Launch day is finally here for the Black Diamond casino cruise ship, which is expected to officially start service Wednesday at 7 p.m. from the Port of Palm Beach, a company official said Tuesday.
The same-day cruise-to-nowhere gambling trips were expected to begin this summer, but the 'cast off' date was delayed because of extensive upgrades to the 160-foot vessel.
"We're trying to open soft," said Jonathan Greene, president of Jupiter-based Black Diamond Casino Inc., the ship's owner and operator, of the Nov. 7 launch. "We're not trying to rush things."
Roughly $5 million was spent to refurbish the Black Diamond, which Greene's company purchased in January. The ship, which holds 500-to-600 passengers, was operated previously by SunCruz Casino.
The Black Diamond casino will offer several gambling options, including more than 250 slots, roulette, craps, blackjack and poker, according to its website, blackdiamondcasinocruises.com.
The ship will have two levels for gambling and one for dining, with a bar on each level. Cruisers will be able to enjoy entertainment in the dining room and on the first gaming deck.
Black Diamond's schedule should operate as follows:
The Wednesday-Saturday day cruise will run from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost $25 per person. On Sundays, it will operate from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at $40 a ticket.
The night cruise will operate from 7p.m. to midnight at $30 per person, except for Fridays and Saturdays, when it will depart 30 minutes later and end at 1 a.m. On those nights, tickets are $50 each.
The cruise price includes either a sit-down lunch, dinner or station brunch, depending on the sailing time, according to a Black Diamond representative.
The gaming ship arrived at the Riviera Beach port in May to undergo interior renovations shortly after completing mechanical upgrades in the Bahamas. The vessel was idle for two years before Greene acquired it.
Port officials anticipate the new casino cruise service will generate revenues of $900,000 to $1 million annually from various sources, including passenger fees and parking rates.
"We're extremely upbeat and very enthusiastic about the service starting this week," Port Director Manny Almira said Tuesday.
Since news of the service got out earlier this year, the Palm Beach County port has received calls from former Palm Beach Princess customers from northern Broward County to Martin County, officials said.
The Palm Beach Princess ceased operations there in early 2010.
"It's starting at the right time," said Almira, who noted the approaching winter season and return of snowbirds to South Florida, many of whom are likely to patronize the Black Diamond.
Reservations can be made by calling 561-623-1848 and the casino ship's website should be fully operational within a couple of days, Greene said.
So far, the Black Diamond is seeing "overwhelming response" from the public as evidenced by the number of calls seeking reservations, Greene noted.
"That's obviously exciting and we're very pleased."
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