Baha Mar Bummer

Okay, so to start this post, I need establish a few things with you. First, I’m not a professional travel planner, and I certainly don’t pretend to be one. Everything shared here is just my opinion from experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have over the years. These are not exhaustive reviews/critiques, but hopefully the information I share here will help give you an idea of what you might expect and how to best plan for your trip to these locations. 

Of course, everyone has their own budget and goals for their own family, and my criteria for selecting a vacation spot for our family has changed over the years as my kids have grown. However, for the most part, I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a hotel/resort snob, and I would rather travel less frequently and “go big” than travel a lot on a watered-down budget. At the time I wrote this, my kids were 10 and 7 years old. We are just starting to look into destinations that include more “learning experiences” for them such as museums, places with historical significance, and natural wonders. We will probably try and mix up our vacations to include some teaching moments as well as just plain old fun. The resorts at the bottom of this post are all close to cities with “learning opportunities,” but the resorts themselves, they are more about relaxing and having fun. Hope this helps!

Let me start with my critique of Rosewood Baha Mar as that’s what launched this whole post. I’ve heard so much at Atlantis over the years, but it never really appealed to me as the reviews were VERY mixed, and it seemed like it was going to be overcrowded and cheesy with a steep price tag. However, I’d recently heard that Baha Mar was a nice alternative that provided the “Bahama experience” without the overcrowding and a “cruise ship on land” vibe. Baha Mar became particularly intriguing when they added a new “bougie” waterpark that was supposed to be great for kids. After doing some research, I figured we’d give it a try.

Baha Mar is basically its own compound. It’s comprised of 3 hotels, with the “nicest” and most expensive hotel being the Rosewood Baha Mar. They all have access to the waterpark, and the restaurants are spread throughout each of the hotels and the property. The Rosewood has the fewest rooms and highest price tag of the three hotels (to my knowledge), so I thought it would not be quite as busy with guests as the others. I did like how secluded it felt compared to the other hotels. It is nestled in beautiful greenery, and the rooms were very nice and well decorated. The whole property is beautiful really, so I’m not complaining there- it’s just the overcrowding and poor service that really threw me. 

Let’s talk about dining. In the Rosewood Hotel, there is one main bar off the lobby, and it was packed every evening to the point where it was impossible to find a seat or get to the bar past 5pm. We actually grabbed drinks before dinner in the SLS Hotel as it was much easier to find a seat and the kids could hang out with us while we visited with friends before dinner. I was bummed we never got to try out the Rosewood bar.

There are only two main restaurants within the Rosewood Hotel. Outside of those two, you dine (for dinner) at restaurants in the other hotels or on the beachfront. Everyone who stays at Baha Mar has access to these restaurants WITH reservations. This is one of the things I hated about Baha Mar. If you travel during peak season- which is pretty much all the time now- you will not be able to eat dinner at any restaurant on the property unless you have a reservation. And your dinner reservations need to be booked as far in advance as possible. Thankfully we had reservations, but there were many guests who did not have them and couldn’t get into any restaurant at a “normal time” to eat with kids- aka before 8:30pm. The Rosewood had zero “pull” in helping people get in, which I think is odd given their price point and reputation. There are two places to eat in the Grand Hyatt Hotel that don’t take reservations, but unless you get to them around 4:30pm, you’re in for a very long wait time to be seated. Oh, and most meals are hundreds of dollars- yes, you read that correctly. The “island tax” is outrageous, and the meals were more expensive than in Vegas, which were some of the most overpriced and underrated meals I’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating, when I tell you there are no cheap food options available at Baha Mar. Period. And listen, I’m not a foodie, and I’m not a stickler over price either… but I’d say that the quality of the food never justified the price. Never. 

Not only were there too many people staying at the resorts with not enough dining options, but there were also not enough pool and beach chairs. The Rosewood pool and beach is restricted to Rosewood guests only, but even then, it was very hard to find lounge chairs by the pool or the beach. We ended up going down early every day to save chairs, which was a hassle and annoying given how much it cost to stay there. If you can’t tell already, I’m not a big fan of waiting, but that’s just life, and I deal with it… UNLESS I’m paying a small fortune. Then I really don’t like waiting, and I feel like that’s all I ever did at Rosewood Baha Mar. 

My experience at other Rosewood properties has been great. I was extremely disappointed by the lack of willingness to help when we needed it- forget about going “above and beyond.” My parents and best friends all tried to send flowers to me since it was my birthday, and I didn’t get them until late one night (very late), and it was apparently a nightmare to get anything sent, which again, is very off-brand for Rosewood. This sounds so whiney and ridiculous, but for our nightly rate in addition to all the other money we spent while there, I just expected better attention to detail/service. I understand that post-pandemic travel is nightmarish for a lot of people due to a lack of staffing in the hospitality business. I own a business in the hospitality industry, so I feel like I “get” to have an opinion here- ha. I know this strategy doesn’t work for every business, but we take less events when we have less staff to service them. Do we like doing this? No, but we don’t want to sacrifice our reputation and good service for our current clients by trying to expand during a time where it’s difficult to staff-up adequately for the demand. I wish hotels would limited the guest rooms that are available if they can’t match the service they advertise due to a lack of staff. This feels especially important for hotels known for their service and attention to detail. This will never happen of course, but it might help fix the issue for the time being. Oh well. 

This next critique is a “me problem,” but it’s one of the many reasons I won’t go back to Baha Mar with kids. I didn’t love that the casino is located in the center of the Grand Hyatt’s main floor, which is a central pass-through to many of the places you need to go. Many of the restaurants surround and overlook the casino and not the beautiful exterior of the property. I never really thought this would be an issue, but I didn’t like it. I don’t mind the casino vibe in Vegas; I just didn’t love it at the beach. Not to mention, the staff working the craps and blackjack tables, were constantly asking kids to move away from the tables, even when just passing by, which they had to in order to go to dinner. It was a horrible place to put the casino in my opinion, but then again, I don’t gamble and I was there with my kids. 

We did enjoy thoroughly an excursion I booked, which was swimming with the dolphins. The excursions also cost a lot, but it’s because travel and meals are involved due to their distance from the resort. This is something to note for sure, as most excursions will take up at least half. It wasn’t an issue, just something to plan for. I’m so glad we did one, as it provided amazing memories for the kids, and we met a wonderful family we enjoyed spending time with during the rest of our trip. We ended up skipping swimming with the pigs, since we didn’t want to lose another full day on-site (aka the kids wanted to go to the waterpark again) but that’s an option too for those interested- ha!

Speaking of the Baha Mar Waterpark- It is a very nice waterpark. If you want to rent a cabana there, I recommend doing it at the Beach Club. If you book chairs or a cabana at the Waterpark Beach Club, the adults can look out over the ocean while the kids enjoy the waterpark activities. We booked ours overlooking a ride that wasn’t even open while we were there (didn’t know that at the time of booking and they couldn’t move us as they were all booked up already). The cabana was fine, but there aren’t many food options for it, and the service is insanely slow. It was not worth the money, but might have been had we booked one overlooking the ocean. It wasn’t too crowded when we were there, but apparently they now allow cruise ship guests to visit the waterpark, so it’s not just guests actually staying at Baha Mar in one of the three hotels. I thought that was a negative. The kids did enjoy the waterpark, but they kept comparing it to SoundWaves, which is in Nashville, so no need to go all the way to the Bahamas for it again- ha!

Okay, that’s a lot, but I hope this gives you at least some idea of what to expect. I understand that costs are going up and vacationing on an island comes with a premium. I guess I was just spoiled on my honeymoon going to the Four Seasons in the Maldives (which is FABULOUS by the way but more for couples and not families), because the service AND the ambiance was exquisite. The saying “Bahama time” is so true as everyone seems to move at a much slower pace, so be sure to leave ample time to travel anywhere- especially the airport. Meals take a long time, as does just about everything else, but again, that’s just island life. Clearly, I need to relax a bit more and go with the flow. That’s just easier said than done when you’ve got kids in tow and are paying a premium.

Moving on to resorts I DO love… I’m not going to elaborate on these, but here is my list in NO particular order of southern resorts that are bougie enough for high-maintenance travelers like myself but also accommodate kids. These are clearly not all beach resorts, but I’ve had quite a few of you ask which resorts I’d recommend with kids, and so I’ve included the list here. These all have their own issues of course as nothing is perfect, but I do feel like there is value with the price of all of these. We plan to start traveling to more resorts and destinations outside the U.S. in the upcoming years now that are kids are older. I hope to share more with you as we show our kids the world!

Resorts we’ve visited and enjoyed recently in the U.S. 

  • The Cloister at Sea Island (We love it here. lots to do with southern vibes, which I live for)
  • Montage Palmetto Bluff (Y’all know I love it here- it’s low country, which is my JAM, and even without a beach there is so much outdoors for kids to do)
  • The Breakers (Very fancy, but we like fancy sometimes, and I LOVE Palm Beach. Not as much to do with young kids, but enough to justify a trip with them- especially if they play golf)
  • Watercolor Inn at Watercolor (Rent a house in Watercolor, then you get access to all the property and more space than at the Inn, but the Inn is amazing too)
  • The Greenbrier (Great option for year-round because of all the on-site activities)
  • High Hampton– Blackberry’s new property (We loved it in the fall and are going again this summer)
  • The Omni at Grove Park Inn (Fall is a great time to visit)
  • The Four Seasons in Vail (We loved our summer trip here as much as our winter trip)

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