SuperFast does more than describe how a 32-ton cruise ship travels from Miami to Bimini. In this case, it describes the pace at which the entire operation came together.
It was only a year ago that casino giant Genting Malaysia Berhad and the developer of Bimini Bay Resort and Marina announced a partnership, Resorts World Bimini, that would bring a casino to the North Bahamas island. Since then, Genting has built a casino in Bimini and converted a $70 million ferry into a speedy transport from Miami to the island.
SuperFast also describes how fast the company plans to proceed. An evening party cruise will launch this weekend (with DJ Laz spinning Aug. 16 and DJ Irie performing Aug. 17), and an expanded sports book will be in place in time for football season. A jetty should be completed this fall, making it easier for the ship's customers to reach the island, because the boat currently has to anchor offshore. And two 300-room hotels will be built near the casino, with prefabricated pieces being shipped in from Asia to speed construction.
So with all those moving parts, there's still some work to be done.
"We're moving fast to try to pull it all together," says Dana Leibovitz, the president of Resorts World Bimini.
Casino gambling ships were popular about 10 years ago, but faded once slot machiness arrived at the Seminole casinos and South Florida's horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. Lebovitz says the casino is just a piece of the Resorts World Bimini experience.
On a recent Saturday, the Bimini SuperFast left the Port of Miami an hour after the scheduled 9 a.m. departure time, because the computerized registration system malfunctioned. (Bimini SuperFast acknowledged the problem by offering passengers free lunch onboard.) A couple of passengers complained that the ATMs didn't work. But once the ship started up, it knifed through the water. The SuperFast is narrower and has a lower center of gravity than most cruise ships, Lebovitz says, and it's the fastest cruise ship in the world at 30 knots per hour.
"We call it our little red Ferrari," Leibovitz says.
So with only about two hours of ship time, a passenger has to hustle to take full advantage of the ship's amenities. The buffet breakfast on Saturday included scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast, and for those people who move slower, the sit-down version (also free) offered cheese or ham omelets.
Gambling commences once the ship reaches international waters three miles out, and options include 148 slot machines in the center of the ship and 23 tables for blackjack, baccarat, roulette and craps with a view out the back window. Blackjack limits start at $10, a blackjack pays 3-to-2 and the dealer must stick on soft 17 (which is advantageous to the player). Players receive free drinks.
Outside, passengers sun themselves on the top deck, and cruise director Susan Schleifer keeps the children entertained, with face-painting and games. She also recruits karaoke singers.
As opposed to the rest of the Bahamas, Bimini doesn't attract many tourists. The Gulf Stream can create choppy waters in the winter to the island, and visitation drops to less than one-fourth occupancy.
But the SuperFast ship should do well, says passenger John Coltune of Aventura, an avid boater who owns a condo in Bimini. "I never expected it to be this smooth and fast," he says. "Pretty amazing."
For now, cruisers spend about 30 minutes each way taking what SuperFast officials call a "catamaran" (most people would call it a tender), because the ship can't dock directly onto the island. That's set to change in November, after Genting builds a dock, despite some complaints from locals against more expansion. For now, the ship's staff tries to make the best of it, offering patrons iced washcloths and bottled water and providing an audio tour of the island.
Until last month, the 750-acre resort was known as Bimini Bay Resort and Marina. It consists of more than 480 luxury homes and villas, about half of which are rented as part of a condo-hotel program. It also includes a large yacht-marina complex, a shopping village, five restaurants and a beach club.
While Genting in 2011 announced it wanted to build a $3.8 billion destination casino in Miami, the visitors Saturday weren't much for gambling. Most hit the beach, a few hit the bars and a few hung out by the resort's pool. That means the 15 tables and 153 slots were more than enough for those people who had spent the night on the island and the 800 or so who arrived via the ship. The casino itself is an airy piece of the island's nerve center, with a view of the dock area and all the outdoor temptations. This isn't the stereotypical casino with no clocks and no outside distractions.
Genting Americas president Colin Au says the resort plans to begin hourly plane services between Miami and Bimini once an existing airstrip has been upgraded, and to open a water park on another part of the island.