I’m standing in Atlantis The Palm’s Royal Bridge Suite. It’s a 924sqm whopper with three ridiculously opulent bedrooms, bathrooms decked out with layers of gold plate, a private helipad entrance, a 24 hour butler and panoramic views of The Palm and the Arabian Gulf. Dubai’s flagship Atlantis hotel, it seems, doesn’t do anything by halves.
Opened to much fanfare, a celebrity guestlist that included Kylie Minogue and a fireworks display that reportedly cost more than £1m in 2008, Atlantis is one of Dubai’s largest – and most luxurious – hotels. Its 27 restaurants, 1,500 guest rooms and eight lavish suites have played host to some of the A-list’s starriest names, and too many footballers to bother naming. It’s certainly not the place for anyone in search of a boutique experience. Instead, as I discovered, it’s about luxury, luxury and yes, more luxury.
A quick glance at the Grand Lobby is enough to give you a taste of what’s in store. Its elaborate sea and marine life theme climaxes in a vast central sculpture designed by Dale Chihuly that’s impossible to miss and includes 3,000 hand-blown pieces of glass. Surrounding it are murals, offering a stylised Romanesque depiction of the seasons and the elements. At times, it’s almost cartoonishly opulent, although if you’re anything like me, you’ll leave it smiling.
The marine theme continues in the equally extravagant guest rooms. Mine had a huge bathrooms with an enormous ‘rain shower’ and a private balcony overlooking the sea. Not that I spent much time there, because there’s plenty more to see in Atlantis, not least the vast aquarium, the Ambassador Lagoon. Home to 65,000 marine animals, I saw reef and hammerhead sharks, piranhas, moray eels and some impossibly graceful rays. The marine theme continues in the restaurants too. Spanning every international cuisine imaginable, brunch at the hotel’s Saffron restaurant included everything from sushi and sizzling curries to gluten-free goodies. There was even a chocolate fountain and a pick ‘n’ mix sweet station, although by this point, I’d given up.
The excess continued later on at the uber cool Nasimi Beach. Settled on the beach front, we tucked into some wickedly good cocktails before mopping them up with a wholesome salad, all the while listening to the beats played by the in-house DJ. But it was dinner that evening that really encapsulated the Atlantis eating experience, where – as you might imagine from a hotel that puts chocolate fondue on its breakfast menu – just about everything you could possibly want was on the bill of fare. I loved the newly opened Yuan, headed up by former Hakkasan chef, Jeff Tan. Specialising in Cantonese and Szechuan food, I ate mountains of Dim Sum, Peking duck and a faultless 26-hour braised beef cheek.
Luckily, the hotel does have a gym, ShuiQi, where you can work off some of the excess calories, as well as a beautiful spa. In true Atlantis style, the treatment menu rattles on for pages and includes everything from botox to body wraps, as well as the amazing Bastien Gonzalez pedicure that left me with feet worthy of a newborn. After spending an hour relaxing in the spa, I felt thoroughly chilled out – and dare I say it, ready to eat again.
IN THE AREA…
If you can tear yourself away from Atlantis’ 1.4km white sand beach, there’s no shortage of things to do in Dubai. One of the Middle East’s most exciting modern metropolises, the UAE’s second city does shopping like it means it, whether in a souk or a mall. Start with the ancient Egypt themed Wafi Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, where along with Club Monaco and other Western brands, you’ll find a souk with an array of quirky shops. Ras al Saboun, a Lebanese soap merchant, does the best Arabic jasmine scrub in the world. Elsewhere, the stadia-sized Dubai Mall contains just about every saleable item imaginable and is right next to the towering Burj Khalifa, the world’s loftiest building. For something less bling, head to Old Dubai and Bastikiya, where you’ll encounter old-fashioned wind towers, a harbour packed with small abra boats and quaint little art galleries. Nearby Satwa is also worth a look, not least for those in search of a handmade shirt – the tailors there do it well, quickly and cheaply. After dark, drop into Dubai dining institution Ravis. A scruffy looking eatery with formica tables and plastic plates, it does the best Indian food in the city.
NEED TO KNOW…
Three nights at the 5* Atlantis The Palm staying on a half-board basis costs from £749 per person including flights with Emirates from London Gatwick. Book by 31 July 2014 for travel in September and get a free upgrade to full-board. To book call 0845 543 6615 or visit travelbag.co.uk