The MSC Meraviglia will inaugurate MSC Cruises’ private Bahamian island destination when she makes the first call slated for Nov. 9, 2019.
“Our goal is to deliver a Caribbean paradise experience to our guests,” said Gianni Onorato, president of MSC Cruises. “When people go to the Caribbean, they expect sunny weather, beautiful pristine and uncrowded sandy beaches and being able to have fun and relax. We will deliver that, and after time ashore, they can go back on the ship, take a nap, and go back ashore again to enjoy the sunset, while sipping a cocktail, or having a gelato, and watch a movie under the stars.”
Being only 65 miles from Miami, Onorato said that the ships can stay at Ocean Cay as late as midnight and still make it back to Miami by early morning. He said that Ocean Cay will be offered on all four MSC ships sailing out of Miami.
Coming alongside at a pier, Onorato said the ship will stay “open” with all services offered and guests can go back and forth between the ship and the island.
Activities to be offered include a range of water sports, snorkeling and scuba diving, but there is also a cultural aspect, Onorato said, whereby guests can learn about the environment and the importance of protecting coral reefs, for example, through lectures.
The island is surrounded by 64 square miles of protected waters, and a coral nursery is being established to encourage and sustain the growth of new coral. Plans are also underway for a marine laboratory.
Onorato noted that the island has been an industrial sand extraction site that MSC Cruises has cleaned up and brought back to life, including coral reefs. “We want to share the work we have done and our commitment to the environment. When going on holiday, more people are looking for enrichment, like the lectures we are going to offer.”
Ocean Cay also includes an adjacent smaller island which can be rented for a private experience.
“We are not offering a theme park,” Onorato added. “There will be no water slides, zip lines or artificial pools. But you will find eight beaches. There will a family beach, a beach for Yacht Club guests, and a beach dedicated to the crew.
“It is an experience in full contact with nature.”
A self-service food venue is offered at a nominal cost, according to Onorato, in addition to food carts with hamburgers and hot dogs at each of the beaches. He explained that the food offering ashore is designed to minimize the environmental impact with a minimum of food preparation and garbage.
Beverage services will also have a small add-on cost to the beverage packages offered aboard.
Other charge items include WiFi, cabana and water-sports equipment rentals, as well as the smaller, separate island that can be reserved by individuals or groups.
According to MSC, a key part of the island experience will be a specially designed retail concept offering guests the opportunity to take home souvenirs or find the vacation essentials they may need.
Walking from the ship to the farthest point of the island will take about 17 minutes, according to Onorato, or guests can use one of the electrical carts available. Electricity will be generated by solar power panels.
Ocean Cay will have a permanent staff of 140 Bahamians, who will have housing on the island, in addition to crew from the ship coming ashore during calls.
At an estimated cost of $200 million, Onorato said that Ocean Cay offers a strategic advantage and that the payback will come from guest satisfaction, as well as revenue numbers, including not having to pay costs calling at a different port.