I was 19 the first time I ever went to Atlantis, Paradise Island. It was a day stop on my first cruise ever, a last-minute budget trip I agreed to go on after one girl was forced to cancel. Over a decade later, all I remembered were pink towers, a glittering casino, and spotting a no-longer-relevant teenybopper pop singer haughtily whisking past with her entourage.
Like many that pass through Atlantis, Paradise Island on a port call, I did the immense property no justice. I didn't get a chance to eat at one of the three celebrity chef restaurants they have on site (Nobu, Olives by Todd English, Café Martinique by Jean-Georges Vongerichten).
Since I wasn't a guest, I didn't get to walk through The Dig, nor could I have figured out how to get there. I passed through a corner of the Aquaventure Water Park, but didn't realize that there were 141 acres and 20 swimming areas within it. I didn't see any of the 12 lagoons filled with wondrous marine life. Heck, I never even got to the beach!
So essentially, when I had the opportunity to revisit on a FAM for the #DiscoverAtlanTIs Facebook takeover for Travel Impressions, it was with fresh eyes. It took me only hours to realize the fact that a self-guided agent site inspection is laughably impossible. And it was only by staying several days and realizing that I still had barely cracked the tip of the iceberg that I really understood just how true it was that Atlantis, Paradise Island is a destination in and of itself. Much like one can't become familiar with all of the mighty Mouse's house during a pit stop, Atlantis is much the same in myriad ways.
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The one thing that struck me the most resonantly was that this is no typical Caribbean destination. Sure, it has plush, soft-sanded beaches, turquoise waters, and palm trees. But when it comes to on-site entertainment and family- and budget-friendliness, its tone is far closer to Orlando than what you'd expect. When you stop to consider the nightlife, gaming, and decadently high-caliber dining, it's very similar to the vibe in Las Vegas. If you want to see and be seen, well the scene at the Cove is pretty South Beach, Miami.
What I learned while wandering the lost city of Atlantis was that although this enormous resort is technically in the Caribbean, travel agents should consider Atlantis, Paradise Island against stateside destinations rather than those in the all-inclusive bracket.
After all, with a higher living wage in the Bahamas, English as the predominant language, and a 50-minute flight time from Miami to Nassau, why shouldn't we consider Paradise Island more of an extension of the U.S.? Why wouldn't we hold the added values of all-day, unlimited access to marine animals, a water park, casino, beaches, and available all-inclusive dining and beverage package against offerings in the mainland? Why should we expect food and drink to be included when similarly glamorous St. Bart's and Antigua don't?
We do it a disservice by sweeping this destination in the "Caribbean value" bucket based solely on its geography and accessibility. I think it's time we see Atlantis, Paradise Island for what it is: uniquely itself.
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