Friday, November 28, 2003

Did you miss me?

I missed all of you. Really, I did.

As for where I was and what I was up to, we went to Atlantis (on Paradise Island, in the Bahamas) for Thanksgiving. It was a trip that was paid for by Jane's folks, who also went, along with Jane's sister and her family. We had a Bizarro itinerary, thanks to what we could get for free tickets (cashing in most of my miles). We had to leave from Hartford last Thursday afternoon, and fly to Atlanta. However, we couldn't get a connecting flight until Saturday. That worked out, though, because we got to spend a little less than two days visiting our friends, Rich and Lynn, down in Alpharetta. Jane hadn't been to their new house yet - I was last there the week of 9/11/01 when I went down for an abortive Interop. She was going to go down that weekend, but cancelled for obvious reasons.

Anyhow, that was a nice couple of days spent catching up with old friends. We really didn't do too much there. David was scared of their dog (a big sheepdog named Emma - she kept trying to herd David), but started to warm up by the time we left Saturday morning. We arrived at Atlantis around 2:30.

The last time I set foot in the Bahamas was ten years ago, when we stopped there on a cruise. I wasn't impressed then. This time, I was. Boy, oh boy, I was. Immense and spectacular are only two of the adjectives I can use to describe it there. I did have a few gripes (of course), which I'll follow up on later, but mainly I was dazzled.

Atlantis consists of three "towers", along with a group of bungalows and a connected timeshare complex. The super-luxury tower is also the tallest and the newest. It's called Royal Towers, and the two towers are connected by a massive suite about 15 floors up that costs $25k per night to use. We did not use it. Then there are two other hotel buildings, Coral Towers and Beach Tower. They are not new - both are (highly renovated) older hotels that were linked into the complex. Royal Towers are connected to Coral via a concourse of shops and a big (by Carribean standards) casino. Coral is, in turn, connected to Beach via another concourse with a movie theatre, restaurants, and a big convention hall. Beach Tower is closest to said beach, and it's where we stayed.

In between these three hotel areas, which are spread out in a semicircle, is a mammoth piece of engineering consisting of literally dozens of pools, beach land, a huge lagoon, and all sorts of aquarium exhibits along with more restaurants, bars, and water activities. The place is cashless, so all you need to get by there is your room card. Very convenient. Many of the restaurants are buffet, and most are a shade better than decent - way better than one generally expects buffets to be and not bad in general. We didn't really get to sample the standalone restaurants with the exception of a deli (that was OK) we went to Wednesday night.

And now, for the adventures.

First off, we had a room in Beach Tower (as I mentioned). While the oldest and cheapest building, the rooms in Beach Tower were perfectly serviceable, about what you'd find in a mid-range American hotel. We had two full-size beds, a crib for David, and a small balcony that looked out on Nassau. The beds were reasonably firm, and the insulation was good enough so we didn't constantly have to hear our neighbors (or vice-versa). I had a total of four complaints about the accomodations, though, so here they are:

Number one, the elevators were in a state of disrepair, with one or another being broken down and out of service frequently. Number two, we called to request a minifridge for our room - it never got delivered, and as a result of how they'd left us a message about it, we couldn't clear the message light off our phone the whole trip. We had to cover it up at night so it wouldn't annoy us. Third, was that on two separate occasions someone set off fire alarms. One of those was at about 10:30 the first night, and the other was about 4AM last night. That was really annoying, though not their fault - and they gave us a small credit for the inconvenience which was nice.

The fourth complaint, though, was huge. Atlantis is billed as a luxury resort. So why, oh why, do they not only fail to use a fitted sheet when making the bed, but they use a sheet that's too small, resulting in a short-sheeted bed? I made them find a sheet that at least fit better, then I didn't let them change it all week. But all hotels that charge more than $20/night should use real fitted sheets, dammit.

As for the rest of the trip, we had a blast for the most part. David was kind of difficult, and all the Turiel nerves were kinda frayed by all sleeping in a room together. But Jane's sister had it tougher - they have three kids (8, 6, and 2) and were in the same arrangements as us on a different floor. But they've got a lot more experience travelling with their kids than we do with David. Most nights he wound up in bed with us after around 5 or so until dawn. He was difficult at most of the restaurants - thankfully the din was so loud around us that we weren't embarassed too badly (Atlantis has lots of kids there) and we usually ate pretty early.

Unfortunately, David has recently picked up a new habit - he likes to stick his index finger into his mouth. He's been doing it for a while, but on this trip he did it so far that one night he puked in his crib. To the staff credit, even though all we did when it happened was strip the sheet, the next day a whole new crib had been brought in. The service was typically quite good, surprisingly so for what I'm used to in the Carribbean.

There was also one other truly tough moment with David. On Tuesday afternoon, we did our one "off-island" activity. It was a "Dolphin Encounter" on a nearby island that was pretty cool. The whole family went, with Jane's sister's whole family going in and Jane taking David to meet the dolphins. David enjoyed the initial meeting, when the dolphin hopped up in the middle of where they all went into the water, whistled, and clapped.

But then he (the dolphin) did a comedy bit where he motored around everyone splashing furiously with his tail and soaking everyone. David went ballistic and was screaming his head off. I dropped the video camera and scooped him up when one of the other people brought him back up. I spent most of the afternoon trying to settle him down. It was a neat idea, though, and Jane had fun.

I did my activity the following day, when I took a scuba lesson. I'd never tried it before (heck, until a few years ago when I got my eyes zapped, I couldn't see well enough to justify it), but I loved it. Unfortunately, that was my last great moment of fun (personally), because I came down with a cold that I brought home with me. Yecch. Other than that, though, I spent all kinds of time in the pools, rode all the waterslides, played with David some in the water, explored, ate, and had a great time. If you ever consider going, though, beware. The prices are amazingly high for everything, and cashless does not mean cheap. No way. Put yourself on a meal plan, and at least you don't have to worry about the sticker shock on food. Booze, though, is real expensive unless you're playing in the casino - then they liquor you up for free. We only stopped there once, blowing a quick $20 in the slots. I wasn't inclined to the gambling I actually enjoy, which is blackjack. The stakes at the lowest-stakes table were $15 per hand. I prefer the $5 tables, and there were none. Another financial surprise you'll find is a mandatory 15% gratuity charge added on top of virtually everything. I was a little disappointed by that. I usually tip more than that, and because of the charge not being a choice I wasn't inclined to tip any more than what they forced me to.

Basically, we enjoyed it a lot, and if David were aobut six months older I think we would have enjoyed it even more. It's tough for a kid his age to really participate in anything. But he tried. We flew home Friday afternoon, with a not-quite-one-hour layover in Atlanta. David was pretty tough to handle on the last leg to Hartford, but he slept the whole drive home and was incredibly excited to see his kittycat tonight. We got home around 10:30PM after a quick supermarket stop.

There are some hokey, goofy things about Atlantis, especially the way they wrap a lot of the exhibts in pseudo-scientific-mystical BS as if Atlantis were real, but it's gorgeous, well-maintained (the elevator in our building nonwithstanding), and the staff is attentive and very friendly. It's great for kids 2 and up, I'd say. Between Jane and myself, we took a ton of pictures which will be culled through and posted in the next couple of days, I hope. I need the camera space!

And I got a call for a job interview while I was gone - that should happen next week (I was in contact from Atlantis after getting the message). We'll see, but it looks like a neat position.

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