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We have probably all seen those commercials on TV with the tall pinkish connected towers, the steep water slides, and beautiful blue waters at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. The property originally opened in 1998, so I remember those commercials even from my later teenage years. Back then, Atlantis seemed like a magical and totally unattainable vacation destination, but thanks to miles and points, I have now been able to take my family there twice in the last few years.
The first time we visited I think I was grading on a curve somewhat because of how amazing the place looked on TV when I was a teenager. In truth, we had a great time at Atlantis on our first visit when our oldest daughter was about four years old, but when we returned again this year with a seven and two-year-old I realized that while Atlantis still is pretty magical for my kids, it is a bit ‘Circus Circus’ to me. It is a huge property that really is its own town with strong bones, but I think it is (over) due for a renovation. I know they have been renovating some restaurants and towers in recent years, but I think it is time for the main areas and water park to get a facelift to feel clean and modern as opposed to out-of-date and worn. I don’t say that to discourage you from visiting, but just so you go in with appropriate expectations.
We originally were scheduled to stay two nights using points at the new Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and then spend the third night on points at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island right next to Atlantis just as we had done a few years ago. However, the Grand Hyatt was so nice that I knew we wouldn’t really enjoy spending our last full night in the Bahamas at a totally fine, but not nearly as comfortable, Comfort Suites, so we extended our stay the third night at the Grand Hyatt and decided to turn Atlantis into an afternoon outing instead of an overnight. Honestly, I think I was already realizing that I wasn’t totally feeling the hustle and bustle of the Atlantis situation on this otherwise laid-back trip.
Still, the girls were totally pumped about the Atlantis waterpark, and my mom was curious to see it since she had never been, so after naptime one day we got in a van with a car seat that we had set-up through Sandra’s Transportation and made the 30 – 40 minute drive over to Atlantis and its iconic water park.
We had booked the Comfort Suite Paradise Island hotel 60 days in advance (the maximum lead time you have without elite status) using 30,000 Choice Hotel points that we purchased during the annual Daily Getaways sale at about 4/10ths of a cents per point, so our total cost for the room was around $120, which is way lower than the normal selling price of a room at that property. If you need Choice points now there is a 30% discount on Choice points available through November 17th. It is worth a mention when you use points there are no additional taxes or mandatory gratuities added, which really matters as those can add up to a significant amount on a paid stay in the Bahamas.
Even though we were originally planning to stay in the Comfort Suites room like we did last time, we didn’t book it primarily as a place to sleep. We booked it because it comes with four included Atlantis wristbands. If you wanted to purchase a day pass to Atlantis by itself it would cost $135 for each adult and $89 for each child aged 4-12, and frankly if you are exclusively staying at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, I don’t technically see it listed as an eligible hotel partner to even purchase a day pass.
At $89 – $135 per person, it is easy to see how using $120 worth of purchased points is the better route to four Atlantis wristbands for a family, even if you don’t plan to actually sleep in the Comfort Suites hotel room.
To pick up the wristbands we checked in at the Comfort Suites, got the paper pass from them that we needed to present to Atlantis, and then walked the 100 yards or so across the road to Atlantis. Now, the Atlantis complex is huge, so while it is only 100 yards or so to get in the first door, it is still a long ways through winding hallways and casinos and more to get to the water park, so bring a stroller if you have a toddler.
Before hitting the water park, you have to present your paper hotel pass to a certain desk in the hotel before a certain time and you must have your IDs with you to match the names on the paper form to get the wristbands. I beilieve the cut-off time was 3PM on our visit, but it is possible it varies seasonally. They are officially not playing around and take wristband distribution pretty seriously. However, as long as you have all the right people and pieces with you, you can get your wristbands and be on the way to the water park within a few minutes.
We found ourselves carrying the (empty) stroller down lots of stairs to the water park, so by the time we got there we were ready to be done moving for a bit and the girls were ready to dive on in to start playing.
The kids both had a blast in the pools, my older daughter loved the big water slides and river rapids, and my younger daughter had fun on the little toddler water slides. While I loved watching my kids have fun, I found the experience to be a little much for my tastes. Things were a little dirty and worn around the edges. Some ride entrances were closed, the signs weren’t all accurate, food choices were limited, unappealing and expensive, and the waterpark staff wasn’t nearly as friendly as we had been enjoying at the Hyatt.
One example of a strange moment was when after waiting in line to go down a water slide with my daughter I was told I had to take off my small necklace and hold it in my hand as I went down the water slide. What? Um, no, I will not be doing that. After failing to come up with any other compromise with the ride operator, I then had to carry my big tube back down the stairs via a walk of shame and skip the ride since I didn’t have a good spot to stash a small necklace other than under my rash guard around my neck. It was a really strange interaction that sort of summed up my whole Atlantis experience.
I was very thankful we only had a few hours planned at Atlantis as it was just not the type of vacation excursion I was in the mindset for on this trip. For Atlantis to be a success you need to be amped up for lines, lots of rules, lots of noise, big prices, not be worried about some dirt and wear and tear around the edges and just go face first into the whole experience…potentially with a $14 cocktail in hand.
I am glad that we took the girls over to Atlantis for just $120 worth of Choice points as they really had a bunch of fun. I also hope that the rumors that the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar will be building a waterpark adjacent to their property are true so we can potentially have all the waterslide fun in the Bahamas without having to trek over to Atlantis.
Has your family used points to stay or play at Atlantis? If so, I’d love your Atlantis tips!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.