PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS — I’ve always been curious about Atlantis, the mega-resort patterned after a fabled lost city. Apparently I’m not the only one. When my friend Patti and I arrived for a short getaway in February, our driver was full of tales about celebrity encounters.
As he drove us from the airport in Nassau to Paradise Island, Cliff Bollard ticked off a list of sports stars who once climbed into the back seat of his car — Rob Gronkowski, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and a young Tom Brady, who Bollard described as “a nice guy.” Atlantis, Bollard told us, is where they all come to unwind. “They go to Aura, they sit at the bar, they start a conversation,” Bollard said. “It goes from there.”
Alas, Aura, the nightclub above the resort casino, wasn’t open on the weeknights of my visit. I couldn’t enjoy the free admission for ladies or hope that Julian Edelman and I might sip champagne and discuss the fine points of running slant routes. Where, I wondered, do celebrities hang out during the day?
Athletes aren’t adverse to a little magical thinking, so I figured they would be intrigued by the tale of a lost city. Murals in the soaring rotunda of the Great Hall of Waters sketch out the mythical story — from the founding of Atlantis by Poseidon to its disappearance beneath the waves. A staircase descends to “The Dig,” a maze-like recreation of the drowned city. About 250 species of fish glide silently among decaying temples, corroding astrolabes, and evocative but unidentifiable detritus. I spotted moray eels, piranhas, and venomous lionfish. But no celebrities joined me on the safe side of the glass.
Big shots can easily find a quiet spot to disappear among the plantings at Aquaventure, the resort’s 141-acre water park. But I figured they’d rather ride the water slides. From the top of the giant Mayan Temple, sliders enter a clear acrylic tunnel to zoom through shark-infested waters. I preferred the temple’s open-air Challenger Slide that allows guests to race side by side. But burly guys with ripped abs and championship rings were taking a break from competition.
I should have checked out the fitness center or the Ocean Club Golf Course . (Gridiron guys especially seem to enjoy this more genteel sport.) But I figured that stars might take their kids to meet the resort’s dolphins. Atlantis created Dolphin Cay in 2007 for about 20 animals rescued from Gulf Coast waters after Hurricane Katrina. Now more than 40 dolphins live in the marine mammal version of a luxury resort, accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. The cetaceans don’t perform in splashy shows, but they do interact with visitors.
My group of nine donned shorty wetsuits to wade into warm water to meet Katrina, a 6-year-old second-generation rescue dolphin. Katrina’s mother loved to show off by speeding around the 11-acre lagoon. Katrina seemed content hanging with the humans. I didn’t get a chance to congratulate any sports heroes, but Katrina gave me a high-five.
I remembered that my driver had also met Lady Gaga and other showbiz types, so I broadened my focus. Café Martinique, one of the fine dining options at Atlantis, channels the restaurant in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball. I hoped that Sean Connery might be nostalgic for a ride in the birdcage elevator and pop in for cracked conch with avocado and citrus-chili mayonnaise followed by local snapper with braised fennel, lemon, and olive oil. When Connery didn’t materialize, I consoled myself with a slice of guava duff, a jellyroll-like Bahamian dessert.
The Sea Glass bar in the upscale Cove section of the resort seemed a likely watering hole for the buff and famous. When Patti and I stopped in on our last evening, we finally spotted some sports stars — on a television at the bar. But who needed them? We toasted ourselves with watermelon martinis.
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, 1-888-877-7525, atlantisbahamas.com. Double rooms at the Royal Atlantis start at $216; other rooms from $150.
Patricia Harris can be reached at email@example.com.