June
29
23:01

Atlantis Resort Bahamas – Disney meets Vegas meets pruney fingers

Atlantis photo c NYCity mamaAll things being equal, I will admit I enjoy reviewing warm beachy family resorts more than, say, iPhone apps. So when I had the opportunity to check out the new Kids Club at the Atlantis Resort Bahamas last week on a press trip with my four year-old daughter–and most of the expenses covered by Atlantis, Jet Blue (my favorite airline!) and LEGO who’s sponsoring a LEGO fantasy camp there starting this summer–I didn’t play coy. I was more like, tell me whose feet to kiss!

Atlantis water slide c NYCity MamaAtlantis is sort of an Orlando theme park-meets-Vegas-in-the-Bahamas
kind of resort, the theme being pruney fingers. Indeed the water park
is the highlight of the property, with lagoons, aquariums, 11 pools (although sadly they all close at 5 PM), a
fantastic river ride called The Current, and 18 heart-stopping
waterslides that aged me about ten years. The white sand beach itself
is lovely and relatively uncrowded as most guests seem too busy in the
pools, scuba diving or swimming with dolphins.


As for the impressively state-of-the-art At

lantis Kids Adventure
kids club that just opened, older children and tweens in particular
will love the net-safe Mac stations, cooking classes, nighttime
teens-only parties, and laser-projected games of dodge ball and
human air hockey right on the floor.

For younger kids (3+, no diapers)
there are arts and crafts, a play
store, a life-size Victorian dollhouse room, and the dress-up closet of
your kid’s dreams. The interior designers definitely deserve a bonus. Plus the staff is warm, energetic and attentive, so if
your kid isn’t a self-starter she’ll find herself taken care of when
you drop her off.



While you can go ride the waterslides with your friends. Ahem.

Atlantis Kids Club c NY City MamaMy
one disappointment with the club however (besides the $90 fee for the
whole day – holy moly) is that there’s very little focus
on outdoor activities. I was told your kids might spend a half-hour or
an hour
at the excellent children’s pool (photo below) during the day and I’m
wondering why it
can’t be four times that. After all, I want my kid getting a little
Vitamin D from that 80-degree January sunshine! Hopefully that will
evolve as the club gets parent feedback.

[edited to add: It turns out the club does have some more planned daily outdoor activities for kids than I was told by some of the staff, including Beach Olympics, outdoor scavenger hunts, and behind-the-scenes tours of Dolphin Cay and Fish Hospital. Every Saturday morning the kids spend two hours competing in “pool games.”]

I
also think the club planners may have forgotten that at least for
smaller kids, simple pleasures can be the best: Despite the lures of
high-tech entertainment and a lot of candy (too much candy) inside the club, my daughter
and her five year-old friend had a blast outside for close to an hour
with small hula hoops.

The colossal Royal Towers hotel where we
stayed is decent if not luxurious (I would have loved some bathrobes in the room) but not really set up with small children in mind–my
daughter could only reach the bathroom mirror when I dragged a desk
chair in. I think its greatest assets are the lovely staff and the
giant aquarium that surrounds a lower lobby. If I were to go back, I’d
upgrade to The Reef or Coral Towers Suites right on the beach, though I might have to sell one of my children to afford it.

Atlantis Kids pool c Liz Gumbinner


So let’s talk cost.

Bargain
trip this ain’t, so save your pennies (and tens and twenties). I was
surprised to discover that very little is included in the price of the
hotel room besides the water park, towels and life preservers for the
kids. Meal plans starts at $75 a day for adults, $35 for kids, and the
buffets are copious but nothing special – and a bit devoid of healthy options for kids. You’ve got to BYO beach toys
or spend another $23 for a pack of them. Building and racing your own
radio controlled car is fantastic – but another $75. A Pina Colada is
$12 and comes right out of a fountain–delicious, if devoid of actual
fruit juice. And totally free of calories (Ha). 



Atlantis Bahamas c NY City MamaThere
are always vacation specials and I’d say don’t even think about booking an
Atlantis trip without one. Even then, make sure you factor in the cost
of food on top of the resort fee and travel. It’s not easy to sneak off-premise and grab a jar of peanut butter and juice boxes to stash in the room.


I also wish there were more of a Bahamian vibe, seeing as how
that’s where we were. They’ve got Nobu and Mesa Grill and a bunch of
Jean George restaurants which are a nice splurge, but you’ve got to
head back into Nassau for any authentic meals, short of the jerk chicken
wrap you might find at a lunch joint. There were also missed
opportunities for kids to learn about Junkanoo or dance to Caribbean
music instead of Kidz Bop (God help me) which would have been a nice
treat. I admit my expectations were probably colored by a wonderful Club Med Punta Cana
trip a year ago, which really felt like an international destination
from top to bottom. But as I understand it, American-style vacations
are what most American families want. Even if they need a passport to
get it.

When it comes down to it, Atlantis Bahamas is really a Disney
alternative for those of you who love water parks and sunshine, want to
speak English, and count on chicken nuggets availability to appease the children.

Teens
will have the time of their lives here, guaranteed. If you’ve got
toddlers and preschoolers they’ll have a blast too, but at that age,
what I think my daughter loved best weren’t the dolphins or the mammoth
ice cream sundaes or even spending three straight hours in a pool. It
was the time she spent with me. –Liz

Current specials at Atlantas Resort Bahamas: Book an Atlantis trip now and get the 4th night free PLUS free companion airfare. The offer ends 2/28/10 and you must travel by 9/1. Water park access is always included with your room – but not meals! Consider eating a la carte if you’ve got light eaters who are happy with a box of cereal at breakfast.
[photos 1-3: carol cain; atlantis kids pool photo liz gumbinner]