Location, amenities like its own water park and aquarium, elegant yet whimsical decor and award winning restaurants make a stay at the Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates a unique experience in a destination that boasts many luxurious resort options. It has become one of my favorite resort stays anywhere.
Location! location! Location! When we purchased our first home, that was our realtor’s mantra. We’ve followed it ever since. Clearly, so have the folks that built the Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Sitting on a man made archipelago of islands in the shape of a palm and its fronds, the Atlantis occupies prime real estate at the apex of the palm crescent looking out into the Arabian Gulf. You can get to the resort in a traditional, if boring, taxi, or you can take the monorail that whisks visitors up the trunk of the palm with the terminus at the Atlantis resort.
My plane arrived in Dubai in the very early hours of the morning, so I was especially appreciative that the folks at the Atlantis had no issues letting me check in early (6 AM). I received a hotel badge that allowed me to make use of all the facilities until my room was ready. I was only staying one night, but in essence, I had most of two days to enjoy the resort since I also received late (2 PM ) checkout the next day. Even after checking out, I left my bags with the concierge, and continued to take advantage of the resort amenities until I left later in the afternoon.
The Lobby and the Interior Design
The interior design throughout the hotel was one of the experiences I enjoyed most about my stay at the Atlantis, The Palm. As its name suggest, the resort design is based on the theme of the Lost World of Atlantis, but also combined with Arabic influences. The fantasy Atlantis theme starts at the lobby’s front door with its beautiful intricately carved panels.
As I walked into the lobby, my first impression was WOW! – the space just took my breath away. The lobby is clearly the show stopping centerpiece for the hotel with its 30 ft. tall glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. The sculpture picks up on the blues and turquoise colors of the sea and fades into the purple, orange and yellow of a seaside sunset. The sculpture also compliments the eight hand painted murals by Spanish artist Albino Gonzalez which depict the myth of the lost city of Atlantis around a solar calendar.
The glass sculpture sits in its own reflecting pool which offers great opportunities for artistic reflection photography.
While the Chihuly sculpture is the centerpiece, it is all the additional details in the lobby that add up to make a breathtaking and cohesive whole. The palm shaped columns that end in the head of a fish. The colorful shell shaped glass details on the walls behind the reception desk. The softly gurgling water fountains. The intricate geometry of the Arabic inspired mosaics on the floor. All these elements come together in an awe inspiring bright and colorful space.
But it’s not just in the lobby that the creative elements are on display. Throughout the public spaces, wonderful details reflect the underwater fantasy theme, which can be seen in numerous brightly colored ceiling murals, whimsical light fixtures, shell shaped decorations, the floral arrangements, and more geometric mosaic floor patterns. Every space is a thoughtful work of art.
The Outdoor Spaces
The same creative attention to detail can be seen in the outdoor grounds. The lobby opens up onto a cascading fountain feature which overlooks the large Royal Pool.
There is also a second, zero entry pool as well as almost a mile of sandy beachfront with plenty of lounge chairs and towels at all the pools and on the beach.
I especially enjoyed exploring the grounds during the peaceful sunrise when no one else was out and about.
My Accommodations – A Deluxe Guest Room
The Atlantis, The Palm has some uniquely luxurious accommodations including two Underwater Suites with views into the aquarium and the exclusive Royal Bridge Suite that connects the two towers. My budget supported just the basic Deluxe Guest Room, which was definitely much more than adequate. The room had Arabian design influences and had a lovely view over the zero entry pool, over the Palm, and the distant Dubai Marina skyline. The bath had a tub and separate shower, robe, fluffy towels and great smelling toiletries. The bed was comfortable and the linens crisp – did I really need anything else. I also appreciated the complimentary bottles of water.
A ShuiQi Spa Experience
I ended my first day in Dubai with some time at the Atlantis ShuiQi spa (pronounced Shway-key). This was a good way to counter some of the effects of jet lag and to unwind and relax at the end of the day. Here again, the public space for the spa entrance was beautifully designed with a colorful ceiling mural and a hand blown glass light fixture reminiscent of a sea urchin.
The spa offers a variety of treatment brands for both men and women. Since I was not familiar with any of the product lines, I really appreciated that they offered Spa Tasters which were 45 minute treatments that allowed you to experience one of their three premium brands. I had a hard time choosing, but finally decided on the Shiseido Taster which included a facial and hand exfoliation and massage.
The spa treatment was exactly what I needed – relaxing, soothing and calming. The head, shoulder and hand massage released the tensions from traveling and attempting to sleep on a plane. The scrub and lotion treatments left my face and hands baby smooth. After the treatment I enjoyed the relaxation area and the hot tub before heading off to a good night’s sleep.
I have to admit that when I travel by myself, I usually just grab quick meals or snacks, so I did not take as much advantage of all the wonderful restaurant options at the Atlantis, The Palm as I might have. Though with 23 restaurants on site, it would have been difficult to make even a small dent in the options with only two days to experience them. The restaurant choices range from the highly rated Ossiano seafood with views of the aquarium to Japanese options at Nobu to The Burger Joint. There are also two buffet restaurants (Saffron and Kaleidoscope) so there should be more than enough food choices for all discerning tastes or dietary requirements.
I had a lovely lunch at Nasimi Beach restaurant, sitting out on the deck and enjoying the warm breezes. I tried the Pizza Chicken Tandoori with mint chutney, cilantro and crispy onions – delicious. For dinner, I had a few of the meze (appetizer) options at the Ayama Lebanese restaurant, all of which were also very good. For breakfast, I decided that as good as the buffet looked at Kaleidoscope, it was just too much food for me. Instead, I opted for a cappuccino and a slice of cake at the Illy Cafe with a wonderful view of the aquarium. Maybe not the healthiest choice, but definitely tasty.
The Lost Chambers Aquarium
One of the most enjoyable experiences about a stay at the Atlantis, The Palm are the large window views into the largest aquarium in the Middle East. With over 65,000 marine animals swimming about, you can sit a long time trying to identify them all. If you want to do more than just watch, you can also dive or snorkel for a close up view of the marine life.
Guests of the resort get unlimited admission into the Lost Chambers Aquarium. The aquarium is a series of “excavated” tunnels that take you through the now found Lost World of Atlantis. Along with aquatic displays, there are also imaginative displays relating to the myth, culture and technology of Atlantis.
For an extra, small fee I signed up for the Fish Tales behind the scenes tour which was offered every hour. I was the only person at my time slot, so I essentially got a private tour. After a brief introduction into the myth about Atlantis and information about the aquatic displays, we went behind the scenes to the “hospital” area where they breed and take care of the babies and also quarantine the new, incoming species. This part of the tour was given by one of the marine biologists and was extremely informative. And yes, I did ask about the water chemistry testing they performed (still a geek at times). It was especially interesting to see the sibling to the albino alligator that is on display in the aquarium. The two alligators are rotated in and out of the aquarium display so that neither one gets too disrupted by the public. We finished the tour by going outside to the area of the aquarium called the Ambassador Lagoon and hand fed the fish.
About half of the Atlantis’ vast property is taken up by the Aquaventure Waterpark, billed as the largest water park in the Middle East. As a hotel guest, you get unlimited access to the park, so you can go for the day or just a few hours after a day of sightseeing. Another nice little perk is the shuttle that takes you from various points on the hotel side to three different stops throughout the water park.
For adrenaline lovers, there are many exciting water slide options, including high speed ones that were much too fast for me. My speed was the mile long lazy river network, which was not always that lazy either. Just as I was getting comfortable in my inner tube, the river took me up inclines and then down cascades and through rapids, before calming down for a lazy stretch of floating again. Such fun!
There are many lounge chair areas throughout the park and on the beach, as well as cabanas that you can rent for a more private experience. There are also a variety of restaurant and snack and drink options (including a Starbucks).
The park also had what looked like a really fun Splashers area for little kids, with a lot of umbrella covered lounge seating for the parents – smart. With unlimited access to both the water park and the aquarium, I think that the cost of staying at the Atlantis would actually become pretty competitive for a family with kids staying in the same room.
I scheduled only one night and essentially two days for my stay at the Atlantis, The Palm because I wanted to experience other sides of Dubai. But I could easily have spent a few more days, lazing around the pool, playing in the water park and tasting some of the other fine restaurants. I hope to get back another time and do just that, (but next time with my hubby).
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