Imagine my excitement last December when I learned that the qualification trip this year was to Atlantis resort, Bahamas! I’d never been to the Caribbean and always wanted to go – another place I could check off my bucket list! I was determined that I was going to earn it at a level where I could bring my family along for free! There were 4 levels you could earn the trip at- 1. Shared occupancy, double occupancy but you paid &1,000, double occupancy and finally double occupancy and they pay YOU $1,000 spending money! At the very least I knew I wanted it at level 3! I didn’t want to have to pay for anything but airfare! And effective May 31, 2011 – I did!!! I was actually taking my family on an all expenses paid vacation to the Caribbean for 5 days and 6 nights! AND they were going to even pay for 2 people per room to swim with the Dolphins! Needless to say Sitara was ecstatic!!
After a very exhausting red eye flight from LAX to Ft. Lauderdale where we had a two hour stopover – we touched down Bahamian soil at 9am EST but for our bodies it was 6am after an all nighter! The thing that struck me as we waited for our connection in Ft. Lauderdale is how easy it is to spot an Arbonne consultant! Arbonnites dress well! Even after red eye connections from all across the country the hair, clothes and makeup were impeccable!
We touched down 39 minutes after wheels up! And the first thing to welcome us was the humidity that wrapped around you like a blanket! Needless to say, we were all overdressed in jeans and sneakers and quickly miserably hot and sticky!
Bahamian hospitality starts right at the airport. After a quick process through immigration, we found our bags had arrived before we did at baggage claim. Customs was a breeze! Indian customs take note!! Immediately as we started walking toward ground transportation that I heard someone say ‘Arbonne’ and our suitcases were taken from us and we were directed to ground transportation crew who Arbonne had contracted with to get us to Atlantis resort. We got on a blissfully air-conditioned bus and started on our way to Paradise Island and Atlantis! Bahamians drive on the left side of the road – like India…I felt immediately ‘at home’ like something has been off – even though I’ve been driving in the US since 1997! We passed through an area that is being redeveloped to be the largest resort on the Island – slated to outshine Atlantis. It involves tearing down existing Wyndhams, Sheratons and a few other hotels – creating a brand new road for traffic etc. The next area of interest was Fish Fry market – an area known for good Bahamian food, ‘downtown Bahamas’ which was a small strip of road a few miles before Paradise Island was a cross between downtown Jewelry district in LA and Rodeo Drive- Rolex, Balmain, Fendi, Versace, and one gold and diamond store after the next lined this narrow strip of road for what seemed like at least a mile! Next we passed the port of Nassau where one Carnival cruise ship was docked and we could see another one approach in the distance! Finally we were crossing the bridge to Paradise Island. After a quick drop off to Coral Tower, we were being offloaded at Royal Towers. We were told our bags would be brought to our room- that we should just go check in. So we did. It was 11am and our rooms would not be ready till 3! Ugh! And all we wanted to do was brush teeth, shower and sleep! So we did the next best thing- we had packed swim clothes in our carry on so we made our way to the guest transit lounge where we could change our clothes and even leave our carry on luggage and hit the pools! Only thing is – since our sunblock was more than an ounce it was packed in our suitcase! I had to borrow sunblock from neighboring sunbathers for Sitara and Jason so their skin wouldn’t turn lobster red our first day here. I had this nice bronze base coat going from time in the sun in California so didn’t worry about burning.
In order to use the 11 pools – you have to get wristbands which are free to resort guests and if you’re coming in on the cruise ship – you can buy a day pass to hang out in this amazing Lost City inspired Resort. The first area we passed was a lagoon for these giant Manta Rays who were hanging out with the sharks. They truly are the ballerinas of the marine world – their movements appear so elegant, fluid and measured. They are both mesmerizing and peaceful to watch! Then we’re at the sunshine pool which is what Sitara named it for the two mosaic sunburst patterns at the bottom of this 3-4ft deep oasis. Jason and I took turns swimming with an ecstatic-to-be-in-the-water Sitara while the other kept an eye on a very-hot-and-sweaty-but still-in-a-great mood Corwin!
A few hours and lunch later we decide to head back to the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel guest lounge. It’s 2pm and after a taking a chance and making a quick call we are told our room is ready and we thankfully make our way to it. Ooh what a view! We were on the 18th floor overlooking the pools and the ocean beyond! Our bags are already at the room as was a crib I’d requested for Corwin. We each took turns showering and were out cold for a solid 3 hours!!
It’s now 7pm and it’s time to figure out dinner which is included with our Arbonne package. We make our way to the Coral tower where Arbonne’s hospitality suite is located and get a pretty tote bag, sunblock and 4 beach towels! We also get a list of where we can eat our breakfast and dinner – the two included meals courtesy Arbonne.
It turns out that Chopstix – one of the restaurants in our plan is a few minutes away- so we head there to be told we need reservations. A kind hostess however overlooks that and seats us in minutes. According to our plan, we can each get an appetizer, a side and an entree and a kids meal for the kids. When the food arrives, we realize just how much food that is and resolve that for the future we just split an entree!
After dinner we head to The Dig/Ruins Lagoon which is billed as the world’s largest open air marine habitat in the works, second only to Mother Nature. It is home to over 20,000 marine animals and is 2.3million gallons! Its an amazing exploration with some beautiful sea creatures that you would only otherwise be able to see while scuba diving 30+feet below sea level!
We finally make our way back to our room and can just barely get out teeth brushed before our heads hit the pillow for lights out! The fact that even Corwin slept nearly 9 hours speaks to how tired we all were.
It’s our first full day on Atlantis and there is much to explore! We head for breakfast which courtesy Arbonne may as well be all you can eat! Armed with water, fruit and sunblock we make our way to the sunshine pool – or that’s what Sitara has called it because of the large mosaic in the shape of an Aztec sun. We found shade under a palm tree and set up shop! Corwin had fallen asleep inspite of the beads of sweat on his brow and upper lip. Sitara and Jason hit the water complete with underwater camera!
After Corwin woke, we got him ready, sun-blocked and we took him into the water in a shaded float! It was ingenious! He had fun splashing in the water. After a while we decided to check out some of the other 10 pools. We wove our way toward another section and found a much more ‘happening’ pool area- one with a DJ spinning tunes, a pool that had a beach like entry, little waterfalls and a kiddie slide that dropped you into the water. We wandered around for a while trying to find a lounge chair in the shade to park me and sleeping Corwin and our wandering paid off! Sitara excitedly took off with Jason to explore the new pools. After Corwin woke, we wandered into the pool and sat on the ‘sandy’ approach so that he was sitting in hip deep water. He kept kicking his chubby little legs and squealing with delight!
Today was Arbonne’s welcome dinner– and prior to that I had been invited to my Executive National Vice President’s welcome reception to celebrate the success of winning the trip. Arbonne had her staying at the Cove which definitely seemed to be the more upscale rooms, mostly suites. Since there were over 50 people in her organization she’d had to move the party from her suite to a conference room. After mingling with people who I’d been on conference calls with in the past but never actually met before we all made our way to the ballroom near the convention center for the welcome dinner. Jason and Sitara were meeting Corwin and I straight at dinner. They had chosen to stay back and hang out in the room while i went to schmooze. Arbonne was hosting the second round of trip winners – about 700-800 of us. The first week that was from august 7-12 was 1100 winners – not counting anywhere from 2-4 people per winner as nearly everyone came with family. After dinner we wove our way back to our room as we had Sitara waning from her hectic day at the pool!
Today we’re going to explore the kids pools and I want to see some of the other lagoons as well. I particularly want to see the giant sea turtles at the Hibiscus lagoon. We also need to book our Dolphin Experience so after breakfast we split up- Jason and Sitara head to the pools while Corwin and I go to book the dolphin experience for the 4 of us! To get to the Arbonne booking desk, we had to walk through the casino and hoards of people from neighboring hotels or passengers on cruise ships wanting to buy the day pass to hang out at Atlantis. The pathway between Royal Towers and Coral Towers where the Arbonne hospitality suite was set up was blocked to only residents or hotel guests and my cool new tote bag was all the ‘gate pass’ we needed.
After reserving our dolphin experience we head back to spot Jason and Sitara and find much coveted umbrella-ed lounge chairs. That real estate didn’t stay vacant for even a second. Luckily we found a spot relatively quickly and settled under the shade of an expansive umbrella. The next few hours were spent watching kids frolicking in the ‘Splasher pool’ while lobster red parents (especially fathers) kept watchful eyes on them in the water. The squeals and screams were fun to listen to–the sound of kids having the time of their lives!
After a while we decided that we wanted to explore other areas and find the predator lagoon which included a tunnel through which you could walk and see the sharks swim around you. We knew we were in the right direction when we saw dorsal fins slice through the water. As we made our way down into the predator lagoon, we felt big drops of water on us and the skies opened up and we were treated to a warm summer shower. We wait out the rain exploring the cavernous predator lagoon. Sharks, manta rays, barracuda were some of the fish making their way lazily around the huge glass windows. Ever so often a big fish would come directly toward the glass almost heading toward a head-on collision with us on the other side of the glass. As Jason explained to Sitara – we were in the ‘people tank’ and the fish were coming up to observe us, much like we were watching them. The way the fish and even the occasional shark came up and put their nose practically on the window made me wonder if he wasn’t actually right. I did feel like we were on display to them. Made me appreciate for the first time what it must feel like to be behind glass on display for the hundreds of ogling eyes.
After the predator lagoon we continued on toward the furtherest end of Atlantis. We passed the lazy river ride where you could sit in an inner tube and float along the entire perimeter of the resort – a great way to see the entire property. We passed another kids pool called Poseidon’s pool and found ourselves at the Cave Bar & Grill. After a quick meal eaten near a huge viewing glass where a Manta Ray came and said hello, we decided to hit the beach- Atlantis beach. Sitara wanted to build sand castles and Jason wanted to test out his waterproof casing which made our little digital point and shoot camera waterproof! Corwin and I happily sat on the beach lounging on a chair! A little while later I happened to look over at the direction of our tower (the Royal Tower) and saw ominous clouds looming over. Jason obviously saw them too because pretty soon Sitara and he were out of the water. We started hurrying our way back to the resort – not wanting to be drenched (or get the baby and his stroller wet). We saw some beautiful displays of lightening and heard rolls of thunder! As we neared the resort we saw a mass exodus of people deserting the water areas. By now it was nearly 5 and we had been out for nearly 5-6 hours. We figured it was time to clean up and head to dinner. It turns out that what you should do is make dinner reservations for every night you’re at the resort the first day that you arrive the resort! Every good restaurant was full! So we ended up going to surf and turf buffet at the restaurant that overlooked the aquarium right below the lobby of the Royal Towers.
This experience so far has been amazing. I haven’t seen such an impressive array of sea life even in some of the aquariums I’ve visited around the world. The Bahamians are a very polite and hospitable people. Everywhere we go they’re there to assist, to guide and to do it with a smile and a genuine sense of service. Of course there are some younger staff who are there for the paycheck – but for the most part they are kind and have a beautiful smile for you anytime you interact with them. It truly deepens the experience when your interactions with the native people is pleasant. When you sense that they’re not just tolerating you because it’s their job to do so. This resort is huge – it’s on the scale of a Vegas casino and probably accommodates the same amount of people if not more. The thing that impresses me is that they are so organized for the large groups and everything is so fluid. Aside from the line for breakfast – we haven’t had to wait long for anything. Arbonne alone has at least 1400-1500 people here if not more and then we saw two cruise ships leave the harbor both yesterday as well today- all those thousands of people conceivably could have bought day passes to hang out and use the facilities! This still didn’t stress their limits. it has been a very impressive display of organization and systems! Even the way in which they handle the large lines for breakfast and expedite them -the way everyone chips in and helps and provides excellent service…it’s all truly amazing.
I have training from 9-1pm today and so Corwin and I are up and out of the room by 8:15am. Jason and Sitara are going to spend the morning exploring by themselves! We agree to meet at 1:30pm for lunch at Plato’s, which is a quick lunch option – sandwich, chips and a drink for $12.50! The ham and Swiss grilled panini or the tuna sandwich are both delicious!
After lunch we head to the sunshine pool where Jason and Sitara go splash around and Corwin and I hang out in as much shade as we can find. A while later, Sitara is anxious to go do inner tubing down the lazy river. We head past the kids splashers pool which she turns her nose up at– too baby-ish (she’d much rather go down the big slides but she’s too short- minimum height requirement is 48″) toward the launching area where you can hop in a single or double inner tube and take a ride around a lazy river more or less along the perimeter of the entire resort.
Shortly thereafter it’s time to go check out the dolphins. We make our way to the Dolphin Cay (pronounced key) and check in. While we wait we can see other groups working with a dolphin and can occasionally see them jump high out of the water or skid across the water on their tail. Soon it’s our turn, we’re being given a short orientation and then led to the area for wetsuits. Even Corwin gets a wetsuit!! He carries it off really well–I might add! We walk onto the beach in a little group of 7 people. 4 of us and 3 others. Our dolphin’s name is Jill. She’s the oldest and pregnant at 48 ( in captivity they live till 55). We get to pet her ( the blubber is really soft), give her belly rubs, (and yes she shakes her flipper much like a dog appreciating the belly rub might shake a paw), and even kiss her on the snout. Dolphins are such amazing creatures; I felt such a sense of calm and peace while in the rather cold water. Their energy is so positive. It’s such a happy place to be surrounded by these calm loving creatures who have so much trust that we humans will do the right thing. even the trainers who interface with them seem different from the rest of the staff around the resort. Just more fulfilled I think. We each got to pose separately and then as a family with Jill who jut seemed so accommodating! It turns out that Dolphins, much like most women like to take care of their skin! 🙂 they exfoliate twice a day! It’s no wonder their skin (blubber) is so soft. For the finale they had 3-4 of us groups sort of come together and the dolphins from each of these groups did a synchronized set of flips and high jumps! Before we knew it – the hour was up and my normally timid little girl wondered why we weren’t actually going to swim with dolphins – apparently interacting with them wasn’t the same as swimming! She was most disappointed that she wasn’t going to get to hang onto a fin and go for a swim! We placated her with reminding her we had to go get pictures of ourselves with dolphins – and that soothed her a bit. We get our photos and were out of there to get cleaned up and get to dinner – we were all famished!
Today is our last full day. We leave really early tomorrow morning. I have training again till 1pm– we plan to meet at the Lagoon bar at 1:30pm. Training ends by noon and Corwin and I have time to stroll around (I’m strolling he’s napping) till it’s time to meet Jason and Sitara for lunch. We get to the Lagoon bar by 12:40 and I decide to just camp out in the cool shade. The predator lagoon encircles this shell top bar/restaurant while the tunnel where you walk through to see them closer is below it. I sit watching the dorsal fins of numerous sharks completely mesmerized that I’m actually here, within what feels like an arms reach of these dangerous yet beautiful predators. Today is a hotter day with no cloud cover – the sky is a beautiful blue and the water a gorgeous emerald green. After lunch eaten while watching sharks who’d happily make lunch of us, given the opportunity we decided to walk to the beach- Sitara was itching to build sand castles. We made our way to Atlantis’ private beach by the Coral and Beach towers and found Corwin and Jason a nice spot in the shade. I hadn’t been in the water for a day and it was time to make up for it! Sitara and I made a run for the water. Ahhhh it was absolutely perfect! I sat down in the water on the powder white sand and just enjoyed drinking in the sights of people all around us enjoying themselves…swimming, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, drinking fruity umbrella drinks while sitting in the water, soaking up the sunshine by just laying out in the sun- I could hear accents from everywhere! Germany, Italy, New Jersey, California, France, Canada, etc., it was truly the United Nations out there. I felt like this was the first time in ages that I was just sitting–not doing anything at all…just sitting and I LIKED the way that felt! In your own home, there’s so much to do – there’s no way to just sit- on vacation you feel obliged to explore different areas and sights you’ve never seen before and so you return from vacation your legs exhausted and needing a respite to recover from vacation. Just sitting in the water, with warm gentle waves lapping over me, watching my daughter play in the sand and occasionally break my reverie by wanting me to eat her pretend cake made from the snow white sand in the Caribbean while my husband and son played in the shade nearby really drove home to me how much I DO and how little I BE. I almost never sit still! I resolved to change this when I returned to California. Resolved to be better about time management and resolved to actually schedule down time for myself. Downtime meant no iTechnology, business or chores, just reading a mindless magazine or sitting in my backyard under the canopy of my beautiful California Pepper tree enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
After awhile I switched with Jason so he could go snorkeling and play with Sitara in the water while I watched Corwin. Although really sweaty (do all little boys sweat so much??) he seemed to really be enjoying himself too. He was really mellow and often liked to look out over my shoulder and enjoy the sights. We played a peekaboo game with his little burp cloth that had him giggling and laughing to the immense amusement of the people around us. I know I’m probably biased but he truly has the sweetest laugh! It’s so infectious.
Pretty soon we decided to head back to the pools and get our final splashes in for the trip. Sitara wanted me to go down slides with her. So we rinsed off and head back toward the Royal towers and Aquaventure which was home to all the Aqua fun! Sitara and I hit the baby slides while Jason hung out with Corwin. It occurred to me that I had done no water fun except to swim in the sunshine pool with Sitara. I’d been hearing about Leap of Faith – an almost vertical 60ft drop into a pool near (not in- fortunately) the shark lagoon. I was determined to do it. Essentially you wait for anywhere from 20-40 minutes to do a 3 second slide1 but what a pulse pounding 3 seconds they are! You essentially sit on this slide and then immediately are ‘dropping’ nearly vertically – to the extent that for the first microsecond you are lifted off the slide and have to have ‘faith’ that the slide is below you and that you won’t free fall 60ft into the water below!
I then tried the Challenger which allows you to challenge someone in the next slide to see who hits the water first. It was a time trial – I made pretty good time with 5:35 sec my first followed by 5:15sec my next time around. we had seen 6:49 as the slowest and 4:45 as the fastest…I figured mine was respectable and called it quits. Jason and Sitara went off to play in the pool one final time with Sitara jumping off Jason’s hands in the pool and spinning, twisting and doing all sorts of goofy things! She was squealing with excitement! Before long it was closing in on quitting time– as we walked back to our room to cleanup for dinner, I noticed people with round wounds on their lower spine– almost like a blister that had opened up but as big or bigger than a quarter. I’d seen these before but couldn’t understand what was causing this in people. It finally struck me that this was from doing too many trips down the Power Tower slides. The Power Tower was the 120ft tall Mayan Ruins tower from which Challenger, Leap of Faith and a couple of other big slides originated. most of these required you to lie on your back feet first to slide and this probably caused the same spot to rub again and again on the slides causing basically an open blister! Ewww!!! Twice on the Challenger and I could feel a hint of discomfort where the same spot on my back was rubbing against it. Twice was enough for me!
We walked back to our room, cleaned up and head down to dinner to the all you can eat buffet where we had seen huge lines all week! It was close to our tower, the line was short and we were tired! Next morning our bags had to be placed outside our door at 4:30am for Arbonne to coordinate our departure drop off to the airport.