Comprised of six hotels, 11 pools, 40 restaurants and bars, and a seemingly endless array of activities including beaches, aquariums, rock climbing, a water park, spa and the Caribbean’s largest casino, it’s no wonder so many families make Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas their vacation destination. But if you want to avoid disappointment and surprises, here are some things to know before you go.
We saw the ads and splashy website. We were lured by images of the turquoise sea and water slide that zips you straight through a shark tank. We were enthralled by 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. We loved the idea of all those restaurants and activities and a casino and kids club all in one fabulous place. Like a cruise ship!
Not so fast…
In reality, yes – 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 the brochures don’t tell you. You can call these warnings or just one mom helping out another, but if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, here are five things you should definitely know before visiting Atlantis.
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 (had the best snorkeling) or the water park.
Also – as luck would have it – the pool and lazy river adjacent to the Beach Tower was 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 operate 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” of approximately $10.00 per day. 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! Essentially at Atlantis, you are tipping for cruise ship service and cleanliness, but you’re probably not going to be receiving it.
3. There is no self-service laundry room.
I like to pack light and do our laundry half way 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 service only, and they charge per item. So pack extra undies and save the laundry for when you get home.
4. There are very 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 even 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 (18 slides and a mile-long 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 7pm and staff was already cleaning up, collecting towels, and shutting down waterpark rides even prior.
Pretty much all 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 any 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.
Healthy Tip for This Destination
Skip the shuttle and walk wherever you want to go. You will burn plenty of calories just walking from place to place at Atlantis!