Two major downsides prevent many vacationers from booking a late summer or early fall stay at a Caribbean or southern Atlantic resort. And granted, they are important ones: hurricane warnings and lack of activities. Unless you’re extremely worried about hurricane possibilities or you focus ALL activity on the ocean, most vacationing families will find enjoyable off-season stays are worth every dime — saved from reduced airfares, hotel or condo rates, restaurant charges and tour fees. Some off-season advantages we found while spending a September week’s stay at Harborside Resort at Atlantis on The Bahamas’ Paradise Island are:
Reduced lodging rates
Harborside Resort at Atlantis is one of 20 resorts in the Starwood Vacation Ownership collection. Using our Starwood points exchange program called StarOptions, we were able to trade our home resort week in Cancun to book a one-bedroom condo week during September at Harborside. Although it’s not actually part of the main Atlantis Resort, the adjacent Harborside Villas are just a five-minute walk or short complimentary shuttle ride around the yacht marinas to Atlantis. These nicely appointed condo units book up quickly for spring breaks, early summer vacations and winter holiday seasons. Even if you don’t own a timeshare you still may be able to find a deal through owners who rent out their week. Check sites such as Craigslist or Redweek.com. Or find lower nightly rates at Atlantis’ family-friendly Beach Tower or Coral Tower.
More time for perusing art and architecture
If you’ve been to Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, you’ve seen artist Dale Chihuly’s Desert Towers, located just outside the admissions building. At Atlantis Resort’s casino, each room opens to a large Chihuly glass sculpture, either suspending from the ceiling or sprouting out of a cashier’s kiosk. In the off-season, since there’s an increased chance of cloudy, windy days, you may as well be spending additional time in the casino anyway. Right? Why not take the time – in between rounds of blackjack – to admire these wonderful works? You also can stroll around the hallways of the convention and entertainment wings and gaze upon Atlantis’ mythological metal works and massive architectural designs.
Less waiting time in line for water rides and slides
Some resorts and water parks have numerous water features but none can hold a candle to Atlantis. In the off-season, you’ll find shorter wait lines and less chance of body bumping or traffic jamming along the Lazy River or The Current, a mechanical surf wave which propels inner-tubing kids of all ages through a canal around the waterfall grottos. More people will be dominating the famous water slides, but even these lines also move quickly. Tip: be sure your inner tube is fully inflated before riding down Power Tower slides.
No hustling and bustling to get your towel on a beach chair at 5 a.m.
Twelve pools, seven water slides, three beaches, two rivers, one lagoon will be at your disposal without crowds. I lost count of all the waterfalls and fountains. Maybe someone can get back to me on that. Crescent-shaped Cove Beach is the most protected — best for quiet wading. We also enjoyed our long morning strolls along Atlantis Beach and Paradise Beach. Tip: bring your entire days’ gear to the water park and stow snack lunches, water, change of clothes, money, etc. in hospitality lockers.
More photo opportunities of aquarium marine life
During peak times of day during the off-season, crowds will gather at feeding time around the underwater viewing windows. Feeding and times when fish are more active seem to attract schools of tourists. You will have more opportunity to return to the exhibit tunnels during other times of day and then have entire viewing window to yourself while you snap photos of manta rays, hammerhead sharks, seahorses, moon jellyfish, moray eels and many other species. Tip: don’t forget to turn off the camera flash when shooting through the window.
No reservations – no problem
We enjoyed several of the restaurants, both near the main casino area and on the resort perimeter without long waits. Atlantis has a wide variety of dining options – there’s something pleasing for every kind of palate and pocketbook. A few places required reservations, but when we arrived, few tables were filled or reserved. And shopping, too, actually was pleasant. Window-shopping at high-end designer shops in the Crystal Court and Marina Village makes for wishful daydreaming. Or visit nearby souvenir and craft shops — just a short walk away from the resort.
Best thing about traveling to The Bahamas during off-season? It’s the same time as fall break for many of Arizona’s school districts — perfect time for a family getaway!