Genting, the Malaysian resort conglomerate that is attempting to build the world's biggest casino in Miami, is working on another project at the moment called Resorts World Bimini and—along with a bright red cruise ship and flock of seaplanes to get there—marketing it heavily to Miamians. We recently took a media trip over there, and here's what we saw. Also, do check out Part One: To Bimini By Flying Boat.
4:45 PM: It's a Thursday, and my Resorts World Bimini seaplane has just touched down in Bimini. It's raining hard, but a bahamian employee of the resort runs over to meet us at the dock with umbrellas. The occupants of the plane dash into the resort's customs house, a little bungalow near the water. After a surprisingly long wait for the customs agent to show up (apparently 'island time' really does apply here) we head off to our rooms.
Resorts World Bimini is Genting's newest resort as well as its closest to Miami. The resort was previously known as Bimini Bay until Genting came in to operate it under the Resorts World brand. Unquestionably one of the reasons Genting is investing so much in Bimini, only 48 nautical miles away from Miami, is so Miami notices. Resorts World Bimini, although a huge presence on the island of North Bimini, is tiny compared to the massive Resorts World Miami project Genting hopes to commence in downtown Miami soon.
6:00 PM: Even though I came alone I'm assigned an entire condo with a kitchen and two bedrooms. The construction is rather simple but it's very spacious and has a large balcony. A hotel, with normal hotel rooms, is currently being built near the casino.
7:00 PM: I meet up with the other members of the media trip at Hemingway's, the casino bar, for drinks before dinner. The name is a reference to Ernest Hemingway, who used to spend time fishing in the area. There will be lots of drinking over the course of the two day trip. I get started with a fruity tropical drink, but soon switch to what becomes my standby through the trip, a gin martini with three olives.
8:00 PM: Dinner is nearby at the resort's flagship restaurant, Sabor. Here I'm introduced to a hallmark of local cuisine, Bimini Bread, made by a bakery in town. These little touches of local flavor are nice. On the other hand, it's apparent that Genting's primary goal is getting things done, not necessarily getting the details perfectly right. The name of the restaurant, which is Spanish for flavor, is a great example. It's not a Spanish restaurant, and it immediately made me think of Miami-based Publix Sabor, the Miami-based grocery store. It's a funny mental image for a Miamian looking for a bit of high end dining.
10:00 PM: After dinner some of us go into town to go bar hopping. The town is cute, but radically different from the resort itself. Locals live far more modestly than the resort's occupants. Although the locals seem to lead happy lives, the dichotomy is shocking and the resort is separated from the town by a large gatehouse. The resort is undeniably huge, employs many local Biminites, and is probably the major driver of the Biminite economy, but there's an ongoing debate about whether it might be too big and what the environmental consequences are. Fabian Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, and others have objected to the resort's environmental impact on the island's delicate ecosystem and its outsized impact on the island of North Bimini. So, like kings emerging from our castle in an electric golf cart, we go to a bar with a sandy floor, play dominos, and drink Kalik, the beer of the Bahamas.
10:00 AM: It's Friday and everyone else has gone scuba diving. I sleep in and head down to the pool closest to my room but the towel lady refuses to give me a towel saying I need a special card. Feeling rejected I return to my room. I learn later that the pool is technically for condo owners only even though it was totally empty except for me and the towel lady.
12:00 Noon: A buffet lunch with the gang at Hemingway's is quite good and our party is presided over by Chunky, a large Bahamian man who is the country's minister of tourism, or something. And yes, everyone calls him Chunky. I order a margarita which comes with a strange brown hue. It's made with rum. Not my thing, I switch back to martinis.
1:00 PM: I borrow a golf cart and explore the resort, heading down to the beach area where day trippers from Miami party after getting off the Bimini SuperFast ship. The idea is that Genting is creating a "beach club experience" with a DJ, water sports, and lots of booze. The DJ is setting up, and construction of the bar area seems to have stalled halfway to completion.
3:00 PM: Finally, the trip is winding down and our party convenes to board a tender to take us to the ship for our return to Miami. It's packed with tourists. Having hardly encountered any crowds the entire trip, it feels strange to be among so many people. Either Genting is great with crowd control, or they're just really good at keeping the VIPs comfortable and away from the throngs, or a little bit of both.
4:00 PM: We spend an hour sweating away on that tender before reaching the boat. Genting is building a dock big enough to handle the Bimini SuperFast but it's not done yet. All in all, the experience at Resorts World Bimini shows just how determined Genting is to finish what they've started and to build a giant resort and casino in Miami. They know what they want to do, and with determination in no short supply, who's to say they won't be able to do it?
Stay tuned for part three, chronicling our return home to Miami on the Bimini SuperFast ship.
· To Bimini And Back Part One: To Bimini By Flying Boat [Curbed Miami]
· Resorts World Miami coverage [Curbed Miami]
· Bringing light to the Bimini Bay Resort [Miamism]