Not Ready For Prime Time A review of The Cove Atlantis
We just returned from a week at The Cove at The Atlantis and would echo the other posts in that once the bugs are worked out, this will probably be an exceptional destination. The problem is there are many small bugs. With a price point consistent with what is offered at the Ocean Club or the Four Seasons on Exuma, things should be perfect and they were far from it. I understand that part of the cost of the Atlantis goes for all the diversions, but even so, there were many minor irritations that marred what could have been an excellent trip. This was our third trip to the Atlantis in the past seven years, so we do have some point of reference.
Town Car pick up at the airport went off without a hitch. With only carry on bags, we walked off the plane, cleared customs and walked outside where an attendant met us and summoned a limo for the trip to Paradise Island. Five minutes later we were on our way. The attendant told us that there is a new system at The Cove that permits immediate check in, which sounded good to us. Unfortunately, immediate check in means that while they will check you in and assign a room, you cannot get into it.
We arrived shortly after 2PM, were told our room would be ready at 3 and that we were free to "walk around". I asked about going to the pool or the beach and they said that we could change at the pool. We did not feel like schlepping our bags down to the pool bathroom, so we headed over to the Atlantis to kill some time. Three days later, I discovered the Transit Lounge, which would have made an immediate pool or beach trip a breeze. Too bad the staff was not aware of it. By 3:30, our rooms were still not ready, so I asked if we could be assigned rooms that were. Makes sense to me, but you would have thought I asked them to design a manned spaceflight to Jupiter. The front desk agent disappeared for some length of time, not unlike the car salesman who has to "talk with their manager". As 4 PM approached, they assigned us two new rooms.
If only we could get into them. It took four trips up and down to the 20th floor to finally get keys that worked, and then the lock on one of the rooms was broken so that it would not latch. Back downstairs again and finally an agent came upstairs with us and used a manually keyed card to let us in. Fortunately, the six elevators were all in working order and were very fast. Then we had to wait for our bags, but they eventually showed up. Keys randomly quit working several more times over the next few days, and we were inexplicably checked out on two separate occasions which prevented us from using our charge card. Back to the front desk yet again.
The rooms are very nice. The renderings are accurate and the rooms are spacious, but I would not call them luxurious. The bathrooms are also very nice and are quite unique. If you had small kids, the fold out sofa would be fine, but since we have a 16 yr old, we got the second room that adjoins in what we thought was a novel way. We normally take a friend for him but this time, we wanted some private family time. Two adjoining rooms share an entry alcove that uses the keys for each room (assuming your key works) instead of the more traditional inner door. This is a pretty clever idea and is quite functional.
Since the place was still relatively new, there were many punch list items that had yet to be handled: tub drains that would not close, doors that stuck, access hatches in the closet that fell open and nearly bonked me on the head, televisions that had no sound, froze up, or showed static; phones that would not work (pretty tough to order room service that way), frayed carpet, spotty air conditioning, an exposed nail, and extended waits for hot water. On three separate days, while taking a nice late afternoon siesta after a day at the pool and the beach, the fire alarm jolted us awake. They said they were testing the system, but that was pretty annoying.
The bed was ok. Not as comfortable as say a W or Four Seasons bed, but about what you get in a nice Marrioitt Courtyard. They had great bed linens, but they do not change them every day, which I guess I can understand with the conservation of water resources a big issue in the Bahamas. However, I think they should let guests know this. There was no card or other way to notify housekeeping if you wanted new bed linens. On the third day, we wrote a note and received new linens that day. It can get a little sticky at night when the AC quits, so the new linens were welcome. I also prefer foam pillow to feather, but they do not offer any. Instead, they give you a cushion from the sofa, and I glommed a pillowcase off of our housekeeper. I thought every hotel offered foam or feather pillows, so that was a little odd.
Housekeeping was a little slow. Most times the rooms were made up by 2 or 3PM, but that is a little late when you go down for breakfast at 9 flip on the make up room light and spend the day outside of the room.
The cascade pools were very nice, even if they were a bit too warm. It was hard to get refreshed in 88° water, but the ocean was beautiful. One of the pools had chipped concrete so I am sure it will need to be drained in order to be repaired in the near future. The adult pool and outdoor casino were not open as advertised, which disappointed us, but there was plenty of room on the open pool decks, and it was easy to get chairs any time of the day. It is great to have access to the craziness of the Atlantis water features, then with a short walk, return to the quiet and peaceful enclave of The Cove. Security was tight and they monitored the pools closely to ensure only Cove guests had access.
For the next six moths or so, there is construction at the new residential tower overlooking the Cascade pools. I heard some guests griping about the noise, but it did not bother me.
There was a violent thunderstorm one night which knocked over several palm trees, and washed out a few walkways, but the grounds keeping staff were highly efficient and by noon the next day, the trees were replanted and things were back to normal.
The Cove's buffet restaurant, Mosaic, was a good value for breakfast. They executed a buffet at an extremely high level and the food was very good for this type of operation. The food display was exceptional and the room is beautiful. There were no long waits and servers were prompt and efficient. We ate at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill and it was so good, we cancelled another reservation and returned again later in the week. It was right up there with his Las Vegas and New York operations. We also liked Café Martinique. How can you go wrong with a world-class chef like Chef Jean Gorge Vongerichten and a setting in the Bahamas? The food is a mix of classics like Dover Sole and Bananas Foster along with more contemporary dishes. Our captain, Mel was probably the most polished server I have ever had and the evening was truly one to remember. We also ate at Casa D'Angelo, and while the food was good, the service was somewhat indifferent. I cannot imagine that the Gourmet Dining Plan is a good deal. If you have breakfast at Mosaic for $25, then for dinner have a $20 appetizer, a $60 entrée and a $15 dessert, its just about the cost of the meal plan. Go a la carte...it gives your more flexibility. And I cannot figure out the restaurant dress code requirements. While the better restaurants say they require Resort Elegant dress (no shorts, tennis shoes or collarless shirts), nobody was turned away and we saw several patrons dressed more casually. I guess they should advertise the dress code as a "suggested" dress code. We followed the rules, but not everyone else did.
We encountered several issues with food billings, We purchased the $118 per day meal plan, and we were overcharged on our folio for every meal. It took a little time to straighten out, but fortunately, I kept the individual meal receipts and although the front desk staff kept disappearing to that mysterious back room, we finally got it worked out. It only took about 30 minutes to deal with (!).
When we were about to check out, I went to the front desk again and asked for a copy of my folios. They gave me one which just had room charges and one with the corrected incidental charges. However, the room charges were less expensive that the rates we were quoted. The attendant realized what she had given us and she said, "you are not supposed to see that". Huh? We spend six grand and they will not give you an accurate accounting of the room charges? She stated that "we booked or rooms through Paradise Island Tours, not the Atlantis." Not so. I booked off their web site, so to me, the Atlantis is the Atlantis. I will get to the bottom of the billing when I have some time in the next week.
Without exception, all the staff was courteous and friendly. They were are very polite and tried to be as helpful as they could be. I cannot fault the staff for anything we encountered. This is a failure of management. The hotel just opened a month too soon. They should have waited and gotten things plus-perfect for the first wave of customers.
If you get the Town Car service to the airport, double check your pick up time. They had us scheduled for the wrong time and although I confirmed the correct time with the bell desk, they still had it wrong.
In summary, The Cove is not ready for prime time. This could be an outstanding place, but they need to refine their operation and unfortunately, they need to use guests like us as guinea pigs. Restaurants often use "soft openings" to work out the kinks, but I guess the economics of a place like The Cove will not permit that. I am not sure I will return. With a teenager, the water features are a blast, but once he is off to college and the diversions of the Atlantis become less important, I think we would probably opt for The Ocean Club or the Four Seasons. I would like to see them get this right. But they need to expend the effort to do so.