Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort pin

The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas is a giant, resort complex comprising of several hotel towers on 141 acres of land. It offers a unique opportunity for guests of all ages with its magnificent lagoons, water slides, water sports, animal encounters, shopping, multiple restaurants and more. Also, the seascape island retreat is part of the Marriott chain of residences which ensures quality service and luxurious accommodation. We had meant to go there for many years, so we were excited to at least get a sampler for the day during a Royal Caribbean shore excursion while we were cruising last month aboard Oasis of the Seas.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort blue

What You Will See

There is something here for everyone. There are several areas where one can walk around,  engage in water sports,  do some shopping and have a quick bite to eat.

Complimentary Attractions

Upon first visiting Atlantis, travelers might decide just to walk around the big resort to get an idea of what it looks like. They can also check out its sheer magnitude, free exhibits, and shopping options. There is plenty to keep one occupied, and one can walk around the grounds and enjoy the lovely scenery, well-manicured gardens, and the beautiful lagoons. There is a shopping mall across the mini bay called the Marina Village with over thirty stores!

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort building

Guests should visit the Dig Deck, an Aquarium like structure, and experience the lost world of Atlantis. This visit is a self-guided tour in which one walks through tunnels and sees large water tanks and different artifacts. The floor is paved and easy to navigate. It isn’t too hot or stuffy, and it is all shaded.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort swim

The first stop is an ‘archaeological base camp’  followed by a lobster exhibit that is captivating to watch. The little reef-dwelling crustaceans go up and down small bars and ladders which are very entertaining. There’s a wishing well overlooking the lagoon that is teeming with different marine life, including friendly stingrays.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort arch

Visitors can admire the murals and check out the lab and Fountain of Youth along with the Treasury room. The aquariums are filled with groves of coral reef with eels, seahorses, and jellyfish. Of course, the aquarium has everybody’s favorite – clown fish. The kids will love all the little “Nemo” fish.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort art

Anyone can also enjoy the Predator Tunnel. This attraction is a giant aquarium with sharks and other marine life, and it feels like they are watching every move from every angle. Not to be missed is the tunnel where guests can sit cozily on the inflated tubes and float in a clear plastic tunnel while sharks swim all around the tunnel in plain view gawking at the visitors.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort horse

The Aquaventure park (requires a ticket)

Stretching across the vast waterscape and well-kept beachfront is the Aquaventure Waterpark. It is perfect for thrill-seeking guests as well as family members of all ages. The park is free for guests staying on the property, but visitors can purchase a day pass.There are animal encounters with dolphins, stingrays, and sea lions. There are also two slide sections each offering their unique features and a Lazy River. The first slide is a replica of the Mayan Temple that encompasses the 60-foot Leap of Faith, Five-Story Serpent slide, Challenger slide and Jungle slide.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort slide

For those wishing the push the envelope further, they can take the 200-foot long Abyss plunge at the Power Tower along with several other shorter slides. Even the resort’s Lazy River here is upgraded with wind-wave panels and bridges and water cannons. For an additional charge, visitors can interact with dolphins or stingrays. Those who book in advance can enjoy the “join a marine trainer for a day” program.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort shark

Location, Hours, and Admission

Travelers can fly into Nassau Bahamas or takes a ferry from Miami. Another way to visit is of course as we did while on a  cruise ship shore excursion which includes a water taxi or bus shuttle from the port.

A day pass to the resort will be around $150 per person. The property does limit the amount of visitors per day so booking ahead of time is essential.Parents should check how long their cruise ship is in port for to get the most out of the day. The Aquaventure park opens at 10 AM.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort underwater

 

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents need to prepare their children for a lot of walking around in wet areas around pools and slides. Kids can’t run around and need to be aware of other guests.
  • During high traffic days, there are often lines by the slides with no real way to get in front.
  • While there are accessible ramps throughout the resort, most of the slides are not equipped for special needs.
  • The best time visit is during the non-Hurricane season between November and April when it is not too hot outdoors.
  • The resort sells sunscreen and insect repellent. We discovered on our visit that mosquitoes were less of a problem than bees.
  • .There is no need for parents to bring life vests or inflatable tubes; the resort has these on hand.Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando:Tmom Travel Disclosure
  • We were impressed to see that the staff is well-rehearsed and trained as well as helpful with autism. All pools have lifeguards, and the slides have staff who explain the slide procedures correctly.
  • There is Wi-Fi available  for purchase for all guests there for the day.
  • The resort offers chairs, towels, umbrellas and of course showers but for an extra fee, visitors can rent a cabana for the day by one of the lagoons.
  • There are multiple food venues dotted throughout the resort that offers snacks and drinks as well as places to sit down and enjoy a quick meal.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti

 

Labadee is a private resort port on the north coast peninsula of Haiti. Urban legend has it that Christopher Columbus found this idyllic place but what we know for a fact is that in the 1600’s, Marquis de’La Badie, from France settled the area. Though the village and resort were named for him; the spelling of the name being anglicized to Labadee in the 1980s to make it more marketable for tourists.

One can only get there with the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines as they have a formal arrangement with Labadee where they will lease that part of the island until the year 2050; bringing guests on day excursions where they can have an unforgettable day while supporting the local economy.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti ship

What to expect

Passengers coming off the ship will discover is that Labadee is much like a paradise island theme park with so much to see and do it is hard to know where to begin.
Attractions include parasailing, the Dragon’s Tail, a roller coaster that reaches speeds of 30 miles per hour and water sports like jet skiing or kayaking in the Bay.

 

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti zip view


Labadee is home to the world’s longest 
over-water zip line called the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line as well a water park with a pool in Columbus Cove and a 300-foot long waterslide called Dragon Splash. There are additional waterslides, trampolines, log-rolling in the Arawak Aqua Park.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti water sports

For holiday-makers that find these activities too energetic, there are plenty of opportunities for enjoying a relaxing day by the sea with the tropical sun, sand and gentle waves.
There are deck chairs, loungers, and hammocks to add to the relaxed atmosphere and cabanas for rent right on the water, so families can still have some privacy.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti food
A lunch buffet, provided by the Cruise lines is included, but if you would like other options; meals and snacks can also be purchased at one of three locations: Dragon’s Café, Café Labadee or Columbus Cove Café.
Their signature fruity, frozen, an alcoholic drink called the Labadoozie is freely available for purchase throughout the day on the beaches and restaurants; sold in a souvenir cup and there is the equivalent non-alcoholic version so children can also have one and not feel like they are missing out.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti labadee shopping trinkets
If guests would like to have keepsakes and mementos to take back home with them, there are plenty of opportunities to buy handmade souvenirs.
The woodwork is quite noteworthy, and travelers should encourage and sustain the island’s economy by purchasing items made by local artisans.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti shopping

Autism Travel Tips

  • The island is suitable for families with autism since they can do activities at their leisure and leave when they please.
  • The cruise line staff on the island is excellent with autism accommodations and don’t let special needs travelers wait in any long line.
  • The Arawak Aqua Park allocates specific times for guests to use the park to prevent excessive crowding and reduce the wait times and long lines.
  • Make sure that you know when your time is scheduled so your child does not miss out on the activities.
  • There are plenty of life jackets for everyone, so you don’t have to worry about bringing one for your child.
  • There are gazebos built on the beach for shade but make sure you provide necessary clothing, sunscreen and bug spray to protect your child from the sun and any bites.

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti cabana

  • If you are relying on the ship for complimentary meals, make sure you are there on time and be aware of what times they are serving the food.
  • If your child is on a particular diet, you need to make arrangements with the shore excursion staff as to how to get the customized food items.
  • Plan ahead which rides and activities your child will want to participate in, so you ask the staff for accommodations with preset time slots.
  • Bear in mind that some of the rides have age restrictions so make sure in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • The island is large (there is a complimentary  Royal Caribbean shuttle that stops in several spots and runs continuously) so you should factor in the distances between the different attractions. 

Top Family Friendly Activities on Labadee Haiti labadee shuttle
Check out our video that has more than 70,000 views on youtube.

 

 

How Autism Friendly are Stingray Shore Excursions

As the holidays are approaching, many parents have contacted the website with questions about the different shore excursions offered by the various cruise lines in the Caribbean. Since many of them involve animal encounters, I thought I’d answer Leandra’s question about the stingray encounter on the Grand Cayman Island and how appropriate it would be for travelers with autism.

Hi, Margalit.
I’m Leandra from Seattle, Washington. I have been a long-time reader of your blog, and it helps to have someone on a similar journey as ourselves.
My son is a young adult with moderate autism, and we are traveling together to the Caribbean as a family for the very first time. We will be taking a cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines out of Galveston and going to the Yucatán Peninsula and the Cayman Islands.
Since we’re going to celebrate my son’s birthday, we thought to surprise him and book a swim with the stingrays with the Shore Excursion package while we are in Grand Cayman.
While researching the topic, I came across a link to your video on YouTube from a couple of years back and saw that you had made this very same trip when your kid with autism was vacationing with you.
So, I thought I would ask you how autism-friendly the  Cayman Stingray Shore Excursions are and if you have any tips to share?

A kiss How Autism Friendly are Stingray Shore Excursions

Dear Leandra,
Thank you for contacting me. It’s always good to hear from fellow moms of special needs children.
It’s great that you are going on this Caribbean cruise.
We took that trip back in 2010 when we visited the Grand Cayman, and I have to say that we had a lovely time. My son with autism still remembers it fondly.
It’s great to see that you have been doing research on the topic already so I’ll just add a few things that spring to mind.
One of the things you probably know is that Georgetown is the port where passengers are tendered by boats from the cruise liner to the shore.
It may be a bit tricky if your son struggles to wait in long lines.

If you decide to go with the Cruise Line tour make sure you let the shore excursion manager know about your child’s disability and ask what accommodations can be done for him. You may want to be on one of the first boats so he doesn’t have to wait longer than necessary, if at all possible..

Should you decide to take the cheaper route and book the tour on your own through the Internet or on-site, you should consider leaving the ship 2 to 3 hours after it arrives in Georgetown so that you can avoid the crowds.

 fellow cruisers How Autism Friendly are Stingray Shore Excursions
Most tours are bundled up with other attractions like a stop at the tiny town of Hell, a visit to a turtle farm or a beach break.

The stingray portion of the tour usually lasts about an hour and a half during which visitors board catamarans and sail close to a sand bar area that has been artificially populated with stingrays.

These stingrays are entirely used to and are familiar with human attention, so they come around waiting to be fed. The water is around 3 feet deep which means it comes up to an adult’s waistline.
You should reiterate to your son that although the large stingrays are very docile creatures he should never approach them from behind and make sure that he does not step on them because their tails can injure him.

 How Autism Friendly are Stingray Shore Excursions SON AND DAD

Depending on your son’s comfort level in the water he can swim around or stay close to the catamaran boat and watch others enjoying the experience.
Most of the companies that organize these tours supply passengers with snorkeling gear and a life vest.
If your son has never worn a life jacket, it would be advisable to practice at home with him how to wear one or even purchase one and bring it along, especially if he is sensitive to restrictive clothing.

Some people struggle with snorkeling gear and the mask on their face, so it is up to your son and what he is comfortable with and if he is willing to try to hold the mask to his face or not.
For a full sensory experience, I would recommend that he be encouraged to have a few lessons beforehand to be able to submerge his face in the water and properly swim with the stingrays.

 How Autism Friendly are Stingray Shore Excursions TURTLES

Other budget-friendly tips that come to mind are to purchase an inexpensive waterproof camera, and you can take your pictures instead of buying the ones offered by the organizers.

Bring your sunscreen, water bottle and snacks from the ship, so you don’t get stuck with purchasing them during the excursion.

We found that our Stingray visit was enjoyable, and if your son loves animals and has shown an interest in other multi-sensory experiences, then I am sure he will benefit greatly from this one.

I wish him a Happy Birthday and all of you a safe and happy adventure!

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids

Barbados is a little island country in the Caribbean corner of the North Atlantic Ocean. Even though it is rather quite small, there is quite a bit to see and do on a cruise ship shore excursion; the island even has its own Seven Wonders list.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave:Ocean
We visited Barbados during a Southern Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas cruise ship.
As we had been to Barbados before, we chose to create our individual itinerary for the day rather than book an organized tour.
We hired a private taxi driver for the day at the pier and went off to see the two island attractions we were interested in exploring.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids hills

Our Tour

Our first stop was to see their famous Baobab Tree in  Bridgetown’s Queen Park. As some of you may recall, in the ‘Little Prince’  book Baobab, threaten the prince’s little planet, and indeed, these trees trunks are the largest we’ve ever seen.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids boabob

 

This particular tree in Queen Park is estimated to be a thousand years old and thought to have reached the island, by floating across the Atlantic Ocean, like a seed from Guinea in West Africa!
Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids blue light

 

The second stop for the day was none other than Harrison’s Cave that over the years has received many awards such as the CTO Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award, and the National Tourism Award.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids salt teeth
It is a large, underground stream system with caverns and caves filled with stalactites, stalagmites and pools of water.

A lot of work has gone into making this cave traversable, rightfully earning a spot among the island’s  seven wonders.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids stagamites
Different tours are available to the public depending on the visitors’ age. Teens and adults can go on the Eco-adventure, offered daily, which includes a four-hour trek along the surrounding nature trails to explore and the local fauna and flora as well the cave’s natural passages.
The 1.5 hour abridged Scenic Gully tour provides visitors with an understanding of the use of gullies in Barbados and medical usage of plants.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids mine

For the younger lot, there are two tours that visitors need to book in advance. The first is a 45-minute Junior Explorer Tour for kids 5-12  teaches kids about the cave formations, animal life and water conservation.

The guides provide nature packs, explorer hats and flashlights. The second, less than an hour long, teaches kids about bats and their importance in the eco- system.

 

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids car

We went on the Tram Tour, which was an hour long and showed us the Cave highlights. The guide related the history of the caves and the various geological formations that make the caves famous. It was fascinating to be finally able to distinguish between stalactites and stalagmites.
Make sure you book in advance and don’t miss out on the souvenir shop at the end of the tour.
You can even have your photo taken in the booth there.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids shiny

Autism Travel Tips

Inside the cave, there are very well-lit places, but it can be dark too. Bring a little flashlight or use your cell phone light if your child is scared of the dark.

There is constant dripping of water from the ceiling above so pack a hat and prepare your child for occasional splashing onto the face. It is harmless and part of the adventure.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids light

The tram tour is like a Disney open train cart ride, so there is the noise of machinery that is not too loud, but you can reassure your child that the squeaking and the sound of the carts banging together are ‘nothing to be scared of. ‘

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids stone

The guide speaks very loudly, so if that is a concern, your child can wear headphones to muffle the sound.

Exploring Harrison’s Cave, Barbados with Kids green lake

There is a place to buy snacks and sandwiches as well as liquid refreshments on the premises, but if your child has special dietary needs, you will need to take this into account and plan accordingly.

 

 

 

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands

Guest post by Jeffrey Francus

             Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands masks

       

 So what’s the scoop?

The frigid water was a sharp contrast to the balmy weather of the Caymans, I thought, stepping into the seas. Soon after plunging, a white, bulky helmet was thrust upon me, necessary apparel to breathe on the ocean floor. At that point, I had already become used to the cold water and wondered how much the white breathing helmet would weigh—the guide had told us that it was impossibly heavy on land—when I reached the sandy beach below.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands man

“When you go down the ladder and into the water, it’ll start feeling lighter,” one of the guides assured me; I smiled nervously. Even if I had something, the helmet prevented any sound (like my voice) from being heard. As I descended the ladder, I saw the cloudless blue sky being replaced by the crystalline waters of the Caribbean ocean. The helmet presented no issue, but, as the guide had promised; my ears were popping.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands fish

 

Scary but there’s a helping hand!

My discomfort must have been quite visible, as the second operator who was guiding me down the ladder motioned me to swallow and keep my jaws apart (to minimize building pressure). The ladder had ten steps, each foot and a half lower than the previous, and I was still on step one.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands shorts

I continued down slowly but surely, finally reaching the halfway point, a crossroad—should I proceed into the unknown, or return to the safety of the boat? As I got deeper and deeper into the water, the popping intensified, and my rapid heartbeat and panicked demeanor did not help either. How could twenty feet feel so deep? Every impulse said to turn back, yet the allure of sea life up close made me persevere.Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands group

Wow-corals!!

To quell my anxieties, I reminded myself that no known person has yet died from this—so far, though—but then, I see my parents and brother waiting impatiently on the sea bottom. So what’s it going to be? Throwing away my fear, I take another step, and feel the sandy floor of the sea. My jaw dropped and eyes opened: I was under the sea, watching fish float by in the waving coral!

The color, the light, the brightness, and intensity of it all! Disregarding safety and all, I rushed off the ladder and joined up with the group. Schools of fish of all colors floated nonchalantly by, grazing the coral and the open palms of group members holding food for them. The colors of the ocean floor and the life frolicking beneath the sea took my breath away ( not literally).Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands swimming

My family’s  travels have exposed my brother and me to different cultures, tastes, sounds, and places. Yet, the Grand Caymans adventure holds importance because, as my travels as a young child to Yosemite, the Sea Trek endeavor this past April introduced us to the beauty of nature in the most far off of places.

While I was accustomed to beautiful buildings and artwork in cities, nature had always represented something to be avoided, because of my sensory integration disorder. I still recall the days when I would scream at the sight of sand or the potential touch of water, so to walk on the ocean floor for me was to accomplish the incredible.Besides, the sea trek adventure helped me combat one of my worst fears—fear of the unknown—and enjoy my time in the water, far out of my comfort zone.

Over the years, we’ve visited many places and seen many things, but this one qualifies as both the most educational and inspirational of them all. .Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands yoga

So, after reading my story would you like to go sea-trekking with me next time I go?

 

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