(9:30 a.m. EST) -- Years in the making, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, MSC Cruises' private island nestled in the Bimini island chain of The Bahamas, opened to cruise passengers today with a call from MSC Divina.
The ship docked shortly after 9 a.m. Its arrival at the private island was watched virtually by members of the Cruise Critic forums, who expressed excitement at the first photos coming from the island.
“I am pumped,” said Rob-Bob on an Ocean Cay thread.
Ocean Cay was designed with conservation in mind, bringing a focus to the endemic marine life through coral restoration, best environmental practices and plans for scientific research and education programs.
Located just 65 miles from Miami, Ocean Cay offers cruisers longer stays ashore, including nighttime activities such as lightshows and traditional Bahamian Junkanoo parades.
Highlights of the private island experience span snorkeling shipwrecks to stargazing. A lighthouse is a focal point of Ocean Cay serving as a bar, lounge, attraction and entertainment venue. While there are no waterparks or wild thrill rides, Ocean Cay offers up spa treatments, cabanas and eight beaches.
When the time comes for a drink or snack, families will find unique food trucks serving up complimentary bites, along with a more traditional beach buffet called Seakers. Plenty of tiki bars will serve drinks (included if you have an MSC drink package), including a local Bahamian-owned bar called Springer's, with views to the marina.
The launch of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve has been long coming; the island's debut was originally set for December 2017, and has since been pushed three times from October 2018 to November 2019 and finally to December 2019.
Responding to inquiries on Twitter at the time of the original delay, representatives from the cruise line stated: "We determined the ongoing environmental due diligence and related highly complex operation will require additional time…"
The latest delay came as a result of hurricane delays and sand leveling issues.
"Our work on the island is an ongoing process as our commitment to protect, restore and conserve this beautiful cay is part of a multi-phased effort," MSC Cruises said in a statement.
Four MSC ships will sail to Ocean Cay from Miami: Meraviglia, Seaside, Divina and Armonia. Other ports of call on these sailings include Nassau on short sailings and a wide variety of Caribbean ports including Ocho Rios, Cartagena, Costa Maya, San Juan and more.