TPG Editors’ Choice Award for best new cruise destination: MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
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.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Featured image of courtesy of MSC Cruises
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees