By Andrew Hartl
I’ve visited the beautiful Aquaventure Waterpark a few times in the past, as part of cruise layovers that docked in Nassau, Bahamas. However, I had never opted for a dolphin swim package. Seeing others participate definitely intrigued me and I wanted to give it a try.
Atlantis Dolphin Cay offers several different dolphin encounters at different price points – there is the shallow water interaction which allows for 10 people at a time. There is the Deep Water Swim with small groups of no more than 6 people at a time taking part in the programs. There is also an experience as Jr. Trainer for the Day, or Ultimate Trainer for the day. But if dolphins aren’t your thing, there is an option for a stingray experience or an interactive program featuring a California sea lion.
All encounters include access to Atlantis Beaches after your experience ends though no swimming is allowed. Or, you can pay to access the waterpark, which includes 18 water slides. Among them is The Abyss, with a 50-foot drop into complete darkness before being hurled into an underground cenote of giant aquariums filled with sharks and other fish. The Leap of Faith slide sends you down a 60-foot vertical drop, via a transparent tube that glides the riders through a shark-filled lagoon.
I chose the Deep Water Dolphin Swim with access to the waterpark, and it was definitely worth every penny. What an incredible experience! I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in these awesome creatures.
On our way to Dolphin Cay, we were given a tour of Atlantis Resort, which features a Royal Bridge that spans between the two hotel towers. If you plan on staying at the speciality suite housed within the bridge, be prepared to shell out the tidy sum of $25000 a night… with a 4-night minimum. For that kind of dough, you’d better hope you’re extra lucky in the casino!
When we arrived at The Dolphin Centre we were each given a mask and snorkel (which is yours to keep after the experience ends), as well as a wetsuit and a locker.
The experience began with an educational orientation, where the trainer explained the program, discussed expectations, and warned us of all the do’s and don’ts. Of interest is that sixteen of the original dolphins housed at Atlantis were rescued from Hurricane Katrina, after their original home at Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, was destroyed and they were swept out to sea.
The next stop was the beach to meet our new friends, accompanied by a photographer who captures your entire experience in pictures so you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.
I can’t begin to explain the feeling of excitement I got when these incredible dolphins whooshed from the water and began entertaining us with jumps and flips. It was simply breathtaking.
We then headed out to about waist deep water to where two of the dolphins swam up to say hello with kisses and high fives. They shook flippers with us, hugged us, and essentially ‘hung out’ with us for a while, as they acknowledged everyone in the group and allowed us some time to get to know them. Then, with a giant splash of their tails, it officially was swim time. We headed out to deeper water while swimming alongside the dolphins and diving with them.
The real thrill came when we grabbed a boogie board, which in dolphin language means it times to launch the silly humans. Thus began an adrenaline-filled surf back to the beach, powered by dolphin propulsion behind my boogie board.
Although I didn’t want to leave my newfound friends, it was time for the waterpark where you can easily spend an entire day wandering through its 141 acres filled with beaches, pools, restaurants, a children’s play area, and private cabanas, with change rooms and locker rooms for convenience. And don’t miss the ‘Lazy River’, which places you in a tube and sends you through several rapids. Around every corner, you’ll meet up with a tidal wave generator and wall of water, which may cause you to question the name of Lazy River.
All in all, it’s a fantastic and fun-filled way to spend a day, and you don’t need to be a guest of the Atlantis Resort in order to enjoy it. This Bahamas Day Pass experience is open to ALL cruise ships docking in Nassau. Atlantis is only a ten-minute drive from the port area, with shuttles available every half hour to take you to the resort and back to your ship. Everything is made easy and can be booked online or through your travel agent. So if you’re heading to Nassau, set some time aside to make a new friend or two in the sea. I did, and I will never forget it.