A Resort for Everyone
PHOTO: Dolphins frolic in Dolphin Cay at Atlantis Resort with the iconic Royal Towers in the background.
“Better than Disney World.” Those were the words of one nine-year old guest upon his return from Atlantis resort for a getaway weekend. Granted, children are impressionable and every movie, video game, ice cream flavor, fill-in-the-blank is usually the “greatest ever” — until the next one.
Suffice it to say, it still takes a lot to wow a child, but kids seem to be sufficiently impressed by Atlantis no matter how old they are. This resort review is based on three days at Atlantis to check out the property’s partnership with the Cartoon Network. In part, the assignment was to “see” Atlantis through a kid’s eyes, given that kids are right smack dab in the middle of the demographic Atlantis targets when it markets to families.
Adults can be sufficiently wowed by Atlantis as well. In many ways, the resort has fashioned itself into a world of its own that caters to every age group — youngsters will be easily entertained by the plethora of Cartoon Network activities. Tweens and teens can enjoy the pools, the beach, the water slides (and teens even have their own night club).
Twenty- and 30-somethings will still find their haunts at the adult-only hotel, pool and 9,000-square-foot nightclub. Mom and Dad will love the sporting activities, the restaurants and shopping, and can even try their hand at the giant casino.
Everyone will be floored by the architecture, the spotless grounds, the marine habitat and, of course, Dolphin Cay and the close-up interaction with these magnificent sea creatures.
Atlantis is now barely 20 years old after entrepreneur Sol Kerzner purchased the property, then known as Resorts International, from television personality Merv Griffin in 1994. Kerzner’s vision was to theme the resort after the mythical city of Atlantis. He set about refurbishing the entire property and creating a new recreational area complete with a lazy river ride.
By 1998, Kerzner had added the iconic Royal Towers — with its bridge (actually a posh suite) connecting both sides of the building. More than $800 million also was spent on the resort and the world’s largest open-air marine environment of lagoons and waterfalls, including a spot-on replica of a Mayan Temple that houses an incredible waterslide that takes guests through a pool of sharks.
Over the last few years, Atlantis has added two completely new properties on site: The Cove, an adults-oriented property, and The Reef, focused more on families and groups, as well as Dolphin Cay, a dolphin attraction, and a series of aquatic roller coasters.
Located in the Bahamas on Paradise Island, Atlantis is about a 30-minute ride from Nassau International Airport. Driving in, guests can see Atlantis rise up from the sea as they approach. Once they are inside, they will find a property that is strikingly elegant down to the simplest fixture. It’s also bigger than life — at least the sculptures, aquariums, public areas and décor.
Atlantis is like fantasy come to life. The tropical vegetation is lush and green. The ocean is a brilliant mix of almost crystal-clear water near the shore, turned silvery further out, then turquoise after that, followed by royal blue after that.
Even though Atlantis has focused on the family market of late, the resort is still very much an adult playground. The property isn’t bringing sexy back; it never left. Eric Hall, Atlantis’ public relations manager, says, “Atlantis has always been for adults. We have five hotel towers here; this can be all things to all people.” Here’s a rundown of some of the major features of this massive resort property.
Accommodations: Atlantis has more than 3,400 rooms spread over five towers and a Harborside Resort. The Reef Tower, geared to families features studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites with a full kitchen, including a two-burner stove-top. Nearby is The Cove, which might as well be Vegas. Though children aren’t forbidden from staying with their parents at The Cove, it really is an adult property.
The Royal Towers itself has more than a third of all the hotel rooms on property, from standard guestrooms to plush suites, from views of the pool to views of the ocean. Harborside Resort has one-, two- and three-bedroom villas with all the creature comforts. The Beach Tower features more guestrooms, while the Coral Towers has both guestrooms and suites. Every room has modern décor and furnishings, as well as wireless access for a fee.
Dining: Atlantis has a wide variety of dining venues. On the casual front, they range from Carmine’s, a spinoff of the New York-based Italian restaurant famed for its huge portions, to Johnny Rockets, the burger joint with the 1950s décor. Murray’s Deli and Virgil’s Real BBQ, are among other casual outlets. There are burger shacks near the pools, and even a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop is by the harbor.
For fine dining, there are some heavy-hitting outlets of famous chefs to choose from, including Nobu, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Todd English’s Olives. Be forewarned, however. Atlantis can be expensive, even if you don’t indulge in upscale dining. Two burgers, two fries and two drinks at the poolside shack was more than $40. On the other hand, the resort does offer several dining plan options to reduce food costs for guests.
Pools & Spa: The Reef pool, the main pool used on this visit, is large, with zero entry at one end for tiny tots and spreading out to about five feet deep at the other end. Less than 100 feet behind that pool is the beach.
The waterscape area in front of the Royal Towers has pools and water slides, including one with a near-straight drop, one that goes through a glass tube under water while sharks swim around you and another called The Abyss, a long straight drop to the water below.
Mandara Spa offers traditional European therapies and natural elements indigenous to the Bahamas. It includes warm and cold plunge pools, as well as steam and sauna rooms in both the women’s and men’s private lounge areas. There is a Couple’s Spa Suite, as well as a “Time for Men” barbershop.
The fitness facility was recently expanded to 10,000 square feet and not only includes a wide range of cardio equipment but also spinning, yoga and Pilates classes, a wellness area, and full gym. There are also a large number of tennis courts and a spectacular golf course.
Ambiance: The resort’s ambiance depends on the time of day. While the sun’s out, you can find Adonis bodies in casual swimwear with gorgeous women at the adult Cove Towers, but equally beautiful moms and dads and their children can be seen in other parts of the property. At night, even for a casual dinner, there is a hint of elegance, even in the casino.
Service: The friendliness and helpfulness of those who work at the resort will remain one of guests’ lasting memories of their trip. It is never a chore to stop to ask a staff member for directions, and in a place that is as large as Atlantis, guests do need directions.
PHOTO: Splashers is a Mayan-themed kids pool and water playground at Atlantis Resort.
Activities & Excursions: The biggest onsite attractions are the dolphin encounter, which is quite popular. Guests get the chance to get into a man-made lagoon and experience a shallow-water encounter with the dolphins. Atlantis takes great pride in its care of the dolphins, and it shows. The trainers are quite knowledgeable and handle a myriad guest questions with ease and patience and humor.
The Cartoon Network (CN) now has prevalent signage all around the resort. The CN water obstacle course, set up in a shallow part of a lagoon, was widely used by younger guests. The character parade of CN regulars was neat and the Atlantis movie theater, which early in the evening showed Cartoon Network premieres before switching over to a regular movie later, is really a well-thought idea. Cartoon Network also has its Screen on the Green, an outdoor theater right near Dolphin Cay.
Atlantis has activities for virtually every guests, from couples to families to larger groups. Even the entertainment is top notch: This year alone Atlantis will host Jon Bon Jovi as well as Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.
Rates: The resort is most decidedly on the high end, with even its moderate accommodations at Beach Tower running around $150 a night up to more than $800 a night for suites. Atlantis is in the midst of a summer sale. For $199 a night guests get a $250 airfare credit, one free dolphin interaction, free water park access and kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal.
For more information on Atlantis Resort or reservations, call 888-877-7525 or visit www.atlantisbahamas.com.
More by Rich Thomaselli
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A version of this article appears in print in the June 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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