If you are looking for a fun-filled tropical family vacation, you might be considering the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. This glorified island water park will have your kiddies screaming with delight but you may be screaming for a coconut drink if you are unaware of some of the ins and outs and hidden fees of this resort. Ms. Kellington is going to give you the good, the bad and the ugly so you can decide if this resort is the right vacation destination for you and your tots.
1. The water park and architecture are very well done. The lush landscape is accented with exciting aquatic life. Sea turtles, sting rays, sharks and tropical fish glide through the water features that are throughout the main property, the Royal Towers. Its maze-like layout makes it challenging to get around so be sure to look at the signs and read the map on the brochure. Towels are located in towel huts that are tricky to find at first. You will also get a wristband here which will give you access to the slides. There are several pools throughout the property. Some have waterfalls, smaller slides and shallow beach-like entry. Check out Splashers pool if you have toddlers or babies. The vast shallow pool (2 feet deep) is a baby friendly water gym with little slides and fun water features. The lazy river looks relaxing and serene as you see people calmly floating by on inner tubes but it gets very turbulent in several spots. If you have children who are not strong swimmers, I would not recommend it. There are swim vests provided and are highly advisable for kids. It’s a super fun ride though! The Leap of Faith slide seems to be the main attraction and is almost a vertical drop. It is for brave adrenaline seekers.
2. The accommodation options are plentiful. The Royal Tower is the main hotel and houses the casino and also the indoor/outdoor aquariums. It’s the most lively and has a lot for the kids to see. “The Dig”, an underground aquarium, is located here. The rooms are clean but a little dated. An ocean view is highly recommended The balcony in a regular room is only a sliding glass door with a small space to step out. There is no space for a chair but you will still enjoy the ocean breeze, music in the air, and amazing view The Cove is a more luxury and adult hotel located at the far end of the property. The rooms could use a bit of an update for the price. The service is a little better and you’ll get a feeling of privacy as The Cove has its own pool and serene beach access (Hint; you can access this part of the beach no matter where you stay) The Reef features residential-style suites and is perfect for large families that need a full kitchen or kitchen area. There are other towers on the property that have lower rates available also.
3. The amount of kids’ activities is endless. Besides the water park itself, Dolphin Cay is a popular attraction. You can enjoy different.levels of interaction with the dolphins. The shallow water experience is good for little ones who just want to touch, feed and get a picture with a friendly dolphin. Even though I’m not a fan of forced animal labor, it’s a memorable experience for the kids. It’s $150 a pop (you must accompany your child and also pay so it’s expensive considering most families have more than one child), $600 for a family of four, plus $80 starting package for photos You can say you kissed a dolphin and show all your friends on Facebook. So pucker up and hope none of them are members of PETA.
4. The Speedway, located in the Coral Towers, is open in the evening. Kids can build a remote controlled race car or just simply show up to race one. They are given a quick tutorial on how to operate the cars and then the fun begins. It’s $25 for about 30-40 minutes of race fun. There is also an arcade and kids club if you want to pursue dinner without the kids. Make time to walk through the Marina Village at night. Its quaint Bahamian boutique shops frame the port which docks majestic yachts and is home to many restaurants. Stop for coffee at the Starbucks or ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s. Just be warned that those licks will cost you $15 a cone. Taking in the sights, free.
5. If dining is your hobby, you will have over 20 restaurants to choose from. Several are run by celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. You will find Nobu in the casino and Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Cafe Martinique, featuring classic French fare. Casual dining is abundant. Some favorites are; Virgil’s Barbecue, Murray’s Deli and Carmines (same one as in NY). I would highly recommend Olive’s for an elegant dinner that is also kid friendly. They have a kids menu so you and your husband can nosh on shrimp cocktail and penne bolognese while the kids happily ingest chicken fingers. Best of both worlds.
A standard room is $149 (though members of the MGM Mirage Players Club may be eligible for discounts). For that, the hotel delivers a lot of luxury. To avoid views of the casino roof, ask for a room on a high floor; to avoid miles of walking, ask for one near the elevator.
6 .Do watch your belongings or rent an on-site locker. The Atlantis sells day passes to cruise ships which allows access to the water park and hotel. There have been accusations on various vacation review sites of stolen bags. Yikes. There are no cameras in public areas so if your bag is taken, you’re on your own.
7. The beach is not owned by the resort so enjoy it at your own risk. The jet skis are rented by people not affiliated with the resort and from reading other reviews, I would not advise females to rent jet skis or go on tours alone. There was allegedly a mother and daughter who were assaulted.
8. The pool food is sub-par and the prices are high for the quality. The only white wine I came across was Riesling. I was also missing the Calypso music and drinking anything out of a coconut or with an umbrella in it. There is no service at the pools in regards to food or help with lounge chairs or umbrellas. You may get the feeling you’re on your own and you are. The five star prices, unfortunately, were not reflected in the service. Because there is a 15% gratuity that is automatically added to everything, there seems to be little incentive to go above and beyond or ask an obviously lost guest if they need help finding something, like towels or Chardonnay.
9. Beware of the fake Cuban Cohiba cigars being sold in the casino. A cigar aficionado knows that they are never wrapped in plastic. They are sold without any wrapping or “naked” with only the Cohiba label ring. These expensive cigars are constructed very neatly and this careful method leaves three fine rings (triple cap) from where it was rolled, trimmed and pulled back. Buyer beware.
10. It’s not advised that you drink the water there. The resort provides a “drink coupon” for two bottles of water each day which you must collect at the bar in the casino. This poses a challenge for moms as children aren’t supposed to stop on the casino floor. There are no vending machines on the property so you will have to purchase the $10 large bottle of water plus have the 15% gratuity added on as well as the 7.5% value add tax that is applied to everything you buy. The sun-block ranges between $18-$30 so bring plenty in your checked bag or buy some at a U.S. airport. The Nassau airport is out of control with pricing as well. An InTouch magazine is over $6 and Cosmopolitan is over $8 so bring your educational reading with you..
The Atlantis Resort is a good option for a fun tropical vacation for families with kids. If you’re not expecting Four Seasons service even though you’re paying Four Season prices, you’ll be fine, have some Riesling. Also bring plenty of patience as service is very slow and the food choices and prices at the pools are poor. There are no fab chopped salads here folks and what a shame. (Hint; Shark Bites at The Cove has better, healthier fare like grab bags of fruits and veggies and good flat bread pizzas and wraps. Best of luck finding it though). Go expecting to watch your kids scream with delight as they experience all the epic water slides and features. You’ll enjoy riding too.