MSC Cruises may be in the process of acquiring an island in the Bahamas for use as a private destination, according to comments made by a Bahamian minister.
A private island would fill a competitive gap in MSC's Caribbean product with other major cruise lines there, all of which have their own islands as part of their itineraries.
To date, MSC has not had enough ships sailing from South Florida to justify its own stop in the Bahamas. But starting in 2017 it will have a new ship, the MSC Seaside, sailing Caribbean itineraries in addition to the MSC Divina, which currently sails from Miami.
Ken Muskat, MSC's executive vice president for sales, public relations and guest services, said he couldn't comment on the possibility, saying, "It all has been pure speculation thus far."
Buzz about an MSC private island intensified after Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie brought up the project in a communication to the House of Assembly in late November.
Christie said MSC is considering an island about 20 miles south of Bimini known locally as Ocean Cay.
"We are negotiating an [agreement] now that they're going to put a new destination there, hire Bahamians, and as a result of approval they will also start an academy to train Bahamians in Freeport," Christie was quoted as saying in the Nassau Guardian newspaper.
He said the budget for developing Ocean Cay as a cruise port ranges between $100 million and $200 million.
Ocean Cay covers 95 acres and was built through a dredge-and-fill process in 1970 as a base for a sand-mining operation. It was recently discussed as a site for a liquefied natural gas import terminal.