The plan today was to provide a brief review of Atlantis before my “MLS Musings” post. But then I got typing, as I often do, and the “brief” review just kept going!
By the time I got to 1,200 words, I realized I’d be saving the MLS Musings for next Friday.
This post does have at least one thing in common with the topic of real estate, however, and that’s the inherent negativity that exists in all reviews…
Was I really away on vacation?
It sure doesn’t feel like it…
The week after your vacation is always three times as busy as the week preceding the trip, and Atlantis feels like it was a year ago.
A reader asked me for a brief recap of the trip, but surely by now, you guys know nothing I say is brief.
Feedback, commentary, and opinions on hotels, resorts, restaurants, and almost everything in the service industry are almost always inherently negative, so while I will say, “I had a great time,” and “I would definitely go again,” let me regale you with my long list of complaints first.
If it bleeds, it leads. And happy stories don’t make the news. So why should a review of a glorious Caribbean resort be any different, right?
Let’s start from the very beginning…
Atlantis has a shuttle that picks you up at the airport and takes you directly to the resort, but as the parents of a 17-month-old child, we wondered, “Does the shuttle have child seats?”
The answer, of course, is no.
And as my wife was told on the phone, “You don’t need a child seat in Bahamas. It’s not mandatory.”
Not mandatory. But preferable? This is supposed to be a 5-star resort; we were shocked that they’d encourage us to overlook the safety of our kids, but oh well.
We decided to hire another service to take us to and from the airport, partially because of the child-seat issue, but also so we could stop at a grocery store and liquor store before we hit the resort. As I’ll explain later, that was a more important journey than we thought it would be.
Having taken the 7am flight, we arrived at the resort around 1pm, tired already, and looking forward to unpacking and getting settled. We were told by the front desk, “Check-in isn’t until 4pm,” but I figured that was more of a general rule. How many times have you got to a hotel or motel and they said, “Oh, actually, look – your room is ready”?
We wandered around the sprawling and intimidating resort for 90 minutes, then went back to the desk, only to be told, again, that our room wasn’t ready. 2:30pm? Really? The room wasn’t ready?
My wife was in that, “Please don’t do this again” space, hoping I’d get down with “island time” and relax a little.
When we went back to the desk at 3:45pm, and were told the room wasn’t ready, I just about lost it. But then I remembered I was supposed to relax, so I did. I relaxed against the wall next to the front desk, and stared at the clock. For 13 minutes. Until at 3:58pm, magically, the person at the front desk said, “Mr. Fleming? Your room is ready.”
Our room wasn’t ready, however. Not for habitation.
We opened the front door, and like a punch in the face, the smell of cleaning products hit us.
The carpet was damp. It was clear that they had put a lot of effort into cleaning the room, I’ll give them that. But nothing was dry. It was like a steam room, and you could see moisture on every surface. Even the TV had streaks from cleaning products.
We explored the resort a little more, and soon realized that the “perfect resort for kids” had no ramps for strollers, and only three elevators. The entire resort is full of husband-and-wife teams, carrying their strollers down the stairs like contestants on American Gladiators.
The resort is full of these little shacks that serve light and healthy meals like hamburgers, nachos and cheese, pizza, french fries, and hot dogs, but looking for something a little more our speed for the first night, and hoping to get out of the sweltering heat, we asked if there was anywhere we could just sit down?
Go to Mosaic, we were told, and so we did.
Hiking up and down paths that seemed to lead nowhere, with positively no idea where we were going (“up there, right, then left, then right,” is what we were told), we found Mosaic after about a half hour.
Once inside the beautiful, air-conditioned restaurant that didn’t have a single person inside, we were quite relieved to say the least. It was exactly what we wanted after a long day of travel, and forced walking. Just a nice, cool place to grab a quick bite and then get back to the room to put our daughter to bed.
Little did I know, the restaurant opened at 5:30pm. We arrived at 5:31pm.
My wife and I took turns going to the massive buffet, looking for what our daughter could, would, should eat, and helping ourselves as well.
We were probably in there for twenty minutes, and when we asked for the bill, the waitress looked at us a little funny.
A few minutes later when I opened the billfold, I realized why.
For two people, because children under 2-years-old eat free.
My fault, 100%. No question about it.
We were like lambs to the slaughter; walking inside and sitting down without inquiring about the price. I probably wouldn’t have left, had I known this was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet at $72 USD per person, since I was so tired I’d have likely just said, “Screw it, let’s do it.” But I sure wouldn’t have been caught off-guard!
I signed for a $15 tip, which I actually felt bad for, because it’s so cheap! Barely over 10%, I thought. But having been there for 20 minutes, and since the waitress only sat us down and gave us glasses of water, I tried to justify it in my mind.
I would soon learn what you guys already know: that there’s an automatic 15% gratuity on EVERYTHING on the resort. Not to mention the 7.5% vacation tax.
22.5% added to every bill. Even something as “cheap” as a $5 bottle of water comes with the 22.5% addition.
We left Mosaic feeling stupid. Almost $200 Canadian for a twenty-minute meal.
My mother and I have this saying about vacations, and it goes like this, “Start spending.”
On vacation? Start spending.
If you’re going to do it, do it right. You’re away from home, you’ve earned this, you saved for this – so enjoy it. Just start spending!
And after shelling out $200 for one plate of food on the first night, I figured, “What the hell, it is what it is.”
The next morning, however, I made another discovery regarding price, and this one didn’t sit quite as well with me.
It seems that all the “cheaper” restaurants on the island are of the all-you-can-eat variety.
Meaning that if you want breakfast at Mosaic or Poseidon’s Table, you’re paying $41 USD per person.
Sorry guys, I can’t do it.
I’m not cheap, and I’m not poor. But I can’t do it. I can’t pay $106 every morning for breakfast for my wife and myself. I simply refuse.
The problem was, they didn’t have anywhere you could avoid the all-you-can-eat money-grab.
I’d have gladly paid $20 for two eggs on a piece of toast, but that option was nowhere to be found.
We ended up getting bagels and/or Starbucks-style cheese-croissant-bacon-thingees from the coffee shop, which along with a coffee, ran our total to about $30 per morning.
Thankfully, all the food we had bought at the grocery store for our daughter – fresh fruits and veggies, Cheerios, et al, was able to help one of us avoid gaining 6% in total body mass over the course of the trip.
I don’t know if Atlantis styles their all-you-can-eat restaurants around the American obsession with being fat, or the best way to overcharge people, but either way, the results were felt.
On the first night when we went to fill the bath for Maya, we discovered that the faucet didn’t work. It let out a trickle of water that I calculated would have taken 8 hours to fill the tub. So I took out the ice bucket, filled it with lukewarm water, and dumped it into the tub.
I repeated this act twenty-six additional times.
And then did so for the entire trip. Twenty-seven buckets per night, for seven nights. I filled the ice bucket 189 times in total.
We rented a “suite” at Atlantis, that’s essentially a 1-bedroom with a living room, so that we could have Maya sleep in a crib in the living room while we slept in the bedroom. The pocket sliding-doors that separated the living room from the bedroom, however, did not close.
So every night when we went to bed there was a 24-inch gap that allowed noise to transfer, and thus if we wanted to be inside, we had to remain silent to avoid waking the little bug up. We ended up drinking on our terrace every night, watching the people below – without kids, party the way we used to. Oh, we made that observation more than a few times! It’s just not the same with kids, is it?
The next day we decided to check out “Dolphin Cay,” which is pretty much as it sounds; a large man-made lagoon with a pack of cute-as-can-be dolphins, that kids of all ages would love. It’s $400 USD per person to swim with the dolphins, but we were told by many on the island that you can go and watch for free.
Free? Is anything free at Atlantis?
Imagine my surprise when we walked up to Dolphin Cay and found a swarm of people standing behind a fence that was 700 feet from any dolphin, and yet some people were on the sand, on the other side of the fence, a little closer.
Want to walk out onto the sand for a better look?
That’s $17 USD per person.
I couldn’t stomach it.
$51 for the three of us is nothing, and I’d gladly pay it to see one smile on my daughter’s face. But I was just so unprepared for how this entire resort is built around picking people up, turning them upside down, and shaking them until every last penny falls out.
The goddam umbreallas on the beach, necessary to keep my kid from baking in the sun, were $20 to rent.
And while I don’t want to complain about the $295 USD per round of golf at Ocean Club, since that’s a personal choice I made, it bears mentioning.
So what else can I complain about?
Not once during the trip did the cleaning staff replace our shampoo and soap, so I basically grew dreadlocks. Thank god for the bar of Dove I brought from Toronto. I’ve never liked hotel soap.
The cleaning staff also didn’t empty our garbage, so each morning we’d take that down with us and throw it out ourselves.
We checked out the Atlantis “Kid’s Club” one afternoon, only to find it wasn’t a place where our kid could play, but rather a drop-off centre. I mentioned in my post from two weeks ago how our daughter wouldn’t be allowed to play, given she was under 3-years-old, but I didn’t realize this was for kids only.
We asked if we could take a look anyways, and the guy at the desk said, “Adults aren’t allowed back there.” I smiled, and said, “I’m not looking to build a Lego castle, I just wanted to see what’s behind the curtain.” He replied, “It’s not possible, sir.”
I pictured a dozen kids behind that curtain, all sitting in front of cute little sewing machines, making textiles to be shipped out from the nearest port…
Call me crazy, but the idea of dropping my child off at this fine establishment for an extended period of time didn’t sit well with me. Maybe, as a huge Liam Neeson fan, I’ve seen Taken a few too many times. Tell me if I need to cut the cord here.
In the end, we made our own good time, as one has to do.
I realize just how much this reeks of “first world problem’s,” but, well, we live in the first world. So this is my review.
The irony is, I had an amazing time. So did my wife. And our daughter? I’ve never seen her so happy.
As I said at the onset, most reviews are negative. People are far more likely to put the effort into a complaint than they are to put the effort into a “job well done.”
I’ve been to two Sandals resorts, and those trips were flawless. So I’m not letting Atlantis completely off the hook, but I will admit that many of the negatives we experienced at Atlantis are things we would filter out next time.
Atlantis comes with a massive learning curve, and many of you wrote comments on my blog two weeks ago to that effect. In fact, some of your comments helped us to learn what’s what!
This trip with our daughter was a huge “success.”
Last summer, we went to the same cottage that we’d been to four times previously over Canada Day long weekend, and it just didn’t work with Maya, who was then 7-months-old. One month later, we went to Idaho, and soon learned that it wasn’t the right vacation for an 8-month-old child.
But Atlantis was perfect for her. She played in the kiddie pool for hours every day, and in the sand on the beach.
She loved to explore the grounds no matter where we went.
And she spent hours watching the fish, sharks, and turtles from the various aquariums and outdoor ponds.
Seven days, and she never fussed. She didn’t cry on either plane ride, she went right to sleep every night at 7pm, and slept for 12 hours. She never stopped smiling the entire trip, and every day was a new experience for her.
Yes, Atlantis is expensive.
Yes, Atlantis is large, awkward, and has no accessiblity for strollers.
Yes, the room and the service disappionted us.
But as I have come to learn in the past year, the needs and well-being of my child now come far before my own. This wasn’t a vacation for David and Jenna; it was an experience for Maya, and for the Fleming family as a unit.
I’m sure there are other, better, cheaper, closer, quieter, cleaner, sexier resorts out there, but looking at the photos and the smile on my daughter’s face in each of them, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Have a great weekend, everybody!