Atlantis Paradise Island is a stunning oceanside resort in The Bahamas with six distinct hotels, 20 swimming areas, two lazy rivers, 11 water slidesand 40 restaurants and bars. It is also the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, with more than 50,000 aquatic animals on the property. With so many rides and attractions in such a beautiful location, Atlantis is a bucket list destination for many families. Read on to see what you should know before go.
The writer was hosted.
5 Things to Know Before You Visit Atlantis
We saw the ads for Atlantis in The Bahamas with families frolicking in the 121-acre action-packed waterpark and were lured by images of the turquoise sea and the water slide that zips you straight through a shark tank. The notion of walking out of our hotel and being just steps away from both white sandy beaches and one of the world’s best waterparks was enthralling. My family loved the idea of all those restaurants and activities and a casino, spa, and kids club all in one fabulous place. Like a cruise ship!
During our stay, we did enjoy all those things and so much more. Atlantis is beautiful and tons of fun. But, we also discovered a few things that aren’t clear on the resort’s website. Here are five things you should know before visiting Atlantis.
1. Atlantis is Huge
We knew that going in, and its expansive array of amenities was one of the resort’s most attractive facets, but nonetheless, we were not prepared for the amount of walking we’d be doing. Our room was in the Beach Tower, the most far-flung building on-site and a solid 15-minute walk to Cove Beach (which has the best snorkeling) or the water park.
Also – as luck would have it – the pool and lazy river adjacent to the Beach Tower were closed for repairs while we were there, so even if all we wanted was a quick dip we’d be walking to the beach or the pool complex the next tower over. Consequently, the bar, burger place and ice cream stand that normally operates next to that pool were closed, too. So guess how far we had to hike if we wanted a snack?
The resort does offer a free shuttle to transport you around the property, but even so, we found it easier and faster just to walk wherever we wanted to go. I don’t mind walking. In fact, as a traveler who always seeks out the healthy living angle, I encourage it! But when you throw a tired kid and wet swimsuits into the mix, it can get old fast.
2. Gratuities are Added Automatically to Everything
I love great service. And if we go to a restaurant and the service is good, you’re going to get a nice tip. But at Atlantis, tips are automatically added to everything. Fine – nobody wants to see a hardworking server get stiffed. But, if you order an ice cream cone or cup of coffee or a slice of pizza at a counter service restaurant, guess what? You’re going to be giving that cashier a 15% tip. Even if the line is long and the service is slow and the cashier is rude, he still gets a tip. They even ask on the receipt if you want to add extra, just in case you feel $1.05 is not enough of a tip for handing you a $7 ice cream.
You’re also going to be tipping your housekeeper. Guests at Atlantis are required to pay a mandatory gratuity, which ranges from $5 to $100 per person per day, depending on the hotel and room type. Be sure to check the Atlantis Terms & Services page on the website to see the exact rate before booking. This fee is added directly to your bill at check out. This is not a new concept; cruise ships have been doing it forever. But on a cruise ship, you have a dedicated room steward who probably knows your name and how you like your pillows fluffed. That’s not going to happen at Atlantis. Service is friendly enough and our room was clean, but I sure didn’t see any towel animals folded up on my bed!
3. There is No Self-Service Laundry Room
I like to pack light and do our laundry halfway through the trip. Most hotels offer coin-operated machines that make doing this easy. Walt Disney World Resorts even put their laundry rooms near the pools so you can conveniently have a little fun while waiting for your underwear to dry.
Not at Atlantis. If you want to wash your clothes, it’s going to cost you. Atlantis offers valet laundry and dry cleaning services only, and they charge per item. So, pack extra undies and save the laundry for when you get home.
4. There are Few “No Smoking” Areas
The first time I caught a glimpse of a man smoking in the lobby I did a double-take. And he wasn’t hiding in a corner, he was sitting right there on the sofa in the middle of all the action!
California girls like me equate smoking to something you do on the patio, or way off on the side of the hotel’s driveway. But at Atlantis, the rules don’t apply. (You’re not in America, after all!) People smoke inside. They smoke on the beach. They even smoke at the hotel’s famed marine exhibits. There are actual ashtrays all over the place, and even men selling Cuban cigars on the beach. We walked through the Cave marine exhibit outside of the Beach Tower and people were actually standing in there watching bat rays while smoking.
While I am sure for smokers it is a novelty to be able to watch marine life swim around while puffing away, for the rest of us seeing an ashtray next to an exotic fish tank is a little jarring.
And one final note on the subject: smoking on the beach equals cigarette butts on the beach.
5. The Pools Close Early
Atlantis is a tropical oasis. Seriously, it is amazing. Read any blog, brochure or website and it’s all about the pools (there are 11), the beach (3), and the water park (11 slides, a lazy river and a mile-long not-so-lazy river).
But what you don’t realize is that they all close by dusk. That’s right. Do you enjoy swimming under the stars? Sorry, folks, it’s not going to happen here! By the time night falls, it’s all over.
During our summer visit, the pools closed at 7 p.m. and the staff was already cleaning up, collecting towels and shutting down waterpark rides before that time.
Most activities (save for marine habitats and the kids club, which charges a hefty fee) are closed by end of the day. There are free movies in the theater, which were great, and you can always pay to see a show. The casino is open 24/7. But, you’re not going to find many outdoor activities at night.
In fact, it gets pretty dark out there once the sun goes down. The pool areas are not lit, nor are the pathways alongside the beach. I took a walk by myself our first night there and actually turned back because it was so dark and eerily quiet.
Now of course I can’t say with any authority that all this is part of a ploy to get grown-ups into the casino, but… with nothing else to do, I did end up in the casino that night after my walk. And it was pretty darn crowded.