Bahamas Trip Notes: Atlantis Vs. Grand Hyatt Baha Mar And American Baggage Fiascos

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Ah, yeshiva week. That mid to late January week of winter break/school vacation for Jewish day schools. More like yeshiva-off week?

Most schools schedule it for the week that includes MLK Day, though there are also stragglers like my kids’ school that do it a week or 2 later.

I read a Jewish Press op-ed making the case for moving yeshiva week to late December. That would be a horrific plan for the thousands of Jews that flock to Miami and warmer pastures for yeshiva week. Tickets in mid to late January are dirt-cheap, while tickets in late December are a small fortune.

The annual debate is where to take the kids.

Miami is a zoo. The kosher restaurants there require a reservation made weeks in advance, and even with that you may need to wait an hour for a table. But it’s oh so convenient, with just a short flight and no time zone change.

Other popular destinations include Orlando, Cancun, Panama, LA, Phoenix, Hawaii, and many of the Caribbean Islands.

Previously for winter break/yeshiva week we’ve done:

  • 2014: Maui+Kauai
  • 2015: Miami+Cancun
  • 2016: Maui+Kauai
  • 2017: Los Angeles
  • 2018: Miami
  • 2019: Maui+Kauai
  • 2020: Bahamas

Many people limit their vacations to where there is kosher food, but that’s a bit too limiting for me. We’re just as happy bringing along food and warming it up at the hotel. Sometimes we’ll order food from a restaurant or takeout place and double wrap it. Sometimes we’ll order food from a place like Grand & Essex or Pomegranate that make special travel meals. And sometimes Mimi will just make some extra dinners and double wrap them.

You can usually get a microwave from a hotel but I’ll often order a toaster oven and a burner to be shipped to a hotel for better tasting food and so that we don’t have to get the hotel to warm up a double wrapped meal.

Over the past 4 years I’ve wanted to go to many places, including, Panama, Cuba, and Costa Rica, but have avoided those out of Zika fears.

I had originally booked the Andaz Costa Rica back when it was a category 4 hotel for winter break, but wound up cancelling that.

There still is no commercially available vaccine and guidance for travel is laughable. The CDC lumps together any country that ever had Zika together with countries that still have active Zika transmission in purple. They don’t list any countries as currently having a Zika outbreak, but they say that any of these countries can have active Zika transmission.

 

At one point, the CDC was clearing countries that used to have Zika.

For example, they cleared the Bahamas:

 

But then they went back to their CYA advice:

 

So you’re basically on your own. I did my own research and couldn’t find any documented cases of Zika in the Bahamas. With that combined with the CDC’s previous clearing of the Bahams, so it sounded like a good place to start.

Tickets from Cleveland to Nassau were pricey, so it didn’t make sense to use Chase/AMEX points to pay for a ticket.

United wanted 17.5K miles each way, but American had a 10K web special from Cleveland to Nassau via Charlotte, which is a great routing to get there. Plus I have AA Executive Platinum status this year, thanks to Hyatt.

The way back was trickier. United had an option with a 40 minute connection in Newark, which is riskier than I’d like. American didn’t have any good web specials or saver awards.

However when I search separately for tickets from Nassau to Miami and Miami to Cleveland I found a good option with an 80 minute connection.

British Airways actually showed saver award space from Nassau to Cleveland via Miami, but when I tried to book it I got an error message. American was clearly blocking this married award space.

So I used 7.5K BA Avios to book an award from Nassau to Miami and 9K BA Avios from Miami to Cleveland on 2 separate tickets.

I confirmed with American’s Executive Platinum desk that I’d be able to check my luggage through from Nassau to Cleveland and booked 2 separate tickets for the return flight.

The obvious initial thought on where to stay is the Atlantis. Sure, you can use Marriott points here (going up next year), but as I’ve written before, you can stay here for free-ish.

You can do that by matching hotel status to Wyndham Diamond status. When you have Wyndham Diamond you can match to Ceaser’s Total Rewards Diamond. Best of all you can keep matching status back and forth. Ceaser’s Diamond comes with free hotel stays, comped valet parking in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and an annual 4 nights stay at Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas Beach Towers during peak season or an annual 4 night stay in the Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas Royal Towers during off-peak times. You can call 800-752-9711 to book your free stay.

Their marketing makes the place seem like paradise, but when you start reading actual reviews, you realize that they have a really good marketing department.

There are several hotels that make up the Atlantis, many are very dated and in desperate need of renovation, while some are newer.

Shawn writes about his nightmare experience on his free stay at the Atlantis here. Yikes!

DDF member JudahMcB got moved within the Royal Towers, but his rooms both smelled like rotting carpet. Eventually he was upgraded from the Royal Towers to the Cove.

At any rate, despite being able to get 2 rooms for free (before $60/night in resort fees for each) at the Atlantic Royal Towers, I decided to book at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.

I have Hyatt Globalist status via the Hyatt card and had one more confirmed suite upgrade. But with 3 kids, I opted to book 2 rooms using 20K points per night per room for 4 nights and used a confirmed suite upgrade.

The hotel has this kosher menu with food imported from Aroma Market in Miami, but it’s prohibitively expensive. $115 (plus $35 tax/tip) for minute steak? Thanks, but no thanks.

I did however ask about getting kosher breakfast in lieu of the Globalist breakfast and they agreed to that. I also asked for them to please make the French Toast without beef fry. Meat for breakfast when you wait 6 full hours between meat and milk is the stuff nightmares are made of!

At this point I saw the Atlantis was having an OK certified kosher popup for Yeshiva Week. I asked for more information and got these menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Shabbos.

Apparently the Atlantis is planning on opening a full time kosher restaurant as well.

They confirmed that the popup would remain open through Monday, January 27th, so I made reservations for dinner at the popup on the last day it was being offered, and figured we’d spend the day at the Atlantis water park.

The access fee for the Atlantis water park alone would have been $500 for a day, so I called the Total Rewards number above to book a free Diamond room for a night. They told me that the minimum stay with the offer was 2 nights, so it would cost me $120 in resort fees, but that would be way less than paying for the water park. Plus if we wanted, it would include 3 days of access to the water park.

They did mention that the free room offer requires several hours of casino play, but I’ve read on other trip reports that the gambling requirement is not enforced, so I went ahead and booked the 2 free nights. We’d spend a day at the water park and eat at the Yeshiva week popup, which sounded great!

It was a hectic travel month. Earlier in January we flew to Kansas City to celebrate my mother in law’s 70th birthday. The week beforehand G-d laughed at me for thinking I could avoid Miami during Yeshiva Week when my brother in law had a bris there on Sunday.

And now we were flying on the 3rd Sunday in a row.

We packed up our clothes and the kitchen sink (I think bringing a toaster oven and burner qualifies me to say that) and were on our way.

We checked in our UppaBaby in the Vista Travel bag. We weren’t renting a car, so we just had the 2 bigger kids carry-on a booster seat portion of their high-back boosters. And for our 2 year old, we used a Cosco Scenera Next lightweight convertible carseat on the plane and we used a GoGo Babyz Travelmate to push her around the airport.

At the airport we skipped the lines thanks to Clear and Pre-Check, and used the United Club in Cleveland with my lifetime United Club membership. United made a special exception for me to use my membership in Cleveland even when flying other airlines due to the United hub closure, which makes it hard to stick to United flights.

The kids room there is a great place for the kids to make a little noise before a flight without bothering anyone.

We stayed at the Club for a bit too long though and when we got to the American gate for our flight they had already nearly finished boarding.

The gate agent insisted on tagging my bag as “all of the bins are full.” I asked if there’s really no space for an Executive Platinum member flying with 5 people in Main Cabin Extra seating and she said, “Well, you should have boarded when we called for Executive Platinums.”

We had food in the bag for the day, but the agent insisted that it would have to be checked through to the Bahamas.

At the bottom of the jetbridge I asked the flight attendant if there was overhead space and she said there was plenty. And sure enough, there were 6 completely empty overheads in front, over, and behind our seats. Unreal.

So I ripped the checked tags off and stuck my bag, the kids booster seats, and the Gogobabyz above and the plane took off with tons of extra space, despite inconveniencing dozens of other passengers who had to check their bags through to their final destination.

Sure, it saves American time if they don’t need to check bags afterward, but the policy is just asinine and I let them know my 2 cents:

 

 

 

I never experienced this on United, but some readers pointed out that Delta does it as well. Have you been forced to check a carry-on when there was still plenty of overhead space?

 

But that was nothing compared to the baggage fiasco I’d face on the return flight from Nassau…

In Charlotte we used the Admirals Club thanks to having a no-fee additional user Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. Unfortunately that lounge had no kids room.

Priority Pass cardholders can also use the Minute Suites for a free one hour stay. Plus AMEX is opening a Centurion Lounge there in the near-future.

It’s a great airport for a connection and we were soon on our way for our connecting flight to Nassau.

Our 2 year old Maya is by far our worst flyer and this flight was no exception. Luckily it wasn’t nearly as long as the 12 hour flight home from Israel last June that scarred us pretty badly.

With WiFi on the plane, hushed voices filled the cabin as news of Kobe Bryant’s shocking death spread on my flight from Charlotte to Nassau last Sunday. Could this be real? Maybe it was just #FakeNews from TMZ?

As we were near the front of the plane, we were able to get through customs fairly quickly. They stopped to check our bags, but the only thing they cared about was the toaster oven, they couldn’t care less about all of our food. After assuring them that we brought it for personal use and would bring it back to the USA they waived us through.

Renting a car in Nassau was very cost prohibitive. A Minivan would run us over $600 for 4 days, plus gas and parking would add up as well. Never mind that you need to drive on the left side of the road.

But I was also warned about the taxi drivers in Nassau. There is no meter and if you don’t set a price beforehand, you are asking to be ripped off.

Getting a large taxi isn’t a problem, but I asked the driver how much it would cost to get to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and he said it would be $60.

Officially the rate is $22, plus $4 per additional passenger after the first 2 and plus $2 for additional large bag after the first 2.

I asked the dispatcher and he said, that should be $40. The driver agreed to honor that rate.

There’s no need to change your money, everyone accepts US dollars at parity to the Bahamian dollar.

It’s just a 10 minute ride to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Our taxi driver was in tears and spoke about what Kobe meant to him. It seemd like the whole island was mourning him.

Maya was just happy to be off the plane:

 

I unpaused our Google Fi service and popped our Google Fi SIMs into our smartphones and it worked perfectly throughout the Bahamas.

The Baha Mar development includes the Grand Hyatt, SLS, and Rosewood hotels. The Hyatt is truly massive at 1,800 rooms. The more hip and pricier SLS has 299 rooms, while the luxury Rosewood has 237 rooms. The SLS and Rosewood have their own exclusive pools that they can use in addition to the numerous fantastic shared pools and services between the properties.

Check-in was on the slow side, but I suppose that’s to be expected for a mega-resort. Everyone got a bracelet that would allow access to both the room and the pools. And as the theme of the day would be, the checkin agent asked if we had heard the news about Kobe…I shared my thoughts on his death here.

They combined our 2 rooms into a truly massive 2 bedroom west tower ocean suite with an open concept dining room, living room, laundry room, 4 balconies, and 3 bathrooms!

Living room/dining room:

 

Kitchen:

 

 

Master bedroom:

 

Master bathroom:

 

Rafi and Talia shared the 2nd bedroom:

 

While Maya’s crib went into the living room bathroom:

 

Kids bathroom:

 

Kids bathroom:

 

Mimi is always a fan of any room with a laundry machine:

 

View of the SLS hotel. To the left of it is the construction site for the future Baha Mar water park.

 

Multiple cruise ships stop off in the Bahamas daily:

 

Even the Grand Hyatt hallways are beautiful:

 

And the elevators are as well!

 

The kids ate Amnon’s frozen pizza that we brought from Costco:

 

While Mimi and I had some Enchiladas for dinner on the balcony, before turning in for the night:

 

We had breakfast on Monday morning in the Grand Club thanks to my Globalist status. Unfortunately our bracelets and key cards were not properly programmed to give access to the club, but the club agent went to reprogram them.

 

The club has self service fridges full of free water, seltzer, and soda:

 

The French Toast breakfast from Aroma was tasty, but when I asked if there was breakfast for 5 they started counting the fruit tray and pastry tray each as their own breakfast.

I certainly appreciated the kosher breakfast, but if they confirmed breakfast for 5, I would have liked to have breakfast for 5, so I sent an email asking the chef if we should expect breakfast for 2 or 5, and he said 5.

 

At any rate, the club also has kosher cereal and other kosher items and some of the staff are happy to bring out kosher items in closed packaging, while others were less helpful.

Other religious Jews also used the club staff to warm up their own double wrapped meals that they brought from home.

I booked the Atlantis from Monday to Wednesday, so we got ready to go to the world famous Atlantis water park. It was a cloudy day with some potential rain in the forecast, but tropical forecasts are never reliable and this was the only day they would have the kosher popup, so we went forward with our plans.

I told Mimi not to pack anything besides snacks, but being a good Jewish mother she brought along lunch for the kids.

The taxi driver from the day before gave me his number, so I messaged him to get a quote to go from the Hyatt to the Atlantis. He said it would be $40.

I figured that he was probably ripping us off based on his quote from the day before, but the taxi driver at the hotel quoted $45 and the hotel employee backed him up, but it seemed like they typically did that.

The driver was very interested in Judaism and was asking questions for the entire ride.

The Atlantis is truly massive and a bit of a maze, but we found where to go and had no problem checking into the room, despite it being 10:45am.

 

We got our comped room in the Royal East Tower, exited the elevator, and wow. The place does smell!

The heavy stench of mildew fills the hallway:

 

The room didn’t provide any respite. It reeked of mildew and mold.

 

Atlantis Royal Tower Bathroom:

 

View from the room:

 

We were very happy that we were just day tripping to this room and not spending the night. I would definitely have complained if we were spending the night. It seems like The Cove and the Reef Atlantis hotels are probably the way to go, while the Royal, Coral, and Beach should best be avoided. But hey, free is free and on a day trip it doesn’t matter.

We changed in our room and headed down to the Aquaventure water park:

 

Trying to find a stroller accessible path around Aquaventure is no easy feat. The water park and the hotel pools are all mixed together, so there’s a lot of walking to do.

 

We got towels and wristbands and found a zero entry pool to start in, which is when we got our first shock. The water here is cold! Shouldn’t a tropical water park have at least warm-ish water?

Another surprise? Several attractions were closed, including the Rapids and some kids areas:

 

“But it’s too cold to go in any further…”

 

But there’s no denying that the slides are a ton of fun.

I raced Rafi down the Challenger slide:

 

We went down the Jungle Slide:

 

And he bravely went past some teenagers that were too scared to go down the Leap of Faith and showed them how its done:

 

 

Leap of Faith’s Shark Tank:

But the most fun we had was on the Serpent Slide, where you have time to enjoy being surrounded by the shark tank, as opposed to zooming past it on Leap of Faith. Plus Maya got to watch us behind the sharks:

 

We took the long trek to the area where they told us we would find the kosher pop-up. We kept hitting dead ends trying to get there without running into staircases, but we eventually made it. But that’s when we were due for another surprise, when they were closed.

Why would they tell us they’d be open? Nobody seemed to know.

There were a lot of other frum Jews at Aquaventure and others were also wondering what happened to the kosher pop-up.

That also made me have a bad feeling about dinner, despite holding confirmed reservations in the restaurant. So I called the dining concierge who put me in touch with the “Yeshiva Desk.” They confirmed that everything ended on Sunday and they didn’t know why the menus all said that it would run through the 27th or why we had a reservation for dinner on the 27th.

Great.

But they were happy to microwave us some leftover short ribs from previous nights for $100. Thanks, but no thanks.

No apologies were offered.

Luckily Mimi had some food for the kids, so they ate lunch and we had some snacks.

At this point it started raining lightly, but the kids really wanted to check out the lazy river. It’s a really long trek from the pop-up to the lazy river, but we made the walk there.

 

The river is not that clean, but in we went. The current is also not that strong, so you get stuck in some parts. Not really something worth the long trek to experience.

 

The park seems to go on forever and we didn’t try out all the slides, but with the rain drizzling down, we were ready to go.

The kids did like seeing all the sharks, though they sure don’t keep the water clean:

 

While the kids were changing I went to the front desk and asked to speak to a manager. That took quite a while and I explained why I was really unhappy about planning our day around misinformation from the hotel. Instead of an apology, a curt, “what do you want” was offered.

I said I don’t need anything, I’m just going to check-out now, but given the circumstances I didn’t think I should pay a resort fee. The manager said OK and that was that.

We took a taxi back to the hotel, this time the made up charge of the day was $50.

Would I go back to the Atlantis? Probably not with little kids, they didn’t enjoy the cold water, though the kids playground being closed didn’t help things.

The monstrous size of the place is more of a con in my book. It seems to be needlessly spread out over a massive area. We didn’t explore the slides that weren’t near each other.

You need to be 4 feet tall to go the slides, so that’s really the age where you can enjoy the fun part of Aquaventure. But they are likely too intense for most kids that height.

And either way, I certainly wouldn’t count on their promises of kosher food.

Back at the hotel I went to the Grand Club where there are free alcoholic drinks between 5pm-7pm:

 

We didn’t have the short ribs that we were planning on eating at the Atlantis, but we had delicious fried chicken that we brought from Hen House in Overland Park, Kansas.

 

We had no major plans for Tuesday, so we enjoyed the ocean views from the balconies:

 

And then went to the Grand Club for breakfast. Can never get enough passion fruit!

 

This time there was a single bagel, soggy from the thawed vegetables. Luckily we didn’t pay $55 for it as per the kosher menu pricing…

 

No matter though. Mimi made and froze pancake batter, so she made them on our burner in the hotel room:

 

We spent some time enjoying the “Drift” kids pool:

 

 

After swimming we went to see the turtles, rays, and sharks being fed:

 

And then we had a blast taking part in the Flamingo parade:

 

The flamingos may have gotten a bit too close for comfort though…

 

Then it was back to the room for sunset:

 

The kids had salmon for dinner and we went down to the Grand Club to view the fountain show that plays on the hour, but it’s really short and only lasts about 2 minutes. Pretty disappointing.

 

With the kids in bed, we enjoyed some makeshift poke bowls, enhanced by a whole avocado and some beer that I picked in the club.

 

We ate out on the balcony, where we enjoyed dinner music coming from the SLS. The balcony doors are fairly soundproof and keep out most of the noise.

 

One thing to watch for on the balcony shades is the sharp and heavy metal wand. This thing is a hazard!

 

Another odd design decision is the lack of a shelf in the shower and toilet rooms. It’s rather annoying to have to keep the toiletries on the floor.

 

For Wednesday morning breakfast we headed back down to the Grand Club

 

The kosher breakfast for 5 once again consisted of one order of French Toast and a soggy bagel. Oh well.

With fruit that probably should not be frozen:

And some pastries:

 

On Wednesday we started the day by walking down to the beach

 

The Baha Mar has these great private bathrooms/changing rooms spread throughout the resort:

 

 

The beach has soft sand and azure waters, albeit a bit cold.

 

At the beach you can get free kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more. There are also lots of vendors that will try to sell stuff to you.

 

After building sand castles and dipping our toes in the water I picked up some free snorkel gear and took the kids to the “Dean’s Blue Hole” pool, which features cliff diving, waterfalls, and a grotto with glass windows for viewing turtles and sharks. It’s an awesome pool!

 

Inside the grotto:

 

One of the main complaints at the Baha Mar is the cost of food and goods. That didn’t really affect us much, but you’ll want to bring your own snacks, that’s for sure. A can of Pringles will run you $10 after some 30% tax+tip. Mixed drinks at the pool will run you $20+.

Or a fruit smoothie will be $18 after tax/tip or $21 if you want to add some rum to that:

 

 

If you venture just a 2 minute walk outside the resort from the SLS side entrance, that same smoothie will be less than half the price:

 

After lunch we decided to head to downtown Nassau. But we were tired of getting ripped off by taxis, so we went how the locals go and hopped on a Jitney bus, which costs just $1.25 for adults and $0.75 for kids.

 

It was comfortable enough and we got to downtown in 20 minutes, which is about the same as a taxi at a fraction of the price:

 

There’s not all that much to do in the Bahamas that doesn’t involve water. There’s not really any scenery or hiking to speak of, so we hit up some tourist traps.

The Pirates of Nassau museum will set you back some $14 for adults and $7 for kids.

 

Well, this is one way to make sure the kids behave:

 

Entering the “museum”

 

So, the thing is it’s not really what I’d call a museum. But the kids loved it, so who am I to complain?

 

Rafi loved testing us on the true or false questions that are spread throughout the museum:

 

We spent about half an hour in the museum and walked passed some cruise ships to the Nassau Straw Market.

 

The Straw Market is the perfect place to go if you want to get hassled into buying Chinese made junk goods for your kids. Everyone sells the same junk and they all love handing stuff to your kids in order to complete the sale. Fun!

 

But Rafi found a keychain he liked and his mind was blown when we told him that he could bargain for it. He was just thrilled when he got the price down from $8 to $3 after some negotiation. So once again, not something I’d recommend, but the kids enjoyed it and that’s the main concern when you’re traveling with kids.

 

On the plus side, we met several very friendly locals downtown and it certainly feels like a more authentic experience than hiding out in the resort.

There are no published Jitney route maps, so it took us a while to figure out where to get a ride back to the hotel. Drivers all run their own Jitney and we found a driver that said he was headed that direction. His Jitney was not nearly as comfortable as the first one.

 

While the Jitney to downtown followed the ocean, this Jitney followed an inland route that went through some rougher patches of town. This time it took 45 minutes, though rush hour contributed to some of that added time.

 

That night the kids enjoyed baked ziti and once they were asleep we enjoyed a delicious double wrapped meat lasagna in our toaster oven before turning in for the night.

 

On Thursday we took a peek at the Reflections Pool, which is only available to those who plunk down several hundred dollars for a private cabana:

 

 

That pool has a waterfall that flows into the Fortune Pool:

 

 

The Fortune Pool also features a swim-up bar:

 

After swimming in the fortune pool we walked back to Dean’s Blue Hole, but that pool was closed:

 

You can jump from an 8 foot or 15 foot rock ledge into the Blue Hole:

 

The Out Island pool was closed as well:

 

After that we headed back to the room, packed up our stuff, and enjoyed the view:

 

I went down to the front desk at the West Tower to pay for our room incidentals on a Hyatt gift card, but they didn’t know how to process gift cards, so they told me to go to the East Tower.

The agent at the East Tower also didn’t know how to redeem the gift card and got his manager, who also had no idea.

After about 20 minutes I said I had to go catch a flight and they wrote down my gift card number and promised to send an email confirmation later that day.

I asked if they could send a bellhop to the room and went up to the room. I wasn’t sure if he actually put in the bellhop request, so I called for a bellhop from the room as well.

After 15 minutes I called again about the bellhop and they said one should be on the way. We waited another 10 minutes before we gave up and started shlepping our luggage out ourselves. And sure enough as we were moving everything into the elevator the bellhop came.

This time I was fully prepared to get ripped off by the taxi, and sure enough he wanted $60 for the 10 minute drive. The hotel bell desk backed up the driver as usual and running late, I accepted the fare.

We got to the Nassau airport about 100 minutes before our flight time, but we still had to checkin, clear Bahamian customs, clear security, and clear US customs before we could board.

When I started to go to the checkin desk, an American agent cut me off and insisted that we had to use the kiosk. I explained that I had to check baggage between 2 separate itineraries and would need to talk to an agent, but she blocked our way and said we had to use the kiosk.

Well, OK then.

So I typed in our record locator and the next screen asks if we our flying with lap children under 2. The agent goes ahead and taps yes. I told her that our child has a paid seat, but she said that I must answer yes if I’m traveling with an infant.

OK, I realized, there’s nobody home here. I proceeded to abandon the kiosk and head to a ticketing agent while the kiosk agent is showering us with insults and saying that we’re just going to be sent back to the kiosk.

I showed the ticketing agent both of my boarding passes and explained that the Executive Platinum phone desk confirmed to me that I would be able to check my bags straight through to Cleveland without needing to recheck them in Miami.

The last thing I wanted to do with an 80 minute connection in Miami would be to wait for the bags to come out and shlep them upstairs to check-in again.

But the ticketing agent stared blankly at me and said we don’t do that. I pulled up a webpage that showed that implies that American does check baggage through to the final destination served by American, but he was not interested in looking at it. I could either check my bags to Miami or I could leave them behind.

I asked for a supervisor, but of course, the supervisor wasn’t available. Can you please call the supervisor?

He called and the supervisor said that he would call him back. I asked the ticketing agent if I could call the Executive Platinum desk, but he said he couldn’t care less that the Executive Platinum desk said, they had their own policies in Nassau.

Well, OK then.

So we waited. And waited. Baggage cutoff in Nassau is 60 minutes prior to the flight, but I wasn’t thrilled about cutting it even that close considering the hurdles we still had to jump through.

Finally the supervisor called back and agreed to talk to me. I explained once again that I was told by the Executive Platinum desk that I’d be able to through-check my bags to Cleveland. He said, that’s nice, but I don’t see any notes in your reservation confirming that. Seizing on that, I asked if he would approve through-checking my bags if I called the Executive Platinum desk and they put notes in the reservation, and he said sure.

So I called the Executive Platinum desk and the agent was happy to add notes to the reservation to through-check my bags and she walked the ticketing agent through reading the notes and printing the boarding passes.

Time check: 62 minutes before departure.

Luckily we did have an ace in the hole. All 5 of us had Global Entry.

I ran the UppaBaby stroller bag to oversized baggage for check-in, and ran back with the family to go through Bahamian customs, security, and then the Global Entry line for US customs pre-clearance.

The officer there wanted to know what was up with all the religious Jews flying over the past week. I told him about yeshiva week and he was thoroughly fascinated. He let us go through despite declaring that we had food with us that originated in the US. I always declare that I have food with me after this incident.

Thanks to Global Entry, we even had enough time to use the bathroom before we boarded the quick hop to Miami.

My brother JJ lives in the Bal Harbour/Surfside area and picked up some food for us from Street Kitchen and Miami Beach Chocolates for our flight to Cleveland.

I called an Uber, he gave the bags to the driver, and I picked them up curbside.

And so we enjoyed their delicious treats 2 weeks in a row:

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Quickie TR: Flew into #FLL this morning on #United with @mimieleff, 5K miles and both upgraded free to #firstclass, got an #SLC300 #Convertible with #Hertz points, made it in the nick of time for nephew's bris in #Hollywood, drove to a bas mitzvah in #BoyntonBeach, visited my grandparents, and capped off the day trip with this insane dinner with @madejewlaugh @streetkitchen.miami from the #magician @chef_david_benrey The #ChickenAndWaffles will blow your mind! Other phenomenal dishes we had were veal dirty fingers, beef tacos, short ribs, braised beef cheeks, jalapeno bacon burger, and a mouthwatering hot and spicy chicken sandwich. The waiter recommended the Banana cream pie, not a dessert I'd normally pick, but it was truly extraordinary!!! The flavors and presentation here are really something special. Now it's #JetBlue back to the #snow in #CLE

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The same exact ERJ-175 that we took from Nassau to Miami shuttled us back home to Cleveland. Once again Maya let her displeasure of being stuck in a metal tube known to everyone around her and I was happy that I didn’t redeem a few extra miles for first class. The flight was delayed by an hour due to a malfunctioning seat, just to ensure my track record of delayed American flights kept going strong.

Overall this was a great family trip. The Bahamas are certainly no Hawaii, but it definitely did the trick for a 4 night getaway for some fun in the sun.

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106 Comments On "Bahamas Trip Notes: Atlantis Vs. Grand Hyatt Baha Mar And American Baggage Fiascos"

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Ari

Great trip report! Just wondering, why did you use miles to fly back if you still had to pay ~$100 in taxes and fees?

EliJelly

What a great start for the week, looking fwd to read! Thanks!

Sue Kaskel

Really doesn’t sound like a great trip but glad you are such a good sport!

Mark

Shame on your Atlantis experience, some of it was just bad luck with the closures and the restaurant you were relying on, but ordinarily I think you need to stay there to get a sense of direction, we went with our family for seven days, took it slow no rush or pressure , and if an attraction was closed or it rained, there was plenty of other opportunity, it’s way to big and overwhelming to cram in one day, there’s allot we discovered over time, and there was really stuff for all ages, I had a toddler and teenagers and they all had a great time, on the nicer days the beaches were beautiful, the aquariums are amazing one of which we only discovered on the 4th day, overall I can see it being a huge disappointment if you use it as a day trip, it’s really a resort you need to be staying at.

rob

I’ve stopped wasting my money to go to NAS.

Almost every instance you encountered, including the “go to the kiosk” barking mirrored my experience there.

What a shame, because the island specifically, and Atlantis in particular, could easily be a crown jewel vacation destination if they could just bring their service industry standards to even average Caribbean levels. I don’t need Hawaii or Japan levels of hospitality, but at a minimum, it would be nice if they didn’t treat guests as a necessary burden.

But so long as there are huge taxes, fees and mandatory gratuities, no one has any incentive to do better. At least until enough people stop getting suckered by the false Atlantis reputation.

Joel2

Delta is also notorious about Checking in carry on bags

Abebee

Had the issue on a Delta flight Thursday, they checked in dozens of bags and the plane had at least 6 empty overhead bins that I counted.

Yos

Can you talk more about the Jitney and getting around the Bahamas? Going to Atlantis for Pessach this year. Thanks!

Jake

United does the same exact thing either the baggage.

Moshe

Great read Dan. I’m going to the baha mar in March. Did you ask them about a microwave reservation that they put in your room? And did they make a problem with having your own burner?

Menachem

We asked for a microwave and fridge. What they didn’t tell us was there is a $25 daily charge for it. When we called up the hotel and spoke to the manager to try and get a free room upgrade he waived the microwave/fridge fee for us. The manager we spoke to was Jewish and was very familiar with Kosher. So I would ask about that before you go.

Jay

Sorry to hear about your experience. We just stayed at the Atlantis Reef and had an amazing time. Service was incredible. Room service three times a day. Used chase points for the booking.

Dave

Atlantis facilities are dated and terrible. Was there once and never again. Kalahari beats it any day of the week.

chaim

great trip report as usual.Certainly seems like a trip that was more for your kids than for yourselves.
I was just wondering what does the executive platinum desk have to do with your ticket if it was booked via ba miles. Don’t you have to book through ba when you use ba miles. How did the executive platinum desk have access to the reservation?

chaim

did you try initially to get them to combine the 2 segments onto 1 record locator .If you would have done that it seems you would have avoided the issues in nassau

Menachem

Hi Dan,

I was staying at the Baha Mar when you where there. I actually saw you on the beach :).

My wife and I also were planning on eating by the Kosher restaurant for Sunday and Monday night but it was only open until Sunday night. (Boruch Hashem we brought a lot of extra food from the states so we didn’t go hungry. We brought a Fleishig and Milchig grille.)

The food was actually really good. I spoke to the Mashgiach (who I knew) and it seems like there was a big miscommunication on the dates. Based on my understanding it didn’t necessarily have to do with Atlantis.

I found in general the locals were overall not very helpful or nice. Whether in the airport, taxis, stores, and even in the Baha Mar itself. There was one really nice guy by check in that whenever I needed help I went to him. But in my opinion it reflects more on the locals then on the venue.

We went to the pirate museum as well and for adults it was a waste of money.

What I am really surprised is that you payed so much for taxis.

The most expensive taxi was from the Baha Mar to the Atlantis when we went to get Kosher food. We payed $35 tip included.

We always asked at the hotel that the bellhop should get a price with the taxi driver before
we got in. On the taxi to the airport the driver tried over charging us and the bell hop got down the price $10.

Most of the taxi drivers were nice besides for one that I was very happy to get out of his car once we got to our destination.

We used a couple times a nice guy named Deshad (242-556-0152 Whats App) and he took us to the Straw Market and then picked us up costing $20 each way.

If someone is looking for a nice few day get away that is on the east coast and not too expensive the Bahamas (and the Baha Mar in particular) is the way to go.

(Forgot to mention on the 7th floor in the building where the workout room and the ESPA is there is a beautiful balcony overlooking the back of the hotel. It is directly across the desk where the receptionist sit. It was generally very empty and quiet. We spent a lot of time there just relaxing.)

ken

Great trip report. Thanks Dan. Especially enjoyed reading how you worked through the various obstacles you encountered. I remember seeing tv ads for Paradise Island as a kid. But after reading your report I’ll spend my travel dollars and points elsewhere.

Nathan

I hate that American won’t check baggage through on two separate itineraries. My biggest complaint. But coming in to the US I don’t worry about it because I need to collect my baggage at customs anyway.

sara

hi great trip report as always .You really give the feel of being at the place.
I have a similar issue like you did with the luggage. I want to book a trip with iberia that has 2 segments connecting in madrid. It is 150 dollars a ticket cheaper if i book the segments separately.Everything i read online seems to indicate that iberia will not check luggage through on 2 seperate record locators . This seems to mean that i will either have to schedule a must earlier flight for my first segment to have time to pick up my luggage recheck it etc. or pay 450 dollars (150 times 3 tickets) extra. Any tips to be able to get them to check through luggage would be appreciated.

George

Hi Dan,

I went to the Atlantis last year in March. Stayed in the cove which was really nice, for 48k marriot points (5th night free) and my corner suite was 500+ square feet. I took along double wrapped meals and was charged $15 to hear it up. The weather was warmer that time of year, and the cove has pools that can only be used by the cove and reef guests. There was plenty to do for 4 days, so I stayed on paradise Island and only took a taxi to and from the airport.

Basically, to adequately compare the Hyatt Baha Mar to the Atlantis, you need to stay at the cove. The staff and concierge desk were very friendly, especially room service when bringing us our meals.

Charles

Dan
Fantastic trip report
Kudos to you for giving your wife credit for all the extra prep work
Kudos to you for doing your thing and helping out with a smile
Maybe next time you should consider the west coast of Florida or
A bit north of Miami
Or the Keys if you stumble onto a good price
I have never been a fan of the Bahamas
PR works with a Chabad that delivers meals – and gets you an in season super deal at the Ritz with fantastic weather with Minyon to boot
chaim

Charles

As an aside
Where will you be for Pesach ?
Saw you at Smilows a few years back
Try Bourdoux – the crowd is your crowd
Maybe an exchange would work this year
chaim
shop1@optonline.net

Lcm

Dan,
You flew American and didn’t get delayed!

Joe

Dan. The best part of your story is the fried chicken from Hen House Overland Park Kansas. I used to fly to Kansas City twice a year and always made sure to pickup fried chicken at least once or twice a trip. Being from NYC there is no shortage of kosher restaurants but nothing compares to that fried chicken. You brought me back 10 years.

Jacob

Interesting TR, TFS!

You confirmed my suspicions I always had and heard about the Bahamas – one nasty tourist trap. Frankly I’m surprised you went there to begin with, I’d have thought you knew better with all your travel networking etc.

There are so many prettier and more pleasant destinations in the Caribbean to choose from, from Cayman to Dominican, and the list goes on. Only reason I can possibly think of, is the kids. Bahamas does have all that allegedly fun kids activities.

EliJelly

Greatly enjoyed your write-up, didn’t know the Bahamas is an official third world country, I’m happy I didn’t accept the 4 offers today on the phone for a complimentary stay in Nassau..

emgee

How do you deal with a new number on google fi? I understand that phone calls can be forwarded but what about outgoing calls and text etc..

David

Perhaps other Caribbean islands and Dominican are nicer, but we stayed at the reef had an amazing time, shleped food but came with full kitchenentte, also brought grills -milchigs and fleishigs, for a week stay I cannot think of a better place for the KIDS.

David

And the short flight for east coasters is a huge bonus.

Barry Cooper

Dan..

Your food was kosher, can’t say much else was.

No real heter for being there in there..

At least in Florida (not Miami) you can find a secluded spot on the beach, rent a private pool etc…

dhammer53

I never wanted to go to Nassau, and reading your story about the Atlantis confirms this. In January, another blogger wrote a scathing review of the nicer part of the Atlantis. Guess what? We’re invited to a 60th birthday party there this spring.

The sad thing is that I have to keep my mouth shut. I’m not allowed to tip our host off to the issues about to face everyone. I’m sure my wife and I will hear plenty of complaints; but until then, I’m under instruction to stay silent. It’s killing me. Reservations are made for about 60 people, so nothing can be done. Even though our friend is picking up the hotel cost, I’m still not happy.

Jessica

What happened on the flight from Israel with your daughter that scarred you?

CtownBin

I also am interested in knowing this, since we fly to Israel once a year with 3 kids under 6 (most of family is there) and I need to know what to avoid!

David

Ye pools weren’t heated, but I went last winter was 90 degrees outside, so it just didn’t seem to be an issue. My kids at the time were 2-10, obviously the older kids had a better time cuz of the slides, but there was plenty for all the kids, but i do feel a single day is short, as there is more than meets the eye, our first day there was really just sighting it out before really getting to indulge.

Mariusz

You got the point Dave. If the weather is good everything looks/fees better. The Atlantis is outdated but if you pay $66/night (just fees) you can’t complain. Pros: amazing grounds, beautiful beaches, aquarium, pools, slides, water attractions, specially Rapids River and Casino if it is your think. Cons: very expensive food/drinks within resort, expensive car rentals/taxis…but you can manage if you do your work. You can car park for $6/day, eat at near restaurants at half price of Atlantis, buy buzz at local store at comparable to US prices, discover amazing food at Nassau shack boots.. We travel without kids now but as coupe of 54 age we been there twice in 2019 and 2020 on Caesars’ Diamond comps and we had great times. The property is amazing, dated, but still amazing.
We had traveled to over 40 countries, experienced great hotels.. but for $66/night at this place and 5 hours flight from CT we CAN’T complain.

Bsimcha

Stayed last year at the cove was beautiful atmosphere pools slides etc.
But front desk and billing just sounds like they’re there to scam you.
Took me 2 hours to checkin cause I was only an additional on the reservation. And I was charged for an additional person in the room even there was only 2 adults in the room had to spend some time with them ironing it out.
Got a fridge for no extra charge as I told them need it for some medical reasons.
Brought along a griddle to warm up my food on my own.
Weather was in the mid 80’s didn’t have an issue with the pools.
When arriving at the airport be aware of the butlers helping you out with luggage and taking you to the luxury cars they charge you almost double then the regular taxis. (I made him take back all my packages to the regular taxis)

John

Why do need to take a toaster oven?

Dave

Have been to Atlantis before without the kids and went to Baha Mar last January with the family. Overall a far better experience and agree that customer service was very uneven. Check-in was also painfully slow. Same room set-up as you. A random, star of that room was the shower. The water pressure was unbelievable.

Be oh

Sorry to hear abt your experience. I was there the past summer and had a wonderful experience regarding directions and knowing where to go. It also took us a while to figure out the place. Tho when we f checked in we received a map of the property and a checklist on the side to create our plan or must do. Regarding food I see you fale to mention (not sure if knew or maybe didn’t know) there is a grocery 6 min by car from Atlantis called Solomans supermarket that carry and has a kosher section including fridge stuff like cold cuts etc. We bought along enough food but was good to know that we could get in case we need.

Chana

we went in the summer, stayed at the reef and it was fantastic. service was great, they were very accommodating, beach was great , view was literally right in the ocean. i guess it was summer so polls were warm and my kids are older so they loved the slides

Danny

I just went with my wife last week to the Reef Atlantis, we went from PHL-NAS on AA miles, nice empty flight both ways. The reef was really nice, and we had a kitchenette in our room. Clean, very nice bathroom, and didn’t smell at all. Beach is stunning over there, would really recommend. I heard the Royal smells as well, but I had a friend who stayed for free in the coral and he said they just renovated all the rooms, so it was nice.

Issac Jones

I had my bags taken away on aa flying business of course half of the over head reforms bins were empty and the flight attendants couldn’t be bother to help me and i was screamed at for going on to the plane when a different flight attendant told me to do so aa# poop

brodes18

Your TR’s are great as always Dan. This trip sounds like a bit of a downer if I am reading between the lines. Great keeping positive attitude!

Joseph

Is there any hiking/other activities to do in the Bahamas besides beach/water parks, which I assume would not be relevant if you don’t want to have mixed swimming/non-tznius sights? Thanks.

Markus

Do not go there if your observant about “mixed swimming/non-tznius sights”, it’s literally what it’s all about, bathing suit and flip flops is all we wore.

Yidel

Dan, Thanks for the TR.
From what it sounds like, the reason you did not have the best experience in the Bahamas, is because you went with kids…
i was in the Bahamas last year in march, and i had an amazing experience.
i stayed in the Sandals Royal Bahamian, which is a couples only resort, and i never had such an amazing experience… and i have been to Hawaii (Kauai to be exact)…
Hawaii is beautiful and all, the science views you see there you cant see anywhere,
but i found it to be more adventures, rather then a vacations.
the Bahamas on the other hand, (which is only a 3 hour flight from NY) was so relaxing, the water is way calmer and nicer then Hawaii, the hotel was beautiful, they have a private island in the middle of the water…
they also hooked me up with the chef of the hotel, and i handed him over all my frozen meals i bough along, and he gave me his cell # to text him a few hours before we went to eat a meal, and he brought it to us all warmed up and ready…
the staff was very friendly. and they also offer free shuttle transportation to other places in Nassau, so i never had to use a taxi.
and there were no vendors to find on that part of Nassau.

i think you should go back just with your wife to really feel the Bahamian vibe…

Navid

I couldn’t disagree with you more – to say “the reason is because of the kids”, it’s clear that you cannot enjoy atlantis pools if it is not hot outside, and going to wrong hotel within Atlantis was also a mistake, we did a family trip last summer stayed in the reef had full kitchenette, we had a wonderful time, AND IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE KIDS, your trip was as you put it a couples only retreat which would obviously not work out with kids, but dans angle for this trip was a family oriented one, which could have worked out nice if done differently.

ShmuliT

2 questions about traveling with kids.
What method / baby monitor do you use when you want to go around the property at night while the kids are asleep?
When booking 2 separate rooms with points, how do you request/ensure that they will be joining?

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