Monday, January 23, 2012

Atlantis Resort Bahamas, Reef Hotel & Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Review

These cold winter evenings have me dreaming of warm tropical waters, swaying palm trees and islands in paradise.  With those thoughts in mind, how about a trip to Paradise Island?  Come along as we reminisce...

Closing out the summer of 2011 with a tropical blast, Liv Life traveled across the US and met up with two other families at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.  With 6 adults and 7 kids ranging in age from seven to fifteen, we had five hurricane-free, tropical days at the resort, returning us home tanned, rested and lighter in the wallet.

The Atlantis Resort is pure fun.  Not much culture to be had on property, days are spent lounging by one of the many pools, riding the rapids, or swimming in the warm, turquoise waters off the white sandy beaches.

After a late afternoon respite back in our room the evenings had us meeting friends for cocktails and dinners before heading to bed and starting it all over again.  All three families made different reservations at the resort, and while we had similar experiences, each family had its own aspects that worked for them.  Such are the possibilities at this immense destination.

With two early teens and restaurant costs little less than outrageous, the Reef Hotel with suites featuring full kitchens was the perfect choice for our family.  Complete with a living area (with pull out bed), full kitchen, master bedroom, master bath (larger than my bedroom at home), 2nd full bath in the living area, a washer and dryer and a full balcony, the Reef's one bedroom suite suited us just fine.  Using our American Express Blue Cash Card we even received a room view upgrade.

Internet research sent me to Food Store 2 Go, an online grocery and food delivery service out of Nassau, and the morning after our arrival found our fridge full of the necessities - eggs, bacon, milk, yogurt, and decently fresh fruit, all delivered with a warm and welcoming smile for a decent price.

Bringing pancake mixes from home (click for one of our favorite pancake recipes - simply place dry ingredients in a zippy bag for travel), breakfast was set, and while the rest of the resort was fighting for a spot at the buffet, we had our pancakes, bacon and eggs, or French toast on our balcony while the morning ocean breezes kept us cool.

Lunch was solved with either sandwiches from our room or salads, burgers or chicken sandwiches at one of the many cafes by the pool (we found one with healthier options near the Baths Pool).  Dinner found us joining  friends at one of our "residences" or at one of the many notorious restaurants such as Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill (wonderful), Casa D Angelo (Awesome), or Bimini Road (not so good...).

Leap of Faith
While the beach is most definitely beautiful with warm turquoise waters, powdery white sand and numerous beach chairs ready for tired moms, the pools and water park slides are really the main attraction.  The Leap of Faith with its near vertical 60 foot drop from the top of the Mayan Temple seemed to be the kid's favorite with its finish sliding through a tube in the middle of the shark pool.  Liv's scream was heard across the park as she made her first drop, followed shortly by Christine and then Celeste, all screaming along the way then running back up the steps for more.

The Abyss takes you down another near vertical drop, only this time it's in complete darkness as you take the 50-foot plunge from the top of the Power Tower, splash through waterfalls and then finish in a sort of underground lair.  Or how about The Falls?  After taking the "people mover" while relaxing in your inner tube, one takes a 58 foot plunge through a roller coaster of twisting tubes back to The Current - my personal favorite place in the resort.

James riding The Current
The Current, a mile long river where guests meander through the lush resort grounds, has guests propelled at times by a wave machine or rapids, all while seated in giant, blue Atlantis inner tubes.  At times relaxing and at times exciting, the Current is my favorite place to be.  Life Guards and hotel workers are present throughout The Current and keep guests moving when they inevitably get stuck in eddys, push you into the waves and generally make sure everyone is safe.

Lazy part of The Current
The wave machine provides a blast of water that "pushes" the current and occasionally pushes you over if you catch it in the wrong (or is it right?) spot.  Along the way one travels through tunnels filled with steam and over rapids before finding yourself in a nice, serene stretch ready to start the whole thing over again or returned to the exit nearest your beach chair.  Want a change of pace but don't want to walk up any steps?  Take the Power Tower "turn off" and a conveyor belt will take you to the top where you have the option to take one of two slides back down to the river without ever getting out of your tube.

Mesa Grill - Bahama Style
After a day of sun and fun, choices for dinner abound.  From the more budget friendly Murray's Deli in Harborside to the higher end Nobu and Bahamian Club, the resort offers options for everyone - and with everyone looking for an option, reservations are highly recommended.

With a visit to the Las Vegas Mesa Grill under our belt (Liv's current favorite restaurant), Bobby Flay's place was our preferred dining option.  An adult dinner beginning with Bobby's special margaritas was followed by his tasty Pork Tenderloin or Coffee-rubbed Fillet, while later in the week our second visit had Liv enjoying her very own specially prepared fillet - Bobby  style.

During our adult dinner some of our friends had the fish (deemed delicious) and fillets (tender,  juicy and cooked to perfection) along with sides of Cilantro Corn and a to die for Sweet Potato Tamale with Crushed Pecan Butter.  Bringing a bit of Bahamian flair to this restaurant, Mr. Flay has offerings such as Crispy Conch which you won't find on his mainland menus.

Although I didn't personally eat at Casa D'Angelo, our friends enjoyed a wonderful meal with their kids and gushed about the quality of the food and the friendly (though island-time) service.  They had participated in the meal plan, which while it didn't work for us, does work for many.  Deals are occasionally offered with kids eating free and can be a good option with families.  Prices will vary by season and special offering, but our friends enjoyed kids under 11 eating free, and for about $200 a day they had breakfast and dinner covered for the family enjoying such restaurants as Mesa Grill and Casa D'Angelo (each dinner served 3 courses per person - appetizer, main and dessert).

The Baths Pool - Adjacent to Cove Beach
The third family in our party was a family of 5, bringing its own difficulty in finding a room.  The mom desperately wanted to stay in the Reef with us, however room restrictions of 4 people per room except in the top of the line and over our budget 2-bedroom suite, left few options.  The Harborside Resort, set just across the marina from the Atlantis grounds was their answer with condo-type dwellings and beautifully furnished lodgings featuring full kitchens, views of the harbor and luxury yachts, and shopping nearby.  Large enough to fit our entire group of 13, the Burke's kindly hosted dinner on our second night after walking over the bridge from Paradise Island and into Nassau to find fresh Bahamian Lobster.  Talk about fine dining!

From upper left, clockwise: The Power Tower, Adult Pool at The Cove Hotel, sunset on Paradise Beach
Back on the beach the next morning and towards the far end of Paradise Beach, jet skis and para sailing are available through local vendors.  Cash only, though American dollars are fine, the price is not haggled about with one either taking or leaving the $80 fee.  Taking advantage of both activiteis, our kids enjoyed their first parasailing experience and had their feet dipped into the warm waters after sailing high above the resort.  Daddy then took them on the jet ski (though I think he did it just as much for himself as he did for them!) as I stood on the shore taking photos and smiles were had all around.  The local vendors were friendly though persistent while trying to sell rides, but seemed to have safe equipment in good shape and were friendly to work with.

With our days (as well as our dollars) numbered we did not visit the Dolphin Cay, though we heard numerous guests talk about the enjoyable times they had during their day with the dolphins.  In addition, the resort offers numerous kids only activities, baby sitting and Crush - a nightclub for the 13-17 crowd. 

A walk through the Marine Habitat, a giant aquarium rivaling many that I've visited around the country, features over 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species.  Free of charge, the Habitat is well worth a visit and will remain a wonderful memory from your trip to the resort.

All in all, Atlantis is a wonderful place which, in our opinion, is best enjoyed with friends or family, and makes a super fun group destination.  The kids enjoyed their freedom and spent hours a day in the water park while the adults enjoyed a ride or two and then a lounge by the pool or on the beach.  Meeting up for a trip down The Current (appropriate for all ages) provided endless hours of laughter and time together as we giggled at the moms attempts to gracefully enter the inner tubes while the kids popped in without effort and pulled us along to move us ahead of the crowds.

Our second stay at The Reef proved to be just as wonderful as the first with the staff being just about as friendly as one can ask for.  Smiling Bahamian faces greet you around every corner and everyone from housekeeping to maintenance to the front desk is a true pleasure to work with, making us feel like we were family returning home.  If you are so lucky to meet Zeldarain or Christopher from the front desk, you will be well taken care of.

The resort is big, so expect to walk for a while to get where you need to go.  The resort is busy with people of all kinds from all over the world, so expect a few crowds.  And the resort is expensive - expect to return home with your wallet far lighter than when you arrived.  However, if you are aware of these issues upfront, you will know exactly what to expect when you arrive and your Bahamian destination will not disappoint, and will send you home with a wonderful few days of family vacation and a yearning to return.

Paradise?  Maybe.  A fun family destination with activities to keep everyone happy?  Definitely.  All of the kids in our group have already asked when we will all be returning... I think that speaks for itself. 



  1. How beautiful… I wish I could see the Baths Pool in person - it looks so incredible from your photo. I'm sure the Current would be my favorite, too.

  2. It looks beautiful there....especially because right now I'm sitting in Calgary and it's really really cold outside.

    xoxo from Calgary

  3. I'm trying to decide whether I would have gone down the Leap of Faith. I love that kind of thing but I'm afraid of heights. I'd probably do it, but would require a push. :)

    So Bobby's restaurant is a winner? I don't much care for the personality he puts off on Iron Chef (arrogant) and it seems that his wins always come because of the condiment he whips up, not from any meal originality. Good to know that he really can cook. You know I'm kidding...kinda....right? :)

  4. Wow, that sounds like you had an amazing time! :)
    Of course I'd love to eat at Mesa Grill, but living in Cleveland, I'm an all-Michael-Symon-girl ;)

  5. OK, our temps are falling and I really want to jump on a plane for somewhere warm! Sounds like a relaxing vacation~

  6. Wow---I am ready to call our pilot to get the jet ready.

    I wish....:)

    You must have had a wonderful time. No wonder you want to reminisce. I am going to have to remember Food Store 2 Go.

  7. i think I should talk hubby into talking a vacation or I'll pack light just for me!

  8. This looks like the P E R F E C T place that my little family would love. Nice!

  9. Wow... I've heard about Atlantis resort in Bahamas, but I never read such a detail review about it so this came in very handy (to of course talk to my husband!). =) I wonder if it's better to go when kids are a little older (so that they can play on their own - sort of). Oh how I wish to be there one day!!

  10. Wow, Kim. Sounds like so much fun. Something for both kids and adults to enjoy. I can't stop staring at that white sand--talk about making me feel like I need a vacation and soon! :)

  11. It was so nice to see some summer in January! It sounds like you had a marvelous time. Thank you for taking us on another great trip!!

  12. This brought back memories! We haven't been in a while but loved it. It looks like it's changed a bit from the photos you shared and yes, the food "plan" is expensive. Flay didn't have a place there when we went, and I love Mesa Grill in Vegas, so would have noticed. Sounds like you had fun -- definitely a great place for families!

  13. Would love to visit Atlantis. It seems like the best resort for families.


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