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MSC's Ocean Cay Marine Reserve


brichar499
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Ocean Cay opened last week and has had a couple of calls. There's lots of info and comments on the MSC board and, so far, the reviews are very positive. Because it is so close to the Miami home port, MSC ship calls stay until midnight so there is special activity on the island in the evening.

 

We are looking forward to our early January stop at Ocean Cay on MSC Meraviglia.

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  • 1 month later...

We just returned from a 7-night MSC Armonia cruise in the Caribbean.  Ocean Cay was great for our grandkids, who spent much of the day delightedly making sandcastles along a calm-water inlet.  But for adults, it started to feel a bit like "Pleasantville" in the movie "The Truman Show."  Too man-made and contrived. You feel as if you might touch a plastic bubble overhead if you reach high enough.  The scattered palms, looking as if they are laid out according to an architect's design, are planted and stuck in the ground with wooden supports until they take hold.  (Don't know how true this is, but we heard the island was previously a garbage dump for the Bahamas, over which MSC has poured sand and spread some concrete walkways.)  Bose outdoor speakers play music everywhere along the walkways, so if you thought you'd finally be free to enjoy some real peace and quiet, think again.

 

If you've never been to a tropical island before, you'll likely enjoy Ocean Cay.  You'll find the water pretty shades of blue, and the warm weather pleasant for both swimming and sunbathing.  (Note, however, that the water is cloudy near the shore due to all the imported sand, which underwater feels strangely like jelly beneath your feet in places.)

 

Everything else costs big $$, so come prepared to spend.  Good snorkeling apart from the tour (which I can't comment on) is non-existent; we were told at the "Snorkel Shack" (where they were straight-facedly renting out snorkel gear at high prices) that the reason there is little to see is because they are in the process of implanting and incubating coral around the island, which of course could take years if not decades to produce meaningful results.  Our grandkids did come across a hapless sea slug near the shore, which was considered a real "find" and was soon the attraction of the day on our part of the beach.


We'd already missed one port (Costa Maya) due to weather--high seas and winds--and Grand Cayman had to cancel its snorkel tours due to weather also, so we were relieved to finally get our kids and grandkids to a port they could enjoy.    Of course the cruise line can't be blamed for weather issues.  But I think we were all a bit disappointed in what this port turned out to be.  Several of our group had bought and practiced with snorkel gear before they came on this cruise, yet got to do almost nothing of that nature. 

 

On the plus side, there are outdoor showers and plenty of restroom facilities, and the lunch buffet at the big pavilion was cost-free, plentiful, and very good.  But they begin closing it down exactly at 2 p.m. so be mindful of the time.  Tip: At least go for the free ice water! 

 

Be sure to stay hydrated, and use lots and lots of sunscreen, renewed often during the day.  My husband and I wore long-sleeved/legged swimsuits and broad-brimmed hats, and were the only ones in our family who did not get sunburned, despite plentiful use of sunscreen.  It's a long day out there, with little shade unless you rent an umbrella, and those are glitchy and rather small.

 

We didn't do any of the proffered tour activities, so cannot comment on those.  They did not seem to be renting out any Sea-doos the day we were there, presumably because of rough weather on the open ocean.  But we did see some folks kayaking, mostly on the inner "bay."  Also you can rent large, stable inner tubes with plastic bottoms, which looked to be fun for families.  There is a small diving platform, too, in the middle of the bay, which was always packed with kids.

 

We missed most of the nighttime show due to having to pack.  It looked to consist of music, fires on the beach, and a light show on the lighthouse.  (I don't think the lighthouse is a genuine lighthouse, either, but it does provide a photogenic landmark for those Instagram pics.)

 

In short: Don't be overly critical of this very new, work-in-progress port, and you'll have an enjoyable day, especially if you have small children.  

 

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Edited by CoolBlueWaters
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Sad to hear about the piped-in music.  Even some of the other private islands and ports, where I used to be able to escape the madness and find a lounger in the shade and just spend the day reading and looking out at the gorgeous water, seem to have built noisy bars that blast music.  There's just no escape.

 

I don't snorkel but I realize that the beautiful sandy beaches tend to not have good snorkeling.

 

I just want to relax!  And since I have only ever stayed on the ship in port for 2 days (about 40 cruises total), I will still get off the ship and check it out.

 

Thinking about sailing Armonia again in late April.  May even do a B2B and I'd get 2 days at Ocean Cay.

 

Hope to read more thoughts about it in the next few months.

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We were there on January 6th on the Divina and I was pretty disappointed in the stop. I understand that it is new and MSC is still trying to figure things out and it will take time for the vegetation to flourish. The day we were there it was windy which made it cold, it was to cold to swim and people were using towels as blankets and lounging fully clothed on lounge chairs trying to stay warm. I realize that the weather is not controllable however it didn't help our experience. We rented a cabana four our group of 7 people and it was way on the other side of the island, about a 20 min walk and the train didn't go there as it was across the bridge. Bar service was awful. It took over 30 minutes to be able to get a drink, the blended drinks were not properly blended or cold and weren't even drinkable (we tried a pina colada and strawberry daquerie and neither were drinkable). We switched to beer thinking this would be easier but even this took over half an hour to get and the bar tenders were having issues ringing it up on their system for inventory control. The menu advertises local beer, we asked for one got a very confused response then we were asked if we wanted bud or bud light. When it was time for lunch we had to walk back over to the other side as there was nothing on our side of the island near the cabana except for yacht club options, which were were not a part of. Food truck served up some cold and soggy burgers that were pretty gross and undercooked pasta salad. We tried to go to the buffet but it was over 30 min line to even get into the buffet. We stayed till early afternoon (mainly out of a feeling of obligation especially since we had paid for a cabana) but couldn't get back on the ship soon enough. The sand on the beach was very rocky and shelly and in the water (we did dip our feet in) very jelly and unstable. They cancelled the junkanoo parade and encourage passengers to watch the lighthouse show from an open deck onboard the ship. We did this but they didn't turn off the music onboard so it competed with the lighthouse show. All in all between the beach, food, and drink service we found ocean cay very disappointing.

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We were there twice in our recent two Seaside cruises.  We thought it was the loveliest private island we've ever been to.  I do have to agree that I would prefer having no piped music along the walkways (though we could not hear it on the beach), but apart from that, it was perfect and beautiful.  We didn't spend on any extras, just walked the walkways, snorkeled, swam, lounged on the beach.  We found sufficient shade between a couple of trees, and just moved the loungers when it shifted; at the other beach we easily found loungers with a big umbrella.  Reef-safe sunscreen is a must!

The vintage travel posters in the restrooms are fabulous!

We just hope they don't add zip lines/rides/etc. in years to come.

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Here is a list of activities on Ocean Cay according to the MSC web site.  The first 75% were not available on my cruise last week.

 

NO

Beach soccer
Disc golf
Bocce ball and Tr-Ball-Rec
Aqua gym and Aqua Zumba
King of the Island and Queen of the Island
Ocean Cay Olympic Games
Caribbean and Latin dance classes
Luna Libre Party
Sunset cruise, evening beach picnic

 

YES

Beach volleyball
Tug of War contest
Junkanoo Parade
Evening lighthouse Show
Beachside fire pits and stargazing

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There is no question that this is a Private Island under development.  Compared to Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay, the actual area of the island designed for guests is larger.  A tram ride through the island with a talkative driver provided interesting information.  "See those palm trees we're driving by?  They were just planted 2 weeks ago."  While some might not like the music that is played, I found it interesting that the type of music being played changed depending upon the area one is.  For example:  in the Spa area of the island, there was "spa music" that set the appropriate tone for that area.  There seems to be more than ample deck chairs and different beach areas that overcrowding ought not to be an issue even with the size of Meraviglia which I was on.  As a Yacht Club guest, their Ocean House is built and was serving lunch and is as far away from the ship as it is possible to be.  Even in that area, there was a food truck available for wanted whatever they were serving.

 

My tram driver said that building another food pavilion is planned.  (Maybe that will eliminate the need for food trucks, which I think is rather "tacky".)  A water park is also being considered and there is plenty of room for such that would not negatively impact those that don't want that type of amenity.

 

I did not see the calypso show on the island (I was on the ship packing).  But, from my starboard side veranda, I was able to see the laser show at the lighthouse and heard the music.  Impressive!  It was offered at two different times in the evening.  Between the show times, there was continually changing light patterns on the lighthouse.  

 

If MSC wants my opinion on this island, I would recommend it be the first port of call out of Miami and not the last before Miami.  With the nighttime activities available and the need to arise early the next morning for disembarkation in Miami, that last night at sea makes for a rather short sleep.  

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/9/2020 at 5:35 PM, rkacruiser said:

 

 

If MSC wants my opinion on this island, I would recommend it be the first port of call out of Miami and not the last before Miami.  With the nighttime activities available and the need to arise early the next morning for disembarkation in Miami, that last night at sea makes for a rather short sleep.  

We will be on the Seaside the end of May- beginning of June and our trip will end with a stop at Ocean Cay and that was my concern as well. With having to be up and early the next morning I highly doubt we will be up to enjoy the late night activities. I also would think it would serve better to make it a first stop rather than a last stop.

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5 minutes ago, lastchamp64 said:

We will be on the Seaside the end of May- beginning of June and our trip will end with a stop at Ocean Cay and that was my concern as well. With having to be up and early the next morning I highly doubt we will be up to enjoy the late night activities. I also would think it would serve better to make it a first stop rather than a last stop.

 

At least, particularly if your stateroom is on the starboard side and has a veranda, try to witness the Sound and Light Show.  There is nothing "at sea" that I have seen that matches this as an entertainment for cruise guests.

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14 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

At least, particularly if your stateroom is on the starboard side and has a veranda, try to witness the Sound and Light Show.  There is nothing "at sea" that I have seen that matches this as an entertainment for cruise guests.

Unfortunately we are in suite 16027 which is on the portside. But since we are staying in the Haven we may find our way into the Top Sail Lounge and enjoy a beverage and watch it from there. 

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16 minutes ago, lastchamp64 said:

the Haven

 

 

The Haven?  Meraviglia is an MSC ship.  Yacht Club's Lounge is probably what you meant.  

 

Your plan is not a bad one; but I wonder if you will be able to hear the music with the Show within the Top Sail Lounge.  Being topside at the YC's Pool Deck will still provide the same view.  Since it is "open air", one ought to be able to still hear the music.  The Bar on that deck will probably be closed, but one could take a drink or so up to that deck.

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1 hour ago, rkacruiser said:

 

 

The Haven?  Meraviglia is an MSC ship.  Yacht Club's Lounge is probably what you meant.  

 

Your plan is not a bad one; but I wonder if you will be able to hear the music with the Show within the Top Sail Lounge.  Being topside at the YC's Pool Deck will still provide the same view.  Since it is "open air", one ought to be able to still hear the music.  The Bar on that deck will probably be closed, but one could take a drink or so up to that deck.

Opps my bad. I knew that. Yes I meant the Yacht Club. I may be wrong, but I thought the Top Sail Lounge also had an open area on the Seaside. If not, I may just do that and go up on the YC's pool deck. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

We were there last month.  Yes, it will take a while for all of the vegetation to grow, but aside from that it was the nicest "Private island" we've been to.  Plenty of loungers, beautiful beaches (yes, plural) many activities IE: Kayaking, jet skying, paddle boarding, sunset champagne cruise, several dining venues not just a beach bar-b-que, light show at night.  We had the beverage package and beverages were included on the island.  Best of all, we docked....no tender! IF there was a hotel there, I'd go and stay for a few days.

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10 hours ago, marco said:

We were there last month.  Yes, it will take a while for all of the vegetation to grow, but aside from that it was the nicest "Private island" we've been to.  Plenty of loungers, beautiful beaches (yes, plural) many activities IE: Kayaking, jet skying, paddle boarding, sunset champagne cruise, several dining venues not just a beach bar-b-que, light show at night.  We had the beverage package and beverages were included on the island.  Best of all, we docked....no tender! IF there was a hotel there, I'd go and stay for a few days.

 

Ocean Cay is a winner in my opinion.  Add another dining pavilion, which I think MSC is going to do, let the vegetation grow, and the other cruise lines private islands are going to have some serious competition for those cruisers who do not want an amusement park type of private island experience.  The evening light/sound show and Junkanoo Parade have no equal in my experience.

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  • 11 months later...

We have been to Ocean Cay twice.  The first time we were "regular" passengers in Aurora Class and the second visit we were in the Yacht Club area.  On our first visit we had decided to take the tram to one of the further out beaches.   There are several different beaches and they are marked.  There is even one designated for the crew.  Several of the beaches cater to families.  We headed out over the bridge past the Yacht Club area to a more secluded beach.  There are beach bars everywhere.  I strongly suggest setting up near one if you are a thirsty beacher.  We did rent umbrellas on the pathway and carried them to our spot.  The umbrellas are really lightweight so they were easy to carry.  When we left the beach, we left the umbrellas on the beach in their holders.  If you get to the Island later in the day, I'm sure you could just reuse one. We visited in January, so the water was too cold for us to swim.  We did wear water shoes and got all the way up to our ankles.  We walked about 10 minutes over to a food truck to get a couple of burgers. They were really good.  We came back to the ship to pack for our return to Miami as we were changing rooms.  We were fortunate enough to have a large balcony where we watched the light show and the parade.  The second leg of our B2B took us back to Ocean Cay on a cloudy, windy day.  Yacht Club passengers have their own transportation system in Ocean Cay.  Special golf carts are available as soon as you exit the pier.  The Yacht Club area has its own beach with plush towels and service at your lounge chair.  Butlers from the ship serve you frosty drinks and were always available to provide you with additional towels.  After 20 minutes, the wind and cold sent us into the quaint Yacht Club lounge and restaurant to warm up.  The restaurant is open air, so our waiter brought us towels to warm us up.  We had a lovely lunch and went back to the ship shortly after to pack.  We were glad that we experienced Ocean Cay in the sunshine on our first visit as the wind and cold made enjoying the beach difficult.  The vast amount of plantings we saw in January 2020 will make this island absolutely beautiful when the vegitation is fully grown.  We hope to be back in September 2021.

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On 2/26/2021 at 2:11 PM, Nashna said:

We have been to Ocean Cay twice.

 

An excellent review of Ocean Cay!  As a YC guest, I used their golf cart shuttle.  I was not aware that there also was a tram available.  

 

Your description of the YC facility as being "quaint" is apt.  It's a facility that needs to be significantly expanded in order to provide a proper Yacht Club experience.  I am hoping during this period of no cruise guests using the island, MSC has been busy "building out" Ocean Cay and improving the YC building.

 

On 2/26/2021 at 2:11 PM, Nashna said:

The vast amount of plantings we saw in January 2020 will make this island absolutely beautiful when the vegitation is fully grown. 

 

Agree!  Ocean Cay has the promise to be the best of the private islands that I have visited:  Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays.  

 

 

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And nicer than Labadee and Coco Cay, IMO.

One of the things I liked a year ago, with all "young" palm trees, was that I could see right across the island, to the beautiful aqua water on all sides, and I could see the various beaches and facilities, to get my bearings.  Lovely.

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  • 2 months later...

Can’t wait to see the first of the User photos and read the reviews. After a year and a half (or so) of being left alone, I’ll bet Mother Nature has done good things on the Cay. 

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On 5/17/2021 at 10:55 PM, flashot said:

 I’ll bet Mother Nature has done good things on the Cay. 

 

I would add to your thought:  what further investment as MSC made in the island?  When I visited Ocean Cay in January, 2020 (seems like an eon ago), my golf cart guide gave those of us a comprehensive tour and commentary about Ocean Cay.  He shared what he knew of the Company's plans.  I am also looking forward to the reports from those who will be able to soon visit Ocean Cay.  I hope.  

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Was there Any Scuba Diving. Any information would Be helpful. 

                                                                                Thank You

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Bilge Rat 2 said:

Was there Any Scuba Diving. Any information would Be helpful. 

                                                                                Thank You

From:   https://www.cruisehive.com/things-to-know-about-ocean-cay-msc-marine-reserve/37450   (Using your "Ctrl" key and "F" key, and type in "Scuba" can highlight anything listing scuba activities!)

 

More experienced divers can join a Two Tank Scuba Dive on Victory Reef. Coral caverns and swim-throughs in water from 35 to 90 feet in depth are home to Loggerhead Turtles, Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks and large fish such as Wahoo and Mahi-Mahi at Bull Run.Wow!

Edited by bgTexasguy
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  • 2 months later...

Hi all. Do we have anyone who has cruised the Cay (in 2021) reading this? Would be nice to hear what things look like. Pictures would be better. The wife and I will be on the 26 Sept Divina cruise. 

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18 hours ago, flashot said:

Hi all. Do we have anyone who has cruised the Cay (in 2021) reading this? Would be nice to hear what things look like. Pictures would be better. The wife and I will be on the 26 Sept Divina cruise. 

Have a look at the recent post by Twangster, on the MSC board, from his Meraviglia cruise.  Lots and lots of excellent photos of Ocean Cay.

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