The first trees have been planted on MSC Cruises’ first private island in the Caribbean a year before it starts receiving passengers.

The line is transforming a former industrial sand extraction site in the Bahamas into a marine reserve and private island destination.

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is due to open in November 2019 with four MSC Cruises ships calling at the island on different days.

More information about the experience on offer to passengers will be revealed in the coming months, the line said.

More than 75,000 native shrubs and plants will be planted with 60 types of indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs.

Construction will start soon on 100 environmentally-friendly structures, which will include bars, restaurants and housing for staff who will live on the island.

Up to 140 Bahamians will be recruited for permanent jobs on the island covering a range of different roles including management, technical staff, island attendants, lifeguards and rescue divers

Work will also shortly be underway on a lighthouse – set to become a landmark of the island and a focal point of evening entertainment for passengers.

More than 500 tons of historic industrial waste and scrap metal have been removed, with the final underwater debris clean-up about to begin.

MSC Cruises is in the process of recreating the seabed surrounding the island, which will soon be re-populated with a variety of marine life.

Over 500,000 tonnes of sand and soil have been moved to create a solid foundation and work has been carried out to shape the island itself.

A shallow water lagoon will be created in the centre of the island to provide an area for families to relax in addition to eight beaches.

A marine laboratory will research climate change-resistant coral in hopes of providing insights to similar island habitats.

MSC Cruises’ executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said on a visit to the island: “It was a very special moment to be on the island together with the team that has been working non-stop on this incredible project to see how our vision is starting to take shape.

“Words cannot convey the unbelievable natural beauty of our island and it is only when you have stood there for yourself, surrounded by nothing but beautiful ocean with nothing else on the horizon, that you can really understand what we are accomplishing here.

“I can’t wait to welcome in one year’s time our first guests to this truly magical place, a one-of-a-kind island and experience that will set new standards for a private island experience in the Caribbean.”

He added: “We are already seeing the return of the marine life that is usually so prevalent in this area.

“We are seeing an abundance of lobster, conch, stingrays and other fish and by the time we finish the work the waters around the island will be again teeming with life and new coral.

“As a company with such a rich maritime heritage, preserving the oceans is of the highest importance to us and this is a wonderful opportunity to protect a little piece of paradise and allow our guests to experience it.”