We began negotiating a major family trip.
Our family translates to one mom, one dad and two boys – aged 12 and 14. We were checking out the ‘Love Your Family’ program at The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort in the Bahamas, and, frankly, I was hesitant. Our boys are independent, toilet-humour-driven and easily bored when they are forced to spend leisure time with their parents. Would we survive a week living out of each other’s pockets?
I fondly remember our great annual family vacations when the kids were younger and far more impressed with Mom and Dad than they are now. These days my husband Michael and I are coping with a tween and a teen and that introduces a whole new dynamic. We’re living with rolling eyes. Shoulder shrugging. Indifference. And just like Sheraton’s ‘Love Your Family’ program promises, we wanted to ‘love our family’ as opposed to ‘dislike our family’ by the end of a family holiday. Nevertheless, we took a deep breath, rolled the dice and went for it.
So, did we all survive the week? We did, in spades. It may have worked because we were smart, the hotel was spectacular – they really do have great activities that bring the family together and because it was an adults’ vacation, too, not just a kids’ and family vacation. I don’t believe in being a martyr and making leisure time all about the kids. I think vacations should work for all of us.
WHY WE WERE SMART
- We booked two rooms. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but what a difference it made. Here’s the deal. The kids were allowed to keep their room as messy as they liked, with half their clothes in the bathroom, running shoes hanging from the balcony and wet, sandy bathing suits thrown in a corner. We didn’t care. They were respectful of the cleaning staff, but they could be slobs – something that isn’t allowed at home. My husband and I, in an adjoining room (the lock was on our side), had a king bed and our own space. It was glorious. (Read into this what you will!) The kids played video games at night while we read and had a glass of wine out on the balcony. It was all good. In fact, it was all great.
- The boys did their own thing. The property is very safe and the staff was terrific. Michael and I would enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the Bimini Market restaurant while the boys slept in. Then, we would go to the fitness club for a workout while the boys were, yes, still sleeping in. Then a quick swim in one of the three pools, a stroll on the 1,000-foot stretch of spectacular beach while the boys, yes, you guessed it, were still sleeping in. Finally, they would join us and we would all go snorkeling right from the beach or grab a kayak and ride the waves. Our together time was lively. We laughed and played and loved every minute of it.
- No rules except for brushing teeth and using sunscreen. And letting us know where they are (we brought walkie talkies to stay in touch). At the Sheraton, we all did our own thing and it worked.
WHAT THE RESORT DID RIGHT
Sheraton is very, very smart. They know that when parents book holidays a major attraction is the availability of safe and supervised kids’ activities. Parents also look for resorts that offer great adult activities, too, because (and this is my mantra) it’s not all about the kids. The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort has figured this out – the first of the Sheraton Hotels to offer the ‘Love Your Family’ program. They have introduced a variety of creative and fun activities catering to children and their parents.
- Fireside storytelling
- Roasting marshmallows on the beach
- Dive-in movies. I loved this feature. A big screen is set up by the pool and the kids can swim or lay on a raft while the dry adults lounge on pool chairs and watch the movie. They even supply movie-style popcorn. It’s a great ending to a long day soaking up the sun.
- Junkanoo jamboree. This was our highlight as it is indigenous to the Nassau location. It’s a festival that celebrates the Bahamian heritage with beautiful, brightly coloured costumes, music and dance. We visited the only ‘Junkanoo’ museum in the town of Nassau where the kids got to touch and wear the costumes, learn the history and play the music.
- Casino fun. The 35,000 square foot Crystal Palace Casino with Vegas-style gaming is right next door (there is an underground tunnel with shops between resorts). We didn’t gamble (the kids were in tow – we wanted to set an example!). We did take in one of the shows at the casino and loved it. We even bought the DVD to take home.
- Snorkelling, kayaking, lounging on rafts (supplied by the resort) at the pool.
- Ping-pong. Okay, you don’t travel hundreds of miles for ping-pong but our boys couldn’t get enough of it.
And for families with younger kids…
Our kids are older so they didn’t need the Sheraton Adventure Club, but as the publisher of ParentsCanada I wanted to check out the daycare facilities. I was struck with the location; the Adventure Club was right in the heart of the resort – near the pool area – not hidden away, as is so many other kids’ clubs at other resorts. It was big, brightly coloured and full of activities with a professional and trained staff. It’s open to kids aged four to 12 with an endless
schedule of activities and hands-on educational programs, from Bahamian arts and crafts, beach bowling, swimming, video games, junior chef cooking classes and field trips.
I’m a nervous mom, especially when out of the country. I felt that the Adventure Club understood this concern and created a safe haven for their littlest guests. I asked several parents if they were comfortable leaving their children in the evening for the ‘parents night-out’ event, and they all said, “Absolutely.”
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort had everything we were looking for in a resort and more. (We’re a pretty picky family because we have travelled en famille extensively to many
resorts.) It’s beautiful, the lobby is open, multilevel and architectually stunning. The restaurants
are diverse from the casual buffet at The Bimini Market, to the Dolphin Grill poolside, to their signature restaurant Amici, a trattoria, to the plethora of organized activities, the pools and the swim-up bar to the long, sandy beach.
With so many options, was a week enough? Not really. We wanted another week and packed reluctantly to return home.
Family vacations, for me, are an opportunity to fall in love with my family all over again. To play with them without rules, without the ‘Mom says’ or ‘Dad says’, without the ‘do this’ or ‘do thats’ – but to just enjoy each other, to laugh, to talk, to play.