by Michael Blanding
Built in 2008, the same time as The Cove hotel next door, the Reef shares a similar upscale vibe that sets it apart from the previous three hotels at Atlantis resort. While the overriding attitude is one of exclusivity and luxury, there are some differences. Instead of a South Beach hotel, the lobby creates the feel of an Upper East Side apartment building — with marble floors and polished dark wood walls — albeit with a few beachy touches such as fishing net chairs and driftwood in an illuminated case under the reception desk.
The 500 rooms here are all apartments, ranging from studios to one-bedrooms to penthouses, all with multiple beds, refrigerators, and kitchens, making the Reef a good choice for families who are looking for a bit more luxury as well as — counter-intuitively — families on a budget, since its possible to save a good chunk of money by cooking their own meals rather than signing onto the expensive meal plans or paying a la carte at the restaurants. The apartments are subject to a unique arrangement, whereby they are owned by private owners as timeshares and rented out to guests with the owners and resorts splitting the profits. As a result, they have a very homey, lived-in feel, with each apartment living up to a certain standard of quality at the same time possessing individual touches that set each one apart.
Our Editor Loves
- Private pools and beach
- All-apartment accommodations with balconies
- Upscale refinement and family friendliness
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
All of the 497 rooms at The Reef are apartments with kitchens. A small number are one-room studio kitchenettes, while the majority are suites of various sizes with a separate master bedroom and a pullout sofa, as well as an extra bedroom in two-bedrooms suites. The largest, deluxe suites have 1,700 square feet of living area, and can house up to eight people and one toddler. The kitchen area in the studio apartments is small but serviceable, with a refrigerator under the counter and a granite counter for cooking. Full suites have larger kitchens with full-size refrigerators. All have balconies and views of the ocean.
The rooms are done in an elegant modern style, with a beachy color palette of beige and white accented with deeper colors, including gold and scarlet. Finishes are luxurious and couches and beds are ultra-comfy with satin sitting pillows and Frette linens. All rooms at the Reef also include flat-screens with DVD players. The bathrooms are particularly grand, with twin marble vanities, tub, and shower and chi chi Red Flower bath products; depending on the size of the suite, apartments include one or two extra bathrooms for extra privacy. Even the smallest apartments also feature private balconies overlooking the ocean or pool area. In terms of price, they are significantly less than the similar rooms at The Cove, but higher than anything in the towers, starting at $505 a night.
Rooms come in Terrace View, Harbour View and Ocean View for studios and one-bedroom suites. Suites range from 974 to 1,718 square feet, with one-bedroom suites able to accommodate four people plus a child under 4, and two-bedroom suites can fit eight people and a child under 4. Two- and three-bedroom penthouses, ranging between 2,471 and 3,102 square feet, can accommodate six or 10, respectively, plus one child, and offer full kitchens, dining areas, living room with sleeper sofas, in-room washer and dryer, private bedrooms with king and queen beds, and four balconies.
Stayed for a week in the Topaz Suite, 5th Floor room 927. We requested a room on "the ocean side" of the building but at check in the ocean side was not available. We were given a room on the harbor side of the building and were told that we could switch to the ocean side on day 3 of our stay. We were a bit upset.. but what could we do?? Our Bell Man, Hassan, led us to our room and explained that in his opinion the room we were assigned had a better view than the ocean side..... he could not have been more correct. Upon entering the room we were astonished with the view... the bedroom had a wall of windows with direct ocean view and the HUGE balcony had a combination view of beach, ocean, harbor and downtown Nassau ( quite a nice view at night with the town all lit up!) We immediately contacted the front desk and asked that they not change our room to the other side of the building as they graciously said they would.... WE LOVED OUR ROOM and did not want to switch to "the better side of the building".
Now, a bit about cost and service: EVERY staff member that we interacted with was very professional, had a positive, pleasant and service minded attitude and was genuinely friendly. The Bahamians are just great people with a gentle, happy and relaxed outlook towards life and it reflects on the manner in which they do their jobs! Yes, food, entertainment and activities are a bit on the pricier side.... but how could anyone really expect to pay the same price for things as in the United States... you are in paradise... and if you want to enjoy a cocktail on the beach or the like... you should expect to pay a premium for such an experience. If you are not prepared to spend some money enjoying yourself than why are you on vacation to begin with.... its only money... you can't take it with you... spread it around and enjoy life! Additionally, keep in mind that the staff is working for a very low salary and relies on their share of the tip pool that is automatically added to everything you buy. And keep in mind that their share of that tip pool may actually only be a few hundred dollars per week.... so these hard working and wonderful people are logging 40 - 50 hour work weeks for $400 - $500 total compensation. They deserve a lot more for the effort. I made sure to give an additional cash tip to every staff person that helped me.
We can't wait to go back... again and again.... Best Vacation EVER!!
When we booked the Topaz Suite we knew the cost of the room. The suite was spacious with a large deck and beautiful views. There is a full kitchen, living room, two baths with everything you could need. The room was a bit "tired". Sofas were stained and the carpet was fraying in many areas. Obviously this is not a spoiler but as I said it appeared tired. The staff were very helpful, professional and friendly.
The beach was clean and nice to walk on. The pools were great and the property at Atlantis vast with lots of activities to choose from. If you are traveling with children the water park was really nice.
What bothered us was the "hidden" costs associated with the resort. When we checked out and actually calculated our total bill we paid just under $200 a day just in fees.
Also, check your bill carefully upon checkout. We had some Internet charges that were incorrect. They were quickly and pleasantly removed when we pointed it out but be aware.
Note: Most activities and attractions are available when staying at any of the six Atlantis hotels.
While the Reef is a good choice for families because of the room types, it does have the drawback of feeling a little bit removed from the action, set out on a point overlooking an offshore reef. (Indeed, $10 from every room goes to the Kerzner Marine Foundation to support its efforts to reseed and revitalize the coral.) The Aquaventure water park, however, is only a little walk through the cove, and it's possible to walk to Royal Towers by passing by Dolphin Cay.
While it doesn't have any specific family activities associated with the hotel, the Reef does provide good access to Paradise Beach, a secluded beach nice for sunbathing -- however, due to its exposed location, it can be a little windy and the water a bit choppy at times. A better choice for water activities is the Cascades Pool at the Cove, a beautiful pool that is accessible to Reef as well as Cove guests, or a short walk to Cove Beach.
For more activities located throughout the Atlantis property, see our Atlantis Resort review.
The Reef doesn't offer any restaurants, though it is close enough to the Cove for guest to easily take advantage of the restaurants there, including Mosaic, Mesa Grill, and Cascades Grill, or to take a shuttle to the eateries at the restaurants at the other hotel properties. One bonus of staying at the Reef is the convenience of a bona fide Starbucks in the lobby, perfect for those guests who can't really start their vacations until they've had a double soy cappuccino.
For those looking to self-cook in the apartment kitchenettes, both the Cove and Royal Towers have convenience shops selling food, but selection is mostly limited to pre-processed snacks, cereal, and breakfast pastries. To buy real groceries, you'll need to hire a cab to go into Nassau, where there are several good grocery stores right over the bridge from Paradise Island. An even better idea if you can plan ahead, is to make a deal with your taxi driver to stop at a grocery store on the way to the resort, so you can stock the cabinets when you arrive. It should add an additional $20 to $30 to the fare to have him wait while you shop.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
Babysitting can be arranged through the resort -- for a price. Sitters are $25/hour for one child, $10 each additional child up until 10 p.m. and $30/hour, $10 each additional child after 10 p.m. There is a three-hour minimum. Unless your child has special needs or you are planning on staying out after 10:30 p.m., it probably makes more sense to put the kids in the Kids Club instead, where they'll be well cared for and entertained.
Wi-Fi Internet access is available in public areas and rooms for $21.95/day for up to four devices, with discounts for multiple days.
For those rooms without a washer/dryer, the resort also offers laundry service every day except Sunday.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
Atlantis is located in a sub-tropical climate, similar to that of Florida. So it doesn't see the year-round hot temperatures that more Caribbean locations enjoy; however, it does have a pleasant climate year-round, with over 300 days of sun annually. You are most apt to see rain during the wet season, between June and November, which is also when you'll see the highest temperatures, averaging between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The only time you are risking a real rainout is during "hurricane season," between late August and early November, when sporadic hurricanes do occur.
Temperatures during the dry season, between December and May average between 60 and 80 degrees, with less chance of rain. Atlantis drops its rates slightly during spring when demand is lower, and you can sometimes find bargains on room rates. Truth be told, however, this is a popular destination year-round, so don't go expect to find real cut-rate deals.
Thankfully, the sheer size of the resort ensures that it never feels crowded, even when hotels are at capacity. The only exception to this is lines at the most popular waterslides, which are likely to be long at any time of year. Visit early in the morning or at the end of the day -- especially at the Mayan Temple -- for your best chances of a quick ride. Even though its slides are arguably better, the Power Tower tends to be less crowded than the Mayan Temple.
The closest airport to Atlantis is Nassau International Airport (NAS), which is approximately a 45-minute drive from the resort. (Note: when booking, be sure to select Nassau, and not Grand Bahamas, which is 150 miles away!) Transportation to the airport can be arranged through the resort for a charge of approximately $100 each way; it's more economical to hire a taxi, which costs about $40 each way. Once at the resort, complimentary shuttle services are offered between the various properties, with waits of never more than half an hour, and frequently less.
For Mom and Dad
While your kids are at Club Rush or Club Crush, sneak off to see a comedy show or a movie in the Atlantis Theater, sing along to your favorite performer at Atlantis Live, try your hand at a game of poker in the Casino or dance the night away at the adult-only nightclub Arura. There is also an adults-only pool located at the Cove that also offers up to 20 cabanas for privacy. And if you only have time for one cocktail, choose from one of the 40 restaurants, bars and lounges sure to please any drink desire.