Discovering Atlantis

Was it inevitable that we would end up in Atlantis?

If anyone has ever doubted the efficacy of advertising, just ask a ten-year-old boy who’s watched the Atlantis promotions in the back of a New York taxi all year. He already knew that if you buy three nights, you get the fourth free; that you can play with dolphins; that you can take a true leap of faith and end up swimming with sharks. He knew all this long before we boarded the American Airlines flight to Nassau to visit the Promised Land.

Atlantis is where Disney meets Las Vegas, but with the best of both (by and large). Like Vegas, it has excellent hotel accommodations, a good range of restaurants, the clinging and rolling of a terrific casino. Like Disney, Atlantis is made for kids and their parents—although it strikes a finer balance between the two.

Unlike Vegas, you don’t need a taxi to get around between hotels and attractions, and then a compass and oxygen tank to get to the part of the hotel casino you want to visit. Unlike Disney, which is an awful lot of work (come on, be honest!), Atlantis is like a ride on the lazy river around its well-named “Aquaventure”: a couple of rapids, a typhoon wave and some coasting on the rubber ring and you’re back where you started.

Atlantis comprises five hotels, condominiums, lots of swimming pools, a dolphin center (where you can swim with these smart beasts–who, incredibly, are rather like your children in mannerisms and intelligence), water slides, a casino and plenty of restaurants. But you can walk the greater part of it within 15-20 minutes if you don’t want to use a shuttle bus.

Family holidays are all about activities, but here they’re also about mixing kid fun with parent flexibility. In the center of the complex within the iconic Royal Towers hotel (that’s the one you see in the ads with the two towers connected via a bridge), lies AKA, or Atlantis Kids Adventures—“the coolest kids club ever.”

Designed for children ages three through 12, AKA’s state-of-the-art facility is better than anything that we had seen in New York. Modern, inventive, welcoming, AKA is a multi-room center with everything from a working kitchen and a theater-like performance center to the inevitable computers and game room. As assistant manager Dana Ferguson pointed out to us, “No parents are allowed,” and each of the staff in the facility is highly trained. The activities are playful, educational, well supervised and extremely well executed. The bouncy ten-year-old who accompanied me on the trip—and who had poo-poo’ed the notion of entering a kitchen—found himself happily chopping up strawberries and blueberries to make a healthy smoothie.

For parents wanting either down time or together time, AKA offers a terrific resource with morning, afternoon and evening sessions. You can purchase by the session or even by the hour. Ferguson told us that the most kids that she’d had in the center was around 160, for the evening shift on New Year’s Eve!

Currently, Atlantis is developing something similarly creative for the teen set. Slated to open this winter for 13 to 17 year olds, the teen club “Crush” will include an Internet lounge, a gaming room with a 32 monitor high gaming tower, the first teen-inspired Starbucks and a dance club with VIP sections, doormen and paparazzi.

The downside? While promotions do exist, this is not a cheap package holiday destination. Yet although the Caribbean tends to be deserted in summer, when we went to Atlantis in early August the hotels were virtually booked. Expensive, yes, but overall, it’s absolutely worth it.

The ten-year-old’s verdict? Four and a half stars out of five. After all, “Nothing’s ever completely perfect, Dad…”

For more info about Atlantis, visit atlantis.com.