours in October that it would be entering the luxury sector by announcing plans to launch four ships from 2023.

Speaking at a Travel Weekly executive lunch for 25 top agents from the UK and Ireland, Gianni Onorato said: “The new ships will have a different brand name to the rest of the fleet. That name is yet to be decided, however.”

Asked if the new luxury ships would be called The Yacht Club, he replied: “I don’t know yet. Maybe. What do you all think?”

Iglu senior vice-president for global supply Simone Clark said she thought he should keep The Yacht Club name for the fleet of newer, smaller, more upmarket vessels since it was established and recognised among the trade and customers.

But Onorato confirmed there would be differences in the new fleet, compared with the luxury area that exists on seven MSC ships.

“We want to position it so it will be like The Yacht Club,” he said. “But the luxury ships will be really different vessels.”

He said the key difference is the luxury ships would sail to different destinations and offer multiple durations, with more flexibility.

“Our customers are saying they do not want seven-night cruises – they want something more. That is why we are investing in luxury,” he added.

Onorato said there would also be a major difference in the food and entertainment found on the new luxury ships, compared with that currently offered on the mainstream ones.

“There will be extra food options, as well as different – and more – entertainment available. It will be a different experience, more luxurious. Cuisine will feature ‘cultured cooking’.”

Onorato also hinted that pricing on the luxury ships would not match that found in MSC Yacht Club. “The pricing today for MSC Yacht Club is really not very much money,” he said.

Families would be welcome on board, and Onorato hopes to transfer MSC Yacht Club passengers to the luxury ships.

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Private island

MSC Cruises revealed that guests would be able to spend evenings at its new private island, as well as staying overnight. The line will open Ocean Cay (pictured) in the Caribbean next year. [This Travel Weekly executive lunch took place in November 2018]

Onorato said it would offer “cinema under the stars”. “Our guests will be able to watch movies on the beach with the sand between their toes,” he said.

He also revealed that couples who want to have “a special night” will be able to sleep in private beach accommodation elsewhere on the island.

Onorato, who visited Ocean Cay last month to see trees being planted, confirmed that travel agents would be able to sell a one-night stay on Ocean Cay to customers. “The island will be unique and an extension of the ship,” he added.

Onorato explained that his island was being transformed from a former sand extraction site into a marine reserve and private destination, where more than 100 environmentally friendly structures, such as bars, restaurants and housing, are being built. He said he hoped Ocean Cay would be “an example” to other cruise lines who owned private islands, due to its sustainable credentials.

He added that the island’s food offering would be limited because the ships are going to be so close and will have all the services on board for guests to go back and enjoy.

Agent pledge

Antonio Paradiso, the line’s UK & Ireland managing director, issued a bold promise to agents as he revealed that MSC Cruises was entering the final phase of a three-year plan to boost its profile in the UK.

After consolidating its place in the UK market, Paradiso said phase two had been to make “huge investments” to strengthen the UK sales team.

Steve Williams, director of sales, and Rebecca Kelly, regional head of sales in Ireland, were both named as two examples of this investment.

Paradiso said further improving MSC Masters, the line’s online training platform, which launched in August, was phase three.

“We are not going to stop until we have visited the last agent on this island,” he said.

World-class ships

MSC Cruises’ four new 200,000-ton ‘World-class’ vessels will be a combination of both Seaside class and Meraviglia class, according to Onorato.

The chief executive said: “MSC Meraviglia was a change more inside than outside, whereas MSC Seaside was more about the outside. Then we have World-class ships, which will combine the innovation we have seen with Seaside class outside and the internal innovation of Meraviglia class.”

The four new World-class ships are scheduled for delivery in 2022, 2024, 2025 and 2026.

To put the size into perspective, Royal Caribbean International’s four Oasis-class ships are all in excess of 220,000 tons, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ship, Bliss, weighs just over 168,000 tons.

Top-level service

MSC Cruises has 17 vessels on order between now and 2027, and the constantly expanding fleet means crew members must be recruited rapidly. More than 50,000 new personnel have been trained and brought onto the ships to serve passengers.

Onorato identified onboard service as a key area he wants to continue improving.

“We have made big investments across the world and set up recruitment offices,” he said. “At the offices, we have recreated the ship with a mock-up cabin and restaurant.

“At the end of this process, we will have the best ships on the market.”

He also pledged to get crew members introducing themselves to passengers before they have even boarded the ship.

“Today, the customers, or the travel agents in some cases, will receive a message from the cabin [crew],” he said.

“This means that when the customers board the ship they can begin their holiday. It is something that will improve the customer experience, and make [travel agents’] jobs easier.”