By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Regular customers get a free dinner as a part of every night cruise, but that consists of college-dining-hall essentials: burgers, pizza, and hot dogs. For a $25 upcharge, you can have a three-course, prix-fixe meal at the restaurant, Ponce de Leon. We dine on steak, chicken, and fish as we are still docked. We are supposed to set sail at 10:30 p.m., but...
We finish dinner while still docked.
"Not sure," says the Genting rep. "But we'll be leaving by 11 or 11:30 p.m."
Corson and Gordon lead a media group on a tour of the entire ship. Of the ship's ten decks, only the top four are accessible to guests. Eventually, passengers will be able to load big-haul items like boats.
"In the winter, the Gulf Stream is rough to sail on a smaller boat," Gordon explains. "Now the SuperFast will let people cross without risk."
Genting's plan for Bimini is ambitious, and the SuperFast is just a small piece in a much larger puzzle. North Bimini (there's also a South Bimini and an East Bimini) is just nine square miles with a population of 2,000. Currently, only about 70,000 tourists visit the island each year, many of them sportsfishermen who arrive via small planes and charter boats. But Genting is hoping that by guaranteeing a safe and easy voyage, tourists will fill up rooms at the company's resorts and casinos there, though travelers are also welcome to use the ship for transportation and then stay at other properties. Genting served 20,000 passengers in its first month and predicts it will have taken 400,000 by the end of its first year.
Genting runs a 750-acre resort called Resorts World Bimini in North Bimini, and it features a recently opened, full-scale casino. The hotel has 450 rooms, a marina, restaurants, pools, and more. But the company has bigger plans for the island. On August 14, Genting broke ground on a 350-room marina hotel that is part of the company's plan to turn the small island into a luxury getaway.
And while the SuperFast cannot dock on the island yet — for day trips, it now docks a mile off North Bimini, and passengers transfer to a catamaran for the 20-minute trip to shore — a port large enough for it will be finished in November. Once the ship is docked, SuperFast passengers can easily explore the island and vice versa: People in Bimini can come onboard to enjoy the ship's casinos.
However, groups like Bimini Blue Coalition, an environmental group, called the resort's expansion and the planned construction of the cruise ship terminal for the SuperFast "unsustainable and misplaced," according to the Nassau Guardian. Some critics say that all the additional tourists and Genting's developments will strain the island's resources and ruin its quiet charm.
At Club Bimini — basically the whole top deck, tricked out with TVs, lights, and dancers — the downtown skyline still taunts us. Why aren't we moving?
"Not everybody has checked in yet, so customs is holding us back," Corson explains.
Names are being called over the loudspeaker asking them to check in at the front desk so we can depart. At Club Bimini, no one can hear over the music, so everyone keeps dancing.
At the center of everyone's attention is a guy the MC calls "el pollo loco," a random passenger who has dressed in a head-to-toe chicken suit, like he's going to a rave. Pair that with the fact that everyone has a glow-stick necklace or crown and it's starting to feel like Ultra Music Festival. The music of choice is trap, the latest EDM craze.
Then the MC announces that it's time for a "twerking contest"! Oh, Miley Cyrus, where are you? Huey's "Pop, Lock & Drop It" starts playing. After twerking, all three competitors get drinks on the house.
Eventually, someone realizes that the passengers on deck ten can't hear the announcements, so they cut off the music and read off a list of names. "The sooner we get everyone checked in, the sooner we can leave and everyone 18 and over can drink," the MC adds. Most clubbers disappear.
I go back to my cabin and lie down. In the elevator, a burly man with a deep voice speaks up. "Shit, I would have twerked for $1,000. That shit is rent money right there."
I'm starting to think this cruise will never leave and contemplate asking the Genting rep to let us off to try another time.
"Oh my God! We're moving!" yells my shipmate. I look out of my window to see the ship pulling away. Finally.
It's humid, even in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so we head back down to the main casino for some relief. At the brightly lit semicircle bar, surrounded by rows and rows of liquor bottles, I encounter a boisterous group.
"My boy is celebrating his birthday," says a guy in perfect cruise attire: shorts and a tank top. "He's turning 20."
"I'm the captain," says the birthday boy, cleverly pointing to his captain hat.
I'm not much of a gambler but take $20 out of the ship's ATM — with only a $3 fee! (Or so I thought. When I got home later, Bank of America had charged me an additional $4.)