The reason people stay at Atlantis if for all of the activities that are on their property, right? I had purposefully not planned any “excursions” for our trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas. For some odd reason, I felt like we had paid enough money to stay at the resort, so all of our fun could be had “on property”. I didn’t mind paying a small fee for some activities, but I wasn’t going to spend hundreds of dollars on a snorkeling trip out in the ocean for our family of five. I was paying a resort fee and I was going to get my money’s worth.
The Aquaventure water park: Our family doesn’t typically visit waterparks at home in the US. So I thought this would be an new and exiting thing for my tween and teen boys. And it was. At first. There are lots of slides (with and without inner tubes) and a huge crazy lazy river and it’s all included in your stay. Some slides are super fast and go through aquarium areas. The first two days of our visit, the crowds and lines were managable, until more cruise ships started to show up. The cruise guests are relegated to one pool area which we avoided like the plague. But the slide lines became horribly long and it became almost impossible to find an inner tube. So by the 3rd day, we were pretty much done with the waterpark. Atlantis needs to take a page from the Disney handbook and give guests staying at the resorts front of the line or earlier access to the waterpark. Tip: Arrive as soon as the park opens for the day for the smallest crowds.
Climbers Rush: Our family loves rock climbing and Atlantis has an outdoor climbing facility that sits next to the lazy river. I took Bo (age 12, the youngest) to climb 4 routes at a cost of $30. Bo is part of a recreational climbing team at home, so I was worried that it might be too easy for him. Climbing instructor Bennett was incredible after he assessed Bo’s ability. He made each climb more challenging than the next by utilizing the cracks in the brick structure as opposed to the holds. Each climber also walks away with a pair of Atlantis sunglasses. Bo talked about it so much, all 3 boys climbed the next day with Bennett and had a great time. It was the best “extra” money we spent all week.
The Spa: I scheduled a pedicure one evening before dinner. The staff decided to accomodate another guest in my time slot and push me back by 30 minutes without telling me. Since this development conflicted with my dinner reservations I confronted them about it. After I was given a quick pedicure to get me out the door on time, they comped my service. The pedicure was fine, but nothing over the top. I wouldn’t visit the spa at Atlantis unless you had some emergency.
Kids Club: Each of my boys visited the teen club one night. Each one was charged $25 and they were back at our room after 30 minutes. They cited the lack of people and lackluster amenities for their return. Maybe it would have been different if we had gone to Atlantis with another family, but they didn’t think it was worth the money. Other than video games they could play on their phones, there was a pool table, air hockey and foosball maybe.
Snorkeling: There are different degrees of snorkeling at the resort. You can pay to snorkel within the aquarium exhibits, on a boat excursion, or in Paradise cove. We chose to rent snorkels for an hour and let the boys roam free in Paradise Cove. It was the cheapest option of all. Paradise Cove is a protected beach lagoon just off of the ocean within the Atlantis resort. It was about $15/ hour per person. Though they were not particularly strict about the end time. After the boys had snorkeled around for about 30 minutes (even spotting an octopus), I surprised them with fish food. It was the best $6 we spent! The tropical fish really took notice and it brought the snorkeling to another level. I’d highly recommend it!
It’s important to note that if you travel during peak season and want to pay extra for an excursion or snorkeling within the exhibits, you’ll need to make reservations before you get to Atlantis. Most of those things were already booked solid since it was Christmas break. I was told that spring break and summer are busy times as well.
The Fitness Center: Junior was trying to maintain his wrestling weight on our trip so he got up early one morning and took the shuttle to the fitness center. They wanted to charge him $20 per visit and the place was so packed he couldn’t even see any machines that were open to use. He said no thanks, and returned to our room. I was so proud that he thought about the value before he charged that to our room. We ended up swimming laps in the lap pool in front of the fitness center each day…free of charge.
Complimentary Activities: The list of complimentary activities on the daily activity newsletter was really small, but they don’t list things that are just “open” all the time. They do list the free afternoon movies, which we enjoyed. The Dig aquarium walk is fun to walk around in and they even have a touch tank with huge starfish and horseshoe crabs to enjoy. In addition, make sure you wander the hotel grounds to the far ends of the resort. We stumbled upon a rope bridge and a hammerhead shark habitat that no one ever told us about. Also not listed are the wildlife feeding times. We accidentally happened upon a hawksbill turtle feeding one morning, and the employee told us about the next feeding time and place for the sharks! The boys loved that!
I learned a lot about our family’s traveling style on this trip. By not pre-planning any activities, I was afraid it would either be the most relaxing or boring trip of our lives. Once we were home, the boys agreed that it was both relaxing and a little boring too. So, lesson learned. Next time we hit up a beach resort I’ll alternate lazy days and activity/excursion days. We could have probably cut our visit to Atlantis short and gone to a different hotel or Bahamian island to do excursions and get a better cultural sense of the Bahamas. But for our family that doesn’t typically vacation island style, it was still a nice trip.
Next up, eating at Atlantis and how I travel hacked the trip to keep costs down…