Atlantis - Paradise Found
When visionary hotelier Sol Kerzner proclaimed his core value No. 1 "blow away the customer", never was that phrase more apparent than in his utopian masterpiece, Atlantis.
Located on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, this massive water-world resort which opened in December, 1998 boasts 1,201 guest accommodations set in the two majestic Royal Towers and the Coral and Beach Towers, 2,300 rooms, 35 restaurants and bars, fountains, waterfalls, watersheds and the largest marine habitat in the world (besides the actual ocean). And let's not forget a world-class casino, spa, children's learning center, shops, a comedy club, convention facilities, a movie theater and more! So where do you start? Anywhere you want.
But first, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the vast island empire called Atlantis, here's a little background about the fabled city, the theme of this spectacular resort, and the island where it lives.
A Little Background Music
About Paradise Island
Paradise Island is located on the northern edge of Nassau (New Providence) the capital of the Bahamas. The island is 826 acres, 4 1/2 miles long and 3/4 of a mile wide. It used to be known as Hog Island and first became a tourist attraction in 1921. In 1962, it was renamed "Paradise Island" since the Bahamian Parliament and commercial developers didn't think the name Hog Island would be appealing to tourists. (Hmmm.."Hog Heaven" maybe?) Ever since 1962, Hog Island has been Paradise Island. Good move.
Atlantis was first mentioned by the Greek Philosopher Plato. The empire was said to have stretched from the Straits of Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean all the way to the Americas. It was where Poseidon, the God of the Oceans, ruled with his five sets of male twins. (My heart goes out to Mrs. Poseidon cooking for 10 teenage boys and a god, but of course, they never mention her).
Atlantis was known as a thriving utopian society where inhabitants enjoyed a life of harmony and abundance going back as far as 10 centuries B.C. According to the legend, around 1,500 B.C., a massive earthquake destroyed Atlantis and it disappeared under the ocean named for it, the Atlantic.
For years people have searched for traces of this wonderful civilization and some believe Atlantis was the island of Crete, while others believe it to be the Canary Islands, Scandinavia or the New World.
But what Atlantis really is, is a larger than life, dramatic, extraordinary playground for humans of all ages, interests and homelands. If Atlantis was to have been a place where people lived in harmony and enjoyed all the gifts life and nature had to offer, then rest assured, Atlantis lives. More gloriously than ever.
The waterscape surrounding the Atlantis resort is over 11 million gallons of water, more than 50,000 sea animals that represent over 200 species that live in 11 exhibit lagoons.
NOTE: So our journey here won't be too word intensive, I've bolded certain names and words in red that could do with a bit more background or explanation. Just click on the bolded word(s) in RED and a pop-up box will appear with more info on the subject. (Go ahead do it now on these previous red words.)
3 Days in Paradise
Upon arriving at Nassau airport, my assistant and I were met by a limousine sent by Atlantis. Michael, our limo driver who came to us by way of Bahamas Experience, a combination limo and tour guide service, was a pleasant and talkative native Bahamian, happy to share his knowledge of the Island. For those of you wanting limo service to Atlantis or a private tour of the island, you can email Bahamas Experience for more info.
After a 30 minute drive from the airport we arrived at our destination. To say Atlantis is magnificent, is an understated understatement. Count on having your jaw in the dropped position for at least... the whole time you're there. The wonders never cease. Atlantis is delicious visual banquet that you can never seem to get enough of.
The first thing we saw upon arrival (besides the gigantic scope and structure of the buildings) were the brilliant bronze Flying Horses sculpture by Dani de Jager at the at the Porte Cochére entrance to the Royal Towers.
Making our way inside, we found ourselves in the Great Hall of Waters, the main lobby area of the Royal Towers.
You could easily spend some time roller-blading around this huge rotunda (although, don't). The ornate Atlantean pillars and the gleaming marble floors are highlighted by a domed ceiling that displays eight murals that tell the story of Atlantis from its days of glory to its impending destruction. The murals were painted by artist Albino Gonzalez.
Immense carved pillars lead up to a 70-foot domed ceiling made from golden shells. One side of the hall leads to the casino, another leads to the Royal Towers and another side leads to The Dig—an awesome display of archeological findings about the lost city.
After checking in, we were shown to our room in the Royal Towers. The Royal Towers has 1,201 guest facilities including 120 suites, and the amazing 5,000 square-foot Bridge Suite located in an archway high above the resort.
All rooms have mini-bars, in-room safes, hair dryers, iron and ironing board, color satellite TV and movies on demand.
Our room offered an incredible view of the grounds and the ocean. After many "oohs" and "ahhas" from our window, we unpacked and began our journey.
Although our time here was limited, and we couldn't sample everything (which is why you MUST come here a second, or more, time!) I'll give you a first hand account of our experiences. If you need more info on Atlantis, I'll be listing the Atlantis website for you to explore at the end of this article.
Next, we decided to visit The Dig, the archeological adventure that uncovers the remains of the ancient city of Atlantis. I guarantee you, you will dig The Dig.
Still reeling from the initial shock over the splendor that surrounded us, we realized we were starving! The question wasn't what to eat—but where. With over 35 restaurants and bars, it was a dilemma. We decided to explore The Lagoon.
The Lagoon is a round, shell topped bar and eatery, with the most marvelous pastel colors and aquatic designs. It looks like a big Atlantean cake. An intricate serpentine railing winds its way around the entire structure. You get to the Lagoon through an underwater glass tunnel that runs directly beneath the Predator Lagoon and Reef, so you can eat while watching things you could be eaten by.
And don't forget to look up. The inside of the Lagoon's dome is painted in a very specific style depicting an array of sea creatures that almost seem to be talking to each other. The ceiling looks as if it has been there for thousands of years, complete with age spots and imperfections. The images, however, are vivid, as if in defiance of the fate of their city.
The food here is deli sandwiches, salads and lots of great drink specials. We ordered the Crab Salad, made with a harmonious blend of crab, avocado and lime chili; Conch Salad which was marinated in lime and a pepper salsa of vegetables, and a Philly Cheesesteak, made with thinly sliced sirloin, melted mozzarella cheese and pepper and onions. All of it? Fresh, fresh, fresh. And delicious.
I tried the Junkaroo Rush which is the favorite tropical drink here; a Bahamian Pina Colada layered with a strawberry daiquiri. Mmmm... No dessert. Too full. But will indulge later...
One more thing about the Lagoon. Through our entire trip, if one employee stood out more than the rest, it would have to be the Lagoon's hostess, native Bahamian, Judy Demeritte. She is a rare treasure. Judy welcomes you into the restaurant like you're coming into her home; with charm, grace, and a heartfelt feeling of hospitality. It was very crowded when we arrived, and Judy never lost her cool. Smiling, cheerful and genuinely happy about where she was, Judy is, in a phrase, good for business.
After our more than satisfying lunch, we decided to waddle over to The Entertainment Center. Covering 100,000 square feet, this adult playground boasts over 980 slot machines, 78 gaming tables, including baccarat, roulette, craps, blackjack and Caribbean stud poker. There's also a high limit table area called the Baccarat Lounge. The casino here is the largest in the Bahamas and it is the focal point of the gaming area.
In the Casino are two magnificent glass pieces by famed American glass artist, Dale Chihuly. One is the Temple of the Sun and the other, The Temple of the Moon. Amazingly structured with pieces of blown glass, these two works of art serve as a reminder of elaborate Atlantean temples.
To relieve the cricks in our necks from staring at the Chihulys, my assistant and I decided to try our luck gambling. Yesssir! I was feeling lucky. Here we were in the middle of the most magnificent resort hotel in the Bahamas (the world?) surrounded by beauty, splendor and just great vibes. I decided to take a chance. Gamble on this good feeling. Throwing caution to the wind, I sidled over to the 25-cent slot machines (sure there are 5-cent slot machines too, but I felt daring!).
I picked one called "Whale of a Time" which I thought appropriately described our trip so far. After about 45 minutes of that sheer adrenaline rush of pulling the "arm" (okay, I'm not much of a gambler) I counted my quarters and found I had $30 dollars extra in my pocket! (So what if the pocket was a tad heavy and noisy, I was happy.)
So what do you do with all that extra cash? Go shopping of course! The shopping area, called The Crystal Court, features such upscale designers as Lalique, Ferragamo, Cartier, Façonnable, Gucci and Bulgari.
However, if I were to purchase my heart's desire in one of these stores, I'd have to go back to the casino and parlay my winnings by pi squared. So, not wanting to take a chance and blow my fortune, we decided to go to one of the little gift shops in the Royal Towers. Here I found the most wonderful fragrance for women called "Ancient Evenings". It's made exclusively for Atlantis and comes in an adorable seahorse shaped spray container. And it's under $20. What a find. (There's a larger size as well). And the gents are not left out. A wonderful men's fragrance called "Essence of Atlantis" is available in both sizes as well.
After our waterfilled day, we decided to dine at Water's Edge and enjoy a seafood buffet. We found everything from fresh steamed mussels to shrimp to lobster tails. Again, everything was ultra-fresh and plentiful. After dinner we decided to go to Jimmies, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor serving up all your favorites; shakes, cones and sundaes. We indulged in a couple of good old fashioned hot fudge sundaes while letting the wonderful events of the day soak into our minds.
The Dig is the underwater world of the ruins of Atlantis. It is where the once bustling boulevards of the ancient city now reside. There are corridors of limestone, hallways with murals and hieroglyphics, city maps and storerooms for 5,000 year old supplies. Here you'll find a laboratory showing evidence of electricity and astronomy. In the submarine room is where the Atlanteans launched their underwater vehicles to explore the ocean's depths. Divers' suits loom at the edges, accompanied by a diving bell.
The diver's suits really make you stop and stare. The suits are powerful looking but with a foreboding, almost eerie edge, as if they knew of the city's impending doom. And the suits are massive. I wondered if any Atlantean women, put them on, looked down at themselves and asked, "Do I look fat in this?"
Around every corner, from behind glass walls, we see the city's ancient ruins. Toppled statues, artifacts, underwater streets; all of them surrounded by hundreds of varying species of marine life. Piranha, eels and iridescent jellyfish and other exotic seas creatures are found in tanks at nearly every turn. The Dig is truly one of the focal points of Atlantis. It's really the base from which all else was built. When you're walking through the darkened tunnels and see all a the remnants of what was once a vibrant, bustling society you get a sense of the realness of Atlantis' existence. You can almost see the Atlanteans hurrying down the street, going about their business.
The Dig can be visited again and again. Each time, you'll see something new. The iridescent down fish (named so, because their mouths are shaped in a sad or "down" shape) were my favorites.
Dinner tonight would be at Murray's Delicatessen. Murray's is an inviting New York style deli done in a 1950's Miami decor with pastel booths and terrazzo. The food is typical deli style overstuffed sandwiches, shakes and good 'ol American cuisine that includes burgers, fries and hot dogs. After our dinner we walked around the inside and outside of the resort for a few hours, just admiring the artifacts and decor and familiarizing ourselves with Atlantis. The decor, artwork and light fixtures are all amazing and placed and positioned with great care. Nothing at Atlantis is left to chance. Every detail has been given careful attention, right down to the handrails. (See photo gallery)
Tomorrow is water day. On the agenda is snorkeling and the Mayan Temple water slide called, quite aptly, Leap of Faith. The LOF is located in a re-creation of a Mayan Temple. The slide shoots you down a 60-feet almost vertical drop at the front of the temple. But wait! There's more. You get propelled at a tremendous speed, not just down the slide, but also through an acrylic tunnel submerged in a shark filled lagoon. I mulled it over... Shot at a nerve-wracking speed through an acrylic tunnel under a shark filled lagoon? I am there! I've been dating for 20 years, this is nothing!
Today is water day! For those of you who love marine life, this is the place to be. Today we'll spend the morning going on a tour of the lagoons and all the fabulous sea creatures that inhabit them, the afternoon will be spent on a snorkeling trip and finally, a trip down the much talked about Leap of Faith water slide at the Mayan Temple. First a quick tour of some of the lagoons.
Reef Lagoon - Located outside of the Reef Wing at the Coral towers, this is the home of the nurse sharks (I'll resist the temptation to say you can spot the nurse sharks by their little hats with the crosses). The nurse sharks sleep at the bottom of the lagoon during the day, and at night they forage around for food.
Hibiscus Lagoon - Here you'll see green and hawksbill turtles. This lagoon is located right outside the Beach Tower.
Estuary Lagoon - My favorite! Baby sea animals born at Atlantis live here. You'll see baby sharks and rays swimming around until they are old enough to move to the other lagoons safely. They are so CUTE! Located outside the reef wing of the Coral Towers.
Stingray Lagoon - Here guests can get an up-close look at southern stingrays. During the stingrays' feeding times, you are given the opportunity to touch and feed the rays. This sandy, shallow lagoon is right outside the Beach Tower.
Royal Stingray Lagoons - These are awesome! Here you'll see the black and white potted eagle rays (that almost have a leopard-like look to them) and the southern stingrays. These creatures just glide along as if they're flying in water. Watching them is mesmerizing. The lagoon is outside the Royal Towers on either side of the Royal Walk.
Water's Edge Lagoon - Ever see a bonehead shark? You will, along with bonefish and cownose rays. Located outside the Coral Towers.
Mayan Temple Lagoon - This is the lagoon you'll zip through going down the Leap of Faith water slide. The water is filled with silky sharks, nurse sharks, and Caribbean reef sharks. The decks around the temple give you a clear view of all of them. If you're skilled enough to be able to open your eyes in the tunnel as you're shot through, you can see them that way, too. The deck is probably a more leisurely setting. (smile)
Ah, now it's our turn to swim with the fishes...
Snorkeling and Sliding
Seahorse Sailing Adventures, at 1-800-821-4505, offer morning and afternoon snorkeling trips that leave from the Atlantis Marina on a big catamaran. We opted for the afternoon trip. It takes about an hour to get to the reef, and you're given a couple of hours to snorkel. So plan on about four hours or so from start to finish.
The crew provides all the snorkeling gear and briefs guests as to safety rules and precautions, and how to don your equipment, so even if you're a novice, you'll feel comfortable. One word of caution: wear sunscreen! You get more sun than you may think and you don't want to spend the rest of your trip on ice.
Snorkeling in the reef was nothing short of euphoric. The gorgeous tropical fish, apparently used to having humans around, swim uninhibited all around us, and at times, it even felt like they were posing for pictures. (Take an underwater camera, it's worth it! Disposable ones can be purchased at the Atlantis gift shops if you don't have one.)
After the snorkeling, on the way back, beer, wine and other beverages can be purchased. We opted for water, since we had yet another adventure in front of us, that we wanted to experience with a clear head.
The Leap of Faith at The Mayan Temple and Other Water Wonders
The Leap of Faith water slide cannot be accurately described; it really must be experienced. But I'll try. First you must physically climb the steps up the temple. You become religious as the steps continue: "Please God, let me make it to the top without passing out." No elevators here. So get ready for a little bit of aerobics. Once you get to the top, attendants will instruct you as to the proper way to go down the slide. From watching other "sliders" you might think the proper way to go down is "screaming, with eyes tightly clenched". Well, that's one way.
Don't Peek and Freak
As you prepare for the plunge, don't look down. I mean it. The top of the slide where you initially get on, doesn't readily show the plunge. It's kinda covered at the top. You sort of have to lean forward and peek to appreciate the vertical-ness of it all; that long, long drop. Don't peek. I peeked. I peeked and freaked. Don't. Or you may never go down. Just fold your arms, lay down and go with the flow like they tell you. Forget that the flow is going warp speed. Just do it grasshopper, and you will have faced your fear. I did. Four times.
The first time all I could think of was: Omigod! Omigod! Omigod!
The second time: I'm still ALIVE!!!
The third time: I'm gonna try opening my eyes this time!
The fourth time: I wish these little kids would stop trying to cut in front of me!
This is an exhilarating ride folks and not for the faint of heart. But so is life. I wish I had one of these things in my back yard. What a way to start the day—WAKES YOU RIGHT UP!
The next water ride we tried was The Challengers, two high-speed dueling slides, right behind the Leap of Faith. Although fun, not as awesome as the Leap and it ends in a plain pool of water.
So if you miss the sharks, grab an inner tube and hop on The Serpent Slide. As you sit in a rubber tube, this slide spins you into the darkness of the temple's core before you are deposited into a tunnel that lets you enjoy a "leisurely shark viewing pace". I never thought, in my whole life, I would use the phrase "a leisurely shark viewing pace" let alone experience it, but Atlantis is full of surprises.
If slides aren't your thing, or if you prefer a gentler aquatic atmosphere, you can also enjoy a half-mile lazy river ride, a formal pool, a zero-entry pool, a children's pool and of course the ever-inviting Atlantic ocean.
Although today was our last day, our flight didn't leave until the evening, so we decided to do a photographic sweep of the resort. And even though we didn't get a chance to personally visit everything the resort had to offer in our short stay, we took quite a few images of Atlantis for you to enjoy through the Photo Gallery.
Some of these images include the suspension bridge, the baby pool for newborn marine life, the ballroom, and some of the amazing light fixtures, art and artifacts throughout the resort.
Accommodations - You can opt for world-class luxury or opt for more moderately priced accommodations. There are many options.
The Bridge Suite - The Mothership
The Bridge Suite at The Royal Towers is thee most luxurious suite; the crème de la crème of the crème de la crème. It connects the two buildings of the Royal Towers and offers panoramic views from its floor-to-ceiling windows. It is a 10-room suite with twelve foot ceilings, hand painted stenciling, gold gilt and glass, and intricate architectural detailing that comes together for an extraordinary display of grandeur. There's a 50 x 25 foot living room that includes a sitting area, his-and-hers baths and closets, a desk and activity table and an entertainment armoire. The four-poster bed is more than 10-feet in height and is decorated with hand painted linens, plush pillows and custom coverlets. The bathrooms have chaise lounges, picture windows, marble showers and tubs, vanities and more. The suite has its own butler service. Yes, butler service! To me, that is about as good as it gets (short of having Keanu Reeves being the butler). All my life I've wanted to say, "Jeeves, my good man, bring us a brandy, and please, use the baccarat snifters." (Maybe it'll happen, one never knows...)
The room sizes and pricing varies. Rates can be subject to change and there's always some sort of special going on, so the best thing to do is call for the most up to date price quotes. There are several different packages to choose from, whether you are traveling with one other person or your spouse and children, and the rates change seasonally. So again, call the resort directly. That number is 1-800-ATLANTIS.
The restaurants are plentiful; everything from beach and pool side takeout to gourmet. Visit the website for a complete list of restaurants or call the resort.
Remember folks, there's so much to do and see here, it's highly unlikely a visitor will ever get bored. There's all sorts of sports, both water and land to indulge in, a spa to soothe your aching muscles afterwards, and some of the finest gourmet restaurants in the Bahamas to dine in. One other great thing here is, if you're bringing your kids there's the Discovery Channel Camp for children as young as one year old and older. There's also a Seagrapes Circus, held Thursday through Saturday evenings. Teens can enjoy Club Rush, where they have access to computers, the Internet, video games, DVD movies and popular music in a safe environment. And if you enjoy comedy, visit The Joker's Wild Comedy Club featuring the country's top comedians. The Golf here is extraordinary. On the grounds is a 18-hole putting course and there's the Tom Weiskopf designed 18-hole championship Ocean Club Golf Course. The Sports Center also features tennis, basketball, volleyball, and a four-lane lap pool. At Atlantis, nobody gets left out.
My assistant and I had an exceptional time. The staff at Atlantis was nothing short of first rate: polite, attentive and extremely competent. If you have questions or need assistance they are always more than happy to help you—with a smile.
Sadly, our journey was at and end. But we vowed to someday return. We need to! We couldn't get to all of it. As we were whisked back to the airport in our limo, it occurred to me, Atlantis truly has it all, and like it's ancient predecessor, it will continue to be remembered for years to come, as a utopian world where harmony, beauty, great food and FUN abound.
See you next time! -xxooxx
for more info: www.Atlantis.com