NASSAU, Bahamas -- Baha Mar began hosting media, government
officials and VIPs on Thursday, as the long-delayed beachfront resort just west
of Nassau prepared to start taking reservations from the general public for
stays starting in late May.
Dozens of workers hustled to prepare the guest rooms and
public areas of the 1,800-room Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, its 100,000-square-foot
casino, its arcade of high-end retailers and a handful of the 40 restaurants
and bars that is serving the estimated 800 people Baha Mar was hosting on Thursday.
The resort's ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Friday
morning, attended by Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie and Baha Mar president
As for the general public, Baha Mar was scheduled to start
taking reservations on April 21 for stays beginning May 29.
Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE), which
agreed to acquire the $4.2 billion resort late last year, said it would invest
about $200 million getting the project's first phase ready for the general
Once fully opened next year, the resort will also include a
300-room SLS Lux hotel near its eastern end and a 200-room Rosewood property
closer to its western end (the exteriors of both properties are largely
completed). CTFE owns Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.
Guests on Thursday were treated to a resort that might suggest
a Caribbean Las Vegas, thanks to its huge casino, its glitz factor (retailers
will include Rolex, Bulgari and Tiffany) and its giant scale -- the Grand Hyatt
alone consists of two 20-story towers and five separate pool areas, and it
adjoins a 200,000-square-foot convention facility.
Upstairs, though, the Grand Hyatt is taking a slightly more
subdued approach. Rooms feature a tasteful violet, blue and white color scheme,
while the marble-clad bathrooms are bordered by pocket doors that open to ocean
views from the oversized tub. The water-facing rooms are set up so that the
beds face the ocean.
Rooms have Bluetooth-enabled alarm clocks and Keurig coffee
For the festivities, Baha Mar has opened five of its food
and beverage outlets, including an Asian noodle bar called Stix, a gastropub
called the Swimming Pig and a three-meal Italian-themed eatery called 3 Tides.
Baha Mar will have its own dedicated area at Nassau's Lynden
Pindling International Airport, where resort guests can check in before being
shuttled in private vehicles for the 10-minute drive to Baha Mar. (This
reporter was transported in a Mercedes-Benz SUV, though the resort had not yet
determined what kind of vehicles would be used).
Baha Mar officials and Christie are hoping the soft-opening
ceremonies mark an end to more than two years of delays for the project, which
broke ground here in Nassau's Cable Beach area in February 2011 and is the most
expensive private project in the Bahamas' history.
Original developer Sarkis Izmirlian first scheduled the
project to open by the end of 2014. But he eventually lost control of Baha Mar
amid delays and financial constraints and was ousted last year.
"Once you see the product and you live it and swim in
the water and walk on the beach, that's the best way to showcase the property,
and that's the beginning of our selling effort," said Karin Salinas, who
joined the resort earlier this month as vice president of marketing after
previously working for Rosewood. "A lot of expertise and contributions
were added when CTFE came onboard."
Guests will be greeted at the resort's entrance by a water fountain
and lake in which a choreographed water show each hour features lights, music
and artificial geysers shot more than 100 feet into the air.
The casino, at 100,000 square feet, will be the Caribbean's
largest. In addition to a $250,000 crystal chandelier centerpiece, other
amenities will include a 30,000-square-foot Espa-branded spa. The resort will have
a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
The resort's second phase will include the opening of the
SLS Lux hotel this fall, while the final phase will be marked by the opening of
the Rosewood property. Baha Mar, which has about 1,600 workers, will eventually
employ about 6,000 full-time staff.
The 694-room Melia Nassau Beach all-inclusive resort, which
recently completed $19 million in renovations, was initially supposed to be
part of Baha Mar. Officially, it is not currently included in Baha Mar, though
Salinas said it would be added "at a later date."