My taxi driver dropped me at the wrong spot, so I ended up tugging my luggage through a mammoth casino with all the blinking glitz of Vegas. Massive sea-suggestive Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and the ka-ching of slots greeted my arrival, then a towering atrium decorated with outrageous mythical sculptures, intricately painted ceilings, an oversized throne where people were taking turns snapping each others’ pictures, and a mass of humanity.
Welcome to Atlantis, no longer a lost world, but one found on Paradise Island in the Bahamas by a million or so visitors each year.
In Your Bucket List Because…
- You love Disney World and vacations filled with fantasy and activity – where everything you need is right there at your resort.
- You have plenty of cash to splurge on a Bahamian vacation.
- Great for families, but it has its adult parts too.
Staying at Atlantis
Clearly the most recognized property in the Bahamas, Atlantis resort rivals Orlando and Las Vegas for sheer drama and commercialism. Opened in 1995 with two lodging buildings known as the Beach and Coral towers, plus the start of its ever-expanding water park and aquarium, it today encompasses 171 acres and is still growing.
Phase II entailed relocating its casino to a new building that connects to the Royal Towers, which opened in 1998. One administrator compared property accommodations thusly: Beach and Coral are coach, Royal Towers are business class, The Cove is first class.
The latter opened, along with The Reef condo-hotel, as part of the latest phase. When these two newest towers debuted in 2007, they departed from the resort’s Lost City theme with an Asian, oh-so-Zen flair.
In the meantime, so many amenities and attractions have cropped up that it takes at least a week to enjoy them all.
State-of-the-art Dining and Entertainment
From celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay (Mesa Grill) and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (Nobu) to delis, pizza parlors, Starbucks, and a juice joint, the various food-and-beverage outlets of Atlantis are as widespread as its accommodations and attractions.
As of July 2013, the newest celebrity chef on the roster is Todd English, whose “Olives” in the Atlantis Casino, featuring an open-air kitchen, seafood display, small plates, and the first late-night dining option at Atlantis.
In my book, the food, though overpriced, is the best reason to stay at Atlantis. And OK, I’m a sucker for the aquarium aspects. Walking through a tunnel of sharks, exploring an imagined lost-world archaeological dig, and finding sea creatures in pools or tanks at every turn – you’ve gotta love that. The kids, of course, will foam at the mouth over the water park slides, rides, and sea life interactions.
Family entertainment, however, goes well beyond the resort’s 12 theme pools, gorgeous beach, and legendary water park. Take for instance the Atlantis Speedway, where kids can build and race their own car or monster truck; the Cartoon Network summer program; or free movies in the theater.
The $11 million CRUSH lounge, which opened December 2010, is so awesome, parents will wish they could stay. They can’t.
A teen fantasy-come-true, it has everything the ever-problematic vacationers could want. For $25, teens can play an assortment of cutting-edge electronics game solo in a speaker-rigged media chair or as a group in a game cabana.
Electronic-surface tables allow them to order food and retail items. Might want to keep a grip on this – there’s everything from a $6 glass nail file to a $259 iPod available with a touch of a finger and slide of a room key.
Designed to look part-casino, part-club, CRUSH has a disco with a full bar of mocktails (ma-jito anyone?) and energy drinks.
For adults, the Bahamas’ biggest casino, a Mandara spa, a golf course, and three night clubs entertain.
The Cove is most suited to couples, with its adults-only Cain at the Cove pool accommodating its guests exclusively, complete with poolside blackjack and craps tables, cabanas, and a bar.
Besides all these amenities, guests can hop a shuttle to the One&Only Ocean Club, the resort’s upscale sister property (think “private jet”) minutes away and home to the over-the-top beachside Dune restaurant, an 18-hole golf course, and its wedding-perfect Versailles Gardens at The Cloisters.
Ocean Club and The Cove remove guests from the bustle of Atlantis with a bit more of a boutique feel, if that’s possible with 497 rooms at The Cove and 105 at Ocean Club.
The Cove is home to Flay’s famous, exclusive Southwestern style mini-chain. Here he has given the cuisine a Bahamian twist with dishes such as spiced chicken skewers with mango vinaigrette, crispy conch, and pan-roasted grouper with coconut curry.
One final word about vacationing at the Atlantis: There’s very little here to let you know you are actually in the Bahamas. Walk the short distance to the quick and inexpensive ferry transport to downtown Nassau or arrange for an island tour to get a sense of the rich culture and folk (and way more affordable) cuisine of the real Bahamas.
For complete information on visiting Nassau and Paradise Island, download the Nassau Selective & Seductive app.