06 NOV 2013: I boarded an easy direct flight to Bahamas from YYZ (no checked baggage only carry-on) with Air Canada for a couple of reasons. It was high time to imbibe on the revered royal treatment of Sandals Resorts International and I was ready to dive for nautical treasures at a well-known fantasy resort. After all it’s better in the Bahamas right?

Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island

Minutes after my arrival to the Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau via a heavily blinged stretch limo there’s a discreet knock at my door.

It’s the butler. (Yes my butler). A brief introduction follows and then I get my first royal question: “Would you like to be escorted to dinner this evening?”

My calendar reads 2013 but it sure feels like yesteryear when nobility couldn’t unpack their luggage or tend to their wardrobe. By the way Sandals butlers provide these services all you gotta do is ask.

Personal butler service is what resort visionary Gordon “Butch” Stewart lauds in all his Sandals Resorts properties. If your clients book butler service suites in those top-tier categories the question I heard wouldn’t be out of the norm.

With the heavy competition this winter among the other Caribbean hot spots, a booking to Bahamas could lead to some happy customers.

Here’s why:

The hub

I should have known.

If a mythical Grecian world of an arrow-holding Artemis and the sea god Poseidon are keenly placed at the entrance of the luxury included all inclusive what other surprises are inside?

Try the pools, restaurants with an international flare and a royal past. A great place to relax and catch up on vintage gossip is at the Piano Bar. Find a quiet nook close your eyes and imagine lavish soirees by your hosts who happen to be world renowned lovebirds. Hint: He forfeited a monarchy and an HM title for the love of an American divorcee.

The Piano Bar pays homage to King Edward VIII and Wallis (Simpson) Windsor with a fabulous collection of portraits and couple shots in which the pair forlornly stare into each other’s eyes. I wondered what they must have been thinking banished to the Bahamas, abdication and all.

Life could have been worse I suppose.

The Sandals Royal Bahamian is located on the former site of the couple’s posh vacation home known as the Balmoral Club. You can still spot remnants of the cottages, formal grounds and the playgrounds like the Piano Bar but you really get a sense of the old Grand Dame at the remodeled Balmoral Tower and over by a meeting room and the Baccarat, a Parisian restaurant. Splendid art deco motifs using stained glass and a complete floor to ceiling bay window treatment are all part of the sumptuous décor at the white-gloved service eatery.

The old stomping ground of the Windsor’s caters to Sandals guests who enjoy grand indulgence, the finer things in life, and when beach life gets boring it’s off to the city only minutes away.

City life

Downtown Nassau is a shopping haven, great bargains on jewelry and perfumes can be found on Bay Street. For island trinkets head to the bustling Straw Market an emporium of shopping deals within a warren of crammed aisles that could make you dizzy with choice.

Nassau is the major international gateway so first-time clients to Bahamas often start their Bahamian fantasy there. Meanwhile repeat visitors enjoy the rich product offerings. There is the assortment of historic landmarks, island hopping and of course the beach accessibility.

Rum shot

Clients with a rum penchant need to veer off the main drag to the John Watling’s Distillery on Delancy Street. The recently opened rum manufacturer has a Canadian connection. Pepin Argamasilla is the general manager who was raised in Toronto and previously worked for Bacardi Global Brands and became smitten over the potential of this historic home, the Buena Vista Estate, which he helped save from the wrecking ball.

Completed in 1789, construction of the estate started when George Washington was elected the first president of the US. Take a free self guided tour of the mansion and see history unfold via maps, paintings and nicely mounted reference plaques. Head to the backyard for views of an old well recently recovered and visit the distillery housed in a huge purpose-built production facility. Pepin employs local Bahamians and is a firm believer on working with his community.

“There is a lot of talent here locally and we need to focus this talent to create products like John Watling’s rums,” he says.

Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island

“Ready to pucker?” shouts a marine specialist at the Dolphin Cay Encounter programme as I shut my eyes to dream the inevitable.

One wet dolphin kiss later I admit Atlas has stolen my heart.

The bottlenose dolphin kiss is part of a shallow water dolphin encounter programme at the Atlantis Resort. Now talk about a warm fuzzy. During Hurricane Katrina some dolphins were swept out to sea when their aquarium was ravaged in Mississippi but thankfully they were later dramatically rescued. Sixteen of them were rehabilitated here.

Nestled on a 14-acre lagoon the dolphin encounter feels a world away from Atlantis Resort’s other mega hits like the casino, shops, restaurants, spa, and the huge water park.

It’s been a great getaway since opening in 1998 but families, couples and groups will also find new diversions to keep up them coming back.

Casino talk

There’s a newly renovated casino floor.

It’s here - wi-fi betting is coming to a mobile near you.

The company reports Atlantis patrons will be able to wager using Cantor Gaming’s mobile sports wagering application on their Apple or Android device or on their wireless enabled personal computing devices including tablets and smart phones.

So let the gaming begin.

Forget what the old sports bar and grill Atlas looks like because it’s not there anymore. In its place there’s the new chi-chi resto Olive’s by celebrity chef Todd English with his spin on Mediterranean cuisine.

L’apres dinner drinks can be had at the newly renovated Moon Club which opened in mid-June with its own tank of jellyfish watching you. (Gone is the Baccarat Lounge).

There’s a grand staircase leading to the ultra hip Aura nightclub decked out in a Jeffrey Beers designed disco including glass floor and private VIP parlours. Beers hefty client roster includes Bloomingdale’s, Fountainebleau hotels and Trump International plus many more.

Then there are the four mega flatscreen TVs ready to pipe in the Superbowl and all the off-track betting you can get. This is a new 6,860 square foot state-of-the-art race and sports booking center so prepare for more high-tech wizardy.

Chihuly me – yes the casino has four exquisite glass sculptures and each is proudly displayed at heavily trafficked areas. Plus it helps renowned artist Dale Chihuly has his own massive following so remind your creatively-inclined clients of the casino’s gallery.

Kids stuff

Kids want to have fun too – drop them off at the many kid friendly facilities each catering to various ages.

Arguably the coolest kids club in the Caribbean, Atlantis Kids Adventures (3-12 years) has themed rooms like a Lego construction room, a grocery store along with culinary lessons, theatre, outdoor play and interactive electronic art.

Meanwhile the smaller kids (3 to 5 years) can play make believe. They can pretend to be a detective, wizard or even a pirate.

Crush is teen mayhem (13 to 17 years) with a dance floor, simulated game room, cafe, and a collection of nooks to hook up with new friends at the Internet Lounge -- definitely a parent-free zone.

Other bragging rights: world’s largest open air marine habitat, home to over 50,000 marine animals.

The sea animals even have their own heavy duty hospital care facility in which technicians dutifully monitor the vitals and do weigh-ins when needed.

Seeing that they’re well fed (a lot of the fish are imported from... Canada) I can only say it’s a dolphin’s life at the Atlantis.

As for the rest of the Bahamas well I did splurge on something from the sea, a pearl necklace. Something that Poseidon might have given Artemis or even Edward to his Wallis.


Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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