The Bahamas is reopening its two highest-profile resorts: Here’s what to expect
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After a false start back in July that led to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Bahamas reopened for tourism in early November. With a simplified testing strategy in place, this nation of islands is now also ready to open two of its highest-profile and most popular resorts in time for the holidays — Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar.
Atlantis is scheduled to reopen on December 10, while Baha Mar is slated for a December 17 opening.
With COVID-19 cases climbing across the country, this is not the ideal time to travel. The decision to take a trip in this moment is a complex and individual one. Only you can understand your specific risks and comfort level with travel. If you’ve visited the Bahamas in the past, you can expect this trip to be different. There will be smaller crowds due to the lack of cruise and air traffic, to be sure.
And if you’re considering an island escape now or in the future, here’s what you can expect on your trip — including rules that can protect you and local residents from COVID-19.
Before you go, you’ll need a test
When the Bahamas reopened its borders back in July after a four-month closure, the country immediately saw a surge of 41 new cases of COVID-19 within the country. Given the Bahamas’ already-fragile health care infrastructure, the country decided to close its borders again, with specific language that banned American travelers.
The challenge? The Bahamas’ economy relies heavily on tourism — it generated $4.1 billion in 2019, or just under a third of the country’s total GDP.
To address this need and jumpstart its tourism industry, the country rolled out a phased reopening plan and a new system for travelers entering the country.
In order to visit the Bahamas, travelers now must:
- Present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within five days of arrival in the country
- Apply online for a special travel health visa
- Purchase health insurance through the Bahamian government that covers COVID-19
There are other measures, too, including mandatory mask-wearing where specified. For a complete list of the requirements, read our article.
If you’re itching to get back to Atlantis or Baha Mar, you’ll need to follow all of these guidelines. Be sure to read the regulations carefully if you’re planning a trip. In addition to carefully timing your PCR test, you’ll also need time to apply for the travel health visa. Without these elements, you’ll be denied entry into the country.
You might need a test after you get there, too
If you’re staying longer than four days in the Bahamas, the country requires that all travelers get another test — a rapid antigen test this time — while you’re in the country.
But that’s not all. If you’ve decided to stay at Baha Mar, one of Nassau’s newest and shiniest resort complexes, you’ll also need to take a rapid test at check-in. According to the property, tests will be conducted in a private room by staff from Doctors Hospital, a local health care institution. Results will take approximately 30 minutes. In the case of a positive result, guests must take a PCR test to confirm it. If the result of the PCR test is positive, guests can either quarantine in place or fly home privately or via air ambulance; all or some of these expenses may be covered under the country’s mandatory health insurance.
While Atlantis does not have an equivalent testing policy, a stay here is described by Nassau-Paradise Island’s tourism board as “opting-in to vacation in place.” In other words, guests will be encouraged — but not required — to remain on property during their entire stay.
Even after all the testing, COVID-19 precautions are in full effect
Baha Mar is using touchless wristbands, special sanitizing kits for guests and extra-mile cleaning protocols to ensure guest safety. It’s also requiring weekly testing for all of its staff, and has instituted special training to teach staffers to minimize contact with guests. Mask wearing for guests is requested throughout the property.
The resort is also offering private transfers at an additional cost, for those who want to minimize contact with others on the way to and from the airport.
Atlantis is also asking guests to wear masks and keep a safe distance from each other. It’s also taking steps to reduce the capacity in public spaces throughout the resort, so there’s more room to spread out. Look for hand sanitizing stations and signage to remind guests of the property’s protocols.
A contactless check-in experience, where guests can pick up keys and other information at an express check-in desk will be available. And like Baha Mar, Atlantis is also enhancing its room cleaning strategy. Hospital-grade disinfectants, UV-light technology and electrostatic sprayers will be in use.
In Atlantis’ famous water park, inflatable tubes will be disinfected and its in-house water quality team will be constantly monitoring water cleanliness.
Not everything will be open
While the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar — one of three resorts in the Baha Mar complex — will open on December 17, the other two properties remain closed. The SLS and the Rosewood are expected to reopen in the first quarter of 2021, given that there’s demand.
Within the complex, however, some additional public spaces are open. Baha Mar’s restaurants, including the excellent Japanese eatery Katsuya, which was designed by Philippe Starck, will be open, as will the resort complex’s enormous casino. The kids club, golf course, retail shops and spa will also be open for business.
At Atlantis, the newly renovated The Royal will be open for business on December 10, as will the suites and villas in the Harborside Resort. The Reef, one of the newer properties at Atlantis that features upscale suites geared toward families, reopens on December 17. Opening dates for the adults-only haven The Cove, and the more family-focused — and budget-friendly — The Beach, are to be determined.
Atlantis amenities that will open on December 10 include the golf course and casino. That’s also true of its marine habitat and Aquaventure water park, where you can (safely) slide down a tube while surrounded by sharks, among other thrills. Atlantis is also unveiling a long list of new activities that cater to small groups. Think private dinners, speedboat tours and movie nights.
You could get a deal
As these splashy resorts try to lure back business after the COVID-19 slowdown, you could reap the benefits.
The Royal at Atlantis is offering a first night free when you book by November 22 and check in December 10-17 for a minimum of three nights. We found some great rates for the Royal Towers that came out to an effective $130-$150 per night after the discount. For slightly more ($165-$200 per night), choose a Premium room that’s been newly renovated. Be sure to use the link on the special offers page to book, or you won’t be able to access the discount.
Note that a $60 daily resort fee, and a $10 required daily gratuity are not included in the base rate.
As Atlantis is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, you can earn and use Marriott Bonvoy points here. Over these same dates, unrenovated rooms go for 75,000 points per night, while renovated Premium rooms start at 80,000 points per night.
Additionally, Atlantis is offering greater cancellation flexibility in this period at The Royal. Guests can cancel without penalty up to 72 hours before arrival.
At Baha Mar, you can enjoy 20% off your stay at the Grand Hyatt when you book before December 6 and stay through April 4, 2021. We found standard rooms — called Grand King rooms — from $260-$280 per night throughout this period, with suites starting at $437. The property charges a $54 per night resort fee.
Standard rooms start at 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night at this Category 5 property, while suites start at 32,000. You can also use 10,000 points plus $165 cash for standard rooms.
Two of the biggest resorts in the Bahamas are ready to reopen for the holiday season — and it might be a good time to go. With the islands free of cruise ship guests and overall tourism down because of the pandemic, you’ll likely enjoy smaller crowds at your resort as it reopens. The sticking point, though — you’ll need to carefully decide if you’re ready to travel amidst the many risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Featured image of Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas courtesy of the property.
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