With just under four months to go until Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve welcomes its first guests, MSC Cruises – the Swiss-based, world’s largest privately-owned cruise line – today revealed more details of the unique experience that lies in wait for guests. 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, to 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 programmes.
The Bahamas is renowned for its beautiful blue waters and white sandy beaches, while the oceans in this part of the world are home to a special and diverse ecosystem that needs to be safeguarded for the future. As part of the development of Ocean Cay, MSC Cruises 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 programmes.
The island is situated within protected waters spanning 64 square miles, but the ambition is to further extend this to ensure an even greater impact. MSC Cruises guests will have an incredible opportunity to discover the wonders of the ocean in this special part of the world.
ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION FOR THE FUTURE
To better understand conservation needs and map out the key environmental initiatives, MSC Cruises commissioned a Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) that provided a short-term overview of the waters around Ocean Cay.
One of the priorities for MSC Cruises on Ocean Cay is the restoration of the coral. An integral part of the marine ecosystem, coral needs to be protected as they ensure biodiversity, provide a habitat for marine life, and protect coastlines. Now that the waters around the island are protected and it is no longer an industrial site for sand excavation, the seabed is returning to normal and 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 hope 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 some of the heartier species, more capable of withstanding harsh temperature conditions and siltation than other species. Also found around the island during the assessment was the critically endangered Acropora palmate, 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 are 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. An important feature of the ecosystem in this region that was assessed is the queen conch, Lobatus gigas. The conch is a large sea snail and lives in the seagrass beds around Ocean Cay. It helps to keep the water clean from algal produced by seagrass and is one of the most important fishery species in these waters and a symbol of The Bahamas. However, conch populations have seen dramatic declines in recent years. Some of the few remaining breeding populations are those within marine protected areas in The Bahamas. Ocean Cay is a productive conch habitat and as such steps will be taken to ensure the protection of the conch to thrive.
In addition to paving the way for the future of the island’s ecosystem, work is well underway to finalise the guest experience and welcome the new guests in November. Every aspect of the island is being developed with the vision of creating a truly memorable experience founded in the core philosophy of the island – the discovery of nature. You can find out more about the restoration of Ocean Cay here.
DISCOVER THE OCEAN
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve features a Great Lagoon for swimming and water sports
The environmental philosophy of the Ocean Cay guest experience has influenced the choice of water sport activities on offer, so guests will not find the typical motorised water sports on this island. Instead MSC Cruises is developing a range of natural ways to enjoy the water. This includes the popular stand-up paddle (SUP) and kayaking. What better way to take in the uninterrupted horizon than by getting out on the water?
For those who wish to discover the marine life close-up there will be the opportunity to book a snorkelling and secluded island excursion. This 1.5 hour trip to the nearby cay will allow guests to either snorkel on their own or, for an enhanced experience, follow a snorkel guide while they point out all of the colourful and exotic marine life in the area. After snorkelling, guests are then taken to a private beach on the remote cay for swimming and relaxing in the water. Places are limited so ensure to book in advance.
For those who are a little more adventurous, scuba diving will also be available with PADI-qualified instructors, and for those who wish to get a taster for diving, there will be a Discover Scuba Diving class in shallow waters, again with a PADI instructor.
Located at the Northern tip of the island in a stunning location with incredible ocean views is The Spa at Ocean Cay. This unique new luxurious spa concept has been created exclusively for Ocean Cay and is designed to immerse guests in the elements, which become an integral part of the experience, providing a contrast to the authentic Balinese MSC Aurea Spa on board the ships.
The spa offering will stay true to the environmental principles of the island and the products used will be from AVEDA, a beauty brand known for its natural products and environmental commitments. Guests looking for head-to-toe pampering can choose from different massage options and then simply relax in the stylish treatment room listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the ocean breeze. A range of very special on-trend fitness sessions will also be available for those looking to connect with their inner zen. Choose from morning beach yoga, SUP yoga on paddle boards and to round of the day, sunset yoga.
FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
As a family company, MSC Cruises provides an award-winning family offering on board the fleet and this will also be available on Ocean Cay. The island has been designed to offer a family-friendly experience with the Seakers Family Cove, a paradise for kids with a shallow lagoon to play in and a beautiful sandy beach for games. All of the beaches on the island will be monitored by lifeguards to ensure safety for all and this will give parents peace of mind.
The MSC Cruises Kids Club staff will organise games and activities throughout the day at the Seakers Family Cove. The activities featuring the new DOREMI Explorer mascot are designed to facilitate natural discovery and will see a return to simple childhood games, such as sand castle contests, kite building, treasure hunts and a family sporting challenge. There are dedicated teen activities to enable the older kids to discover all that the island has to offer, including an activity with the teen web creator, who will help them to create content to inspire others with the beauty of the island.
The Seakers Food Court is located conveniently close by for the families. Serving American classic dishes and kids’ favourites, the buffet will be complimentary, just as it is on board. There are other options available on the island from the food trucks and guests can also easily return to the ship throughout the day to take advantage of the full range of dining options on board.
After a day spent unwinding and relaxing, one of the highlights of the visit to the island will be the evening entertainment and activities. After a stunning sunset when night falls, the area around the iconic 30-metre red and white lighthouse will come to life. Guests will be able to enjoy a breathtaking light show that can be enjoyed from the bar, or, for those wishing for a more chilled atmosphere, they can watch the show from the beach around one of the firepits. A traditional junkanoo parade will get people in the party mood. This is inspired by the historic Bahamian festival and is a feast of colourful costumes, music and dancing.
For those guests still wishing to immerse themselves in the natural world, the remote nature of the island means that the heavens will offer their own entertainment. Guests can book an astronomy-themed adventure, enjoying a welcome drink as an astronomer finds the most striking star clusters, planets, nebulas and galaxies on display that evening, using state-of-the-art computerised tracking telescopes. An evening of unbelievable stargazing under the Bahamian sky awaits.
To ensure that guests can get a real idea of what lies in wait for them on Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a dedicated website will provide more detailed information; visit www.mscoceancay.com
From November 2019, all MSC Cruises ships from Miami will call at Ocean Cay as part of the Caribbean itineraries. To book and find out more go tohttps://www.msccruises.co.za/en-za/Cruise-Destinations/Ocean-Cay-MSC-Marine-Reserve.aspx.
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