Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Atlantis Time


My wife and I recently stayed at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, thanks to some "free" nights I'd earned through a local casino promotion.  It was our first time there, and probably our last.

That's not to say we had a horrible time. In addition to the "free" room, they gave us a discount on airfare and some cash back on resort expenses. We relaxed, swam, read, and had some good meals. But...

The place was too big and crowded for us. With five hotel towers, a half-dozen pools, a lagoon, a couple of beaches, and several big water slides, it's not bad for families with kids, but our daughter's at college, so it was just us. Aside from all the water activities, Atlantis specializes in constant sensory overload. There were only two places we could achieve peace and quiet -- in the elevators and in our hotel room. Every pool had a DJ blasting music. As we walked by one of them, there was an Atlantis employee doing a movie trivia contest, bugging people who just wanted to sit on a chaise lounge and get a tan. If I'd been at that pool, I would have left immediately, but apparently there were enough people playing along to encourage that sort of distraction.

One evening, while taking a 15-minute stroll from our tower to another part of the resort for dinner at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill (a great meal), we had the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the path, with the waves crashing against the beach. Problem was, we couldn't hear the waves because there was music coming out of speakers embedded in rocks along the path. Yes, on a beach vacation, we couldn't hear the ocean from 20 yards away.

Being on a warm beach in February is always a pleasure, and we lucked into better-than-usual Bahamas weather, with temps in the 80s every day and no rain. But the beach was extremely crowded (although there weren't many people in the water), and because it's public property not owned by the resort, there was a constant stream of locals selling jewelry, clothing, hair braiding, jet-ski rides, booze cruises, etc. I don't begrudge their trying to make a living, but I didn't need the guy selling drinks in coconuts to stop by every five minutes to ask, "Ready for a pina colada??"

Then there's the food expense. We'd heard from friends who'd been there that Atlantis offers meal plans, with the cheapest starting at $80. That's per day, per person -- not including lunch! And on that "value" plan, you can't eat in any of the nicer restaurants, just the buffet and the casual places. Since we weren't going to have breakfast most days, we figured we could spend less and save some money.

It wasn't as easy as we thought, because food at Atlantis is incredibly expensive. They have you trapped on Paradise Island (unless you take a cab/ferry over to downtown Nassau, where the shopping district for cruise ship passengers is), so they charge an arm and a leg. Want a margarita poolside? That'll be $10. Want a candy bar in the sundries shop? That'll be $3. At Virgil's BBQ, we each had a salad, half an entree, a side dish, and a beverage. The check came to $100, including the mandatory 15% gratuity they add to everything at Atlantis. We could have four dinners at barbecue places in St. Louis for that!

Oh, and that "free" room I got for four nights? We still had to pay the room tax, the housekeeping gratuity, and a "utility fee," all of which totaled $65/night.

Atlantis does have a casino, although there's no poker (except in January, when PokerStars takes the place over for its big PCA tournament series). There's a high-end shopping area, with watches and jewelry I can't even afford to look at. It also has a marina full of yachts, and we couldn't help joining other gawkers on the dock checking out the way one-percenters vacation on the water.

Most of the vessels looked like the one Rodney Dangerfield used to destroy Ted Knight's boat in "Caddyshack," but there was one monster ship that must have been over a hundred yards long. Its crew was so big, none of the other yachts could hold them. I wasn't jealous. I have no interest in having a boat of my own of any size, for the same reason I'll never go on a cruise -- seasickness. If I were that wealthy, my indulgence would be a private plane, so I could go anywhere anytime and never be frisked by the TSA.

So, as I said, we won't be going back to Atlantis. Next time we're looking for a place to getaway and relax, we'll choose someplace quieter.

Also next time, I'll listen to my wife and put sunscreen on my feet. Ouch.