Aug
06
2013

Atlantis: Disney in the Bahamas

A mom and son take on this Bahamian paradise adventure resort

Where do you go for a mom-son holiday when your teen loves waterslides and food, and you want to play tennis and read on a beach? Easy—the Bahamas. Specifically, Atlantis—a 171-acre, 3,500-room resort on the north coast of Paradise Island.

730 Atlantis, the mega resort.

Want teen entertainment? Got it. Want sun? Got it. Want loads of restaurants for a perpetually hungry 15-year-old? Got those, too. Want gorgeous beaches? Please . . . this is the Bahamas, after all.

With 21 restaurants, 19 bars and lounges, Crush (a US$11-million teen nightclub), 50,000 sea animals to view, a spa, sports centre, golf course, the largest casino in the Caribbean and 20 million gallons’ worth of water activities, it’s no wonder Atlantis is such a family-friendly standout.

Of course, the white powdery beach is lovely, too. Not that this is the main reason people vacation at Atlantis. What you’ll immediately discover is that this is a beach resort that’s all about the beach—yet, the beach was empty. Like Disneyland or the mega-resorts in Vegas, Atlantis serves up a distorted reality that blurs the watery edges of ancient and modern marine life with the real thing—except the real thing is not where the crowds are (the people on the beach are scant). They’re on the waterslides or marvelling at the Godzilla-sized sea horses that appear to prop up portions of the Royal Towers, or they’re gawking at the metallic snakes that form the railways of the Lagoon Bar.

The little ones are flat-nosed against the resort’s centrepiece, The Dig—a giant aquarium full of dappled manta rays, sharks, eels and countless other creatures, built in what appears to be a submerged lost city that you experience by walking through a Plexiglas tunnel. Even the waterslides riff on ancient times, with the most notable being the 20-metre ersatz Mayan Temple slide that shoots you out of what looks like a monument to the gods and into a big pool—but not before whizzing you through a tunnel where white-bellied sharks glide over you.

What exactly is the appeal of an artificial landscape? Why do people flock to such places? These are the things you can talk about with a 15-year-old while floating down a man-made river called The Current. As for other mom-teen observations, here’s how our four-day getaway played out:

Top Restaurant

Me, the mom

Owned by the same folks behind the Atlantis, the exclusive One&Only Ocean Club is a just stroll down the beach from its mega-sister, but it’s quiet, refined and tiny by comparison. Have lunch on its oceanfront deck, Dune, and order a G&T and the gingery crab salad. The Carib-Asian cuisine, courtesy of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is as fine as you’ll get anywhere.

Quinn, the teen

When I walked into Johnny Rockets, I thought I had entered Grease. It was pretty cool when the staff started dancing, and I liked the names of the burgers (Route 66, St. Louis, The Houston) and the root beer floats, and the fries were pretty good, and … oh yeah, the hot fudge brownie was great. And those straws that came in paper … I don’t see those in Canada.

Top Waterslides

Me

I never did work up the courage to lift up the trapdoor and plunge down the 50-ft. chute of pitch-black terror known as The Abyss. The Drop, The Falls and The Surge, all of which plummet off the 120-ft.-tall Power Tower, were enough for me. These three inner-tube rides drop into caverns where you get blasted by flash floods and spin around through dark tunnels filled with fellow screamers.

Quinn

I liked The Current and The Rapids because it felt like I was Indiana Jones bouncing my way through Africa. The steam from the lava pit and the snakes that fall from the top of the cave were cool. And I really liked seeing the sharks at the bottom of The Serpent Slide.

Top Relaxer

731 A four-hands massage at the One&Only Club.

Me

The Swedish massage at the One&Only Spa. From the hand-carved teak walls to the private little daybeds, topped off by the tea ceremony at the end—the Indonesian details transported me to a Balinese Never Never Land.

Quinn

The six kinds of newspapers we got at the pool were great (at the Ocean Club). And I really liked learning about dolphins (at Dolphin Cay) … I forgot they don’t chew their food and they use their teeth instead to clamp down and scratch other dolphins. I didn’t know that some pods can be as large as 1,000 dolphins. I’d like to see that.

Top Nightlife

Me

Who can afford to stay in the US$25,000-a-night Royal Towers’ Bridge Suite? Celebs and high rollers, of course, so I just wandered the casino trying to peg who was staying where. Of course, that led me to the slots, where I handed over my usual $20 and called it a night.

Quinn

I met some cool people at Crush and had fun dancing. It looked just like an adult club that you see in the movies. The music was great and there were a bunch of video games to play if you didn’t feel like dancing.

Other Top Attractions

Me

A tennis lesson from Leo Rolle, who’s worked at the Ocean Club for 43 years. A former Davis Cup player, Rolle gave me tips that immediately improved my game.

Quinn

I thought the sea lions were more fun than the dolphins because, while they were extremely ugly, they had terrific personalities. I liked how lazy and sassy they were. I could totally relate to them.

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