Our family has gotten into the routine of taking a trip mid-January after all the holidays are over.  Usually we take a ski trip, but this year my husband specifically asked to go somewhere warm.  Hey, I’m flexible, so many months ago we put the wheels into action to take a family trip to The Bahamas in the middle of winter!

I had no desire to pay the prices that the Atlantis resort usually wants to stay on-property, but I did want to be close to the resort as it looked like somewhere my daughter would absolutely love.  So, I did what any good points junkie would do and looked for a place to stay near Atlantis on points.  As it turns out, the Comfort Suites Paradise Island is located within about 100 yards from Atlantis, and staying there gets you included access to all the Atlantis facilities, including Aquaventure, swimming pools, private beach, waterscapes, river rides, water slides, health spa, tennis courts, golf, Kids Camp, movie theatre, casino, and more.

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View from Comfort Suites to Atlantis. Very short walk.

I outlined this whole process of using Choice Hotel points at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island and using British Airways Avios to fly to Nassau in this post.  However, I will briefly recap some of the ways to get Choice points so that you can stay at the Comfort Suites at the end of this post.

Video Review:

As I have been trying to do on some of our more “interesting” trips, we made a video overview of our trip, including a look at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island.  Check it out if you want to see some video of the hotel!  Not sure why there is a lot of black screen after the video ends, but stop watching when the black screen comes up or you will be even more bored than normal.

YouTube Preview Image

Getting to the Comfort Suites Paradise Island:

We flew using British Airways Avios on American Airlines from Miami to Nassau (4,500 Avios each way) on a very quick and easy 25 minute flight.  We had pre-arranged transportation from the airport, to a grocery store, and to our hotel with a woman I found on the TripAdvisor boards.  Her name is Sandra and her email is sexy_sanny at hotmail.com.  Her email address made us go into it with a sense of humor, but she had good reviews online so we went with it.

She was waiting outside the airport with a sign, and safely took us to the hotel and back in a van with included stops at grocery and liquor stores, if desired.  We did take her up on the stop at the grocery store to buy some basics to have in the room.  Be prepared for serious sticker shock in the grocery store on many items, but it was cheaper than buying water and snacks at Atlantis.  The price was around $80 for the round trip service, and you don’t need pre-arranged transportation in Nassau, but it worked well for us.  Keep in mind if you do rent a car you need to drive on the left side.  Also remember you need a passport to go to the Bahamas.

Comfort Suites Paradise Island:

I can admit I’m a little spoiled when it comes to hotels, and I enjoy a fancy property at least as much as the next person.  However, in the end, clean and safe is good enough for us, but during our previous beach trip to St. John, the hotel we stayed at was not as clean as I would have liked, so I was really hoping to not have a repeat of that scenario.  I was just hoping for the best out of the Comfort Suites Paradise Island, and I was really relieved when we arrived at the property as it seemed to be a very solid three star property.  Most importantly, it looked clean!

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Lobby at Comfort Suites Paradise Island

 A couple of months back, I had matched my Hyatt Diamond status to the Choice program to get some elite status in that program.  I did it mainly so I could book this award stay sooner (Choice only allows pretty close-in award reservations), but it may have also landed our name on the welcome board at the property as well.  Honestly, I don’t think elite status here made any real difference, but I was very impressed when we weren’t charged any of the “mandatory” gratuities and energy fees that would have likely been $40+ per night normally.  I can only guess that on award stays you may not have to pay those fees.

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The room itself was a two bed room that was set up in a sort of similar fashion to a Hyatt Place with a small divider between the sleeping and sitting areas.

20140121-074837.jpg The room and furnishings were not “fancy”, but as I mentioned earlier, they did seem clean and we felt totally comfortable in the room.

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There was a small balcony, and the air conditioning worked very well.  I think the most pleasant surprise was free WiFi that actually worked pretty well.  There was also a small fridge in the room where we were able to store some of the juice and water we bought at the grocery store.

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The bathroom was also clean and totally functioning.  Housekeeping came every day while we were out at Atlantis, and they were good about refreshing all the (many) towels we seemed to go through.  They even made one of those cute animals out of towels that you often see on cruise ships.

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Food in the Bahamas is very expensive…like it is on many islands.  This property provides a “free hot breakfast’ everyday, so that is a way to save a decent amount of cash each day when traveling with a family.  The restaurant is located right next to the pool, and it was also clean, bright, and spacious.

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I gotta admit the food was not my favorite, but my family didn’t complain too much.  At the very least, you can get a banana and some cereal here to hold you over until lunch.

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Also within walking distance of the hotel is a Dunkin’ Donuts if you wanted to change things up a couple of days on your trip.  The granola bars and juice we bought at the grocery store were also a decent breakfast option.

We didn’t use the hotel pool while we were there, but it had a swim-up bar and seemed to be very well maintained, so it could be good for a quick afternoon swim if you don’t want to walk back over to Atlantis.

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To use the Atlantis facilities each day, you have to pick up wristbands on the bottom floor of the main Atlantis lobby (next to the large aquarium).  They are pretty serious about only guests and those with wristbands having access to any of the Atlantis facilities, so make sure you have the paper from the hotel that allows you to get the wristbands when you walk over to Atlantis.  The Atlantis property is very close to the Comfort Suites Paradise Island, but Atlantis itself is huge, so once you get there you still likely have a long walk to get where you want to be…though that is true even if you stay on the Atlantis property.

You Can Do it Too:

This was a vacation that was taken pretty much purely on points, and it saved us a ton!  You can absolutely replicate this yourself for your own family with a little advance planning.  Here are some ways you can get Choice hotel points to stay at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island for 25,000 points per night.

  • Wait for another Daily Getaways sale (has happened once a year the past several years) and see if Choice points are again available at a huge discount.  This sale typically happens in the late spring/early summer.
  • Get the Choice credit card for up to 32,000 points (though I don’t really recommend this).
  • Transfer Choice points from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 rate from cards like the American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN (this can be an okay deal depending on the going rate of the hotel, but you may not get a great value from your MR points this way)
  • Top off by buying up to 20,000 Choice points per year at a rate of $11.00 per 1,000 points.
  • Pay for the stay at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island if the rate you can get it a fair amount better than at Atlantis.  You could also use a card such as the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® to “pay yourself back” for a portion of the hotel charges to bring your “out of pocket” cost down further.

For the flights, we used 24,000 British Airways Avios per person to fly on American Airlines from Houston – Miami – Nassau.  We had transferred those in from the Membership Rewards program during a 50% transfer bonus, so our true cost was 16,000 Membership Reward points per person for the flights.  This was a fantastic deal, and the best way to get to the Caribbean from the South, East Coast, and potentially from the middle of the country.

I’m going to do a separate post on the activities we did in the area, including the Atlantis activities, but the short version is that we had a ton of fun and would absolutely return.  You certainly can’t argue with how pretty the water is, and even in January it wasn’t too cold to get in and have fun!  This was the type of family vacation where fun is just easy.

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Have you stayed at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island or visited Atlantis?  If so, please share your experience!

 

Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links.  As always, thanks for your support. 

Posted by mommypoints | 25 Comments

25 Responses to “Review of Comfort Suites Paradise Island (With Free Atlantis Resort Access)”

  1. Maury says:

    How many nights did you stay? All on points? Is there a cheaper option for transportation to and from the airport than what you used? If I have no elite status with Choice and I use points, will I get charged the fees per night? Thanks.

  2. Bill says:

    Great review. We stayed there last year and this is how I remember it. Just watch the Travelzoo weekly emails as this hotel comes up cheap pretty regularly on there. We got RT Airfare and 5 nights Hotel for 4 people (2 adults and 2 kids) from Atlanta for under $1500 total.

    I saw you tweet about the fish fry area, did you go to the little restaurants under the bridge as well?

  3. iv says:

    Comfort Suites is a basic 3 star hotel, I’ve stayed there once and other times just booked the cheapest room checked-in got my wristband and headed over to Atlantis. Still a cheaper option than paying the day fee. Lots of people on cruise ships who are docked for the day do the same.

    Rooms are very basic but with a seating area which is nice for families who need extra space. The breakfast is not very good. I only had a muffin and coffee as the other options were not very pleasing.

  4. Lee says:

    You should point out that Choice Hotel points are not a currency you want (or can hold) very long. They expire 2 years after they are deposited into your account and activity does not prolong the life of them. 2 years should be plenty of time but just so your readers know they won’t be able to accumulate these points over time for a big redemption like they could with other programs (i.e. Hyatt, Hilton, etc).

    Nice review though.

  5. Larry says:

    We have been on cruises that stop at Nassau, and I use Choice points to book at this hotel for day access to Atlantis. If you have 2 or more, it’s much cheaper than paying the cruise ship for the excursion. For four of us the excursion would be $600. I have found they are very inconsistent on which fees they charge for award stays. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Expect to pay about $12 per person per day and be pleasantly surprised if they don’t. I have also used Sandra’s taxi when staying on the island. She’s great.

  6. mommypoints says:

    Maury, we were booked for three nights, but did have to leave the evening of the third day because of my husband needing to get back to the US to do some work. I think I read a cab is about $35 from the airport to Paradise Island, so that might be a tad cheaper. I really liked Sandra though and would gladly pay a bit extra for the grocery stop and to work with her. I totally expected we would have to pay the fees, and didn’t question when we didn’t have to so I can’t say for sure what happened there.
    Bill, we didn’t have a chance to visit those restaurants on this trip, but we plan to next time!
    iv, indeed – very good plan. I agree the breakfast is not great.
    Lee, I think they expire at the end of the year two years after you got them…so if you got some today they would expire on December 31, 2016. Though I totally agree I would not get them and hold them that long intentionally! Good reminder.
    Larry, very smart. Doesn’t surprise me about the award stay fee inconsistency. I totally expected to have to pay some fees, but was indeed pleasantly surprised when we didn’t.

  7. Sean M. says:

    Does the hotel really put up a sign visible to the public with your name on it? Aren’t there privacy issues with this?

  8. TJ says:

    we did comfort suites last year over spring break – same thoughts on it as you have. I can’t wait until Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar opens – supposed to be better than Atlantis – have you heard anything about it?

  9. Ian says:

    Taxi rates are regulated on the island. I found this page that might be useful to others. These rates look similar to what we paid in October 2012.

    http://www.bahamas-treasures.com/bahamas/Nassau_Taxi_Fares_2004.html

  10. Jim says:

    I stayed last year on a BRG. The room was $488 with taxes, and I was able to get it free with their generous “first night free” BRG.

    http://twitter.com/allacclife/status/304660873027399680/photo/1

    I thought is was very nice, clean, and great to have access to the Atlantis!

  11. Lynn says:

    What was the weather like? You said “not too cold?” I have been thinking January seemed a little risky weather wise.

  12. mommypoints says:

    Sean, maybe so, but yes they did have that sign there. I’m sure you could ask to be removed.
    Ian, looks about right, though I am certain it is not followed 100% of the time.
    Jim, awesome!
    Lynn, it was totally fine we we were there. Jan is the coldest month there I believe, but the only time we were chilly was getting in the shaded water early in the morning for the dolphin experience. Otherwise, it was mostly fine.

  13. Erik says:

    We visited Atlantis in April of last year with our 2 pre-K daughters, staying at the Starwood Harborside timeshare resort which is right on the lagoon (er…”Paradise Lake”) across from the main lobby entrance. We had a 1 BDR deluxe villa, which of course had a kitchen and washer/dryer. If you have patience, you can find good deals from people selling their weeks on eBay or sites like tugbbs.com (we own another Starwood timeshare property so were able to book this with StarOptions timeshare points. I’m not sure if you can book with regular Starpoints?). This arrangement helped with the dining expenses, since we basically packed a full suitcase of food/drinks and only had to pick up some perishables at the grocery. Having the taxi stop at the supermarket on the way to your hotel is a good idea, but check your landing time to be sure that it will be open. Our flight arrived at 8PM on a Sunday so the (SuperValu?) was closed and my wife took the timeshare shuttle for something like $10-$15 the next morning. Overall, we enjoyed the resort but potential visitors should realize that prices for just about everything on Paradise Island are more expensive than Nassau (and at least 2x US mainland) and should adjust their budget appropriately. The fish fry restaurants and other parts of Nassau are cheaper, but it will cost at least $25-$40 roundtrip in a taxi to visit those places which can offset any savings unless you have another purpose to be in town (I do recommend at least 1 visit). Do your homework before visiting to avoid blowing your vacation budget.

  14. Ric Garrido says:

    I wrote several pieces about Nassau and The Atlantis Resort when I styed there in 2012. I noted that Comfort Suites is a good alternative to the high rates of Atlantis.

    Also had review of Sheraton Cable Beach (no longer with SPG) which is where Hyatt’s new hotel is located.

    http://boardingarea.com/loyaltytraveler/2012/02/29/atlantis-bahamas-marine-habitats/#more-13674

    The post has links to other posts I wrote about Nassau.

  15. Doug says:

    We stayed at Atlantis (Reef) in Jan 2012. As you can imagine, it was VERY expensive. I didn’t think the food on property was that great. You got lucky with weather- it was very cold for us… sweatshirts most days, and not much beach action.

    With the wristband, you were able to take the complimentary Atlantis shuttles, I assume?

    I would definitely consider the Comfort Suites via points next time.

  16. Joe says:

    As a previous poster mentioned it is great to use for access when coming in on a cruise ship for the day, much cheaper than what the boat or Atlantis charges even if you pay the nightly rate for 2-4 people. And obviously much cheaper on an award stay. Good, solid property but nothing to write home about– good 3 star hotel but with Atlantis access it is a great place!!

  17. mommypoints says:

    Erik, indeed. I’ll touch more on that in the next post on the island, but our dinners (without alcohol) tended to hover around $100 for the three of us. We were able to do lunch at some of the deli/pizza joints for about $60. Could certainly be done for a bit less, but not much less unless you eat every meal at Dunkin Donuts.
    Doug, that looks like a nice spot, but yes VERY expensive. I didn’t try out the shuttles, but I assume that it would get you access. I think the temps while we were there were average for Jan, but it is far enough north you could get unlucky with a front pushing way down.
    Joe, I agree it is nothing to write home about…except for the fact it is a big winner with Atlantis access. ;)

  18. mommypoints says:

    Ric, awesome – thanks!

  19. choi says:

    other than water, couldnt you do your shopping at home at ton of savings and with AA card, check in for free(50lb)on AA flight to Bahamas. is it feasible or no ?

  20. Erik says:

    @choi – yep, that’s what we did. I took full advantage of my elite free checked bags on DL. We took boxed milk (i.e. Horizon organic singles) and juice, also PB&J, flatbread, single serve fruit pouches, sauce mixes, a chip variety pack in a box, rice, mac & cheese, cereal, pancake mix, bottle of wine, etc. That reduced our “eat-out” expenses to 1 meal a day, plus maybe a snack like ice cream. I put the more fragile liquids in ziplock bags and used sand/pool toys strategically to further protect them. Just make sure you check the weight before heading to the airport – liquids weigh a lot for the space they occupy. We also brought a soft-sided cooler to take food/drink to the pool & beach.

  21. DanR NYC says:

    We stayed there 2 years ago, and it was a fantastic deal. The Mrs found it on cheapcarribean.com and it was all legit and we had a blast. A great way to visit Atlantis while managing your $. I also packed a case of water in my luggage (free baggage deal of course)

    I just forward this piece to a number of friends and family. We recently spoke to them about this, but now they have all the details the need. Thx MP !

  22. mommypoints says:

    We didn’t check a bag of food for a few reasons, but mainly because I’m not sure we would be eligible for a free checked bag in this case. Also, the savings wouldn’t be that great for the three of us for a couple days since we just bought snacks, bananas, etc. Can be a good savings for a longer trip with more people though!

  23. G says:

    @mommypoints–I’m trying to figure out why you used 24,000 Avios per person instead of 15,000 per person. My assumption is that you booked two separate flights–IAH-MIA and MIA-NAS. Was there no availablity on an IAH-MIA-NAS so you had to split up the legs into two separate flights (i.e. IAH-MIA, MIA-NAS), or is there no such flight?

    If my mileage calculator is correct, it is only 1146 miles each way on IAH-MIA-NAS (assuming the route exists), meaning it would have saved you 9,000 Avios per person to book the single flight.

  24. mommypoints says:

    G, good question. With Avios, it charges per segment so IAH-MIA-NAS charges the same as IAH-MIA and MIA-NAS booked independently.

  25. G says:

    @mommypoints–that stinks! Clearly, I have not yet booked that kind of a flight. I will keep that in mind when I have to book a flight like that to see if it is better to pay for one leg rather than use Avios for both segments. For example, if I wanted to go to Nassau, a roundtrip flight from DCA/BWI/IAD to MIA or FLL can often be found for fairly cheap ($200 or less) and would save me 15,000 Avios round trip (901 miles). Thanks for letting me know. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have unhappily found out at a later date.

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