Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bahama Mama Magee

A tradition I started when I became a flight attendant was to travel to an international destination for my birthday each year. Usually I don't have the slightest idea where I may be going, I just know that I'm leaving the country for a week. This year however, I knew in advance that we would be traveling to the Bahamas because it just so happened to coordinate with Lyndee and Mark's wedding. Lyndee and Mark have become very close friends of ours and we considered ourselves so fortunate to be invited to such a small intimate wedding on the beach that they were having. Plans were made a year ago to attend their wedding and so come May 18th we hopped on a plane and headed down south.

I had never been to the Bahamas before and neither had Chad so we went into it with no expectations. All I had to go by was the beautiful pictures from the Atlantis resort website where we were staying. Lyndee had arranged a block of rooms at the Coral Towers so we booked our stay around March. We only had to put down half the cost of the room and the rest we would pay after we left. This gave us some piece of mind knowing that if, for whatever reason, we weren't able to make it, we would only loose a couple hundred dollars.

Seeing as this is a travel blog I'd like to give you, the reader, a sense of what to expect should you ever find yourself heading to the Bahamas for vacation or wedding. I can only comment on the Atlantis because we didn't venture outside of the resort except for one night. Here is a list of things you should know before you go:

1. Everything is Expensive! - Ok so this is what we were told by dozens of people before we went. So much so that my husband and I started to panic before we left. We hadn't budgeted THAT much money for the trip (considering our usual destinations are in central america we don't think about cost being an issue so much). Here is what you will spend your money on: alcohol, the casino and food...probably in that order. After a day or two the sticker shock wears off and you grow accustomed to the $10 big bottles of water and $34 room service pizza.

Go ahead, enjoy the $10 drinks

2. When you do spend your money - As far as alcohol goes I recommend going into town when you arrive and buying a bottle of absolute vodka and the local beer kalik or sands (import beer such as coors is extremely pricey). Keep this on hand to pre-game before you go out at night. You can take alcohol anywhere on the property except into the clubs and no one blinks an eye. However, know during the day you will see everyone drinking $10 pina coladas and you WILL want one. So just give in. The best deal I found was bartering with the guys on the beach who will make you a drink in a coconut (ask for coconut joe). We were able to get 4 drinks for $20 plus I tipped him. They will come to your chair and offer one as you relax by the beach so give in.

When it comes to the casino you'll need cash so bring some with you, set it aside for gambling and resist the urge to hit the ATM when you lose most all of it.
Your best bet for eating at the resort are the restaurants around the pool area where you can get a hot dog, chips and a coke for $7. There is a starbuck's and jamba juice at the Marina village where breakfast will run about $10 depending on the sandwiches and drinks you get. As far as dinner goes just know that most everything closes early so a late night snack is going to cost you upwards of $35 from room service. The buffet is ok but it will run you $100 for two people and, in my opinion, was not worth the money unless you can eat $50 worth of food.
The first night we went to Senior Frog's for my birthday and Chad and I split a meal that cost about $15. I highly recommend Senior Frog's as it has excellent food and drinks and a fun atmosphere. You'll just have to pay a cab to get there. Also a cab to and from the airport will run about $40 so make sure you have cash for that as well.

Senior frogs - home of the yard drink


and dancing on the bar

3. Your room card is your life line - The Atlantis operates like a cruise ship so you use your room card for everything. I recommend putting your room on the credit card you plan to use when you get there that way, at the end of your stay, you can "check-out" via the room tv. You can also keep tabs on how much you are spending on the room tv. There are only a few places at the Atlantis that take cash and every place else will have a sign up that says, "room cards or credit cards only." Usually when Chad and I travel to another country we take out all the cash we plan to use and spend it as we go so we can monitor what we are spending. This also helps cut down on service fees and in smaller parts of the countries we visit they don't even have card machines. Whatever you do, don't lose your room card!

4. Watch the time - I could not find one single clock on the property except for in our room. Since neither Chad nor I, wear a watch, this made things a little hectic. After all, when you have a wedding to attend you don't want to be late....but time sneaks away when you are out at the pool! So bring a watch with you. Also note that nothing is open from 4am until 11pm with the exception of room service at night and Starbuck's, Jamba Juice and the very expensive breakfast buffet in the morning. You won't even be allowed to buy alcohol until 11 because none of the poolside bars open until then. On a positive note this is how I learned what time it was in the mornings - once I saw the food and beverage stands open I knew it must be 11am.

5. The early bird gets the best chair- If you want a good seat at the pool or beach you must get up and out of your room by 9am. Simply put, once the cruise ships dock and those people come to the resort you will be hard pressed to find a chair that has a shade cover on it. And yes you will see lots of people from the cruise ships at the Atlantis (look for their Carnival logo towels). When you first wake up and head to the pool you must obtain a wristband by showing your room key at the towel stations. You will need your wrist band to get around at the water park and through the hotel. If you don't have a wrist band you can show your room key until you can obtain one. We tended to move around a lot from pool to pool and from beach to waterpark so we were never too concerned about finding chairs. However, it will infuriate you that most people throw a towel on a good chair, then leave it there the rest of the day never to even enjoy their primo spot.

I snagged a prime beach chair

6. You won't want to leave - Of course you won't want to go home at the end of your trip but what I mean is, you won't want to leave the property once you arrive. I was told there were several souvenir shops and fast food restaurants outside of the Atlantis that provided cheaper options than what was offered on site. What no one tells you is, the property is huge. I mean ridiculously huge and it takes awhile to walk from one end to the other. So once you are settled on the beach in your prime spot chair, you won't want to leave and go outside the resort for lunch or shopping. Which is exactly how those who designed the Atlantis intended it to be. I actually found some of the best items to purchase for souvenir's at the airport and Marina Village.

the Atlantis is seemingly endless

7. Dress Down during the day, up at night - As always I packed too many clothes to bring on this trip. What I didn't take into account was that I would spend pretty much 9am to 7pm in a bathing suit (the pools close at 7pm as does the beach FYI). After that the Atlantis turns into a Vegas-esque atmosphere with women and men dressing to the 9s. This means almost obscenely short dresses for the women and high heels, neither of which I packed. Men will not be let into the Aura club if wearing shorts (the Dragon club doesn't care but closes earlier). So bring a bathing suit for the day (you have to cover up in the lobbies so carry something with you) and your party clothing for night. If you go in town however, the atmosphere is pretty casual.

look your best at night

8. Prepare to be harassed- There are several beaches surrounding the Atlantis but only one of them isn't private and you'll know it when you are on it. This beach is where you will find jet skis, para sailing, hair braiding, sarong's, shells, coconut drinks, drugs, banana boat rides, booze cruises, snorkeling, bracelets, necklaces and earrings all for sale. You will be constantly approached to buy any one of these things with jet skiing being the one most often offered. These people are not a part of the Atlantis and the Atlantis does not recommend you use their services. However, I found these guys to be polite and usually walked away after you told them "No thank you." If you want quiet, head towards the Cove where you won't be interrupted.

find the beach that looks like this

not this:

9. Act a fool -
Tourism is the number one reason the Atlantis exists and pretty much the heart of the Bahamas. Without tourists, the island wouldn't be able to sustain themselves. As such, you can pretty much get away with whatever you want and no one bats an eye (with the exception of taking pictures in the casino...they do NOT like that!). I thought the staff was extremely friendly and accommodating and for as loud as our group was we were never treated poorly. I can't reveal exact details but let me just say, we tested the limits of security and they put up with us with extremely good humor!

you can make a human pyramid

have a crazy room party

10. Expect hidden fees-
You know how I said that we were warned the Bahama's is expensive? Well it should be clarified it's not the food and drinks you have to worry about it's all the service fees. Fortunately for us, we had stayed out until 4am partying the night before we left so, when we checked out via the room tv, the sticker shock wasn't so painful. Here's a list of things besides food and alcohol we were charged for:

*utility fee $14 a day
*pool fee $3.50 a day
* housekeeping $10 a day
*bell hop $12 (we never even had them bring our bags to our room but they charge whether you use the service or not so USE IT)
*international taxes and fees per day (on top of what the credit card company would charge us)
*internet $14 per day (if you use it. The internet cafe is $4 an hour)
*mini bar $2.50 for a bag of cookies which chad didn't even initially take but the mini bar measures in weight so once you pick something up you've bought it
*$10 bottled water from the room

And that's just what I can remember. We stayed 4 night so our grand total was about $1300

For what you get at the Atlantis I really cannot complain about the cost. I found it a cross between being on a cruise ship and being in Vegas. The weather was perfect the whole time and the rooms were spacious with comfortable beds and we had a pool and beach balcony view. I never felt threatened the whole time we were there and it is overall a perfect vacation destination for couples, college kids or families.

Lyndee and Mark could not have chosen a better spot to be married. They raved about the treatment they received and were upgraded to an amazing penthouse suite for staying there. The food they had for their wedding was excellent and the bartender at their open bar could make the best goombay smashes or bahama mama. Chad and I didn't even get to do half the things we wanted like swim with the dolphins or visit the straw market, but rest assured we will be back.

Congratulations again to two of my very best friends!

1 comment:

  1. Wow...FYI, this is my third attempt trying to post a comment. iPhone, no more. iPad, let's do this. Anyhoo...
    I love how you kept time by when alcohol was given to you. That's how all vacations should be.
    I can sympathize with the bullshit that is "chair saving". Although I am indeed guilty of this behavior, I can't stand when parents take a premium chair for their 7 year old who will never use it.
    You and Lyndee looked absolutely GORGEOUS in those pics. Thanks for the helpful tips on Atlantis as I definitely plan to go there someday.