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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

Just a short 3 hour plane ride from Boston, the Bahamas is a wonderful Caribbean destination for a vacation-there is something for everyone. It is considered international travel, so don’t forget your passports. The weather is warm (and not too humid), similar to Florida. We spent 5 days and 4 nights there and it only rained one day. We got a great deal-free companion airfare, $650 in free activities, and the 4th night free. Jet Blue flies direct to the Bahamas but we were only able to get direct one way. The Bahamas has its own money but it is equal to US dollars, no messy converting in your head. Be aware that even though they use US dollars in the Bahamas you may get charged a currency exchange fee by your credit card company.

We arrive at the airport in the Bahamas-You have to wait in line to pass through customs, but it really wasn’t that long of a wait. When we have gone to Aruba everyone runs to the customs area because 4 planes arrive at the same time and everyone just wants to hurry out to get some time by the pool. Once you clear customs you pick up your bags-go through another customs checkpoint, and are greeted by a jam band playing reggae covers. We exit and find our way to the bus that will take us to our hotel (this cost extra-$22 per person each way). We later found out that it would have been cheaper to take a cab-our hotel posted a flat rate of $32 to the airport, but how were we supposed to know right? That might be a good option when you are leaving the Bahamas so you can get to the airport and not have to wait in line at the ticket counter.

As we leave the airport the road is lined on both sides by yellow flowering trees. Free word association brings the word India to mind. I’ve never been to India, but the bright yellow color just makes me think of India. It is about a 20 minute ride to Paradise Island. They drop off people at other hotels first.

(The winged horse fountain outside of the Royal Towers)

Atlantis is located on Paradise Island. They own 85% of the island and other hotels need their permission to build there. They are currently in phase 3 (I think) of 8 in their construction. The Beach Tower and the Coral Tower (pictured below) are the two original towers constructed in the 60’s. They haven’t changed much.

They are the less expensive towers to stay at. The comes the Royal Towers (pictured below), the newer phase…you see them in all the pictures of Atlantis. The two towers are connected by the Michael Jackson suite that is the equivalent to 20 hotel rooms-it has a 4 night minimum and a price tag in the multiple of thousands per night.

Then you have the Cove (pictured below) which is adults only-a very modern hotel. The Reef area are condos at the Cove.

Finally the One and Only Hotel. Did you ever see 007 Casino Royale? The One and Only is where it was filmed. It is farther away from the other hotels…hidden away, tucked behind a gate to keep away curious eyes. The views at the hotel are amazing-the service is excellent and there is a feeling of exclusivity here.

There are complimentary shuttles that run between all the hotels: Cove, Royal Tower, Beach Tower, Coral Tower, One and Only, and the golf course. If you stay at the One and Only, they have a private car that will take you around to where ever you want to go.

Things to be aware of: the food here is expensive. Even the options that you think would be less expensive, or ice cream-aren’t. Everywhere you go there is an automatic 15% gratuity included on your bill-whether it’s at a sit down  restaurant or at Ben and Jerry’s. Almost everywhere you go you can charge things to the room: restaurants, shops, beach huts, even the casino. While it seems convenient, it makes you less aware of what you are spending and you could be in for a big surprise when you go to check out at the end of your stay.

So we arrive at the hotel. We are staying in the beach tower but they drop you off in the coral tower lobby. If you actually get dropped off by the shuttle at the beach tower, you see why they drop you off at the coral when you arrive. The lobby is nice and clean, nothing special. We check in and have to wheel our bags to our tower. Everything is sea themed, from the carpet to the seahorse sconces to the dolphin fountains. We arrive at our ocean view room and here is what the place looked like (sometimes I feel like the websites don’t give you an accurate idea of what your room will look like)

This is our ocean view. You can see the Riu pool to the right (not pictured) and the roof of the hotel below. There were tons of birds hanging out on the roof below which made for noisy sunsets.

King sized bed. The weird thing about this bed was that it sunk in the middle. You would start on the outside of the bed and by the middle of the night you wake up to find yourself sinking in the middle.The room was clean although the carpets felt a bit damp for most of our trip.

The bathroom was a good size and very clean. It was in good condition, no visible mold or mildew and the tiles were all in tact. (we have been in hotels were all the tiles were cracked and there were holes in the sink!) They offered large towels which was nice-4 of them. They have a hairdryer but I brought my own. Most times the hairdryer at the hotel doesn’t have enough power for my hair. The water pressure here isn’t very good-it took twice as long for me to wash the shampoo out of my hair, so allow extra time!!

The TV was fine, although we didn’t really watch much of it. The left side of the cabinet was a dresser and the right side was a mini bar. We would have liked to have had a room with a fridge instead of a minibar because at some places we could have taken food home and had leftovers for dinner the following night. They have an in-room coffee maker with tea as well. There are also water for purchase next to the TV.

You MUST make your dinner reservations for the time that you are there on THE DAY YOU ARRIVE. The 7pm-8pm times get booked up quickly and most likely you will end up with the early bird dinner or the 9pm reservation. There are different dress requirements for the different restaurants. You can go to some in beach cover ups, some restaurants have a no shorts rule for the men and other have jacket requirements. Make sure to check the dress code before you go. There are dining plans available, but I’m not sure that they are worth the money. You only get two meals:breakfast and dinner. Let’s say you go to mosaic for breakfast, that’s $30 and that means that if you get the fine dining plan that you would have to eat an $85 dinner. It’s also a good idea to book your excursions the day you arrive because the time slots fill up quickly. Some activities limit the number of people per time slot, so you will have more options if you book early.

2010 CASUAL DINING PLAN Price: $75.00 per day per Adult, $35.00 per day per Child (7-11 years old)

This plan offers a full American or continental breakfast at Seagrapes, Murray’s Delicatessen, Plato’s, Coral Lounge, Marketplace or Voyagers and dinner daily in Seagrapes, Marketplace, Atlas Bar & Grill, Murray’s Delicatessen, Marina Pizzeria, Carmine’s, Chop Stix, Bimini Road or The Pointe Restaurant & Bar. Dinner includes a choice of an appetizer or soup or salad; one entrée; a selection of one dessert; coffee, tea and sodas.

2010 GOURMET DINING PLAN Price: $115.00 per day per Adult, $50.00 per day per Child (7-11 years old)

This plan offers a choice of full American or continental breakfast daily at Seagrapes, Murray’s Delicatessen, Plato’s, Coral Lounge, Marketplace, Voyager’s or Mosaic and dinner daily in Seagrapes, Marketplace, Atlas Bar & Grill, Murray’s Delicatessen, Seafire, Marina Pizzeria, Café Martinique†, Carmines, Chop Stix, Bimini Road, Bahamian Club, Casa D’Angelo, The Pointe Restaurant & Bar, Mosaic, Mesa Grill, Courtyard Terrace or Dune. Dinner includes a choice of an appetizer or soup or salad; one entrée; a selection of one dessert; coffee, tea and sodas.
†A $70.00 credit per adult and a $35.00 credit per child can be applied toward dinner at Café Martinique

If you have a chance to book the trip to the Bahamas and get the experience pass, I would highly recommend it. You get a round of golf for two (~$525), a shallow water dolphin excursion, entrance into Aura nightclub, martinis at Dune (~$30), Margaritas at Mesa (~$30), Sushi and Saki at Nobu. They say it’s a $650 value.

So we spend the first day walking around the hotels, getting ourselves acquainted. We walk across the street from the coral towers to the marketplace and grab a smoothie at jamba juice. The marina has wonderful views of the hotels and all the billion dollar yachts that have docked. There are restaurants and shops here and at night there are musicians playing in courtyard.

We stop into Marina Pizza for a quick bite to eat. There  are no tables inside but there are plenty outside on the boardwalk. There are an unusual number of pigeon like birds hanging around which makes guarding your food a necessity. You can sit outside in your beach cover-ups, there is no dress code.

I think this place is the equivalent to a Sbarro. They have 10 or so different kinds of pizzas available and beverages (including beer).

This is one slice, but they cut it into two for me. Two of these slices and one drink was $20. The pizza was ok, it wasn’t gourmet. The crust tasted like it came from a box and the seasonings were a little lacking.

We walk around the hotels and look at all the tanks and pools. They have a predator tank in the coral tower where you can walk under the sharks and stingrays-you can also see the tanks from above. They have a sting ray pool, a sea turtle pool, a place where they are nursing baby sharks and in the Royal towers they have a tank with all kinds of sea life.

Here are some pictures from the predator tank. There is also an opportunity to SNUBA in the tank. They have feedings at the various pools throughout the week. Check your daily schedule to find out where and what time.

You can only really go here during the day-for best pictures of the fish, turn your flash off. If you want to take pictures of you in front of the tanks, use your flash. Unfortunately, the tanks are not lit up at night.

If you watch the hotel channel on your tv it tells you about how all the animals were humanely captured. The big fish pictured above had to be sedated! It also gives you the history of Atlantis, and you get to see the construction-it was pretty amazing to watch.

Our first night here we chose Chop Stix, a Chinese restaurant located in the Coral Towers. They are closed on Mondays. Make sure to check if restaurants are open because it seemed like a different one was closed every night.

Chop Stix is considered fine dining. The hotel suggests no shorts. In an attempt to keep dinner under $100, we order the Yan Chow Egg Fried Rice ($17) that has Chinese sausage (that was a little spicy), Edamame beans, bean sprouts and Chinese cabbage. We also order Dim Sum, which are small plates meant for sharing. We order the chicken spring rolls ($7.95), the candied beef skewers ($8.95), lobster shu mei ($10.95) and scallion pancakes ($6.95). Dinner came out to be right around $65. The service was excellent. We were greeted and seated promptly. The brought over water and those whispy air crisps and dipping sauce. There was probably a 2:1 ratio of servers to guests. The rice was just ok. The candied beef skewers were certainly the star of the show. They were sweet-but a honey kind of sweet, and super tender. The scallion pancakes were crispy and par for the course. The lobster shu mei was good but they certainly went quickly.

We pass on dessert and opt for Ben and Jerry’s. It’s expensive. You could buy a whole pint for what you would pay for 1 scoop. And as always, 15% gratuity was included.

DAY 2:

We decided to wake up early and do our dolphin excursion today. We booked on day 1-a 9am shallow water experience.

We hop on the complimentary shuttle from our hotel and it takes us to the Cove where Dolphin Cay is located. You should arrive early to check in. You are not allowed to wear jewelry so you might be best served leaving it in your room safe. They do give you lockers to store your personal items. You are also not allowed to bring cameras with you if you are participating in the experience. If you have family members who are not participating-they can sit on shore and take video or pictures.

When you first arrive, they size you up for wetsuits. It’s easier putting them on when you are dry than taking them off when you are wet. And let me tell you, putting on a wet suit is like trying on bathing suits on your worst day! Fun times. Men, now you know what women feel like when they wear Spanx! So you are brought into an orientation room where you are greeted by a trainer. They tell you a little about dolphins, how they train them and the facility itself. When Katrina hit, the dolphin center there was destroyed. Their dolphins, who were center dolphins (they could never live on their own in the wild) were washed out to sea. They had no tracking devices on them so the rescue party went out looking for them blind. They were looking for dolphins that were swimming in a pack and who were seeking out human interaction. Most dolphins in the wild don’t stand up in the water-but center dolphins do. Luckily, all 8 dolphins that had washed out to sea were rescued and were transported to the facility in the Bahamas. I think I remember the trainer saying that they have over 100 dolphins at this one center.

For the shallow water experience you do not need to know how to swim. You go thigh high into the water and you kneel for some photos, but that is about it. You get to meet one dolphin and pat him/her. They show you tricks, have the dolphin make noises and they explain the dolphins anatomy. The majority of the time is spent of you taking pictures with the dolphins. You get to kiss the dolphin, hug the dolphin and take a picture with the dolphin on its back.

The experience is about 90 minutes I think. You change out of your wetsuits and dry off. They offer you complimentary beverages at the end. Even if you’re not thirsty, think about grabbing a bottle of water anyway-they cost about $3 around the resort. You go over to the gift shop and you can buy your pictures. They offer a $60 package that gets you one 8×10, one 6×8 and two 5×7’s. You can have them be all different pictures, and hey, when are you ever going to do this again?

After the dolphin experience we head over to Mosaic, which is also located in the Cove. I think that this is by far the best bang for your buck. They offer an all you can eat buffet for $30 per person. We had breakfast here and didn’t have to eat lunch we were that full! The decor is ultra modern and they service, as it was the night before, was excellent. Every time you finished your plate it was whisked away and you are free to go up for seconds, or thirds, or fourths….

They have every kind of food you can imagine. Pictured above is the omelete station. You can have a regular omelete, an egg white only, one cooked with oil, one cooked with cooking spray and with a variety of vegetable, cheese and meat options. They also have eggs in all styles, a meat bar with all kinds of breakfast meats, many different kinds of french toast and pancakes.

Bring your appetite! They have a pastry bar, a fresh fruit section, a yogurt bar, a toast area, cereal and much more.

They also serve lunch and dinner here. This can help you cut down on your food costs if you are on a budget because you are only eating 2 meals a day!

And the views aren’t half bad if you can manage to score a seat by the floor to ceiling windows. Lush plants frame the view of that odd looking building in the background. That building is home to water slides and tube rides that are pretty extreme-some that are aptly named ‘the abyss’. The rides are mostly in the dark, you fall and just when you think you’re safe, they drop you again. Needless to say I did not participate. Call me a whimp-I can take it.

It started to rain on our walk back to our hotel. There really isn’t much you can do if it rains at Atlantis. They do have a free movie theater-but we assumed that everyone would be thinking that. We decided to head off to Ardastra Gardens. It is located on Nassau-so you book the trip through the hotel and a shuttle comes and picks you up and drives you  back. We paid $12 at the hotel and $48 when we got there (the 12 had to be in cash but you could charge when you go to the gardens).

They have ‘world famous marching flamingos’ that put on shows at 10:30am, 2:30pm and 4:10pm.  You sit on benches and the drill master sergeant brings them into the ring. They do left face and right face-cute for the kids.

They also have Lory parrots that you can feed at 11:00am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm. They walk about free in a large cage that you enter and feed them apples. Lory parrots chew up the apples, drink the juice, and spit out the skins.

There are other birds and animals at the Ardastra garden, but we hurry through because of the weather. At the end of the trail there is a snack bar and you can use your free drink ticket for some rum punch! They have other parrots and a man walking around with a bird that likes to kiss people!

We get back to the hotel and chill out in the room before dinner. The weather has cleared up a bit-but it has been cloudy with on and off rain showers all day.

We head over across the street to the marina area for dinner. We had met a couple at Logan Airport in Boston that had been going to the Bahamas for years. They said that a must stop place was Carmines-the food portions were enormous and you could take the leftovers home and eat for days. We arrive for our reservation and are told that they are running about 20 minutes behind schedule. It is packed here. They have both indoor and outdoor seating but we choose indoor-even if the outside tables are covered. We look at the menu and I think I have sticker shock. $48 for a bowl of pasta. Granted it could feed 6 but still…

We order one appetizer and one dinner. We get the calamari to start ($33). They taste like they were frozen and flash fried. There is about 5 pounds of it though. We end up waiting about 45 minutes between appetizer and dinner. I take a gander to the ladies room that is very modern-the walls are made out of the bottoms of wine bottles. There are people who are walking around from table to table taking pictures-and then you can buy them for $20. There are people all over the Atlantis property delivering this service. So finally our bolognese comes-$48. The plate is HUGE-ziti on the  outside and 4lbs of sauce on the inside of the plate. This place reminds me of Vinny T’s. The food is gigantic in portion but scores low on taste. So dinner for two, tip included is $95.

We skip dessert at the restaurant and head back over to see our friends Ben and Jerry. Two scoops $6, and one for $3.50. You can get 2 scoops in a waffle cone for $10. YIKES!

DAY 3:

We start our day at 9am and head over to check out the time shares. For a 90 minute presentation they give you $125 cash. That’s a free dinner so we agree to attend. The time shares are very nice-there are different options on size, one beds, two beds and two bed locks. You can trade your week in at other locations around the world or you can trade in for hotel stays because they are associated with the Starwood properties. They want you to buy that day and do things to sweeten the deal-we just walk away with the cash (3 hours later).

We grab lunch at Bimini Road in the marina area across from the Coral Tower. I read in the book at the hotel that they had great fish tacos, however when we got there-no fish tacos to be found.

We opt for an inside seat, but they do have covered outdoor seating. At night they have a live band playing. The atmosphere is casual and there aren’t many people here.

The decor is bright and fun-it has a real Caribbean feel to it. The service is decent as are the food options. We decide to go for the burgers.

The burgers are decent, although the buns are a little soggy. Lunch for 2 ends up being $33. It’s a great place to grab a drink and a casual lunch-but you could probably get the same food at the beach huts by the pools.

We decide to go and sit by the pool for the rest of the day and check out these water slides that we have been hearing so much about.

This is they Mayan temple, the slide rockets you down at an almost vertical slope and shoots you through a tank full of sharks (you can see their shadows in the water in the picture above). This is where they do shark feedings (see daily schedule for days and times). It’s funny how big tough guys go down and scream like girls and little 6 year old girls go down and can’t wait to go back for more!

They have a side by side water slide that has a timer and you can race your friends down. They also have a free standing structure that houses some pretty scary slides (see addition picture above in reference to Mosaic).

There are four slides inside that shoot you out into the lazy river below. It wasn’t too bad of a line because Atlantis wasn’t very crowded the week we went. Spring Break was over, school vacation was over, and the hotel says that it’s busiest week is Easter.

After a tiring afternoon at the pool we head over to Mesa Grill for dinner, Bobby Flay’s restaurant located in the Cove hotel. We hop on the shuttle with another couple who also happens to be running a few minutes late. We are both freaking out because their reservation policy states that you pay a penalty if you are late and if you don’t show they charge your credit card a fee. Meanwhile there was some mix up with the drivers, we were made to get off the bus and on to another, and then off that one and on to another, the other couple was yelling at the drivers etc. They must have been east coasters like us! When we went to look at the time share, the guy was telling us that everyone is on ‘island time’ and there is no sense of urgency among the locals…

We get there about 15 minutes late but don’t get penalized. The restaurant is a large open room divided by open bookcases with hurricane jars on the selves. Very modern.

We have our experience pass that allows us two free margaritas. I opt for the cactus pear and my dining companion for an original.

Oh my goodness are the margaritas good-tequila and I might become good friends! The cactus pear has a little bit of sweetness to it-makes you feel like you’re not drinking any alcohol in it.

Our bread basket arrives with corn muffins-and they aren’t just any old corn muffins-there is blue corn inside and whole corn kernels….and they are oh so moist.

We are totally digging this place-they have cow print chairs and a huge open kitchen so you can see your meal being prepared. The service is excellent-everything on the menu looks so good that we need help from our waiter for suggestions of things we shouldn’t pass up.

I start with the shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale with fresh corn and cilantro sauce ($22)-a ‘signature dish’. I may have died and gone to heaven this dish is so good. If you read my blog you know that I don’t really like cilantro-but man is this sauce good. Like you’ve finished your meal and you want to dip your bread in the sauce so you don’t waste any good. Wikipedia describes tamales as the following: A tamale or tamal (Spanish tamal, from Classical Nahuatl tamalli)[1] is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a starchy dough, often corn-based), which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be further filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.

The filling is amazing-smooth and creamy, not unlike mashed potatoes. The shrimp is perfectly cooked and the corn is super sweet. I could have had 4 of these just for dinner.

My dining companion orders the lobster and corn chowder ($22). It doesn’t look like a lot of soup but it so filling (and not in a heavy way). The chowder is smooth and goes down easily and then you get this warming in your throat from the spices. It’s not hot make you sweat and drink gallons of water, but it’s this nice warming spiciness.

Moving on to our main course, I order another ‘signature dish’-the 16 spice chicken with roasted garlic-mango sauce and cilantro pesto mashed potatoes ($39). It is a large piece of chicken with a really nice crust on the outside and yet super tender on the inside. I thought it was going to be 9-alarm fire hot, but it wasn’t. The chicken was just super flavorful-just a lot of layers of flavor. I love mashed potatoes, any kind-and these were no exception.

My dining companion opts for the New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with bourbon-ancho chile sauce, sweet potato tamale and crushed pecan butter ($40). The meat is so tender and has such a complex flavor. The sweet potato tamale is out of this world-you wouldn’t even think they were potatoes they are so sweet and delicious.

Mesa Grill was by far the best meal we had on the trip. Not only was the food out of this world but we didn’t mind spending the extra money on dinner for really high quality food.

Day 4:

Today is our golf day so we opt for a big breakfast and to skip lunch. We head over to Dune in the One and Only hotel. We take a complimentary shuttle over there-and thank goodness we did. You wouldn’t be able to find it if you were just driving around-the gate is set back from the road, there are no signs and the greenery helps disguise the entrance. It is super private. We arrive in the famous circular driveway (seen in 007 Casino Royale) and are greeted by no less than 4 doormen, smartly dressed in pressed uniforms. There is no one in the lobby (see below) and we start to think that we are the only ones here.

We head out to Dune, which is through the lobby out towards the ocean. There is one other couple having breakfast-so we basically have the place to ourselves.

The service here is outstanding, they cater to your every need. Dune has inside seating as well as outdoor seating. If you sit in the front area-with the best views of the ocean-just be prepared that it might be a little windy (see below).

The prices here are quite expensive, but you also are paying for privacy and great views. The view alone might be worth the money. There are palm trees everywhere and the lawn has Adirondack chairs to lounge in. There is a private beach below with pristine sand and I swear the water is blue-r and clearer here.

If you ever wondered what a $10 glass or orange juice looked like…well here it is.

I order the $17 waffle with fresh fruit. It comes with some creme fraiche but I opt for the syrup. I have to say-it was quite good.

My dining companion orders the continental breakfast which might be the better deal. It comes with two eggs any style, meat of your choice, breakfast potatoes and a green salad. It also comes with coffee and your choice of juice.

What clinches the deal is the bread basket that came with the continental breakfast. It came with toast, a gingerbread square, two muffins (blueberry and oat) and that pastry in the left corner-OMG!! It was like a blueberry cinnamon roll drizzled with icing…

So feeling quite full we head back to our hotel. If you stay at the one and only you have a car service that takes you around anywhere you want for free. For some reason, we get to use this car! Yay! We make a stop at the golf course to see if we can get an earlier tee time-they say that it won’t be an issue. Later in the day is when the golf course is less crowded.

We head back for some time at the pool and at the water slides before we head out to golf. Golf is where the experience pass comes in handy. When we arrive at the course they tell us that it will be $525 for two. We almost fall over and tell her that we have the pass. Free!

I’m not a golfer, so I have nothing to compare this golf course to, but it was pretty amazing. The course has ocean on both sides (so it can be a little breezy) and has some great scenic views. I didn’t golf, but it was pretty fun driving the cart around!

Golf took about 3 hours, but that was because there was no one else on the course and we played by ourselves.

After golf we got cleaned up and ready for our last dinner at Atlantis. We head over to Nobu which is located in the Royal Towers Casino. There must have been a convention or a cruise ship in because it was really crowded with people wearing name badges.

The decor is quite modern. The front of the restaurant is dimly lit but in the back there is a huge picture window that overlooks the marina. They have a sushi bar and you can watch your sushi being prepared.

We use our experience pass for sushi and sake ($40). Two glasses of sake and 6 pieces of sushi-spicy tuna, shrimp tempura and I can’t remember the other one.

You order a few dishes and they come out as they are prepared. We order the tuna sashimi tacos ($20). The tuna is so fresh adnd the tacos are more like fried wanton wrappers. We also order the edamame to start ($7.50)

We order the Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce ($23) that can also be made with a ponzu sauce-basically butter. This was a signature dish and nothing like we expected. I have an idea in my head about what tempura is-shrimp in panko crumbs-but this was more like General Gao/Tso chicken style. It was light, almost like popcorn shrimp. The sauce was a little too creamy and not really spicy. We order two sides of rice ($3 each) to cut the creamy sauce.

We order two sushi rolls, the spicy tuna ($13) and the shrimp tempura ($16). The tuna (on right) was delicious and the tempura was interesting because they added in a piece of asparagus. Dinner for 2 was $110 (including tip).

And that was the end of our trip. It was a great time. We would definitely go back.


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