When Heather's friend calls her on Friday morning, she answers the phone groggy. The night before, she had been partying at Hard Rock or Mansion or somewhere.
"Pack your shit," the voice on the line says. "We're going on a two-day, two-night cruise to the Bahamas."
Of course for free.
Heather, a lithe, 19-year-old nightclub darling with Uma Thurman's Pulp Fiction hairdo; clear, barely visible braces; and girlish hips, gets everything for free.
For Heather, free is a lifestyle choice.
"I don't pay for drugs, I don't pay for alcohol, I don't pay for the cruise," she'll tell anybody who asks. Well, why would she? She's got plenty of friends in the nightlife biz to hook her up with drinks and VIP bracelets and anything else she could possibly want. Her friend Freddy Volinsky, a promoter who organized the cruise, wouldn't think of charging a hot girl admission. When you're young and gorgeous and fun, free is a given.
But Heather — whose name is not really Heather — is more than that. She's nonchalant. She's effortless. She's cool personified and seems to only partially inhabit planet Earth. Heather is the ultimate hangout queen — she says she hasn't spent a night at home in Plantation in four years.
With the fey demeanor of a habitual pot smoker and the beatific solipsism of a girl who gets everything she wants, Heather is an object of wonder and envy. She mostly hangs with boys, because girls don't like Heather and Heather doesn't like girls.
Well, at least until she's downed piña coladas, liquid cocaine, shots of Patron, Bahama mamas, red-headed sluts, and multiple Xanaxes. At that point, she loves just about everybody. Flash-forward 36 hours from her friend's wake-up call and we find Heather in exactly this condition. She's aboard Imperial Majesty Cruise Line's Regal Empress with 100 other Ultimate Partiers. She's in a skimpy, flowered, string bikini, supine on a table, covered in whipped cream. She's groping the enhanced breasts of a bikinied 41-year-old ex-stripper.
All around them, guys are hooting and pumping their fists and — click, click, click — taking pictures.
The reality of the riotous goings-on aboard the Regal Empress on the August 10-12 voyage, though, is this: Guys can stare and snap all they want, but in the end, that's all they'll get. Heather is less interested in sex than she is in attention, free alcohol, and prizes. It's pretty much the attitude among all the females aboard the Ultimate Party Cruise — a first-of-its-kind, girls-gone-wild-at-sea extravaganza that could originate only in hedonistic South Florida. The pitch for the cruise is all about sex — and the payoff, it turns out, is anything but.
For Heather, this mismatch of intentions will almost culminate in disaster.
The Ultimate Party Cruise began as the dream of an Allstate Insurance salesman named Freddy Volinsky.
Volinsky lives in Weston and drives a black Hummer. Originally from Argentina, the 23-year-old bantam has wide-set, obtruding eyes; thinning, curly hair; and a simmering entrepreneurial spirit. "I believe if you want something, you go and you get it," he says.
In addition to his full-time job, Volinsky studies public relations at Florida Atlantic University and also works for Climax Event — a Fort Lauderdale-based nightlife promotions company. He's developed a reputation among friends as generous and loyal.
"He's a real sweetheart," Heather says. "He's just so nice. He loves to spoil girls. Whatever your little heart desires, he will give you." She talks about the time he took her out in Fort Lauderdale to an expensive restaurant and bought her a lobster dinner. Then there was the time Volinsky paid a bouncer $100 to get a fake-ID-less Heather into a bar. When it didn't work, she was upset — until Volinsky got her really drunk, she remembers. Sure, some people might get grossed out by him, she concedes, but she's known him too long for that. And she appreciates his honesty.
"You have to remember he has a penis, so there's two heads, " she says. "He'll flirt with you. He'll put it out there and make it known to anyone if he wants you. Just like he'll spoil you, he'll take his pants down."
Five months ago, Volinsky woke up smiling. He had dreamed that he and his friends went aboard a cruise ship. They traveled to international waters, where 18-year-olds could legally drink as much alcohol as they pleased.
Volinsky didn't want to forget this dream. In the dark, he reached for a notepad and penned "Cruise with friends." Over the next five months, he worked with his partner, Cary Rodman, at Climax Event to make it happen.
Climax launched a word-of-mouth campaign and posted advertisements on Facebook.com and MySpace.com for a cruise that would transport upward of 1,000 partiers. There would be a Playboy playmate and a Maxim model. There would be wet T-shirt contests, hot body contests, banana-eating contests.