The Playoffs. They capture our attention. The competition to determine who is the best. NFL or college football. March Madness or NBA (which at eight weeks lasts longer than any playoffs).
I returned from an event in the Bahamas, where the massive $4-billion Baha Mar development and heavily-advertised Atlantis Resort are competing in a Super Bowl-sized bout of mega-resorts. When industry colleagues ask my opinion of the resorts, I envision a playoff bracket of incentive and meeting hotels. Like a sports team, each resort has its strengths and weaknesses, offering something unique for different audiences.
5-Stars: The Ocean Club vs. Rosewood
The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort
The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, is more intimate, more Bahamian, and more traditional. It reflagged from a One & Only Resort to the Four Seasons brand family in December 2017. The dining options are fewer but spectacular. Dune restaurant has a scenic view overlooking a white-sand bluff, where guests feel right on the beach. Very peaceful. The Ocean Club offers seclusion with low-rise buildings across 35 acres, including an iconic Versailles-inspired lawn and garden. The sleeping rooms offer the reliable Four Seasons luxury, and the warm woods in the Crescent wing give a vibe of classic luxury. The lobby pictures of visiting celebrities across 60 years convey classic luxury – summary – calmer, quieter, secluded.
Rosewood Baha Mar
The Ocean Club is the long-time, reigning champion; Rosewood is the upstart challenger. The Ocean Club opened in the 1960s, Rosewood, in June 2018. Rosewood Baha Mar hosted its inaugural Rosewood Partner Summit for leading incentive companies and corporate planners, so I give a special thanks for a great showcase and partner presentations.
Rosewood Baha Mar is newer and larger. Its 237 rooms are quite large for a 5-star resort, so it works well for large incentive groups. It’s a good fit for business meetings too – with a short 12-minute drive from the airport, attractive meeting spaces, and a compact footprint. The sleeping rooms are modern, refined, and comfortable. Rosewood shines with its banquet food and four dining venues and bar options. The 20-story Grand Hyatt looms behind them, which can be imposing, but it also offers the casino and extra nightlife. Summary – newer, larger, more nightlife.
Luxury: The Cove vs. SLS
The Cove is a luxury hotel within a hotel at Atlantis. I am impressed with their effective separation from the massive Atlantis development, which makes it feel more upscale than the rest of the resort. The Cove is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, giving planners and guests a familiar brand promise. At 600 rooms, it can hold large groups too. The rooms are contemporary and over-sized. The proximity of Atlantis offers walking distance options for dining, nightlife, casino, and entertainment. Summary – good for VIPs and execs desiring a mix of separation from and access to Atlantis.
SLS Baha Mar
SLS Baha Mar is the in-between option at Baha Mar – $100 more than Grand Hyatt and $300 less than Rosewood. SLS is an acronym for “Style, Luxury, and Service” and brings a youthful sophistication and personalized services. With 299 rooms, SLS probably maxes out at groups of 150. It’s a good fit for a younger crowd and groups desiring more intimacy inside the mega-resort but at a more affordable price point that the Rosewood. Summary – W Hotels meets Miami South Beach in the Bahamas. We featured SLS as a favorite in the Caribbean on our Top New Incentive Hotels write-up; check it out!
Mega-Resorts: Atlantis vs. Grand Hyatt
Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort
Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort, requires little explanation if you’ve seen their ubiquitous TV ads. It’s a theme park without mouse ears or roller coasters. Guests can enjoy (as part of the $49 daily resort fee): the world’s largest open-air marine habitat (a fancy name for big, outdoor aquarium); Aquaventure water park, including the iconic Mayan Temple’s Leap of Faith water slide; 11 pools; 5 miles of magnificent beaches; a Tom Weiskopf-designed 18-hole, oceanfront golf course; and the Atlantis Casino. Meeting planners have multiple buildings and price points across the Beach, Coral, and Royal Towers totaling 3,400 total rooms. The Royal Tower has long been the choice for incentive groups, and it’s in the process of a major sleeping room renovation to keep up with their newer Baha Mar competitor. Summary – attendees love the activity options & planners feel challenged by the size.
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is the new, big-box challenger that opened in 2017. Atlantis had owned the mega-resort market is not just the Bahamas but the entire Caribbean. At 1,800 rooms, it can accommodate huge groups too. Grand Hyatt reminds guests of a modern Vegas casino/resort with 20-story towers and lots of dining and entertainment options – placed on a beautiful beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Grand Hyatt feels more adult than Atlantis, and vice versa, Atlantis feels more family-oriented. Grand Hyatt is a better fit for business meetings without the waterpark and aquarium. The Reserve at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is a luxury hotel-within-a-hotel offering exciting options for VIPs and higher-tier incentive winners. Summary – something new for attendees to experience. For a more in-depth look, check out our incentive travel review of Baha Mar.
All-Inclusive: Sandals vs. Melia
Sandals Royal Bahamian
Sandals Royal Bahamian is another brand that floods TV with appealing ads and catchy music. Sandals excel with honeymooners and vacationers. Honestly, I’ve not seen this resort, so take my next comment with a caveat. Shoes seem more committed to leisure travelers, so I am cautious about using the brand for groups. Summary – an option for smaller groups with a few group functions.
Meliá Nassau Beach
Meliá Nassau Beach all Inclusive might be an excellent “AI” option after its $19 million renovation finishes. Right now, it’s 3.5 stars with a wide stretch of beach but outdated sleeping rooms. Melia is a massive brand in Europe, and while not as familiar in North America, the brand makes a great commitment to groups. Summary – check back in 2020.
Each of these eight Bahamian resorts offers groups truly unique alternatives. It’s the task of an expert meeting and incentive planners to discover group needs and then match the right resort, activities, dining, and price point.
For more expert insight on choosing your next incentive trip hotel, head over to our incentive travel page for more info.