The Phobic Mom Does Atlantis

I've decided I will provide the public with Official Reviews of "family friendly" places on the rare occasion that someone drags me to one of them.  Most such reviews are written by parents who have some expectation of having fun at such places and the mental bandwidth to notice things like cost, quality, and "family friendliness" and/or have children who enjoy running around, playing, water, sun, rides, and physical activity.  These reviews have a lot of exclamation points.  From what I can tell, there is not much of a supply of reviews by people who have a mild (or better yet, severe) mental health issue, have zero expectation of fun, are pretty much in survival mode the entire time and/or their children are not happy, ever, unless they are at home playing video games.  While I have provided accounts of some of these places, they weren't Official Reviews. So now I am going to "officially" review the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.

We went to the Bahamas over spring break because Kevin saw the cool ads on TV and Charlotte might have commented on the ad being cool and we are now in the "amusement park phase" of his theory of family vacations and also he still hasn't figured out in 17 years that his wife is actually not an entirely stable person, nor has he figured out in 8 years that one of his kids has philosophical issues with the concept of "fun."   "He'll like it once he's there," Kevin said.  "You'll be fine once you're there.  I'll take care of everything, you don't have to worry."  At which point I reminded him that not being required to worry has exactly zero impact on whether or not I do worry.

Scenesetter: Atlantis is a massive, massive resort that encompasses 5 hotels, multiple pools, a waterpark, aquariums, a dolphin park, a casino, and lots and lots of restaurants and shops. And people. Tons and tons of people.  Mobs of people through which you must swim everywhere you go, like seaweed in the ocean.  Loud people, child-type people, people who bring their children places, screaming people, inconsiderate people.  Also, you need a map.  Generally, if a place requires a map, that is a red flag for me. I am a vacationer, not a boy scout, and I do not wish to do anything expeditionary during my leisure hours unless it is truly in the wilderness.

The Good:
Lodging.  We stayed in the Coral hotel, which I think is one of the cheaper ones but it still not cheap, because the first rule of family resorts is that you can massively over charge people looking to entertain their kids because they are generally desperate, drunk, or both.  (Just going forward, to avoid repetition--EVERYTHING is expensive. If they could have charged for toilet paper, that would have been expensive). The room was nice, very spacious and with a balcony overlooking the ocean.  I should have stayed the entire time on that balcony, in fact.  The walls were extremely thin, but the hum of the AC drowned out the screaming toddlers next door if you turned it up high enough.

The Rides.  Once we got over the fear of long lines, which really weren't that bad, the water park features were pretty good.  Of course, Lawson wouldn't go on any of them--we did bribe him to do one--but that is not the fault of Atlantis.  For Lawson to have fun for more than 30 minutes at a water park, it would have to have actual Greek gods and mythical sea creatures to cast spells on him.  This Atlantis held no such magic.  Our favorite ride was the river rapids thing, which was just the right amount of thrill, had no lines, and could be used as a form of transport from one part of the park to the other.  Once we figured all that out, we rode it over and over.

The Dolphins.  We got to swim with them in a tank. We rode on their backs, and they pushed us through the water using their noses.  I looked into their eyes and felt one with the universe.  I swear one of them spoke to me in English.  Dolphins can redeem any situation.  I would in fact like a Support Dolphin.  Lawson, however, was unimpressed with the cleanliness of their home and removed himself from the situation without his soul being cleansed by their aura.

The Aquariums. They are everywhere, and they are amazing.  There are sharks and fish and a massive ray the size of a car that flies all through the place.  The best part about the aquariums is that there are no lines, no crowds, no potential for sunburn, and no need for a chaise lounge (more on that issue later).

The OK:
Food.  The food was actually pretty good, especially the buffet places.  All the food was apparently made from freshly mined gold. But other than that.  I put it in the OK column simply because there are too many options that require reservations, and also, I associate the food with the panic attack I had on the first night because I was super hungry and couldn't read a map in that condition.  That is not really the fault of Atlantis but it's just the way it is.  You cause me to work for my food at all on vacation, and you get marked down.

The Kids Club.  They returned the children unharmed but unenthused.  To be fair, I can't do any better.

Staff.  While most of the staff was friendly and warm, a lot of them were really, really clueless. And who can blame them? By the looks of things, it takes at least twenty years and an advanced degree in orienteering to figure that place out.  But some of them are just hateful.  For example.  One day we ventured to a beach we thought was public (and the map is not at all clear on this--there are some areas exclusive to certain hotels and the map does not indicate whether those areas include adjacent beaches or not).  It was lovely, Lawson actually went in the water, people were happy, it was like we became one of the families on the Atlantis commercials.  Then this grumpy lady came over and told us to leave because the beach was private.  Kevin argued some with her, but as we had no unimpeachable documentation, we gathered our things and skulked off while all the wealthier people in the nearby exclusive pool mocked our poverty.  I messaged the hotel, and they said that all the beaches were public under Bahamian law, and they were deeply sorry for our negative experience.  I waited for some kind of discount or offer of free psychotherapy.  It never came.
Proof that Lawson was happy on a beach, before a mean lady on a power trip chased us away.
I would also just like to alert Starbucks that the employees at their Atlantis locations apparently do not regard coffee delivery as the severe emergency that it is.  If you are going to send me on a scavenger hunt with ambiguous instructions just to locate a beach at a beach resort, you had better get me a latte in less than 27 minutes.

The Bad:
The Logistics.  Atlantis is a spaghetti bowl of paths that lead to unclear destinations, many of them dead ends, a fact that is not revealed to you until you have reached the terminus.  A metaphor for life, and that's just what I want on vacation, a mirror of the complexity and uncertainty of my existence.  Also, as I indicated earlier, for a beach resort, the ocean was surprisingly hard to find.  The first day, we were completely befuddled.  Where is the ocean? I can't see the ocean for all the crap they have covered it up with.  Are we even at the beach? Or is this actually Las Vegas? I swear I saw the ocean from our room.  It's got to be here somewhere. Does this path lead to the ocean? No, it dead ends at an employees only shed.  Also we need towels. Where do we get towels?  Also someone is asking to see our wristbands. What wristbands? Where do we get those? At this point I began to hyperventilate. Don't ask me why. There is never a real reason why.

Another complaint is that it's hard to go anywhere without walking through the casino and the luxury stores.  Obviously they want you to gamble your money away and buy Versace swimsuits with your losses.  I get it.  But it was annoying.  On the plus side, we got to see this ridiculous ad at least ten times a day.  It's very effective though.  Next time I am crying golden tears while herding goats, I am totally buying an outfit that costs thousands of dollars probably because it was exhumed from a medieval corpse.

The Chaise Lounge Situation.  This was the absolute worst.  The lounge chair to person ratio is about 1:233, a scarcity that threatens to cause a major human conflict.  If you are looking for 4 chairs together and a hint of shade, well, you'd be better off picking out cans and popsicle sticks from the trash and manufacturing your own cabana. Speaking of cabanas, you can rent your own reserved, private cabana for the day.  That's if you plan more than 3 weeks ahead.  We didn't do that (and using the pronoun "we" here is incredibly generous). No cabana for us.  We spent the first day wandering chaise-less and squatting on the odd square foot of free pavement like Oliver Twist on vacation.

After the first day, we felt we had learned enough to navigate the system more effectively.  We got out the map and plotted our movements like it was D-Day.  We identified an area we thought would be the most advantageous location to establish a beach head from which to do the most activities, such as the preferred water rides, a towel hut, food, a toilet, some hope of shade, and yes, a direct path to the ocean so that those who enjoy it can find it.  We sent out an advance team (Me) at 7 a.m. to secure said beach head.  The mission strategy was successful.

That is until fourth day, when we were slightly delayed getting down to the beach head by enemy fire (uncooperative kids).  We arrived at the area where I had established the beach head to find no empty chaise lounges and our stuff nowhere to be seen.  I got out the map, thinking we had accidentally invaded Calais instead of Normandy.  Then Kevin spied our stuff inside a bush. A family of four was lounging peacefully on the nearby chairs.
"These are our chairs!!! You dumped our stuff in the bush!!!" my normally sanguine husband was apoplectic.  The kids' eyes went wide because they had never heard him speak in any tone above a soft reassuring mumble upon which you could project the dialogue you wished to have with him.
"No way, these chairs were free when we got here.  The staff must have dumped them," they said.
"That is BS!  You know you did this! You broke the rules!! Everyone knows saving seats in the morning is how this place works!!" I added.  My children did not react. This was how mom normally speaks, whether she is having a stroke or announcing dinner.
At this point, bystanders got involved, and we had ourselves a full-on Situation.  Fortunately, they sided with us.  "I saw you move their stuff!" one of them yelled.  Things dissolved into cacophony.  "I hate this F-ing place!" I cried.  Once again, my children had seen the Hysterical Cursing Mom show before, over much less, and just stared ahead, bored.

The mob finally chased the offenders away.  It was deeply reassuring to see that civilized human society still exists.  We took our seats, our neighbors offered us beer, and I apologized for cursing in front of everyone's children and conveyed my psychiatric situation.  Turns out the other couple both took Zoloft, too, and we compared milligrams.  Theirs were higher.  Not that they should feel bad, I'm just filling out the narrative.

So that's my review of Atlantis. Would I go back? I would not. Would Kevin go back? He would. As a single dad.  Would I recommend it? It depends on your dosage.  Maybe bring some extra, a compass, and some folding chairs.

I almost died for this chaise lounge.  


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