WHERE DO YOU GO FOR CHRISTMAS VACATION WHEN YOUR FAMILY CONSISTS OF: A mother who wants to gamble; a father who wants to golf; a sister who wants to shop; a brother-in-law who wants to eat; two nephews (ages six and eight) who want to swim, play, and play some more; an infant nephew who's teething; and Auntie Star, who wants to rest, relax, and spend every day at the beach?Easy—you go to the Bahamas. Specifically, you head straight to Atlantis, a 34-acre, 2,300-room resort on the north coast of Paradise Island.
A half-hour trip by bridge or water taxi from Nassau, Atlantis dates from the sixties, but was renovated and expanded in a major way (at a cost of $725 million) and relaunched a few years ago. Want sun?Got it. Want entertainment?Got that, too. Want gorgeous beaches?Please . . . this is the Bahamas, dear; all those are easy to find. What makes Atlantis such a standout is its range of places to stay—three towers (with countless room configurations), plus a sister property, the small and entirely indulgent Ocean Club, all connected by shuttle buses. More important, what draws our family are the unbelievable facilities: 18 restaurants, 20 nightclubs, a kids' camp, an enormous outdoor aquarium, a spa, a sports center, a golf course, the largest casino in the Caribbean, and 11 million gallons' worth of water activities. So it's really just a matter of figuring out your wants.
In planning the trip, we agreed we'd get together for at least one meal a day. Then we went off in different directions. My parents and sister and brother-in-law requested large connecting rooms in Atlantis's oceanside Coral Tower, so the children could run back and forth between their parents' and grandparents' spaces. (The older kids got the sofa bed, and my sister had the concierge arrange to bring up a fridge and microwave—handy for baby bottles.) I, on the other hand, booked a room at my favorite hotel, the Ocean Club. I've stayed there six times; I keep returning because, although I want access to everything Atlantis offers, I don't want to feel surrounded by a crowd of vacationers. The Ocean Club, with 106 rooms (each with a balcony or terrace), and the beach outside my door, is my spot.
We arrived the day after Christmas and soon staked out our own territories. My nephews Thomas and Terrell signed on at the Discovery Channel Camp (which is conveniently located in the Coral Tower). There they would do crafts or play with other kids in a place free of "Stop," "Be quiet," and "Don't touch that." Their favorite camp excursion: watching the "sea keepers" feed the manta rays and others of the 50,000 fish and aquatic animals on view in dozens of interconnected lagoons.
On more than one afternoon, my sister did some damage at Gucci, Versace, and the Atlantis store (great T-shirts), all just off the Coral Tower lobby. After passing through the shopping arcade, you hit the casino and entertainment complex, where the Dragons Disco kept me and my sister and brother-in-law dancing into the morning. My mother played slots daily until her arm got tired, and won more than she lost. Mom can play all day on $100; how, I will never know. Meanwhile, my father (Pop Pop to his grandchildren) golfed at the Ocean Club's new championship course on the edge of the sea. That's where Tiger Woods plays whenever he's down for a visit. Warning: If you aren't Tiger, the winds might make you hate the game . . . but you will love the views.