Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas
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BOOK BY 04/30/2020
The myth of Atlantis goes back to the dialogues of Greek philosopher Plato, who told a legend of an advanced island civilization somewhere west of the Mediterranean Sea that went on a binge conquering
European countries until it suddenly and mysteriously sunk into the sea some 11,000 years ago. The myth has been used a springboard for all kinds of utopian philosophers and contemporary science fiction writers, who have envisioned Atlantis as an enlightened society that fell victim to foreign invaders or natural calamity.
With that kind of romantic history, it was only a matter of time before someone set about to recreate Atlantis for real.
Atlantis began back in 1994 when Saul Kerzer a hotel developer acquired several hotels owned by Merv Griffin on Paradise Island, directly off Nassau.
An elaborate water park, two more hotels, and a marina village all followed over the next few years, making the complex the top family vacation resort in the Caribbean and one of the most popular family theme parks in the world.
The resort is less of a ruined ancient city, and more of a mix of Vegas and major amusement park, sitting on the azure blue of the Caribbean. The initial experience is nothing short of overwhelming, with a seemingly endless maze of hotels, beaches, pools, aquariums and waterslides all circling around the soaring trademark pink towers, connected by a bridge that forms the center of the resort.
Once you get your bearings, however, it’s easy to literally find something for every age group and interest, from thrilling inner tube roller coasters to elaborate kiddie pools;
from casual outdoor eateries to restaurants helmed by some of the world’s best-known celebrity chefs (Nobu, Jean-Gorges and Bobby Flay among them); from adults-only casinos and nightclubs to one of the best kids’ programs anywhere in the world.
To orient yourself in the resort, it’s best to think of it as an interconnected line of five hotels with the marina in the middle — from north to south, the resort starts with the Beach Tower and Coral Towers, the original hotels on the property; next comes the Royal Towers.
The iconic main hotel; and the marina with its Harborside Village timeshares and shops. Finally, in the last two years the resort has dramatically expanded with two entirely new hotels, The Cove and The Reef, designed to appeal to more sophisticated clientele.
Along with the newest hotels came an entirely new water park complex in which the various slides and pools are all connected by a river raft system allowing visitors young and old to explore the attractions without ever leaving the water.
Other highlights include a dolphin park where guests can literally swim with dolphins; a shark tank where they can walk among sharks with the help of a trained diver.
And the recreation of the partially submerged city of Atlantis at the core of the resort, transformed into an 11-million gallon fish tank filled with giant manta rays, groupers, and other impressive giant fish.
All activities and attractions are available when staying at any of the six Atlantis hotels.
Most kids big and small will want to make a beeline for the waterslides. There are two interconnected water parks at Atlantis — the Mayan Temple complex next to the Royal Towers, and the Power Tower near The Cove hotel.
The two are connected by the Lazy River and The Current, a river rafting ride combining both peaceful stretches and exciting rapids. The water park is 141 acres but the kids will most likely spend most of their time at the 120-foot Power Tower with the Abyss body slide, which is a 50-foot near-vertical drop in the dark through a 200-foot-long tunnel.
Interspersed between the waterslide complexes are several kids’ pools, including the Splashers kids’ pool, an area with several kid-sized waterslides on the backside of the Mayan Temple, and two zero-entry pools with shallow areas perfect for youngest kids.
In addition, there are several other pool areas in the other hotel areas, including the Poseidon kids pool at the Beach Tower, and the lagoon next to Royal Towers that has paddleboats and other watercraft for rent.
Cascades Family Pool is exclusive to guests of The Reef and The Cove. The best beaches at the resort, meanwhile, are off Coral Towers.
Apart from the water activities, kids have many other options for fun. Each hotel has its own unique aquarium, from the Ruins Lagoon at the Royal Towers, to the Predator Lagoon at Beach Tower, and the sea turtle river at Coral Towers.
The main aquarium, however, is The Dig, where archeological Atlantis treasures are immersed in a marine habitat to create a feeling of discovering the lost city.
The Ruins Lagoon is the largest outdoor marine habitat in the world with more than 20,000 marine life.
BOOK BY 04/30/2020
The main kids’ club, Atlantis Kids Adventures, or AKA, is located in the center of Royal Towers, and includes both onsite programs such as culinary programs and a Rock Band stage and field trips to other parts of the resort.
Kids are divided into two age groups: 3 to 5 and 6 to 9. The club costs $45 for a morning or afternoon session, and all-day will cost $90 plus $17.50 for lunch. It’s open 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with Culinary Adventures offered from 9 a.m. to noon or 2 to 4 p.m.
For rainy days, the Beach Tower also has a movie theater showing complimentary family movies day and night.
In addition, the resort has two clubs catering to older kids — Club Rush, which features both videogames and dancing for pre-teens, and the brand new Club Crush for teens, decked out with the latest video games and touch-screen entertainment.
Club Rush is open to children 9 to 13 from 7 to 11 p.m., offering Wii, PS3, Xbox, dancing and a live DJ. For the teens, the nightclub was created at the tune of $11.8 million and provides a family session from 5 to 8 p.m. where parents can see what the teens get to do when mom and dad are away.
Which is plenty! The nightclub — better than most adult nightclubs — features a dance floor, Internet lounge, gaming stadium and cafe and “bar.” Security cards are everywhere and staff works hard to maintain a friendly, safe environment for the teens who can party from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. for $20.
One of the most popular attractions at Atlantis is Dolphin Cay, home to bottlenose dolphins and sea lions.
The 14-acre facility allows families to wade in waist-deep water to experience a Shallow Water interaction of glide alongside the dolphins in the Deep Water Swim.
Backstage tours introduce kids to sea lions. The Cay has a private beach, access of which is available by purchased day pass.
Ardastra Gardens & Zoo
While it’s easy to spend an entire week at the resort itself, families should also consider getting off Paradise Island for activities during the time of their stay.
One of the best options for an excursion is Ardastra Gardens & Zoo, a small but interactive zoo with a jaguar exhibit, trained flamingo shows, and popular parrot feedings in which young kids can hold apples while Amazon parrots perch on their hands (and heads) and nibble away.
Pirates of Nassau Museum
Another fun excursion off resort is the pirate museum.
Kids can explore below-decks on a recreated pirate galleon as well as exhibits on Blackbeard and other famous swashbucklers.
In addition, Atlantis can also coordinate off-site adventures such as deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and diving.
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Or you can find private companies in Nassau such as Chubasco Charters (Harbour View Marina) or Lyford Lure Yacht Charter (Lyford Cay Marina) for fishing, and Stuart’s Cove Dive Bahamas (South West Bay Road) for dive trips.
Atlantis offers one-of-a-kind adventures at the resort, including a Sea Lion Experience where kids can go face to face with a California sea lion.
Snorkel the Ruins of Atlantis alongside the lagoon’s sharks, rays and tropical fish in another adventure.
A new Stingray Experience brings kids hands-on with more than 100 stingrays, feeding, petting and swimming with the graceful creatures.
Another new program is the Ultimate Trainer for a Day, a non-stop, seven-hour day with the professional animal trainers and marine specialists, feeding, training, caring for and interacting with the marine animals. All are at an additional fee.
A state-of-the-art rock climbing facility located within the water park provides 12 different climbing challenges in one-on-one or group sessions.
Children must be 6 or older to participate.
Atlantis’ own version of Build-a-Bear, kids can select from a variety of stuffed animals and style it in clothing and accessories before an official adoption takes place for kids to take home their new pal. Located in the Beach Tower.
Earth & Fire
Located in the Beach Tower kids can paint their own pottery or fuse their own glasswork in the Atlantis pottery studio, lead by trained artists.
During the slower summer season, Atlantis keeps things exciting with special “fantasy camps” for kids ages 7 to 11 to learn a variety of skills in a fun environment.
They might include Kids Culinary Adventure, in which kids learn how to cook dishes culminating in their own birthday cake; LEGO Fantasy Camp, where kids learn how to build incredible large-scale LEGO structures, including of course Atlantis LEGOS.
And Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Fantasy Camp (stop what you are thinking, Dad), in which kids learn how to follow cheers and choreographed cheerleading routines directly from the masters of the trade.
Teens and pre-teens are able to partake in special treatments at Mandara Spa starting at age 9 (parents must accompany kids under 18).
Treatments range from “beach babe hair” to “acne attack facial,” and parents and teens can undergo treatments together in special dual treatment rooms.
Family dining is present throughout the resort with more than 20 separate eating establishments, it’s not difficult to find something for every taste and appetite.
Anyone staying at any of the resort’s six properties may choose to dine in these restaurants. Best restaurants for smaller children are the buffet-style Marketplace (Royal Towers) and Mosaic (The Cove), where they can pick from dozens of different options and follow it up with a substantial dessert buffet.
A similar buffet style experience is available at Seagrapes at Harborside Village. Nearby Marina Village also has a handful of family dining options, including retro burger joint Johnny Rockets, family-style Italian restaurant Carmine’s, and casual Murray’s Deli.
Older kids or those with more adventurous palates will enjoy Bimini Road, a fun, tropical-themed eatery. Kids are also allowed for early seating at the more upscale restaurants such as Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and French-Caribbean Cafe Martinique.
Guests should definitely consider signing onto one of the resort’s dining plans, as a la carte and even buffet prices could quickly add up. (A meal at Mosaic, for example, is $60 for adults.) Atlantis currently offers two dining plans.
The Value Dining Plan ($50/adult, $25/child) includes breakfast and dinner at Seagrapes and Marketplace only (though a new BBQ joint opening in summer 2011 will also be added for dinner). The Atlantis Dining Plan ($95/adult, $35/day child) will include breakfast and dinner at any of the resort’s restaurants with the exception of Cafe Martinique, Nobu, Seafire Steakhouse, Courtyard Terrace, and Dune. For families on the dining plan, kids under 7 eat for free; for families not on the plan, kids under 3 eat for free.
Temperatures during the dry season, between December and May average between 60 and 80 degrees, with less chance of rain. Atlantis drops its rates slightly during spring when demand is lower, and you can sometimes find bargains on room rates. Truth be told, however, this is a popular destination year-round, so don’t go expect to find real cut-rate deals.
Thankfully, the sheer size of the resort ensures that it never feels crowded, even when hotels are at capacity. The only exception to this is lines at the most popular waterslides, which are likely to be long at any time of year. Visit early in the morning or at the end of the day — especially at the Mayan Temple — for your best chances of a quick ride. Even though its slides are arguably better, the Power Tower tends to be less crowded than the Mayan Temple.
The closest airport to Atlantis is Nassau International Airport (NAS), which is approximately a 45-minute drive from the resort. (Note: when booking, be sure to select Nassau, and not Grand Bahamas, which is 150 miles away!) Transportation to the airport can be arranged through the resort for a charge of approximately $100 each way; it’s more economical to hire a taxi, which costs about $40 each way. Once at the resort, complimentary shuttle services is offered between the various properties, with waits of never more than half an hour, and frequently less.
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For Mom and Dad
Despite Atlantis’s reputation as a family resort, there are many perks that adults will enjoy without their children. Chief among them is the Atlantis Casino, which is open only to guests over 18 years old, and offers 90 table games and almost 900 slot machines in a high-energy setting.
The casino is anchored by two amazing sculptures of twisted glass, called the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon respectively, each of which cost $1 million. Interestingly, the casino is the only one in the world that allows natural light onto the gaming floor.
It’s a strange experience to be playing slots or blackjack while light is streaming in the window, but Atlantis officials insist that it does nothing to dampen business.
Guests of The Cove also enjoy access to Cain at the Cove, an adults-only Miami-style pool lounge, complete with cabanas and poolside casino tables, which are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during high season.
The Cove also has a separate (and somewhat smoky) indoor lounge called Seaglass that sometimes also has casino tables in operation in the evenings.