How would you like your hotel to have its very own waterpark? What about more than 65,000 marine animals in some of the world’s most spectacular aquariums? And would ice cream parlours, enormous swimming pools, sprawling day spa and dozens of restaurants sweeten the deal? We thought so. A stay at Atlantis The Palm is like no other hotel stay. Except perhaps Walt Disney World. Even then you’d be hard pressed to find the type of decadence Dubai excels at.
Admittedly, Atlantis does look a little like something out of the set of The Little Mermaid. The designers took a theme and ran with it – the lost underwater city after which the hotel is named is brought to life through enormous pillars in the lobby decorated with giant fish and a towering glass sculpture reminiscent of coral swaying in the sea. There are seahorses on the door handles, seashell chandeliers, giant sea snail shells on the walls. And then there’s the real sea life. Just off the main lobby is the Ambassador Lagoon, filled with thousands of fish, sharks and rays. Standing more than 10 metres tall, with more than 11 million litres of water, the aquarium is one of the largest in the world and snakes around the corridor so non-guests can sneak a peek. There’s a few other ways to get a good look at the aquarium. You can sign up to hop in the tank on an Aqua Trek, donning oxygen-filled helmets and descending three metres down to a ledge that sits underwater on the edge of the tank. The rays aren’t shy about swooping over your head as guides point out the bigger fish and sharks. It’s a surreal experience to be surrounded by sea life and not even get your hair wet. The more adventurous can head deeper into the lagoon on an aquarium dive, or stick to the top on a snorkel tour.
For those looking for something a bit more zen, further away from the sharks, the Lost Chambers Aquarium, also onsite, offers early morning yoga classes. Head inside before the aquarium opens to spend an hour moving through stretching and breathing exercises as you watch the fish swim past. It’s a surreal experience, and not to be missed, especially when you’re given 20 minutes at the end of class to explore the aquarium without the crowds.
You’ll find plenty of people over at Aquaventure too. The hotel’s very own waterpark is hugely popular with locals and tourists staying at other hotels. With free entry for hotel guests, it’s a great added value for your stay. Enter the park as many times as you like to hit the waterslides, rapids, artificial beaches and kids zones. Guests can float through an inner tube inside an aquarium on Shark Attack, before heading to the top of the tank to try out ray feeding or a Shark Safari for those feeling extra brave.
When it comes to once in a lifetime experiences, foodies also flock to Atlantis, to taste their way through the dozens of different dining options. Start out with generous serves of fatoush salad, pastries, shish tawook and other Lebanese dishes at the beautifully decorated Ayamna Restaurant. Settle in for shepherds pie, big glasses of gin and juicy burgers at Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen and Bar. Get your steak fix at the Seafire Steakhouse and Bar, and save up your sashimi quota for a good session at Nobu. Then there’s the buffets. Atlantis has two – Saffron, with an Asian theme, and Kaleidoscope, which has a large international selection. For breakfast, both buffets are an absolutely smorgasbord of sweet and savoury options – including candy bars and chocolate fountains. Try zaatar croissants or rice pudding, get stuck into eggs whichever way you want, or make a beeline for the cronuts. You won’t walk away hungry. The only problem will be working up an appetite for lunch.
Then there’s the best kept secret at Atlantis. Unlike a lot of high end hotels, several of Atlantis’ bars host Happy Hour. Held twice daily at Barazura, Happy Hour is the best way to sip cocktails in Dubai without breaking the bank.
Whether you want to wind down by the pool or go all out at Aquaventure World, Atlantis The Palm has plenty to keep you occupied.
Lisa was the guest of Atlantis The Palm