A new cruise/ferry service may soon be coming to South Florida. Genting (USA) Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Genting Malaysia has purchased the 32,728 gross ton fast ferry SUPERFAST VI from Attica Holdings, the operators of SuperFast Ferries in Greece, to transport guests from Florida to their new casino at North Bimini Island in the Bahamas. Renamed BIMINI SUPERFAST the ship was built in 2001 at the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft at Kiel, Germany. The ship is capable of carrying 1,600 passengers, with berths for 934 overnight passengers. It is 669 feet long with a beam of 82 feet. As the name implies it can operate at a very high speed of around 28 knots, and will be able to complete the 48 nautical-mile distance from the Florida coast in around 2 1/2 hours.
During the cruise over to Bimini, passengers will of course have the opportunity to get a jump on their gambling in the shipboard casino. The ship also features an “a la carte” restaurant in addition to more casual fast-food options and a variety of bars and lounges. One of the highlights of this class of ship is a two-story disco featuring a wall of glass overlooking the stern. Typically on short Bahamas cruises shopping plays an important roll and it will on this ship as well. Outside decks offer an open-air bar with dance floor, deck chairs for lounging by the small swimming pool and children’s facilities during the summer. Rather than using the Genting name which is not that familar in America it is likely the cruise company will be known as Bimini SuperFast Limited (BSF), a company that was incorporated in the Isle of Man on March 25th for the purpose of providing cruise and cruise related services to Bimini Islands, Bahamas. The ship is now in Patras, Greece, and has been registered in Panama.
SuperFast ferries are operated all over the world, from Greece to Italy, on North Sea services in Europe, in Canada and even in Australia. The Genting group themselves maintain casino operations all over the world as well. They are also the parent company of Star Cruises in Asia and and own a 44% stake in Norwegian Cruise Line. The company has been trying to change Florida laws to build a casino in Miami for years without success and this venture is the next closest geographic alternative. Bimini is the nearest offshore destination to South Florida where a full casino can operate, except for native American Tribal casinos which are legal in the state. Resorts World Bimini Bay, at Bimini Bay Resort & Marina on North Bimini is scheduled to open in December, 2013 and will feature a 10,000-square-foot casino with full-scale gaming tables, slots and sports betting, in a venue similar to Genting’s London casinos. This marks a return to the Bahamas for Genting which in 1986 built the Lucayan Beach Resort and Casino in Freeport in partnership with the Bahamian Government. This deal is a partnership between Genting and RAV Bahamas, which is transforming the once sleepy little island, best known for its world-class fishing into an international gambling mecca. Conveniently, the vessel could also be diverted to Havana cruises, should Cuba open up as a destination in the to-so-distant future. From Miami it would be an eight hour sea voyage on a SuperFast ship to Havana and from Key West, as little as three hours to that currently forbidden island to the south.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.