Opening day has finally arrived for Baha Mar

Baha Mar is partially opening this spring and plans to fully open next year.
Baha Mar is partially opening this spring and plans to fully open next year. Photo Credit: Danny King

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 Graeme Davis.

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 public.

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 makers.

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."


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