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TPG Editors' Choice Award for best new cruise destination: MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay

Dec. 17, 2020
6 min read
TPG Editors' Choice Award for best new cruise destination: MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay
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It isn't often that an entirely new cruise destination opens in The Bahamas. But that's what happened almost exactly a year ago as MSC Cruises unveiled its very first private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

Just 65 miles east of PortMiami, the 95-acre getaway is a sandy oasis that's home to eight pristine beaches lined with lounge chairs, beach bars and beach-side food outlets.

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Exclusively open to passengers sailing on MSC Cruises ships, Ocean Cay also offers an oceanside spa, for those looking for some pampering; shopping areas with local Bahamian artisans selling arts and crafts; a family-friendly beach zone; and evening entertainment.

In short, for cruising fans, Ocean Cay is a rare and exciting addition to the array of destinations that can be reached on a short cruise from Florida. And that's why we've decided to give MSC Cruises a special Editors' Choice Award this year for the island's development as part of Cruise Week during our annual TPG Awards. We're calling it The Best New Cruise Destination Award.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

An MSC Cruises vessel docks at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. (Photo by James McEntee courtesy of MSC Cruises via AP Images)

Ocean Cay was years in the making and truly an extraordinary project. The island formerly was a sand extraction site, and MSC Cruises spent several years cleaning it up and also restoring the surrounding waters and coral areas.

In all, the line removed 1,510 tons of scrap metal from the island and surrounding sea bed. It also created a coral nursery on the east side of the island, with a focus on propagating endangered coral types that are native to the area. The line's long-term vision is for the island to become a base for marine biologists to conduct research into coral restoration.

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If you haven't heard all that much about Ocean Cay, it's because it only was open briefly early this year before the coronavirus pandemic caused the cruise industry to shut down. A grand opening celebration set for May was canceled on short notice.

Related: Fast-growing MSC Cruises orders six more ships

But when cruising to The Bahamas and Caribbean starts up again, Ocean Cay is expected to be a major draw for cruisers. MSC Cruises has said it'll be a stop on every one of the line's voyages in the region for the coming year, including quick three- and four-night night getaways from Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida. Four MSC Cruises vessels -- MSC Armonia, MSC Seaside, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Divina -- will visit the island.

One thing that sets Ocean Cay apart from many other private islands visited by cruise ships is that it has its own pier. That makes it easy for passengers to go back-and-forth between their ship and the island during visits. There's no need to "tender" to shore on a small boat.

The MSC Cruises ship MSC Seaside docks at Ocean Cay. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Other private islands that have their own piers include Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay and Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In one notable difference to other private islands, MSC Cruises plans to have its ships stay late into the night -- and in many instances overnight -- at Ocean Cay, allowing for evening activities. That's unusual for private island calls.

Evening activities will include beach-side stargazing, nighttime paddleboarding on glowing paddleboards and sunset beach picnics. There also will be a light show from the beach around the island's iconic red-and-white lighthouse, and an evening junkanoo parade.

A light show will take place at night around the red-and-white lighthouse at Ocean Cay. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

In a nod to the conservation needs of the island's surrounding waters, MSC Cruises is keeping the list of daytime activities available to visitors relatively low key. In addition to relaxing and enjoying the pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters, visitors can sign up for a range of ocean discovery and wellness activities such as yoga on the beach, kayak tours, and snorkeling and scuba diving outings.

Ocean Cay also is home to lovely private cabanas (which you can rent at an extra charge). Paddleboards, family rafts, floating beach mats and umbrellas also are available for rent. There also are electric pedal boats for rent.

For those staying in the exclusive Yacht Club areas of MSC Cruises ships, there also is a private beach area and restaurant.

When cruising to Ocean Cay starts back up again, MSC Cruises plans to implement all the same anti-COVID health and safety measures on the island that it plans to implement on its ships.

This exciting new island will be a major draw when it fully opens in 2021 — and for this, we're thrilled to honor MSC Cruises with the Best New Cruise Destination award.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by A light show will take place at night around the red-and-white lighthouse at Ocean Cay. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

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  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Go to review

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10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more