Grand Hyatt prepares to make long-delayed Baha Mar a reality

View from the terrace of the Espa Spa at Baha Mar.
View from the terrace of the Espa Spa at Baha Mar. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

NASSAU, Bahamas -- After years of viewing renderings, I was finally inside. I had donned a hard hat, stepped over construction debris and entered the main lobby of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.

The 1,800-room hotel is the centerpiece and flagship of the long-delayed project that began more than a decade ago.

The lobby is airy and spacious, with high vaulted ceilings, white walls and a view of the water beyond Cable Beach.

Graeme Davis, president of Baha Mar, along with a contingent of hard-hatted executives including Scott Allen, general manager of the Grand Hyatt, welcomed me.

Originally, Baha Mar was to have five hotels, with the anchor property being the Baha Mar Casino Resort & Hotel. Now, Grand Hyatt is branding the anchor property in addition to the original space allotted for it, creating the 1,800-room hotel.

"We will open [Baha Mar] in phases, with 200 rooms opening on April 21," Davis said. "The remaining rooms will open in phases."

A standard guestroom at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.
A standard guestroom at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

The 300-room SLS Baha Mar will open in phases between September and November, followed by the 200-room Rosewood Baha Mar in December.

"Our plan is to have all three hotels open and operational by the winter season 2017-2018," Davis said.

A fourth hotel, the 694-room Melia Nassau Beach, has been open for three years and operates as an all-inclusive, family-friendly property.

Allen said the Grand Hyatt "will open thoughtfully. We are not taking reservations yet until we are sure that everything is working, we have our certificate of occupancy and we have tested all systems."

Once all that is in order, the reservation books will open, probably 30 days out from the scheduled opening date.

We took the elevator to the eighth floor to see a model of a standard double room. The corridors were covered in thick sheets of cardboard to protect the flooring. Workmen were drilling, sawing, hammering and painting to complete the final touches, although very little remained to be done as far as I could see.

The model room had art on the walls, towels in the marble-floored bathroom, linens on the bed and a flat-screen TV on the wall. All guestrooms will duplicate this model to varying degrees, with square footage depending upon the room category, of which there are 25.

Back downstairs, we walked through the Hyatt to the 100,000-square-foot casino located between the two wings of the hotel. The 1,100 slot machines and 125 gaming tables, brightly lit by dozens of overhead crystal chandeliers, were covered in plastic sheeting for protection from construction dust.

The casino, which is reportedly the largest in the Caribbean, according to Davis, is set to open this spring.

Floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the beach beyond were a far cry from most casinos, which are usually kept dark and offer no views of the outside world. Private gaming rooms flank the perimeter.

The convention center, a separate, stand-alone facility a short walk from the Hyatt, will host its first event this month. The sweeping roof resembles a long, lazy, curvy swirl. The main ballroom, at 40,000 square feet, could house a small city.

The corridors are wide, and they open into dozens of breakout rooms, which will be named for various islands in the Bahamas archipelago.

"The Hyatt had $250 million worth of convention business booked before construction ground to a halt in 2015," Allen said. "We hope to recoup that and more once we open."

Opening April 1 is the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed Royal Blue golf course. The greens have been maintained throughout the prolonged construction process. Shuttles will transport golfers to the course.

The view from the spa's terrace overlooks several pools, cabanas and the beach.

The Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar plans to open 200 rooms on April 21, and the remaining 1,600 rooms will open in phases through December 2017.
The Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar plans to open 200 rooms on April 21, and the remaining 1,600 rooms will open in phases through December 2017. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

The entrance of the Grand Hyatt features a waterwall and an immense fountain with 365 jets.

"We will have a five- to seven-minute fountain light show during the day and at night," Allen said. "Guests can view it from the Hyatt promenade or from guestrooms overlooking the entrance."

The Grand Hyatt will offer 21 food and beverage venues provisioned by 13 separate kitchens; the hotel will open with 1,500 employees but will staff up to 6,000 when it is 100% open. Of the staff, 95% will be local Bahamians.

Future plans call for the 15-acre offshore Long Cay private island to be developed with family activities for Baha Mar guests as well as an on-site organic farm, a marine biology program and several retail and entertainment venues. 

CORRECTION: The Melia Nassau Beach is a family-friendly property; an earlier version of this article described it as an adults-only hotel.

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