Free Art Basel ferry service UberBOAT only for VIPs, one rider claims

UberBOAT, the complimentary ferry service for Art Basel attendees this year, is more a VIP water taxi than a free ride for commuting art fans.

That’s according to one rider who attempted to snag a trip from Sea Isle Marina to Miami Beach’s busy art show across the bay only to be turned down because he and his party were not VIPs.

Felix Jimenez of Miami said he attempted to request an UberBOAT from the designated art district area on Thursday but got no response. When he and his wife, Deanne, walked over to the marina, an empty UberBOAT was waiting with about six Uber employees.

According to Jimenez, one employee told him getting matched for the UberBOAT was “almost like winning the lottery, we don’t expect most people to get it.”

They were told they could not board without arriving in a designated Uber SUV, Jimenez said. But when he and his wife found an empty Uber SUV several blocks away, the driver said “there were only two UberBOAT cars in the art district and he was only authorized to take VIP passengers as directed by staff at the marina.”

“Effen Vodka, the co-sponsor, and Uber should be ashamed,” Jimenez said in an email to the Herald. “Next time I’ll take Lyft. At least they’re honest.”

Uber’s free service had been touted as a novel transportation option available to circumvent some of the Basel traffic this week.

Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said there is a lot of the demand for the complimentary service, which takes up to six people at a time on a boat between the marinas on Purdy Avenue and 17th Street in Miami Beach and Sea Isle Marina off Bayshore Avenue and Northeast 16th Street in Miami. The service is only available between 2 and 10 p.m. through Sunday.

And most importantly, Correoso said, riders need to first get matched to an SUV through the app before getting on the boat.

The statement that only VIP passengers can ride across the bay is “not correct,” he said.

“Obviously it’s a busy weekend so not everyone is going to get matched,” Correoso said. “[But] this is available to everyone.”

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