MSC Cruises confirmed it will acquire use of Ocean Cay, an island about 20 miles south of Bimini, for a private cruise ship destination and that it has budgeted $200 million for the project.
MSC said that it will be called Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago signed a 100-year lease agreement in a ceremony on Dec. 16, MSC said.
Among other things, Ocean Cay will have a pier so that guests do not have to tender ashore, which cruise lines must do at some private islands in the Bahamas. MSC plans to open the destination by December 2017, in time for use by the MSC Seaside, a ship entering service in December 2017 that will be based year-round in Miami.
MSC emphasized that Ocean Cay represents a “permanent presence” in the Bahamas, and said it will be used by the MSC Divina, which sails out of Miami, and the Opera and Armonia, which will sail out of Cuba. It expects to hire 240 Bahamians to work there and will open a crew training school in Nassau to provide “local manpower” for MSC ships sailing in the Caribbean.
Plans suggest that the 95-acre island will be the most extensive cruise port in the Caribbean. MSC will build a 2,000-seat amphitheater and many bars and restaurants. The ship and all onboard services, including the casino, will stay open while berthed at Ocean Cay, MSC said.
The island has 11,400 feet of beach front, MSC said, and will accommodate six separate beach districts.
A former sand-extraction station, the island will be planted with more than 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs, such as Jamaica dogwood; red, black and white mangroves; and beach morning glory.
For MSC Yacht Club guests, an exclusive spa and wellness sanctuary with private bungalows and massage huts will be built on the northwest corner of the island.
Various areas of the island will be connected by a network of walking and running paths, and bicycle rentals and other “stress-free” transportation options will be available.
Plans also call for a Bahamian shopping village, a family beach with a kids’ restaurant and play area, a zipline attraction, a lagoon water feature, and a pavilion for weddings and celebrations.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for March, MSC said.