David J. Danto
thoughts in my own, personal opinion
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Review: Hilton At Resorts World Bimini
For our 10th
Wedding Anniversary my wife and I stayed at the Waldorf and saw Nathan Lane and
Matthew Broderick in the Producers on Broadway. It was a wonderful memory, and made it
difficult to find something to top it with for our 25th wedding
anniversary in March. Late last year I
began searching for something in a tropical paradise motif. We saw a beautiful property in Asia where
each room had its own private infinity pool, but we only had about 5-6 days to
be away at this time of year, so we felt like a trip halfway around the world deserved
more time. We then found some breathtaking
pictures of a brand new Hilton hotel in the Bahamas – Hilton
at Resorts World Bimini – which seemed to be superb. It was a short trip from Florida, we could
get a room inexpensively using a Hilton “points and money” award, and
everything looked stunningly beautiful.
We made the reservation and started planning our trip with many months
to spare. Having just returned from that
trip I can report that while we had a wonderful time away we learned a lot
about this location and property that we wish we’d have known before we booked
it. Hopefully this blog will help fill
that information in and also highlight for the firms in question what they’ve
done exceptionally well and what they can improve.
to be at a conference in Orlando just before our trip, so I reserved my flight
to Orlando, but then we drove (three hours) to Ft. Lauderdale where we could
take a Silver Air flight to Bimini. I
booked the Silver Air flights through the Hilton at their suggestion because
they offered a $50 discount on the airfare.
This was probably a mistake, because as a United Premier flier one of
the few benefits I do still get is free checked bags. By using a separate reservation with Silver
we lost that benefit and had to pay for our luggage. Silver flies a small, slow, loud Saab 340b
turboprop aircraft from FLL to Bimini, and yet still it’s only a 20 minute
flight in the air. Being such a small
aircraft our carry-on bags were gate checked (something else we and other
passengers would have liked to know in advance.) Silver operates out of one gate at FLL – C8 –
and they fly to inter-Florida destinations and the Bahamas in rapid fire from
there - with seemingly no specific order.
When they get a plane that’s ready to go they announce it and the
passengers scrum towards the door. It
was easy for people to get on line for their flight only to find out that
(despite the scheduled times) it wasn’t their flight. I assume that Silver personnel would catch
anyone boarding the wrong flight before they boarded, but it was still a scary,
low budget experience.
landed, we walked out onto the field and into the tiny buildings that had customs
and immigration. Getting through that
entire process, as well as picking up our checked bag, took less than 10
minutes. When we walked out of the
building, there was someone waiting for us asking where we were going. We told them the Hilton, and they pointed us
to one of a couple of unmarked white vans.
Apparently these are unaligned drivers that take us on the short trip
over to a Hilton Ferry which brings us from South Bimini right over to the
hotel on North Bimini. When we got out
of the van the driver said we needed to pay five dollars each. Complaint number one – none of this process
was explained to us, none of the vans or workers were marked or branded. There wasn’t even a sign in the dirt that
said “Hilton Van Loads Here.” It was at
that point we started to worry about what we got ourselves into. As it turned out everything was fine with the
process, but here was the first example of what will be an ongoing theme – a
little bit of extra effort or professionalism would have made the experience
great. If the drivers had Resorts World
Bimini polo shirts or a van that said “Hilton” we wouldn’t have thought twice
about it. The ferry itself was
wonderful, with a gorgeous preview of the island.
arrived at Hilton Resorts World we were very impressed. Saying the property is stunning doesn’t do it
justice. The lobby is gorgeous – modern,
stylish, open and airy with tasteful accents yet still a bit of a hipster
vibe. The hallways are beautiful – with
artwork, carpeting and room numbers on the walls all conveyed in an island
rooms are also stunning. Faux wood
floors that extend even into the rain shower in the bathroom. Balconies with views of the marina or
gardens, with ocean views in the distance.
Our room sported a fridge, a coffee maker and plenty of room for
luggage. My only complaints about the rooms
are the doors and the TV. The room’s
main entrance door doesn’t go all the way to the bottom. There is about a one inch gap there, which
means that you can hear everything going on outside your room, and anyone
outside can hear what’s going on in yours.
That lack of privacy seems very weird for a luxury island resort.
room’s TV is a brand new Samsung (the same one I have at home) but it’s only
connected to local cable TV channels / networks. There is no channel guide, or information
service at all. That means no checking
on hotel services, no review of bill, no movies on-demand – nothing. I expect much more than local channels from a
top quality resort.
person that checked us in was wonderful – spending lots of time with us to go
over all our questions. That seemed to
be the norm – the workers here are amongst the nicest and friendliest at any
property I’ve experienced anywhere. We
came to learn that most of them have been recruited from the neighboring
islands and live on property in shared dorms.
They are clearly treated well, but they seem a bit overworked. One of our servers opened the breakfast room
at 6am and also served us dinner the same day at 8pm – two days in a row. Even if that was their choice - agreeing to
take extra shifts during a busy time - something seems a bit wrong about
check-in though, we discovered one of the biggest problems with this
property. It has no concierge desk and
no concierge. There is no one to go to to ask questions. At
a property of this class in a location where so much is unknown, this lack of
information is a travesty. Everything we
learned about the area and its dos and don’ts we had to pick-up from the
workers or other guests we ran into.
Hilton really needs to step-up here and add a concierge. Just a few examples of what needs to be
property has all of its services available only on the weekends. For example, during weekdays there is no
executive lounge and the Sabor restaurant (their
nicest) is closed.
shuttles to the beach and trams to the local village, Alice Town. It isn’t clear when they leave, where they
drop you and when they’d come get you.
We were told the beach shuttle would be by every 15 minutes, but when we
needed to be brought back to the hotel it never came and we had to call –
twice. It also wasn’t clear what
services are available on the beach or from the nearby merchants. We learned that cash is not accepted anywhere
on the resort (you have to charge your room) EXCEPT on the beach, where only
cash is accepted. The flyers say paddle
boats are available for rent on the beach, but they’re not.
are golf carts available for rental at the front entrance of the property. They are unaffiliated with the resort and
there is no official process to rent one – you have to find someone that seems
to be in charge and haggle with them.
From its time as a British territory the driving is on the left side of
the road. Parking means putting your
cart anywhere out of the way.
isn’t even a stand with pamphlets of local interest that one would find at the
grubbiest motel in Florida. You’re on
your own finding out where to go and what to do.
hotel offers turn-down service, with as much bottled water as you’d like and
chocolates by your pillows. That would
have been nice to know before we purchased water in the gift shop. Strangely we didn’t seem to get the turn-down
service every night, but there was no pattern we could discern.
come to the property to fish, snorkel, generally enjoy the perfect waters
around the island, or just have tropical drinks at poolside, then this resort
is paradise. If you come to visit the
local town or play in the casino, then…not so much.
casino at the property is very small.
They have about a dozen table games and about a hundred slot
machines. The first time I walked
through it I was shocked at how small it was.
We really expected something bigger from the description. The whole thing is about the size of your
typical fast food restaurant. And if
you’re familiar with the MyVegas online Facebook game / rewards program, they
participate in it here, but it took them an hour to figure out how to do it,
and then afterword told us that the “Dolphin Excursion for Two” reward we had
purchased “wasn’t available” so we should “ask for our points to be refunded.”
local towns, Bailey Town and Alice Town, are very underdeveloped. Yes there are some restaurants and a few
shops that dot the beach and the one road on North Bimini, but if you’re
imagining walking around paved streets and exploring a typical suburban or even
rural downtown, forget it. It’s like
they took a big city hotel and plopped it down in the middle of nowhere. Expect the best restaurant or store off the
property to be nothing more than a shack with windows still boarded-up from the
last hurricane that no one bothered to take down. If there are any entrepreneurs interested in
making a killing they could come here and corner the market by opening the
first…well, anything. It’d be the first
bowling alley, the first movie theater, the first supermarket, The first
newsstand… like I said, unless it is a roadside food hut, it’d be the first
anything. It really is deceptive of the
property to brag about a tram into the city when there is no city.
on-property pools however are stunning.
The rooftop has an adults-only infinity pool with spectacular
views. The lower level has a long thin
pool that they call a lazy river (but it isn’t the kind of lazy river where you
float around in tubes, which we expected from the description) with an in-water
bar / restaurant. The Sabor restaurant area also has a pool with a fountain and
an extra-long hot-tub. We were also
surprised that (other than the hot tub) none of the pools were heated – which
is arguably a necessity for outdoor pools at a year round resort.
mentioned earlier, if you’ve come for the water, this place is paradise. The on-property beach is called Paradise
Beach – for a reason - it’s beautiful, but then drive up any access road along
Bimini and you’d be likely to find a secluded beach just as beautiful.
and I chartered a boat from a local company – Bimini Undersea. (Again, there was no one at the property to
help us. They pointed us to their
“Fisherman’s Village” shopping area about a ten minute walk away to go to this
company’s office.) We didn’t want to go
on one of the many sports trips they offered (for snorkeling and swimming) so
we arranged a private tour around the island.
It was breathtaking. Here is a 15 second video excerpt
of our tour through the mangroves, and below are some of our pictures.
water was crystal clear and shallow at most parts of the trip. We were actually able to just step-off the
skiff to wade into the water, pick-up a conch, say hello to the rays and nurse
sharks we passed, and wave at the turtles who (in the water) do not deserve
their reputation of being slow. Our
captain and guide (Chuck and Joel – pictured above with the skiff) were
terrific. We highly recommend them and
Bimini Undersea for the experience of a lifetime.
was time to head home, we did some more learning about what we didn’t know and
how much of the things we were told that weren’t true. The Hilton people get you back to the airport
the same way they brought you - their ferry to an independent, unmarked
van/taxi service at $5 per person. The
Silver Air agents at FLL told us that the team in Bimini could check our bag
all the way through to our United flight to
Newark. They couldn’t. They also told us that we clear customs in
Bimini, so the change in Florida is just a neighboring gate. That was a lie too. At FLL our flight disembarked on the tarmac into
a bus which brought us to the international arrivals complex. After clearing the CBP process we were
directed to a bag-recheck stand that (of course) wasn’t able to re-check our
bag. We had to leave the terminal, go
into the parking lot, and wait in 90 degree heat for a Disney style tram to
take us to the parking lot outside terminal 1.
At that point we realized it was just easier to expect that anyone from
Silver Air is lying to us all the time.
For our return trip home then we wound-up taking a boat, then a van, then
a turboprop, then a bus, then a tram, then a jet and finally a taxi. Unless Silver Air, the Hilton and the Resorts
World people get their act together I can’t imagine putting-up with that hassle
for a return trip.
bottom line for the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini is, if your desired Bimini
adventure involves swimming, snorkeling, fishing, gambling in a tiny casino, or
hanging around by a pool bar, you’ll really enjoy this property. If you’re looking for a resort in an area with
lots to do other than be in the water, there are better choices. Bimini still has a long way to go before it
has the kind of activities that a full-service resort should have either on
property or nearby. And, as I mentioned,
Hilton needs to put a concierge desk in to help answer guest’s questions and
make off-resort arrangements. Short of
that, people will definitely find this place a pretty but confusing and
difficult to navigate to oasis.
This article was written by David Danto and
contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under
prevailing fair use statutes.