Also, per their website, Atlantis is home to the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, with more than 50,000 sea creatures representing 250 species. There are even “ruins” of ancient Atlantis in The Dig, an elaborate replica of an actual archeological site, which includes a labyrinth of underground passageways with large viewing windows filled with marine life. And, if you have any money to spare, you can visit the casino or go shopping in the Marina Village.
One of the most popular cruise destinations in the world is Nassau, Bahamas. I visited this cheery and sunny port for the first time in the summer of 1995 (during my college years!) with my parents, sister, and group of family and friends on a four-night Carnival cruise that originated out of Port Canaveral. We went on a ship-sponsored excursion to the Blue Lagoon Island (similar to Disney Cruise Line’s Blue Lagoon Island Beach Day). I really enjoyed the excursion to this idyllic island.
Fast forward 20+ years: I was back at Nassau for the second time but with very different travel companions – my husband and five-year old son. We were on the Disney Dream for a post-Christmas four-night Bahamas cruise, which was our first cruise on Disney Cruise Line.
Although the Blue Lagoon Island’s siren song was hard to resist, I was not too keen on my young son having to ride on a boat almost 45 minutes each way to get back and forth to this destination. So, I decided that we would fork out the big bucks for Disney Cruise Line’s Atlantis Aquaventure and the Private Cabana at Atlantis. Amazingly, back in 1995, the world famous Atlantis resort on Paradise Island did not even exist!
For the Atlantis Aquaventure port adventure, we selected a 9:30am departure time. We wore special wristbands, given to us the previous evening by our Concierge team for purposes of gaining admission to both Aquaventure and our cabana. (Note that in order to book a cabana at Atlantis, you have to also book some type of Aquaventure port adventure. They will not allow you into the cabana area without your Aquaventure admission pass.)
After meeting our port adventure group at the District Lounge on the Dream, we headed off the ship together. We were lead to the end of the pier, where we then boarded an air-conditioned minibus, which drove us approximately fifteen minutes to the Atlantis resort. The resort is located on Paradise Island, which is connected to the island of New Providence, where Nassau is located, via two very large bridges. The massive resort itself, which is as now quite recognizable as a world landmark, can be seen from the ship.
Upon arriving at the resort around 10:00am, we saw that there was a private yacht entrance!
Of course, we had a more plebian arrival, through the standard lobby…
We were led through the lobby by a “guide” who showed us various parts of the sprawling 141-acre resort grounds. Be prepared to walk! We probably walked at least half a mile to the Aquaventure entrance, and I don’t even think we covered a tenth of the resort.
Those of us who had cabana wristbands were taken to the cabana check-in area. Our cabana was located right near the entrance of The Current, which is a souped-up lazy river (with four-foot waves and high-speed rapids!). It included the following amenities: personalized service from a “host”, lunch for each of us, personal safe, fan, refrigerator, electrical plug-in ports, and a private changing area. Each cabana can accommodate up to six guests.
We really are glad that we booked the cabana, as it truly was a tranquil oasis in the madness that soon enveloped the resort. Hordes of people would transcend upon Aquaventure, and it was the only way to stay sane.
Here is what our cabana looked like:
As you can see, we were surrounded by lush, tropical vegetation, as well as a “wall” in front of us. That wall was actually the side of The Current, and we could see across the way to another set of cabanas that had their own “beach”:
Aquaventure is literally the only water park you ever will need to visit in your entire lifetime. It is one of the largest in the Eastern hemisphere. Atlantis’ website even states that it is meant to be enjoyed through a multi-day experience. So, with that in mind, consider how you need to divide and conquer if you’re only visiting for six hours.
Our strategy was to do whatever our five-year-old son was able or even allowed to do. Note that there are height restrictions to some of the water slides. Four feet is the minimum. For children under four feet tall, there is a water playground called “Splashers” and the Aquaventure river systems (i.e., The Current and the Lazy River Ride). To float on any of the “rivers,” children must be accompanied by an adult on a double tube, wear a life vest (provided free of charge), and be large enough to support themselves in the inner tube opening.
The Current is absolutely nuts (in a good but somewhat scary way). I’d heard about it to through other family members who had visited Atlantis previously. In fact, my mother-in-law nearly drowned when one of the four-foot waves flipped over her float (she probably wasn’t paying attention). So, use caution, and try to hold on to your companion’s float so that you stay together. Note that there are lifeguards all over the place, but you need to be vigilant if your children are with you.
We had an absolute blast on The Current! (And, better yet, we didn’t drown!) We rode it first thing when we arrived (there was no line). The “river” of The Current river is a full mile long! There are some spots where you can get out in case you do not want to do the full mile, but then you’ll have to walk back, and you may not even know where you are in the Aquaventure park, since it is so massive.
Here are a few photos of The Current:
We noticed a lot of folks on The Current had clear, waterproof mobile phone pouches that they were wearing around their necks. It might be something worth investing in if you’re interested in having some fun photos while hanging on for your life in the water. There was one official Atlantis photographer in the water at some point, and he gave us cards for us to go “redeem” (and then buy) the photos he took of us. We never went to the photo kiosk booth to check out the photos or see the prices.
After our first round on The Current, it was time for lunch. We each had been provided with a lunch voucher, which either could be redeemed at a food kiosk or through our cabana host. The kiosks had huge lines, so we were thankful that our cabana host was able to pick up our mediocre pizza, burger, and wrap for us (so not worth waiting in line for). It was grub, and we were starving and did not care about the quality of the food. Plus, we brought some snacks with us from the ship, so we did fine. The best part about lunch was enjoying it in the privacy of our own cabana (in the shade) without having to fight the crowds (people really started piling into Aquaventure after 11:00am).
Bellies filled, we decided to check out some other parts of the resort, so we left our cabana and walked over to the exclusive “Cove” area. We went to the Cove beach, one of four beaches at Atlantis. I was not overly impressed by it, as I’ve seen much nicer (i.e., cleaner) beaches, but, hey, we’re in the Bahamas at the beach!
After checking out the beach, we decided to hit round two on The Current. This time there was a line. We waited about ten minutes. The second time on The Current was just as crazy (and fun) as the first time.
It was coming towards 2:30pm, so we decided it was time to slowly gather our things in the cabana, change out of our wet clothes, and bid adieu. The cabana had curtains that could be drawn to create a private changing area. Our cabana also was close to a very clean and large restroom, which was air-conditioned. I decided to go there to change, just to ensure complete privacy.
Once we were changed and had everything gathered together, we made the long trek back to the lobby area, where we boarded a shuttle bus back to the ship. Note that on all the Aquaventure tours, return transport runs every half hour, so you can choose your own departure time.
Atlantis is such a huge resort, we felt like we just skimmed the surface. They have 18 water slides! I didn’t even realize until after I returned from our cruise that you could slide through a shark tank!!!
Given the crowds, I don’t think Atlantis is a place I’d like to stay overnight. I couldn’t imagine staying at a hotel or resort where “day trippers” from cruise ships and even other hotels are constantly invading. If I were to go back to Nassau, I’d still consider returning as one of those day trippers so long as I could book a cabana and enjoy my own private realm in the chaos.
Speaking of private realms, on our way out, I snapped this photo of the famed Atlantis Bridge Suite:
It only costs $25,000 night to stay here! (Per the Atlantis website, guests of the Bridge Suite still have to pay a $49.95 per day daily resort fee – um, what?) Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Celine Dion all have stayed in this suite. I’m sure they didn’t care for the crowds of Aquaventure either….
This post also may be viewed on the Disney Cruise Mom Blog.