No Air­plane Re­quired

Es­cap­ing to an­other coun­try just for the day

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY NICK CILETTI

Show off any pic­ture of Bi­mini and your friends will think you jet­ted to some far- off Caribbean des­ti­na­tion. They’ll see wa­ter as blue as the sum­mer sky; white, pow­dery sand that coats your bare feet like su­gar; and a back­drop of trop­i­cal palms and flow­ers over­look­ing it all.

There’s no way such a trop­i­cal place could ex­ist so close to the United States, let alone South­west Florida, right? That couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth!

They’ll never be­lieve you when you say the pho­tos are from an is­land you can get to with one tank of gas from any­where in

South­west Florida ( and a cruise ship, of course). It’s all true— it’s all on Bi­mini, a small group of is­lands nes­tled roughly 50 miles away from Mi­ami that’s part of the Ba­hamas. And the best part is, you can take a deluxe cruise ship from the Port of Mi­ami to this is­land get­away in the morn­ing— and be back be­fore mom rings the din­ner bell at night.

That con­ve­nience is what lured Gaby Caraba­jal, her boyfriend, and an­other cou­ple on board. “You come back and you get to come home the same day,” says Caraba­jal. “It’s the weekend and it’s easy.”

Caraba­jal and her boyfriend, along with an­other friend, de­cided to sur­prise one of their close friends with the day cruise for his birth­day. The gor­geous scenery, en­ter­tain­ment on board, and de­li­cious trop­i­cal drinks made for a per­fect day, she says. “I love the view. I’m ob­sessed with this,” Caraba­jal ex­plains as she points to the dis­ap­pear­ing Mi­ami coast­line. “It’s gor­geous. Even though it’s a lit­tle cloudy right now, it’s still breath­tak­ing.”

But the best part for this four­some is that the all- day cruise doesn’t quash any late- night plans. “You’re back by 7 p. m., so you can still do some­thing af­ter­ward if you’d like,” says Caraba­jal.

Guests need to ar­rive at the Port of Mi­ami promptly by 7: 30 a. m. for clear­ance to board the Bi­mini Su­per­Fast. Also, Bi­mini may be close, but it’s still lo­cated in the Ba­hamas, so ev­ery­one needs to carry a pass­port to sail.

The fes­tiv­i­ties start as soon as you step on board. There’s a DJ blast­ing Top 40 hits on the top deck along with dancing, karaoke and trivia. You can even do some gam­bling on board in the ship’s casino. Re­sorts World Bi­mini, the group that owns and op­er­ates the

Bi­mini Su­per­Fast as well as a re­sort on the is­land, of­fers six

BY 9 A. M., YOU’RE CRUIS­ING AWAY FROM THE FLORIDA COAST. YOU TYP­I­CALLY REACH BI­MINI IN LESS THAN THREE HOURS.

THE GOR­GEOUS SCENERY, EN­TER­TAIN­MENT ON BOARD, AND DE­LI­CIOUS TROP­I­CAL DRINKS MADE FOR A PER­FECT DAY.

restaurants and bars on board. There’s a con­ti­nen­tal break­fast buf­fet in the morn­ing as well as an op­tion for a tra­di­tional, sit­down meal. And in the evening, guests can grab a mul­ti­course meal or be more ca­sual and get burg­ers and hot dogs on the top floor, over­look­ing the seas.

By 9 a. m., you’re cruis­ing away from the Florida coast. You typ­i­cally reach Bi­mini in less than three hours. Once you’re close to shore, guests take large cata­ma­rans to the is­land and spend about three hours on Bi­mini.

When your feet hit the sand, Bi­mini is your oys­ter! Trams are wait­ing to take you ei­ther to the re­sort the cruise com­pany also owns or through a small town on North Bi­mini where you can check out lo­cal ven­dors, drink fruity drinks at the is­land’s fa­vorite wa­ter­ing holes and take a dip in the pris­tine, turquoise wa­ter at the beach.

For pas­sen­gers like Kara McKin­ney, it was all about the beach. “The wa­ter is very blue and very clear,” she says. “The sand is nice. It’s beau­ti­ful. Just like a post­card.”

McKin­ney now calls Aven­tura, Florida, home, but she re­cently moved there from Fort My­ers. She says even if she still resided in South­west Florida, she’d take the trip in a heart­beat.

“This leaves pretty early in the morn­ing, so you don’t have to worry about traf­fic,” says McKin­ney. “Or you could come down Fri­day evening, spend the night in Mi­ami and come straight over here. It’s very ac­ces­si­ble for some­one in South­west Florida.”

McKin­ney says an­other sell­ing point is price. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site, day cruises start at just $ 99 per per­son, of­ten­times with “Buy One, Get One Half Off” spe­cials. Some guests even booked their voy­ages through Groupon for just $ 50. “I would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend it for some­one,” says McKin­ney. “Look for the Groupon. Prices com­pared to Mi­ami are a lot cheaper.”

Guests should al­low plenty of time to get on and off the ship, both in Bi­mini and when the ship docks again in Mi­ami. Re­sorts World Bi­mini is now of­fer­ing cruises Fri­day through Sun­day. For a full sched­ule and to learn more about on­board ac­com­mo­da­tions and the re­sort, head to rwbi­mini.com.

n Nick Ciletti is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia. Dur­ing the week, he’s an an­chor and re­porter for NBC2 News in Fort My­ers.

Aboard the Bi­mini Su­per­Fast ( top l eft), com­plete with casino ( top right) and other en­ter­tain­ment, pas­sen­gers can reach Bi­mini’s blue wa­ter by lunchtime.

Vis­i­tors to Bi­mini can take in a post­card view while sip­ping a fruity drink ( be­low left) or ex­plor­ing a heap of conch shells ( be­low right).

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