By Alexander Britell
Before you read any further, know this: the Baha Mar is open in the Bahamas. And it is an impressive thing.
It is remarkably built, wonderfully modern and tastefully executed. It is a class above what you’re used to in the Caribbean.
Whatever you may have thought about it, it will exceed your expectations.
If you’re not familiar with the Baha Mar resort project, the largest in the Caribbean, it first broke ground on Cable Beach in Nassau back at the beginning of 2011.
As it grew over the years and its infrastructure transformed the Cable Beach area of Nassau, it became a large question mark: what was this project all about? How would it draw visitors when Atlantis was just a few miles away?
Of course, that was before the years of legal troubles, the bankruptcy, the ownership change and the developer-government battles, before Rosewood’s parent company, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, acquired the property last year. And while those stories dominated the conversation about the project, they omitted something important: what the resort would actually be like.
The Baha Mar officially welcomed its first guests in the spring to the property’s first hotel, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, which has opened several hundred of its total 1800 rooms, where we stayed and which will be one of three hotels — along with Rosewood and SLS, both of which are scheduled to open within the next year.
The rooms at the Baha Mar are elegantly designed, the food at the restaurants that have opened already (there will be 42 in total) is excellent – and the service is vigilant — there has been training here, and it shows (as does the sheer scope of the employment benefit to the country).
As I walked around the property, though, the answer to the biggest question became clear.
What is this place? What is it all about? What’s the point of the Baha Mar?
This is Las Vegas.
This is meant to be the Caribbean’s Las Vegas, the Caribbean’s Macau — a high-level luxury resort complex anchored by a 100,000-square-foot casino (nearly twice the size of Atlantis), the kind of property the Caribbean has never seen, with a world-class offering that just isn’t in the Caribbean.
It’s something that becomes clear as you walk around — the quality of the shops, the jazz lounge, the cigar bar, the light shows, the imposing, massive waterfalls at the entrance of the resort — even the direction signs in the casino look identical to the ones you’d find in the Venetian.
Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t a Bahamian identity. This is not blind to its location by any stretch — from details like restaurant and bar names like The Swimming Pig Gastropub and The Lynden (named for the country’s first Prime Minister) to Graycliff cigars at the bar to a massive Bahamian art component, among others.
And it’s all done beautifully, clearly targeting a wealthy, serious, entertainment-seeking visitor — and, perhaps most crucially, not just from North America, either.
Most importantly, this isn’t meant to take away visitors from Atlantis, a decidedly more family-friendly, Disney-like place.
This place can legitimately draw visitors who would usually fly to Las Vegas for the meetings or their gambling trips, and instead take a significantly shorter flight to Nassau. (Yes, there’s an 82,000-square-foot convention center).
This is the kind of resort that can increase the size of the Caribbean’s tourism pie, when everything is firing, when the place is completely open.
If they can pull it off.
It’s Las Vegas with sandals, Las Vegas on a beach. And that’s pretty hard to beat.
See the video at the top for more.
Video by Guy Britton and Alexander Britell.