Atlantis Paradise Island ResortParadise Island, New Providence Island, Bahamas
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One of the largest, most opulent resorts in the world, with every comfort and amenity imaginable (and it all costs extra)
In truth, there are two Atlantis, Paradise Islands. There's the one that you see in the movies (most recently in Casino Royale and Duplicity) and People magazine, where celebrities make appearances to gamble and kick back in luxury, (fully comped, of course) accommodations like the famous Bridge Suite. And then there's the other 4,000 or so small guest rooms that Atlantis, Paradise Island built for the rest of us: crowded, overpriced, and filled with nonguests whom the resort lures inside with its "Discover Atlantis" tours to gamble and shop. Much like Disney World, plan to wait in line for just about everything -- a serving at the buffet, a ride down the waterslide, or just a seat at any of the restaurants.
Make no mistake, this is a family hotel at heart. Even at the upscale steakhouse, Bahamian Club, you can expect to hear toilet talk between parents and toddlers and watch hapless waiters push dessert carts over thrown toys. And if there happens to be a concert at the hotel -- like, say, a special performace by the Jonas Brothers -- the resort is likely to bring in an even larger contingent of preteens. In the evenings, particularly at the high-end Cove tower (a more expensive "resort-within-a-resort") and at the casino, the atmosphere changes a bit: swanky, stylish, fit young women wearing dangerously high heels. And while, in general, the Cove area of the resort is a bit quieter -- the pools are exclusive to Cove guests only and certain areas of the Cove restrict kids younger than 12 -- there are still plenty of children at the restaurants.
Undoubtedly, Atlantis, Paradise Island has more features than any other hotel in the Caribbean -- or any other resort or even cruise liner in the world, for that matter. But you don't have to be a guest of Atlantis to take advantage of its best features -- its celebrity-chef restaurants and high-profile entertainment often cost extra for guests and nonguests alike (thankfully, the water park is free for guests). Before booking, consider the newly renovated Riu Paradise Island all-inclusive resort, which still has close access to all of the amazing Atlantis, Paradise Island attractions but typically costs much less.
Everything is available, but you have to seek it out (and often pay extra).
Despite layoffs in 2008-2009, Atlantis, Paradise Island remains the second-largest employer in the Bahamas, just after the national government. It doesn't feel understaffed, and despite the resort's large, impersonal nature, nearly every staff member -- from the front desk clerks, waiters, the attendants at the rock-climbing wall, casino dealers, lifeguards, dolphin trainers -- are very warm and friendly.
- Central guest services desk with staff to help arrange excursions, tennis reservations, golf outings, performances, "dolphin encounters," and more
- No evening turndown service
- Poolside food and drink service
- 24-hour room service
- Confusing and expensive (optional) dining plans; nothing includes alcoholic beverages, and there's much confusion about exactly which restaurants are covered.
- Convenient, central reservations number for booking meals at the resort's restaurants; attendants can search for open spots by genre, time frame, and according to what fits with a specific meal plan.
- Free shuttles transport guests around the property
The resort takes up about a third of Paradise Island, which is 25 minutes from the Nassau airport and 10 minutes from downtown Nassau.
Atlantis, Paradise Island spans 171 acres and almost three miles of beachfront. It takes up a good chunk of Paradise Island, a five-mile long stretch of resorts that lies just across the harbor from the bustling city of Nassau, the Bahamas' capital. The island essentially consists of three roads -- Casino Drive, Paradise Beach Drive (which becomes Harbor Road), and Paradise Island Drive, which goes about three miles to the eastern end of the island. Walking along these generically named, well-manicured roads is like strolling through a golf club. Condos and hotels line the way (the Riu Paradise Island and Comfort Suites are closest to Atlantis, Paradise Island), and a small shopping center -- with a pharmacy, a ScotiaBank, a few convenience stores and some restaurants -- is about a five minute walk from Atlantis, Paradise Island across Casino Drive. All in all, it's very safe, if lacking in local character.
Atlantis, Paradise Island itself is so sprawling that it truly does feel like a city unto itself (though it could hardly be "lost" since the massive pink towers are practically viewable from space). Rooms are spread across five different properties (including the Cove and the Reef, which are sort of separate entities), and all form a crescent around six marine habitat lagoons and the 141-acre water park.
- 25-minute drive from Nassau International Airport
- 10-minute walk to Paradise Island Bridge
- 10-minute cab to Nassau water taxi ride to downtown Nassau attractions like the Straw Market, Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation, and Pirates of Nassau
- The Nassau water taxi ($6 round-trip to downtown Nassau) conveniently departs from near Atlantis, Paradise Island's Marina Village shopping complex.
The resort features three beaches. Atlantis Beach is the renamed tail section of Paradise Island's Cabbage Beach, which is the nicest stretch of sand in the Nassau area (the Riu Paradise Island resort also shares Cabbage Beach).
- Three beaches: Atlantis Beach, Cove Beach, and Paradise Beach
- Atlantis Beach has a long stretch of soft white sand -- it's one of the finest beaches in the Bahamas -- but it also attracts large crowds from the docked cruise ships.
- Cove Beach, technically exclusive to guests of the Cove resort-within-a-resort, has more tranquil waters (better for young swimmers) but it's actually more of a rocky inlet without much sand.
- Paradise Beach is more remote, but given the few lounge chairs and seaweed, it's not very popular for swimming. It is, however, a nice beach for romantic walks to the lighthouse.
- In high season, snorkeling, paddle boats, and other water sports are available.
Guest rooms range greatly in quality, from the "budget" Beach Tower to the more opulent "Royal Tower," but all of the rooms are generally overpriced for what you get compared to the rooms at other hotels.
Spread across its six buildings -- the Beach Tower, Coral Tower, Reef, Cove, and Harborside Resort (condos) -- there are over 20 different room types. But the standard rooms -- modestly called "Guest Rooms" -- in the Beach and Coral Towers are comparatively small and most rooms have less-than-thrilling views of the convention building or nearby resorts. (The Beach and Coral Towers were constructed over 40 years ago, whereas the rest of the resort was built in the late '90s or afterward.) Comparatively, you can get a much nicer and larger room with a better view at less expensive resorts like the Riu Paradise Island (next door to Atlantis, Paradise Island) or the Sheraton Nassau Beach.
- Beach Tower guest rooms are 275 square feet, Coral Tower rooms are 300 square feet; about average for a room in most hotels in the U.S., but small for a luxury resort in the Caribbean.
- Royal Tower rooms start at 400 square feet, which is on par with most other Caribbean resorts, but the Royal Tower is a bit closer to the casino, restaurants, main pool, and other features.
- Grumbling AC vents and grinding fans in the rooms in the older Beach and Coral Towers
- Comfortable beds: sateen duvets; comfy mattresses; four plush pillows each
- All rooms now include LG flat-screen TVs (the new TVs were installed after my stay, hense the tube TVs in the photos)
- Wi-Fi or plug-in Internet is charged daily
- In-room minibars
- Bottled water is charged per bottle (most other hotels offer at least one free bottle of water as the tap water in the Bahamas can taste off).
- Clean bathrooms with nice fixtures and a good shower (hot water and high water pressure)
- "Atlantis" brand toiletries (made in China); nothing fancy
- Furnished balcony on every room
- You get a bit more luxury in the Regal and Grand suites in the Royal Towers, but the rooms aren't much nicer than in the Beach or Coral Towers. Considering the price hike for these rooms, you might be better off at the nearby One&Only Ocean Club.
You name it, they have it.
This is the area in which Atlantis, Paradise Island outshines just about any other resort on the planet (save, perhaps, the newer Atlantis resort in Dubai). Top-notch facilities include a rock-climbing wall, a golf course overlooking the ocean, a tennis facility, a 3,800-square-foot gym, a pilates studio, a state-of-the-art spa, a massive water park featuring a slide with a 50-foot drop, the biggest casino in the Caribbean, three beaches, a movie theater, a comedy club, three discos, a faux-archaeological dig, an aquarium, a model-car building studio, a dolphin habitat, luxury shopping boutiques, and a pottery studio... just to name a few of the highlights. It would be difficult to go to Atlantis, Paradise Island for a relaxing vacation; it's downright exhausting just looking at the property map.
- Aquaventure water park: two slides with vertical drops over 50 feet, a milelong lazy-river pool, a tube that gushes past sharks, and a plethora of other scenic slides. Admission is free for hotel guests
- Acres upon acres of marine habitats, ranging from a shark lagoon, to an estuary filled with starfish, to a faux-archaeological site known as "The Dig" that's somewhat akin to a fancy aquarium
- Excellent gym (daily fee): Life Fitness cardio machines (including iPod docks and personal TVs), free weights, and accessories like Bosus and stability balls
- Personal trainers (available for an hourlong session), as well as adjacent pilates, aerobics, and spinning classes (for an extra fee)
- "Climber's Rush" rock-climbing wall: charged for either a single climb or by the hour
- 14-acre dolphin habitat that allows guests to "interact" (that is, pet and kiss) dolphins, swim with them, and even become a "trainer for a day."
- Atlantis Speedway gives kids and other car enthusiasts the opportunity to build and race model cars.
- Gamer's Reef Video Arcade in the Beach Tower lobby.
- For further information, check the resort's ever-expanding list of things to do.
Atlantis was an underwater kingdom, after all -- 12 pools, spread throughout the property.
Not surprisingly, water activities are a huge focus at Atlantis, Paradise Island. Universally, the pools are large, stylish, and fairly crowded (like everything else at the resort). But no other resort, anywhere in the Caribbean, has anything that can compare to the pools at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
- Enormous, free-form "Baths Pool" that contains nearly 750,000 gallons of water and 2.5 acres of deck space
- Grotto Pool with waterfalls
- Sloping, zero-entry, Mayan Temple Pool
- Huge, Lagoon Pool (one of the main pools for sunning and swimming)
- Zero-entry River Pool at the mouth of the lazy-river in the water park
- Four-lane, 25-meter lap pool, adjacent to the fitness center
- Four-tiered adult-only "Cain at the Cove" pool with DJs and poolside gaming, restricted to Cove guests only
- Cascades Pool overlooking the beach, exclusive to guests of the Cove and Reef
- Mini waterslides and fountains at the Ripples Pool (for kids)
- Shallow, Poseidon Pool with a giant fountain and concrete animals to climb (for kids)
- Splasher's Island, a Mayan-themed water play structure with tube slides, rope bridges, fountains, and water cannons (for kids)
- For towels, resort guests must show their room keys or wrist bands
- Nonguests can pay for the use of all the resort's pools and waterslides
Free shuttle to the 18-hole, par-72 One&Only Ocean Club golf course, 10 minutes down the road
The Tom Weiskopf-designed One&Only Ocean Club Golf Course fills up the eastern chunk of Paradise Island, but is ringed by colorful new mansions (one of which is said to belong to Oprah). The course has played host to the annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational in the past.
- Fantastic ocean vistas
- Rental clubs: Callaway Fusion and Odyssey putters
- Footjoy cleats also available for rental
- Green fees start at about $86 -- not bad, compared to the rates at other championship-quality courses
- Clubhouse Grill serves breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner on the weekends (and also has a nice bar).
James Bond's Casino Royale was filmed here.
The crown jewel of Atlantis, Paradise Island is its casino, which seems to be buzzing all day and night.
- 90 tables and more than 1,000 slot machines
- The Pegasus sports book features the standard lines and scores on huge digital screens, plus there are 11 flat-screens showing games in HD.
- Cocktail waitresses offer free drinks to the high rollers.
Enormous spa with every treatment imaginable -- even specialized treatments for teens
Mandara Spa opened in 2006, and at 11,500 square feet the soaring complex feels a bit more like a tranquility factory than a soothing respite from the chaos outside its doors. Expect lines at check-in, plasma TVs in treatment rooms, and high-quality -- but expensive -- servicies.
- Spa services include everything from manicures, to waxing, to massages, to facials, to teeth whitening.
- On-site hair salon (prices are steep)
- Separate spa treatments for teens at Generation YSpa -- teen-centric treatments include "Fake Bake," "Acne Attack Facial," and mother-daughter massages
It's impossible to get bored.
Kid-friendly wonderland brimming with activities for kids and teens
- Free use of a wonderful water park and the hotel's 12 pools
- Dolphin habitat
- Kid-friendly restaurants range from the extensive buffets to on-site Johnny Rockets and Jamba Juice franchises.
- Atlantis Kids' Club (for kids ages three to 12) runs morning, afternoon, and evening sessions with activities like arts and crafts, water sports, karaoke, and video games.
- Other kid-friendly activities include Gamer's Reef video game arcade, Atlantis Speedway, and a pottery studio
- Club Rush provides a place for kids ages 6-13 to browse the internet, play videogames, watch movies, and even dance to a DJ.
- Club Crush is an internet lounge (featuring iPads!), gaming room, stage, and dance club (serving mocktails) for teens ages 13-17.
- Two double beds available in standard rooms; free cribs and rollaway beds (available in all room types)
- In-room babysitting available (hourly rates increase after 10 p.m.)
Impressively clean, considering the size of the property
For a resort as huge as Atlantis, Paradise Island, it's easy to marvel at how clean the grounds are kept, particularly as landscaping crews seem to be invisible.
Unfortunately, the guest room buildings -- particularly the older, Beach and Coral Towers -- are not as well kept. A discarded room service tray sat in the hall for over a day. Although rooms never felt dirty, the fixtures were slightly worn, and slip-ups can occur.
With up to 20 restaurants open at any given time, Atlantis, Paradise Island is a foodie's delight (even if everything costs about twice what it should).
Food selection at Atlantis, Paradise Island is nothing short of mind-boggling. It's just about all overpriced, and ranges from Starbucks to famous celebrity chef spots like Nobu and Mesa Grill. But even the buffets are far better than any other in the Caribbean. Take, for example, the breakfast buffet offerings at Marketplace: waffles, hot off the griddle; fresh-baked muffins; eggs Benedict; fresh-squeezed guava juice. The buffets are on par (or even better) than some of the best buffets in Vegas.
But prices are incredibly high. Even if you opt for a meal plan you can expect to pay a small fortune in dining. Even the "gourmet" meal plan doesn't cover lunch, drinks (they'll charge you extra for just a Coke), or gratuities.
Also, restaurant reservations should be made as early as possible. On a Saturday evening, just about every restaurant on the property could be booked solid until 9 p.m. And you might have to spend a lot of time waiting in line to eat.
- Lunch options include Murray's Deli, Marina Pizzeria, Jamba Juice, and a plethora of sandwich shacks scattered throughout the pool area.
- For dinner, options include an outpost of New York's temple of family-style Italian dining, Carmine's, Johnny Rockets, Nobu, and the ultra-upscale Café Martinique by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He has another restaurant, Dune, at the One&Only Ocean Club down the street, which also accepts Atlantis, Paradise Island room charges.
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Things You Should Know About Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
Address1 Casino Drive, PO Box N 4777, Paradise Island, BS
- Beach Tower Room Water View
- Beach Tower Terrace Room, Non Water View
- Coral Tower Room Water View
- Coral Tower Terrace Room Non Water View
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- Imperial Club Room Waterview
- Royal Tower Room, Nassau Harbor View
- Royal Tower Room Water View
- Royal Tower Terrace Room Non Water View