I had come to the Bahamian island as a trade on my timeshare with Starwood properties, where I usually go to the secluded, serene Westin Hotel on St. John, a ferry ride away from St. Thomas. But with two toddlers that location didn’t seem appropriate. After a smooth two hour flight on JetBlue it was only 30 minutes to our hotel on Paradise Island, the gigantic Atlantis resort.
My daughter Samantha had gone there with her family and thought it would be great for me with Elizabeth and her two little ones, Jonah and Addison. To a great degree she was right. It is a paradise for kids. If you like walking a mile to get to the beach, or waiting up to 20 minutes for a shuttle bus that drops you at one of the many hotels on the premises, then walking what seemed endlessly to get to the designated activity, then this place is for you.
For example, we stayed at the Harbor Side Resort, which is all time shares. To get to the beach I had to take a shuttle to the hotel that had a beach, then walk and walk and walk. My favorite beach near the Coral Towers had lounge chairs, but I was hustled by an umbrella man who charged me $20 before I realized all the lounges came with an attached “hood” and the umbrella wasn’t necessary. Oh well, it is a holiday! I soon found out the chairs are free and a tip was gratefully acknowledged.
Not far from the Coral beach was the “Lazy River Ride.” We all climbed into a plastic tube and just leaned back to let the river move us through the winding trail. I don’t know if we were too heavy but we were going nowhere until Jonah got out into the three-foot-deep water and pushed us as we laughed our heads off.
I hadn’t been in a tube on the water since I was a kid spending lazy summers on Lake Oscawana in Putnam County. The ride was the highlight of my day, though Addy got scared so Elizabeth walked the “river” holding Addy in her arms! What a mom!
A must-do family experience is swimming with the dolphins. It’s very pricey at $135 each, and then they “get you” for the photos they take during the experience. We each got to kiss the dolphin and rub his belly. They are such sweet mammals that have been superbly trained. They danced for us and twirled in the air. Of course we wanted to buy the pictures (no one is allowed to have a camera) but we found out there was a minimum of five photos for $70. That’s a resort for you!
We did have a large pool in our complex that was kid-friendly. In the corner was a jacuzzi that Jonah and I enjoyed. He loved playing with the other kids on vacation at shuffle board, ping pong and billiards. There is a snack bar near every water experience so we had lunch poolside each day.
Elizabeth and I took a few hours off and walked what seemed like miles to reach the wonderful world-class Mandara Spa. It’s a real sanctuary with soft music, candlelight and beautiful waterfalls.
We changed into spa robes and each of us had different services. I did the $129 special offering 20 minutes of three services: a facial, foot massage and body rub. The technician was superb and I didn’t want to leave. I finally got up and met Elizabeth who was napping after her massage. I took a sauna and steam and felt fabulous. We left and got the kids for a dinner at Nobu.
The resort has multiple restaurants with celebrity chefs like Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Cafe Martinique, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Nobu and Carmine’s, a New York legend. It is my favorite because of its family-style dishes. I ordered a combination of chicken on the bone with sausage, potatoes and peppers in a tasty sauce. Elizabeth and I were blown away by the enormous, crispy salad with a dressing so good they should bottle it.
A surprise treat was the well-stocked bread basket with a variety of breads. My favorite was the whole wheat with grains on the crust, so soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. I asked for extra to take back to our room and I enjoyed it with my breakfasts for the rest of the vacation. We had a full kitchen, so we ate breakfast in the room and used the many leftovers from Carmine’s for dinner the next day.
We had a wonderful time together but I’m not sure I’d go back. Fortunately we were there the week before the Christmas/New Year’s rush. I can’t imagine what Atlantis is like at full capacity. Next year they will have competition. A new huge complex is being built near the airport. Stay tuned!
Happy holidays to all!
The iconic bridge is the Atlantis symbol.
Vendors sold their wares on the beach.
Tubing was another fun activity.