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Blue Tourism: Atlantis in the Bahamas

Visit the Eco-Friendly Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas
By Sheila Young

A lot of resorts are going green these days, but the ultra-luxe Atlantis in the Bahamas is turning blue — Blue Tourism, that is. Blue Tourism is a program to conserve marine ecosystems, which seeks to engage guests in the effort as well.

View from Reef Hotel
Scenic View from Reef Hotel

Kerzner International owns and operates the Atlantis on Paradise Island has tied the project — dubbed The Blue Project — to its newest hotel there, The Reef.

The resort sends $10 from every booking fee at The Reef directly to The Blue Project as part of a $1 million commitment to the program. Reef guests receive priority for snorkeling trips and other ocean programs at the resort. A portion of the cost for these trips is also donated to The Blue Project.

Sol Kerzner, chairman and CEO of Kerzner International, once said that his goal was “to bring the ocean to the people.” That philosophy has evolved into a serious conservation push by the resort and the creation of the Kerzner Marine Foundation, which will foster the preservation and enhancement of marine ecosystems through research and community outreach.

The new hotel is innovative in other ways as well. It is the resort’s first “condotel.” That means guests can buy a suite — furnished and equipped by the hotel — for use any 90 days of the year. On the other days, the condo is in the hotel’s rental pool, with the owner getting half of fee.

The suites are gorgeous too. Every room has a water view. Ours had two: the ocean and Nassau harbor.

The Reef has a mix of studio and one-bedroom suites, plus two penthouses. And the design is family-friendly: A one-bedroom suite and a studio are easily combined to create a two-bedroom unit.

Furnishings and lighting have been chosen with care, comfort and beauty in mind — just walking in the door makes you feel pampered. High ceilings fill the room with light and air, and eliminate the innate sterility of hotels.

Our living area included a sofa bed, big flat-screen TV, dining table, kitchen and half-bath. Our 18-year-old son was quite content.

The master bedroom was large enough to dance in, had another big flat-screen TV, a huge lighted closet and spacious full bath. We were quite content as well.

Both areas would have been inviting places to sit and relax — if it hadn’t been for the spectacular view we had from the chaise on the extensive balcony in our suite.

Kitchens are state-of-the-art and seem professionally equipped, with granite counters, large refrigerators, Henckel knives and Mikasa china. I actually enjoyed using the kitchen a bit during our stay — especially since someone came in to clean up every day!

Aquarium at Atlantis
Aquarium at Atlantis

The sundries store sells a good selection of simple, quick foods for snacks and meals — cereal, cheese, bread, soup, crackers. That’s a good thing, because the Reef has no restaurant, which makes it more convenient to have breakfast in your suite.

Reef guests have access to the neighboring Cascades Pool — available only to Reef and Cove Atlantis hotel guests, and offers many special activities for kids.

When I visited in early January, the weather was lousy — cold, windy and rainy. The pools and beaches were closed, and young kids flooded the place. But I didn’t see one frown or hear a single whine. That’s because there is plenty to do inside, including a movie theatre, a pottery studio, an arcade and a fascinating wander through the aquarium.

If you’re staying at the Reef, you get 24-hour “Toy Room Service.” This program was developed to add in-room activities and includes a menu of crafts and toys available for 24-hour delivery.

What else will Reef guests find at the resort? The options seem as endless as the blue waters that stretch from the balcony.

The Atlantis has 171 acres of beach, 14 pools, two water parks (one a mile-long river with rapids and wave surges), water slides, a snorkeling lagoon, a big casino with gorgeous Dale Chihuly glass sculptures, fabulous restaurants and upscale shopping.

There’s a fitness center, a lap pool and a spa, of course. The spa even offers a great value at the pricey resort: a $20 day pass to use the spa’s sauna, steam room and whirlpools. On one of the cold days I visited, that was sheer heaven.

The Atlantis also has the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, which includes a gorgeous aquarium — more than 50,000 fish — a predator pool, fish feedings and Dolphin Cay. With a fish hospital, fish nursery, special food-prep areas and state-of-the-art labs to monitor water quality, Kerzner’s effort is serious and substantive.

For foodies, there are world-class restaurants. We ate at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Nobu, and each is a “don’t miss.” Both have Bahamian touches in some menu items — Nobu’s ahi tuna sashimi with a slice of jalapeno and snow-crab tacos were sublime, as was Mesa’s shrimp and grouper ceviche with mango and Key Lime juice.

Room at Reef Hotel
Guest Room at Reef Hotel

You can’t go wrong at either restaurant. My husband is not a fan of star anise, but he loved Mesa’s blue corn pancake with duck and star anise sauce so much that he doled out the stingiest of bites for my son and me to try.

I returned the favor with my entrée at Mesa, a spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with bourbon-ancho chile sauce.

I have two small suggestions to make the Reef even better: Post simple instructions on the combination washer/dryer in the suites. Most of us don’t have a combo laundry deal, and since it’s not as intuitive as an iPod to operate, a few written steps would be helpful. Also, the latch seems to be in hard-lock when the thing is going, which means you can’t throw in another pair of socks or grab what’s dry before the timer finishes. At least we couldn’t figure out how to do so.

My second suggestion is to add bath or shower gel to the bathroom amenities. It’s been a long time since I saw only bars of soap in a hotel bathroom, and in a place that embraces families, I think it’s especially important to have the option of a tube of shower gel over slippery bars of soap.

To book an Atlantis vacation, visit The Reef Atlantis.

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