MSC Ocean Cay is a private marine reserve island in the Western Bahamas, exclusively for guests of MSC Cruises. The island was once an industrial sand extraction site, but MSC Cruises transformed it into a tropical paradise. The vacation vibe is fantastic, with numerous beaches, music, and evening light shows. Choose a Caribbean cruise itinerary with this port if you love the beach – you won’t be disappointed.
History of MSC Ocean Cay
MSC Cruises acquired the island in 2015 and began a massive restoration project to transform it into an eco-friendly island destination. They removed all the industrial equipment and restored the island’s natural ecosystem, working with environmental experts to protect and preserve its flora and fauna. MSC Ocean Cay opened for cruise guests in 2019.
Where is MSC Ocean Cay?
MSC Ocean Cay is located in the Bimini chain of islands in the Western Bahamas, about 65 miles south of Miami. The island is easily accessible from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, making it a popular stop on many Caribbean cruise itineraries.
The condos on the island are housing for the island workers. There are about 150 staff who live on the island to maintain and run it. The staff has their own facilities and beach!
How to spend your day on MSC Ocean Cay
Walking off the ship, you will see the welcome center and island trams. You’ll pass a few shops, bars, food trucks, and medical facilities. Bars and food shacks are scattered across the island. There is also a pavilion where you can check in for booked excursions or book activities.
If you have difficulty walking and need transport, ask at the welcome center and hop on a tram.
We highly recommend beach umbrellas; these with float mats and life vests are available to rent. Sunloungers are free and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The excursion boats and jet skis are near the water sports facility. We loved the lagoon area of South Beach, where the water is fantastic for swimming.
Items to bring from home to MSC Ocean Cay
If you plan to snorkel, we recommend you bring snorkeling gear from home. We found that with the equipment provided, it was often a bad fit or so used that the mask would fog up quickly. Pack your own from home and keep your fingers crossed that you see fish or turtles. All of which eluded us when we snorkeled there.
We also recommend that you bring swimming or beach shoes to the island. Some areas are rocky or pebbly and challenging to walk barefoot.
Other items you may like to bring to the island include a waterproof holder for your cabin card, a refillable water bottle, a sun hat and sunscreen (if you find these in the shops on the islands they will be double the price), and a beach towel which you can get from the pool area onboard the cruise ship.
Book a cabana to escape the hot sun
You can relax in one of the many hammocks and beach chairs. If you want a cabana for the day, book this using your MSC app or by ringing guest services before you leave home. Be prepared to pay upwards of USD 250 for the day, but you may think it’s worth it, especially if you are traveling with young children and don’t want them to bake in the sunshine. Each cabana has sofas, sun loungers, and ice storage to cool your drinks.
The island is large, so take your time exploring. Bathrooms are throughout the island, and many have shower facilities too.
Lighthouse Beach is ideal for families; it’s closest to where the ship docks. You can enjoy the light shows and beach party here in the evening. Reach the other beaches of North Beach and Bimini Beach using the bridges. We found the best shade was at Sunset, a little further area. The area is quiet and with many more palm trees around.
Food and beverages on the island
If you have booked one of the MSC Cruises drinks packages, it will also apply on the island. Food includes multiple food shacks and bars and one larger lunch buffet venue at the Pavilion. We recommend trying the food shacks first, as the queues for the buffet can be very long; we waited around 30 minutes to get into the Pavilion.
Almost the same food is offered everywhere, picnic-style barbeque. The Pavilion buffet has many more choices than the food trucks. Expect hot dogs, hamburgers, and pasta salads—plenty of fresh fruit, cookies and brownies, and different types of bread. You will be charged extra for the seafood dishes.
Note that the Pavilion buffet does close after lunch, so don’t turn up too late.
Shore excursions at MSC Ocean Cay
If your itinerary offers an overnight stop in the port, check what is open on the island on the second day you are in port. On day two, the island will likely start to close as the ship will most likely depart around noon. You can still go on and off the ship all the time it is docked; make sure you are back on board in good time.
We recommend spending the first day enjoying all the island offers when everything is open. The second day is an ideal opportunity for a cruise ship shore excursion for half a day. For example, if you book Bahama Breeze Escape, a boat will take you to a sandbar for crystal-clear ocean swimming and snorkeling for about 2 hours. The lighthouse tour is worth it, the guides are excellent and you get fantastic views over the island from the top of the lighthouse.
If you want to rent a jet ski, make this booking before your cruise, as they sell out quickly. The paddle board excursion was sold out when we were there, so book in advance if you want to paddle board with a guide.
If you are cruising with young children and intend to use the kid's clubs or childcare on board, do check that your child is age-appropriate for these services. By that, we mean that they are the correct age. Child care is often not offered for very young toddlers and babies. That includes bookings for all experiences including MSC Yacht Club. This may also apply to certain excursions - for example, a young child may not be allowed on a snorkeling excursion. Check before you book.
Getting to MSC Ocean Cay
Grab your beach clothes, toss and beach towel in your tote bag, and walk off the ship. The boardwalk is right there as you exit the ship. All food and drinks (if you have the drinks package) are included in the cruise fare, so there is no need to bring your wallet with you. However, you can purchase additional activities, such as water sports, for an additional fee and charge this to your cabin, and the same for some food, such as sea food dishes, which cost extra and will be charged to your cabin.
Yacht Club facilities at MSC Ocean Cay
Guests who book the MSC Yacht Club experience onboard have their own private part of the island. This includes a private beach where umbrellas are all included without charge.
Cruise Itineraries that include MSC Ocean Cay Marine Reserve
MSC Ocean Cay is a stop on many MSC cruise ships Caribbean itineraries. MSC Seaside, MSC Seashore, MSC Seascape, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Magnifica, and MSC Divina all include MSC Ocean Cay in some of their itineraries.
Choose the cruise that suits you! from 4 days up to 2 weeks, where you may stop at MSC Ocean Cay more than once. Sometimes with an overnight stay in port, you can enjoy the island’s activities and entertainment into the evening.
Remember that the cruise line has the right to change your itinerary at any time. This can happen before or during the cruise, most often if there is bad weather.
How to book your MSC Cruises vacation
We recommend using CruiseDirect for your cruise booking. The main reason is that the MSC Cruises website is not user-friendly and sometimes tricky to navigate. With CruiseDirect, you can effortlessly search and compare different cruise ships and itineraries. And get access to special deals, book your cruise, and access their excellent customer service.
Whether you book directly with MSC Cruises or use CruiseDirect, you will still have the same opportunity to participate in a MSC Cruises Upgrade Bid Program. Remember to ensure your email address is registered in your cruise booking with MSC Cruises.