- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

NASSAU, Bahamas — Are we still in the Bahamas?” I asked my driver as we pull up to the Cove, the newest addition to the Atlantis megaresort on Paradise Island.

I landed in Nassau about 40 minutes earlier before asking the question — my first thought when I saw the large cream-colored porte-cochere and the line of bellmen wearing designer white linen outfits.

“Yes, you’re still in the Bahamas,” the driver replied, “and believe me you aren’t the first one to say that. I have been bringing guests here for about two weeks and their reactions are a lot like yours. This place is really something different.”

He was right. The Cove, Atlantis, is different. Not in a bad way, but different in the fact that the Cove isn’t another typical Bahamas resort. It has a beach and pools, but the experience could be likened more to chic Miami Beach with its tile-covered pools and luxury cabanas as opposed to a sea of flimsy, fold-out chairs and tired beach towels.

The Cove is the latest installment in the Atlantis project on Paradise Island of Sol Kerzner, a South African developer.

The Cove also has an all-you-can-eat restaurant, but don’t expect mounds of french fries and fried chicken morsels under heat lamps. Here there is sliced prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and succulent roasts.

In matters of accommodations, a typical room in the Bahamas encourages guests to get outside under the sun, but the Cove version won’t leave them claustrophobic and upset on a rainy day because the smallest room is a 672-square-foot suite with a view of the ocean.

I kept thinking about the word “different” as I stepped from the car and into the dramatic, open-air entryway. Marble flooring stretched out like an infinity-edge pool and led to a view of the soft blue, Bahamas sky framed by large columns.

A series of square travertine and mahogany seating pods along the walkway served as guideposts to that incredible image. Large copper-cylinder lighting elements resembling wind chimes hang from the 35-foot-high ceiling and once again focused attention toward the ocean.

As I stopped and took in the lobby for a moment, my semitrance was broken by one of the bellmen who mentioned to me that “the view is always there,” and that if I like this view I should come back down in a few hours and give it another look.

On my first night, I did just that and I also found that the entryway also serves as a modern sundial, changing colors throughout the day. Beginning in the morning, soft blue colors surround the seating pods mimicking the morning sky. The colors then slowly blend into vibrant shades of orange around sunset. The metamorphosis continues in the evening with soothing purple tones and the glow oflanterns that line the walkways.

“Yea, this place is something different,” I decided later that first night as the same image became full of bright stars framed between those columns.

GOOD NIGHT’S REST

After seeing my room for the first time, it was obvious that the focus on design doesn’t end at the elevators. Entering the room was an experience in itself, featuring a myriad of colors and textures.

From the bright colored-glass lights and patterned carpets in the corridor, the suites become tranquil. The Ocean Club suite, the smallest at the Cove, is as large as some one-bedroom apartments and can offer the same or more amenities than home.

While many hotels have the boxy, cookie-cutter look, each Ocean Club suite features multiple angles, a custom-built drawer and bar system, a step-down living room and small touches such as a raised ceiling above the bed and headboards of inlaid wood. The spalike bathroom is separated from the bedroom-area room by French doors that open to reveal a large soaking tub and large mirrors. Every bathroom includes two custom-built vanities with granite tops and a shower enclosed by glass bricks.

The entertainment options in the suites offer plenty to fill a rainy afternoon or two. Each suite has two LCD televisions, one in the bedroom area, the other in the living room, which is also equipped with a Bose 3-2-1 entertainment system if you want to watch a movie or the morning news surrounded by sound.

For guests looking to step away from technology and commune with nature on vacation, each suite has floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a private terrace.

The Cove also has larger suites for visitors looking for even more luxury and room. Sapphire Suites measure 1,700 square feet; Azure suites nearly 2,000 square feet; the presidential suite 2,751 square feet; and the ultimate accommodation is the 4,070-square-foot, two-level penthouse suite. They all offer additional amenities such as steam showers, larger balconies and, in some cases, a separate dining room and several bedrooms.

UNDER THE SUN

The beach or the pool? I kept debating during my stay.

This shouldn’t be difficult for one who has always lived in mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. The closest ocean beach is at least two hours away from Washington — with seasonal swimming. Plus, I am in the Bahamas and just several yards from getting my feet wet.

Even with this reasoning, it is easy to forgo stepping into the ocean and spend the day at Cain at the Cove, the new beachfront pool area exclusively for Cove guests who are 18 and older.

Resembling Miami’s South Beach more than Nassau, Cain features the design work of Jeffrey Beers and carries the same name and is under the same management as the Cain nightclubs in New York City and the Hamptons on Long Island.

Situated on a peninsula between Paradise and Cove beaches and directly in front of the Cove, Cain is anchored by four mosaic-tiled pools that glisten with a refreshing blue tone under the Caribbean sun.

With relaxation being a key element at Cain, the main pool has a 6-inch-deep shelf on which guests may sit in the water and sun at the same time. The pool also has a square marble island with four square red daybeds.

Cain has three other pools, and, for those not wanting to get wet, white chaise lounges are along the many walkways and there are more of the square daybeds.

Around Cain are 20 cabanas that are available for rent by the day. Each cabana has a flat-screen TV, an entertainment system, private bathroom and direct beach and pool access. The cabanas offer refuge from the sun as well as privacy from the busy pool area. Three sides of a cabana can be opened to the elements or closed off.

While it is designed to be an all-day experience, Cain can also be the place for a quick swim or a little sun. For guests seeking other diversions at Cain, the selection is amazing — from outdoor blackjack tables to plenty of space for a poolside lunch, all available without having to leave the area.

Besides Cain, guests have access to the Cascades pool, an all-ages pool open only to Cove guests along with the rest of Atlantis’ beaches and water activities including the new Aquadventure waterscape that offers water slides and a mile-long river ride.

ATLANTIS TRADITION

Sol Kerzner opened Atlantis in 1994 with the mythical world of Atlantis in mind. There are frescoes above domed entryways, Dale Chihuly glass sculptures, and more sea life than an average aquarium.

With that same energy, Mr. Kerzner has created the Cove, but not as another mythical city or fairy tale. The Cove is an exclusive beach resort experience that exudes luxury and urban sophistication, traits that have been missing in the Bahamas for many years. In many ways, the Cove defies its location because of its focus on design.

By assembling a team of architects and such designers as Jeffrey Beers, who created the outdoor public spaces, including Cain and the lobby, Mr. Kerzner could place his latest hotel in many locations around the world and it would elicit much of the same response and fanfare.

While the Cove is in the Bahamas, it is not just another Bahamas hotel and competes with many other luxury beach properties.

• • •

U.S. citizens traveleing to the Bahamas must have a valid passport.

US Airways offers nonstop service from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Nassau every day except Tuesday and Thursday. American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Northwest, Spirit and United airlines offer connecting service to Nassau from Washington-area airports.

Daily Ocean suite rates start at $460; the Club Deluxe Ocean suite rates start at $635; Azure suite at $1,005; Sapphire Suite at $1,245; Presidential suite at $2,160, and Penthouse rates beginning at $15,000. Daily rates vary according to day of week and season.

Lower rates may be available through promotional packages, especially in summer

Atlantis offers more than 30 dining options; the Cove has five dining venues.

The Cove’s Cain Cafe offers casual dining with a range of sandwiches, ceviche, sashimi bento boxes, desserts, smoothies and full bar service.

The menu of Cascades Cafe, also casual and next to Cascades pool, includes pulled-meat sandwiches, burgers, wraps and frozen drinks.

Mesa Grill, designed by the David Rockwell Group, is chef Bobby Flay’s first restaurant outside the United States. The food — only dinner is served — is Southwest with a Bahamian twist.

Mosaic, one of two restaurants designed by Jeffrey Beers, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can choose from food stations and a variety of foods, much of which is cooked to order.

Sea Glass, Mr. Beers’ other restaurant, has indoor and outdoor seating and offers a continental breakfast, after which it becomes a cocktail lounge the rest of the day.

For more information on the Cove, call 877/268-3847 or visit www.thecoveatlantis.com.

For more information on the Bahamas, call 800/224-2627 or visit www.bahamas.com.

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