Atlantis Paradise Island
After an intensive and budget smashing 18-month long renovation of our home (and moving out for a year in the process), our family of six was ready for a real resort vacation. Imagine us! Traveling in the high season! Actually needing to buy “resort wear” from a “resort wear” collection!
My expectations were big, as was the price tag, but Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas seemed to offer all that we wanted.
We had traveled to the Bahamas several times on cruise ships, so we were looking forward to plopping ourselves on an Atlantis chaise and having attractive mortals bring us drinks; we didn’t plan on exploring much more than the drink menu on site.
Travel direct if possible. Flying through Miami is a pain, but the Bahamian airport is brand new and very nice.
Once at Atlantis, check out the free shuttle that can carry you back and forth to each tower. We used this when we were very tired. You will do a lot of walking there because Atlantis is huge! I wasn’t prepared for all the walking and the somewhat confusing layout of all of the pools, slides, and beach activities.
We stayed at The Reef, a huge condo-like building, on the farthest corner of the resort. (There is another tower – the Ocean Tower – WAY off the beaten path; probably not a great idea to stay there with small kids.)
As a party of three adults and three children, sleeping arrangements were our paramount concern.
We booked a double-suite, which is essentially a studio condo AND a king 1-bedroom condo with adjoining rooms. This gave us two bedrooms, two master-suite bathrooms, a third bathroom, washer/dryer (used only once for socks and underwear); a huge living room and a full kitchen with breakfast bar.
The Reef doesn’t have many amenities beyond the amazing rooms. There is a Starbucks in the lobby but the line can be 20 – 30 people deep at times.
If we go back, we would stay at The Cove, which is a smidge closer to the main part of the resort. It also has several restaurants and a larger convenience store on site.
I’d also really like a suite in the Royal Tower or Coral Tower. These weren’t available at our late booking date, but the expense for a suite would be worth it just so we could be right in the middle of everything. Next time!!
The restaurants are expensive but good -- we only had one disappointing meal (Atlas Bar & Grill in the casino). The food was actually very, very good. The décor and experiences are as would be expected for meals so expensive!
We spent $200 - $500 / per meal for six people. We only ordered one bottle of wine per night – so if you drink more than we do, it’ll be more expensive. Here were some of our favorites:
NOBU (Japanese): Delish Japanese and sushi in a sophisticated atmosphere, just for adults. We loved it.
Virgil’s BBQ: This is a brand new restaurant and the décor is awesome. We love BBQ and enjoyed sitting by the stingray tank. Such a great staff there! They love being the new restaurant on the resort and are wearing their Dickies® dungarees with pride.
Carmine’s family style Italian (in the Marina Village): We ordered two entrees and a pasta, which was enough food for all six of us. This was the least expensive meal but the kids liked it the most. The feeling is authentic NYC.
Marketplace: Good for a huge buffet breakfast.
Mosaic: Upscale and most expensive buffet; incredible desserts. It is buffet, and my husband didn’t like that we were getting up from the table so much, but the kids liked it. My 13 year old single handedly ate more tortellini than half the guests combined.
During the day, kids have a lot of choices at Atlantis, including Aquaventure Park, which is open until sundown, and the kids’ club Atlantis Kids Adventures.
After dark, however, the choices get a bit narrower, especially for younger kids. We wound up watching a lot of videos in our room at night. We still had a great time though because -- let’s face it -- with three kids, just doing that was a true luxury.
Overall, while there is a lot to do at Atlantis, we wished that there had been more free campus-wide activities for the entire family, especially at night. It would have been fun to be able to participate in a game night, or live music or to roast S’mores by the fire with all of the kids, rather than dinner being our main nightly activity.
During our visit it seemed like EVERYTHING – each and every activity – is an additional cost. This is something that we expected, but it still added up. In addition to the room costs, we charged almost $5,000 onto our room during the week. So plan on significant extra expenses for food and activities while you are there.
Booking all of your activities ahead of time is a must, especially for the spa, kids club, and restaurant reservations. They will fill up.
Here are some of the activities that we enjoyed the most:
• The Marina Village will give you the best people watching and kid interest. Sometimes they had Bahamian performers. And the yachts are incredible. (Hello Vince Neil, lead singer of Mötley Crüe! You look mighty fine on your vessel.) We got ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and walked through the village each night.
• My husband took the kids fishing two afternoons, which you can book through the resort.
• The kids and I participated in the Dolphin Cay shallow-water interaction – super fun. Great bunch of animal trainers. Love how much they love their jobs.
• And my older kids did the “Walking with Sharks” activity where they got to walk in the shark tank with some scuba gear. Certainly memorable!
• There is a teen club with video games, etc., but that is $15/per person. It’s open to families from 5:30 – 8:30. After that, it’s for teens 13-17 only, for a fee.
The Atlantis staff is very accommodating, but I still get a sense of “Caribbean time” when it comes to service. Just that laid back attitude that is so welcome in the islands but can be wearing when trying to keep three kids happy.
There are beach attendants around, but not as many as you’d expect at really high-end resorts like Four Seasons Hotel or Ritz Carlton. As for servers on the pool deck and beach, I think they could’ve used twice as many people when it got busy. For example, frozen drinks were a bit watery by the time the server got back! But not for lack of effort; theses guys hustled. But, like I said, they should’ve staffed up for the busy holiday week.
One final nit-picking complaint: Atlantis insists that we carry around the room keys to do anything. On the Disney Cruise, your wristband is used as the key, the room charge and your ticket for access! Atlantis should step up the its infrastructure to make this happen as the current system is inconvenient.
Off-season rates US$310-US$565 for a double, high season (winter rates) winter US$590-US$690. Given the enormous property, we recommend avoiding super high travel periods like Christmas and Spring Break so you can have a better experience.
--Review submitted by Dana Rice. Dana travels frequently with her husband and three young boys. Passports, iPods and good humor are always required!