February 10, 2013 | 3:49 pm | Print
Above: the new Miami-Bimini ferry (BIS Photo)
By Alexander Britell
In what could be a significant boost for tourism in Bimini and the Bahamas, the new Miami-Bimini ferry officially launched operations this weekend.
The ferry, run by Spanish firm Balearia, will operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, leaving the Port of Miami at 9 AM and arriving at Alice Town in North Bimini by around noon. Passengers doing a one-day trip will leave Bimini at 5 PM and return to Miami by 8 PM.
It is the first major linkage between Miami and Bimini, which is just about 50 miles to the east.
The launch comes ahead of the planned debut this year of the casino operated by Malaysian gaming giant Genting, which is scheduled to open later this year at the Bimini Bay Resort.
The developers of that property, RAV Bahamas, have been seeking to position Bimini as a Hamptons-style retreat from Miami, and the ferry could go a long way in making that a reality, along with providing a lift for other properties like the Bimini Big Game Club.
Above: the arrival reception on Saturday
The Balearia Bahamas Express’ Maverick ferry will carry a max of 357 passengers.
Bahamas Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, who is also the Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini, was on hand in Alice Town on Saturday for the arrival of the Maverick, which brought in 89 passengers, greeted by the sounds of Bahamian junkanoo music.
A sample fare involving a trip from Miami to Bimini, departing Friday and returning Sunday, cost $145 round trip, according to the company’s Web site.
Several current promotions would bring that number down.
Balearia also operates round-trip service between Fort Lauderdale and Grand Bahama.