Hotel News We Noted: July 27, 2012

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that this is the month of the Olympics – and we’ll be doing our due diligence by bringing you the best hotel news, packages and trend data over the next few weeks in this column and elsewhere. This week, however, we’re highlighting spots of summer with a slew of new hotel stay reviews, openings, trends and far-out amenities.

As always, if you have a comment, thought, or want to share details from a great hotel you’ve recently experienced, send us an email.

Now Open: Scrub Island
If it’s private island luxury you crave (who doesn’t?) try the newly opened, yet unfortunately named, Scrub Island Resort on the east end of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands (shown at top). As the first luxury resort built in the destination in more than 15 years, the hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Set on a private island and rugged cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, you’ll enjoy a choice of 52 rooms as well as two-, three-, and four-bedroom villas, a spa, restaurants, three private beaches and a 55-slip marina. Rates for a July stay start at $400 per night.

Opening Soon: Margaritaville Atlantic City
Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, on a blanket with my margarita, that’s where I’ll be. More likely, we’ll be in the casino at the Margaritaville Atlantic City, predicted for a May 2013 opening. A hotel-within-a-hotel at the Resorts Casino, the Jimmy Buffett hotel will not be the first – there are already casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Las Vegas, as well as a hotel in Florida and a number of the iconic restaurants nationwide. USA Today reports that the complex will have a restaurant, bar, shops, year-round beach bar and the first ever Margaritaville-themed coffee shop.

Fun Perk: Sing-A-Long Movies at the Westin Resort & Casino, Aruba
This fun Starwood resort adds a twist to their traditional “dive-in” movie theme with a family-friendly Sing-a-Long Movie Summer. Every Tuesday through the end of August, guests gather in the resort’s free-form pool to watch and sing along with classic films like “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Wizard of Oz” and more. Summer rates at The Westin, Aruba start at a reasonable $179.

Hotel Review: The Reef at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas
We are going to give the most positive review we can of our recent weekend at Atlantis in the Bahamas‘ Paradise Island. Keep in mind, we’re probably not the hotel’s target demographic – we don’t have kids, weren’t traveling on a company’s incentive trip budget, and don’t generally love gigantic hotels. The famed casino-resort-cruise ship stopping point was to be our home away from home at the wedding of a friend, the one reason we didn’t book a stay at the One & Only Ocean Club on the island instead.

The price for The Reef? A steep $398 per night pre-tax, which totaled out to an additional $120 per night … and this with a near 50 percent wedding rate discount. The rooms were spacious and the kitchenettes offered a good perk – we ordered from the handy FoodStore2Go to stock up for breakfast and other munchies. Red Flower bath amenities were a lovely touch; the horribly scratchy sheets (we’ve had better at a Hampton Inn for sure) were not.

Generally speaking, service was beyond, even the expected, “Caribbean time” slow. The staff (with the exception of housekeeping) was rude and unhelpful, and the resort was packed to the gills with the patrons dropped off from cruise ships each day. The Cove, the resort’s most luxe portion, was by far the best for adults, but even then, a DJ spinning morning and night at the pool made it feel more like Las Vegas or Miami then a relaxing Caribbean escape.

Rooms in other towers – the Beach, Coral and Royal – looked dated and in need of refurbishment. Sadly, rain deterred our plans to visit amenities like the Dolphin Cay and our time was cut short at the Aquaventure water park, but those definitely seemed worthy of a visit, particularly for families with children. The Mandara Spa, however, was a standout – the spa was still very crowded (go early in the day) but the treatment was one of the best we’ve had.

The final verdict? It’s the perfect day visit from a cruise ship or another resort. If you have kids and want to entertain them, it’s an easy alternative to Disney World. If you’re on someone else’s dime, enjoy! The island is beautiful. If you’re coming as a couple, save your money and go elsewhere.

Build up your summer at the Atlantis LEGO workshops

I wish these existed when I was a kid, and I have to admit, I’m even kicking around going as an adult. The Atlantis is offering three five-day LEGO workshops this July. Kids will get the chance to work with a LEGO Master Builder in hands-on challenges. And, parents can play at the same time. The program is designed to help families spend time together and express their creativity.

The program at the Atlantis includes all activities and LEGO materials, a chance to swim with the resort‘s dolphins, lunch every day for the kids and a variety of other activities, but rooms are separate and require a four-night stay. The three sessions are: July 12 – 16, 2010, July 19 – 23, 2010 and July 26 – 30, 2010. Pricing is $425 per session.

Natural beauty on display at the Atlantis this summer

No, I’m not talking about the beaches and ocean and trees and such. This summer, the 2009 Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe pageants are being held on Paradise Island in the Bahamas this year – the former on July 31, 2009 and the later on August 23, 2009. So, if you think nature’s wonder comes in the female form, book your tickets immediately. The has put some packages together around these pageants so you can combine a great vacation with a rare opportunity to see in person what we know you DVR to watch twice at home.

Rates start at $299 a night for a three-night stay, but the perks stretch far beyond a relatively inexpensive stay at this hot resort. You’ll have access to special passes and tickets to both the preliminary presentations and finals for each pagent (i.e., you can get solid discounts). You can also pick up passes to a viewing party on the resort’s Royal Deck and the post-pageant Coronation Ball. Food, beverages and excitement are served up as part of these events. And, you may run into some of the contestants around the resort. For the Miss Teen USA package, you’ll have to travel between July 23 and August 4 (so, get moving!), while you have a bit more time to plan for the Miss Universe event (August 15 to August 31).

Tickets for the Miss Teen USA Presentation Show start at $30, with the finals starting at $50. The Miss Universe festivities are a bit pricier, which is to be expected. The presentation round are $50, with the finals $175. The viewing party is $165, and the coronation comes in at $125.

When the winners have been crowned, you can wander through waterslides, river rides and check out animals in 14 exhibit lagoons. Or, you can try your luck (at the casino, you gump). There are more than 100 table games where you can try to win big and impress the new Miss Universe. Good luck with that.