In what is being billed as an “improved transportation initiative” that promises to deliver “Bimini Bliss”, Resorts World Bimini (RWB) has announced that their casino cruise out of Florida stopped operations as of Sunday, January 10th. Replacing the Bimini Superfast Casino ferry will be enhanced air service from south Florida to the 750 acre integrated casino resort owned by Malaysia’s Genting Group.
Visitors departing Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will have five options per day to travel to Bimini, located about 50 miles east of Miami in the Bahamas. Cape Air began two daily flights to Bimini in December, ending several years of the island having no regular air service. In addition to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood departure point, service is also offered from the Watson Island Seaplane Base in Miami.
Silver Airways has also increased its flight schedule from three times per week to once a day.
The Superfast ferry offered a full casino and nightlife experience as well as lodging. Even with speeds up to 30 knots the trip took almost three hours, whereas air transport will get players to the island in less than half an hour. The Superfast was rated for up to 1,600 passengers but never saw a full deck. The enhanced air service is expected to increase visits by up to 500 per day.
In November Genting Group announced plans to invest another $450 million in the RWB property. Plans call for a new 200 guestroom hotel. Enhanced transportation amenities will include lengthening the Bimini airport runway to 9,000 feet along with upgrades to flight and terminal facilities. New seaplane access will be created with a water taxi terminal and landing facilities for watercraft, as well as a heliport.
It is still unclear where the Superfast will be returned to service for Genting. Some locals will just be glad to see it gone, saying the ship damaged the local ecosystem.
Another angle may see the ship’s demise as a betrayal. The Bimini Blue Coalition and Save The Bays eco-advocacy groups are represented by prominent lawyer Fred Smith, QC who told Tribune242 that, “[The Bahamas] got pennies for that land that will now be leveraged into hundreds of millions of dollars in land sales on hotels, homes and condo sales, time-sharing, cruise dock fees, stamp tax and real property tax.”
He Continued, “Genting’s Resorts World Bimini supposedly built this terminal to aid in the sale of million dollar townhouses to unsuspecting second home owners. They dug up the highly valuable nursery area of the North Sound and in the same manner acquired tons of cheap fill. They got tons, cubic football fields full of cheap fill while destroying priceless reefs. Yet, Alice Town got no infrastructural improvements, no education, no vocational training schools, no opportunities in the cruise ship industry. They got nothing. All of that given up for a ferry that no longer operates,” he said.