Port Canaveral casino cruise ship will troll for inland customers

A new gambling ship set to launch Friday at Port Canaveral has its eye on inland Central Florida residents and tourists as a source of business in the future.

Victory Casino Cruises, whose maiden voyage is scheduled for 7 p.m., said it plans to establish shuttle bus routes to the port and work with Metro Orlando malls, hotels and time-share resorts to feed patrons to its ship inBrevard County.

The company — the first to offer off-shore gambling cruises from Port Canaveral since 2009 — said it is still negotiating on particular stops in theOrlando area.

"The line runs are going to start about two weeks after we start sailing," said Stephanie Hackley, sales manager for the cruise company. "We will be running bus transportation from Orlando out to the ship."

Earlier this week, the company said it had received approval from the U.S. Coast Guard to begin excursions.

The ship will sail seven days a week and offer more than 600 slot machines, sports betting, and casino table games such as craps, roulette, blackjack and 3-card pokerall that open for business after the ship leaves state waters. The ship also includes a nightclub and dining options.

"The anticipation and interest by area residents has been remarkable," Victory's chief operating officer Greg Karan said in a release. "Our staff is very excited to get going and show off Victory."

The ship was previously operated by SunCruz Casinos as the Surfside Princess, but that company stopped offering the so-called "cruises to nowhere" in December 2009 as it headed toward bankruptcy, according to reports by Florida Today. Victory acquired the 1,200-passenger ship and renovated it.

Victory Casino Cruises initially said it would begin sailing this past November, but the start date was pushed back repeatedly due to longer-than-expected bankruptcy proceedings for SunCruz and a later-than-expected certification by the U.S. Coast Guard, according to reports.

When it comes to pulling visitors from inland, Victory's shuttle bus route from Central Florida to the coast will be similar to one operated by the previous owner, Hackley said.

The routes, which have not been made final, will likely include stops at Premiere Outlets-Vineland Ave., the Florida Mall and in the Villages. The company also plans to run a route along U.S. Highway 50 from Ocoee to Titusville, as well as along State Road 436 south of Sanford and U.S. Highway 192 in Kissimmee. The exact pickup locations are still being negotiated, Hackley said.

Tickets for the ship cost $10. The price of an on-board buffet meal ranges from $15 to $20, depending on time and day of sailing. For information, visit victorycasinocruises.com or call 855-468-4286.

skclarke@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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