The second day of my MSC Seashore cruise was a much anticipated visit to Ocean Cay Marine Reserve (Ocean Cay). MSC's private island is the Bahamas, not far from Bimini.
With the current weather issues in the Caribbean, I felt very fortunate that we were able to make this port stop.
There are tons of activities on the island. You can enjoy a day in the sun or participate in numerous activities. One of the great things about Ocean Cay is that you can have a fantastic time on the island without spending any extra money, as there is so much to do.
Here is how I spent my day.
Morning / arrival on island
I got up reasonably early this morning, just before 7 am, having a very good sleep. One thing about an inside cabin is that it is nice and dark, making it easy to sleep. I did set an alarm, though, as I did not want to oversleep today’s port stop.
I headed to the Marketplace buffet for a light breakfast, with some eggs and toast and a few apples to go for later in the morning. In general, the buffet is well staffed and has a good selection of breakfast items.
The Marketplace offers spectacular views from most vantage points, and I could see our approach to the island while eating. Although slightly overcast at that time, the lighthouse was highly visible with its sharp red and white stripes. My first impression is that MSC has done an impressive job with this island, which is a repurposed industrial site.
Around 9 am, I ventured off the ship, and the clouds started to dissipate. Our ship docked at the pier, which is great; no tendering is involved. It is a quick walk to the main center, where there is a Welcome Pavilion, along with a steel ban to welcome guests.
Walking through the main area, the island has a natural Bahamian look, with colorful buildings that house a number of shops and services for passengers.
Exploring the island
With no set plan, I followed the main path to South Beach. which is one of the many beaches on the island. It is quite long, with plenty of loungers and chairs with shade. It faces a calm lagoon with crystal clear water, great for families. It looks out to North Beach, which is attached by a small bridge, which was not busy at all.
After relaxing in the sun for a bit, I walked around a little more to a different part of the island. You really get a sense of paradise on this island. It is different from other cruise ship stops in that there are no pools or slides, but it has a very relaxed vibe with tons of space to chill out.
Most of the food venues on the island are free, a bonus for passengers. The main spot is Seakers Food Court, a large buffet with tons of covered outdoor seating.
It has a fairly extensive menu with a variety of salads, and meats such as hamburgers, hot dogs, pork chops, sausages, and ribs, along with jerk chicken and fish. There are plenty of great sides, including fries, corn on the cob, and mac and cheese. There is lots of fresh fruit for desserts, along with cookies and other sweet items. My meal of mahi-mahi , black rice and beans, yucca salad and a small hamburger was not bad, but a little dry.
They also have a bar area within the food court where you can use your onboard account to buy beer and soda, although there are bars nearby for something more substantial.
There are a couple of food trucks located throughout the island which serve BBQ favorites with pasta salad, fries, and brownies, all complimentary. Oddly they only had ketchup and mayonnaise, limited toppings for any hot dog lover. You can also get coffee and ice cream for an extra charge at the nearby Smiling Fish.
After filling my stomach and a quick trip back to the ship, I headed off to explore the other part of the island, including Sunset Beach, which had very few people and the most incredible views.
This led me to the island's signature lighthouse, which is at the most Eastern point. Such a beautiful walk that leads you along a winding path to a bar at the foot of the lighthouse. There were a few energetic passengers walking to the top of the lighthouse, but I took a pass in the midday heat.
This area has to be my favorite spot on the island, with its unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea. With a light breeze and an old school Bahamian design, it is a great place to spend some time in a quiet, relaxing environment. Some of the other bars closer to the ship were quite busy, but if you want some peace and quiet, this is a great spot.
I have to give kudos to MSC for the design of this island; it does feel like a tropical oasis They have done an excellent job planting bushes and palm trees throughout the island; it is not overly manicured in its landscape, which adds to the authentic touch.
Getting around the island is fairly easy (and I say this as a directionally challenged person). There are several easy to use walking paths throughout the island, as well as open-air buses that take guests all over. They even have covered shaded areas, which is helpful on a hot day.
You can use your MSC card throughout the island to make purchases, buy drinks and any other extras. The MSC drink package works on the island.
For convenience, there are free lockers in the change rooms, which are dotted across the island. I did not see anywhere to get extra towels, although I may have missed them.
Activities / things to do
The day we visited, there were numerous complimentary activities on the agenda, including volleyball, kite flying, treasure hunt, and bocce.
For a fee, you can also rent kayaks, a jet ski, and floating maps, along with boat/ snorkeling excursions, which I did not do.
There are a number of shops on the island, with some Bahamian-made products such as soaps, ceramic works, authentic Bahamian sponges and classic straw bags. There are also lots of t-shirts, jewelry and other classic souvenirs.
Later in the afternoon, I popped back to the ship for a quick break and to grab some food before the evening activities. One of the highlights of visiting Ocean Cay is the nighttime entertainment on the island. With the change in itinerary, this ended up being the same time as formal night; however, I was much more interested in spending the evening onshore.
Many people had gone back to the ship when I walked back along the short dock. The sun was starting to go down, and the 90s temperature of the day eased off to a more moderate one.
The crowds started to gather along the main boulevard, and in the distance, I could see some of the Junkanoo dancers gathering. Junkanoo is a famous Bahamian tradition where dancers and musicians come together to celebrate, usually around Christmas, but luckily for us, MSC puts on a show all year round.
Dressed in incredibly bright costumes with beautiful hats with feathers, it was a sight to see. The musicians followed with drums and shakers, creating a magical repeating beat. They traveled along the island's main route, dancing with passengers, and everyone was having a wonderful time. Onlookers joined them in concert to walk back toward the ship, the MSC Seashore sign gently illuminating the night. What an incredible evening and end to an amazing day at Ocean Cay
Tomorrow is a sea day and I look forward to exploring more of the ship.