Beat Ship floating casinos put the accent on partying and entertainment
Cruise operator takes a gamble on luring clubbers
The story goes that, not long ago, Genting Group supremo Lim Kok Thay was lured to Las Vegas by son Lim Keong Hui to see first-hand how the nature of global gaming-based entertainment was evolving. Lim the elder apparently took a quick look around him and immediately saw the light.
Sure, billions are still being wagered on Las Vegas tables, but these days punters want more bang for their buck. Hence that city — and gaming destinations the world over — now boast "integrated resorts" where once there were simply casinos, and the choices of entertainment are now as varied as the games you can play.
Macau, of course, has joined the party. Its entertainment options are continually being expanded in response to a shift in public demand and an alarming drop in gaming revenues as the central government continues to crack down on excessive spending.
Up until now, however, this hasn't affected those who are disinclined to venture to Macau, Vegas or even Singapore. And that's where Genting comes in.
The first Beat Ship sets sail from our shores on July 1, on the Superstar Virgo. Previously, the ship has been known for cruises to destinations such as Hainan and Halong Bay in Vietnam, and for the fact that its gaming tables open for business as soon as it hits international waters. But Genting is moving with the times.
The deal with Beat Ship is you're entertained from the moment you embark, around 9pm, until you step off the next morning. During that time there'll be DJs — the first cruise is headlined by Dutch EDM duo Sick Individuals (Rinze Hofstee and Joep Smeele) and boasts a line-up that includes Alex Metric, Oliver, Jewelz & Sparks and Kenneth G — performers such as acrobats and dancers, and bars and restaurants available to suit your mood (as well as your cabin should you need a recharge).
The people behind the concept say they are simply responding to demand. "Genting's background has predominantly been in casinos and gaming, which is where our strengths lie. But this is a new direction to bring in a new demographic. It's still a premium crowd, but it's more about fun and lifestyle," says Andrew Li, Genting Hong Kong's vice-president of lifestyle and F&B concepts. "You see it in Vegas now — everybody is investing in lifestyle F&B and entertainment. Star Cruises want to bring in that premium lifestyle experience and that's what we are doing."
There are other examples of the ship party concept in the region — Singapore's It's the Ship onboard festival and the Sea 'N Beats adventure that cruises the waters off Australia, for example — but the difference here, says Li, is that the vessels are not simply hired out for events, they are fitted out for them permanently.
"We own the cruise ship so we can be unique in terms of what we want to do," says Li. "We brainstormed and looked at what would attract the Hong Kong crowd. Sure it's the clubbing crowd, but we think it's more. It's almost like a staycation. You can come on board and do something from the moment you arrive. Dinner, cocktails, the sports bar, clubbing. By four in the morning you can have another meal or go to your room and we're even back by 8am for those who might have to go to work."
On a recent weekday afternoon workers were refitting the back deck of the Superstar Virgo and its Aces nightclub, refashioning a dancefloor to surround its swimming pools, turning its first floor into VIP areas that will give guests eye-level views of the artists and revamping the sports bar to give clubbers a place to chill.
Even as the work is going on, and with the ship still in dock, the amphitheatre-style set up is impressive and you could easily imagine the place in full swing.
The boys from Sick Individuals are certainly keen to join the party. Their first brush with nightlife Hong Kong-style came with a two-night gig at Drop in 2011 and they sailed out this way as part of last year's It's the Ship line-up.
"It's only natural to be a little tense before you come up [on tour]," says Hofstee.
"We always try to prepare mentally and as soon as we get on stage, excitement takes over and we can only focus on our music and the amazing energy from the crowd and venue. It's a really special feeling, and we're pretty addicted to the vibes. The crowd [in Hong Kong] is always so amazing and enthusiastic. Also, performing on a boat is fun. It makes the gig even more special."
The folk at Genting are hoping clubbers feel the same way — and have other cruises in the pipeline.
"The challenge is to make the experience unique; to make people not want to miss a moment of what is happening," says Li.
Beat Ship, Wednesday, July 1, 9pm-Thursday, July 2, 12pm (check in and embarkation 6pm-8pm). Boarding: Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, TST. Tickets from HK$800 (standing/no room) to HK$6,000 (suite cabin for two). Prices include (per guest) access to the Beat Ship areas