By Mary McGrath
Ahhhhhh, the Bahamas!
Who doesn’t fantasize about the clear waters of the Caribbean,
punctuated with steel drums and a symphony of color? It was
the frostbite of winter, when the California rains had soaked
our spirits, and SAAD moods prevailed. We decided that traveling
was a better choice over another visit to the therapist. We
made the right decision!
From Los Angeles, it
takes about 7 hours to get to the Bahamas, depending on what
island you travel
to. A variety of airlines service this destination, with many
of them stopping domestically before hopping over to the islands.
Despite my efforts, my traveling companion insisted that a
stop in Miami qualified the flight as a domestic trip. Were
we in for a surprise at the airport! LAX looked like the summer
lines at Magic Mountain. I pleaded with one of the airline
staff, who scowled and shrugged, but ushered us to the front
of the line so that we could make our flight. Thank you Sharon!
need to allow a good three hours before departing to account
for airport security, traffic and the lines for lattes. But
believe me, the Bahamas are well worth your test in patience.
After landing in Miami, we took a prop plane to Nassau, which
was only about an hour away. From the air, the expansive view
of clear azure waters revives any weary traveler and we both
were invigorated by the time we landed. From Nassau, it’s
scenic half-hour cab ride onto Paradise Island, where we stayed.
Bahamas used to be British occupied, but for a few decades,
these islands have operated independently, with about 85% of
the revenue generated through tourism. According to one of
the locals we met on the airport shuttle, offshore banking
is the other primary industry, for those of you looking to
park some of your undeclared assets.
Paradise Island is one
of the more popular islands in the Bahamas, most likely because
it is also the home of the renowned Atlantis Resort, which
is a gold mine for shareholders. Although there are many other
pristine resorts in adjacent areas, this one is one of the
most popular, attracting the bold and well heeled beautiful.
The ratio of guests to employees at the resort is about 4 to
1, with the lobby humming 24 hours a day with employees eager
to please. After checking in, we were directed to our room
at the far end of the resort, with our luggage soon to follow.
those of you unfamiliar with this "city," Atlantis
is by far, the most dominating force on Paradise Island, and
because of its popularity, is growing like a well-watered weed.
If you combine the likes of Sea World, Disneyland and Las Vegas,
you can get an idea of the amplitude of the Atlantis. Indeed,
it could qualify as one of the wonders of the world on its
architecture alone. It’s definitely worth a visit, even
though it puts the "E" in expensive.
who relish its cache and opulence, frequent Atlantis. Most
of them stay in the exclusive Royal Towers that loom above
the grounds like the Taj Mahal. These salmon colored towers
also house the renowned "Dig," which is an architectural
masterpiece for underwater viewing. Here you can witness the
habitat of manta rays, shark, lobster and other sea life as
they parade beneath the hotel in an aquarium the size of Chicago.
There are several additional towers in which you can stay which
are far more modest in stature, with the least expensive Beach
Towers starting at around $370 a night.
Couple these prices
with the 12% resort tax, the automatic gratuities paid to the
service staff on a daily basis, and you can see that the Atlantis
is not for the faint of heart. Even those who choose to visit
for the day are charged about $100 a person. However, for this
price, you are immersed in a marine paradise that virtually
enables you scuba-dive without getting wet. The underwater
aquariums that meander throughout the Atlantis showcase a wide
variety of sea life. Several times a day, you can participate
in the shark, ray and turtle feedings, which are informational
Since we were paying
for our own trip, we opted for the least expensive rooms so
that we could spend
the bulk of our money on restaurants and other activities,
which are in abundance at the Atlantis Resort and on Nassau.
Pool side, you can rent kayaks, water tricycles and rafts.
If you want to swim, you have your choice of salt and fresh
If you are a gambler,
their casino, located in the Royal Towers can keep you busy
24 hours a day. We played
a few of the slot machines, and managed to make a small $27
profit. I can never understand the draw of slot machines.
Their twanging reminds me of a bad country western tune.
also a time-share at the Harbourside Resort across from the
Atlantis for those wanting to spend extended periods there.
They must be selling well, as there are several phases already
occupied, with a few more under construction. We went on
their escorted tour, and found the rooms particularly charming,
and well kept, with each of the developments fashioned in a
rainbow of colors.
If you have kids, you’ll
definitely want to ride the water slides, which catapult you
down a replica
of a pyramid at about 60 miles an hour. For less adventurous
souls, you can ride the inner tubes that funnel you through
shark-infested waters. Since the water was a bit on the cool
side for us, we opted to enjoy one of the many pools that grace
the grounds of the Atlantis. Some of the better shopping bargains
can be found by going over the bridge into Nassau. We took
a cab into town for dinner one night and were surprised that
cabs charge on a per person basis. Our $16 fair for a 5-minute
trip was an expensive lesson. We then found out from locals
that you can easily walk over the bridge into town, or ride
the ferry for about $2 a person. The bus system in Nassau is
fairly reliable as well, and far less expensive.
One of our
Bahamian companions suggested visiting the Ardastra Gardens,
on the far side of Nassau. This makeshift "zoo" sports
a flamingo show that is world-renowned, with the birds marching
in formation to the commands of the trainer. There is also
a parrot sanctuary in which tourists are allowed to enter and
mingle with the birds. We were each given small pieces of fruit,
and soon found ourselves participating in a tropical version
of Hitchcock’s "The Birds." They were harmless
though, eating the fruit out of your hand, and parking themselves
on your head and shoulders.
If you have the chance,
the dolphin excursion is well worth the expenditure. We took
a boat to
an adjacent part of the island to swim with the dolphins in Nassau - Paradise Island, and
engage in the "foot push" in which two dolphins propel
you from behind through the water at about 35 mph. Who needs
an amusement park? Don’t forget to buy the video. It’s
well worth the $48 dollars. You can also purchase varying packages
of photos, which are a great value.
There are many dining
options on Paradise Island and in Nassau. I’d suggest staying
away from the pricey restaurants at the Atlantis Resort. One
couple by the pool confessed that they paid $80 for a bottle
of Woodbridge, and that their steak was marbled with a lot
of fat. It’s always best to ask to locals where they
eat, as you’ll often get to sample some of the regional
fare, which is quite delicious, and relatively affordable.
Conch, pronounced "konk" is a local delicacy, served
in soups, salads and as fritters.
All in all, Nassau and
Paradise Island are great tropical destinations, if you don’t
mind the tourist version of the Bahamas. In retrospect, we
wish that we had visited some of the outlying islands so that
we could better sample a less adulterated Bahamian experience.
Maybe next time ‘mon!
Getting there: Most of the major carriers fly to Nassau, often
stopping in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale or Dallas Ft. Worth. Fares
start around $500 per person and up during the high season,
which is during our winter months.
Where to stay:
A whirlwind resort with
something for everyone. Enjoy spectacular views of abundant
sea life from the caves that meander through
Rooms start at around
$370 a night during the high season, and escalate up from there.
Additional fees include a 12% resort
charge and gratuities (about $15 a day) for maid service.
Paradise Island Drive-Paradise Island
Adjacent to the Atlantis
Resort, The Comfort Suites Paradise Island is modest, yet first-class,
all-suites, hotel located
adjacent to the Atlantis Resort and Paradise Island Casino.
Not as opulent as the Atlantis, all guests still have use of
the Atlantis' recreational facilities and its private beach.
The Comfort Suites Paradise Island has been rated Three-Diamonds
Rooms: $295-345 during
the high season
One & Only Ocean Club
From $450 a night
Cradled between pristine
beach and gardens inspired by the romantic grandeur of Versailles,
One & Only Ocean Club
is on the eastern end of Paradise Island. As an alternative
to the Atlantis Resort, this exclusive place caters to those
demanding privacy and serenity while visiting the island.
P.O Box N4777, Nassau
One of the more reasonable
eateries at the Atlantis Resort, situated next to the Marina.
Food is good, ample, and a bargain
compared to other restaurants within the resort.
Dinner for 2: Approx.
Open 7 a.m-10 p.m. daily
# Phone: +1 242 363
The Poopdeck at Sandyport
Sandyport Marina Village,
West Bay Street, Nassau
Local hangout sporting
a variety of "conch" delicacies
which are the rage in Nassau.
Dinner for 2: Approx. $75-$100
# Phone: +1 242 327 3325
West Bay Street, (Arawak Cay), Nassau
Very festive atmosphere
frequented by locals. For a "backyard
Bahamian flavor,” this locale is a great hangout when
you’re in between festivities. Bring your appetite, and
leave full without having to take out a second mortgage on
# Phone: +1 242 323