Marchay Travel Advisor, Anna Clara Lee, recently returned from Dubai. She shares the latest updates on this global hotspot, which got an additional adrenaline boost during the Pandemic. Highlights include her stay at Atlantis the Royal, details on Emirate’s Stopover Program, and the must-do activities when visiting the city.
WHAT’S NEW IN DUBAI?
Short answer: Everything. There are constantly new luxury hotels, restaurants and attractions, all part of Dubai’s effort to make the Emirate a hub (and sanctuary) for tourism, business and global wealth. While Atlantis the Royal has been in the spotlight after their grand opening this February (famously launched by Beyonce’s first public performance in five years), Dubai’s hotel/resort scene is basically a nuclear arms race with each new project looking to surpass the opulence of what came before it. Dubai’s seemingly unlimited capital, bolstered by the influx of wealthy refugees from other part of the world (recently Russia), provide the resources and demand for Dubai to continue to develop into one of the, if not the, most decadent destinations on the planet.
Think of Dubai like Vegas, a perfect 2-3 day quick hit of indulgence. We like Dubai as an ideal stopover when heading to destinations such as the Maldives, Seychelles, or Thailand. Oman is also an interesting destination that can be combined with Dubai. Emirates has a Stopover Program providing amenities and services necessary for a 10+ hour or overnight connection. It’s worth a visit just to see the architecture, indulge in the luxury, and see the combination of old and new Dubai. Abu Dhabi is an easy day trip, which is also super interesting with Saadiyat Island, home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Yas Island which is an entertainment hub with things like Ferrari World and Warner Brothers World.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
Dubai has an ultra-luxurious theme park energy, but there are also interesting cultural sites especially in neighboring Abu Dhabi (the Grand Mosque). Dubai activities include the ski slopes in the Emirates Mall, summiting the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, to wandering the souks in the “Old City”. Those more adventure-inclined can sky dive, have dinner in a hot air balloon over the city, jet ski, ride dune buggies in the desert, or charter a yacht in the Persian Gulf. Family activities include multiple aquaparks, massive gardens, museums, and other activities for kids to enjoy. And don’t worry – you’re in Dubai so most of the hotels are well equipped with state-of-the-art Kids Clubs for when the parents want to sneak off to the beach clubs such as Nobu on the Beach and Drift.
Spending time in the desert is a must no matter your length of stay, but if able to spend two or more nights here, it’s worthwhile overnighting at a desert resort for at least one night. While the city is bustling at night, the desert offers a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy the stillness and vastness and take a step back to appreciate the roots of this city and its humble origins. We were guided on a classic desert Jeep drive observing the sand gazelles and dune wildlife, rode camels off into the sunset and enjoyed a private dinner under the stars with a fire dancer during my time here, but there are also golf courses, hot air balloon rides and a massive 84 kilometer biking trail to be enjoyed, and ideally you should visit here when the Endurance City horse races are taking place during their winter for a true Arabian experience. Our partners on the ground can organize the ideal couple of days for you based on your interests, so don’t hesitate to ask your Marchay travel team questions as to how we can plan the perfect stay for you.
BUT THERE ARE SO MANY HOTELS – WHICH IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Atlantis the Royal is the new hot spot here, ideally located on the Palm with jaw-dropping views of both the Palm and the Arabian Sea. Its 17 food & beverage outlets will not leave you disappointed, and regardless of which property you choose, spending the day at Nobu on the Beach or a night at Milo’s or partying in Ling Ling is a requirement. With nearly 800 rooms and suites as well as a tower for the residences, ATR’s accommodations are next to none in terms of comfort, views, service, and the quintessential Dubai experience.
For those who still want to visit but tend to avoid the mega-resorts and skyscrapers, I cannot recommend enough both One&Only the Palm and the Bulgari Resort Dubai on Jumeriah Bay. Both feature the city’s only beachfront villa options, and you would be treated like royalty at either option.
With three accommodation styles between the Manor House, low-rise Mansions each with eight to ten individual guestroom and suites, and four Beachfront Villas ranging from two to three bedrooms, Only&Only the Palm is a gem in the city and offers dual privileges at its sister property across the water, One&Only Royal Mirage, if you’d like to spend the day there at their on-site beach club, Drift. Their poolside cabanas start at $500 + for the day from 9AM – 7PM and are the perfect option for your departure day if leaving on a later flight, as they are fully equipped with showers and changing rooms, so you don’t have to skimp on enjoying your last day here.
The Bulgari sits on its own island in Jumeriah Bay and feels far away and isolated from the rest of the city. Likewise, they offer both standard rooms and suites as well as one, two- and three-Bedroom Villas, each with their own pool and the option of your own private beach cabana for the ten facing the beach. For those looking for more privacy, an ultra-relaxing spa treatment and the most secluded beach in the city with ideal skyline views, the Bulgari is calling your name.
Bab Al Shams, translating to Gateway to the Sun, is the idyllic desert retreat that embodies Arabian charm and sense of place. Having been built by the Sheikh decades ago to house his friends and family, this Rare Finds resort was taken over a few years ago by Kerzner to elevate their grounds and level of service. With 115 keys and staff that will bend over backwards to make sure you are well taken care of, this small property is spread out over the vast desert to allow you to truly unwind and soak in the magic of the environment around you.