As you drive down the crescent of Palm Jumeirah, the world's "most ultra-luxury experiential resort" comes into view—a glass, steel and concrete structure gleaming in the Dubai sun. Forty-three storeys high and spread over 406,000 square metres, the resort designed by New York City's Kohn Pederson Fox Associates is enormous, even by Dubai standards. Its unique stepped design, with blocks of rooms placed precariously over each other, makes it quite the tourist attraction. People routinely slow down for a quick photo or two of the edifice before driving by. And it's not just the fancy design that drives its cachet; last year's humdinger of a launch party, where Beyoncé performed and A-listers like Kendall Jenner and Ashley Park attended, has made it a mecca of celebrity spotting. In fact, as I write this, Instagram informs me that Ronaldo has just checked in with his family.
When I visited the resort last autumn, just at the start of Dubai's pleasant weather season, I did not spot any A-listers, but there were plenty of young, good-looking, and wealthy people to keep up the glamour quotient. There were families of all nationalities, many of them Dubai-based expats and locals who had checked in to experience this temple of luxury and all the delights it offers.
As I entered the hotel after my almost 40-minute ride from DXB, I was greeted by two panels of cascading water at the entrance that surprisingly had flames shooting through to create a wonderful medley of fire and water, a recurring motif through the hotel. Water, in particular, is a central theme of the interior design, highlighting the importance of the precious liquid in the desert environment where Atlantis conjures up a fantasy of a shimmering oasis.
At the lobby, I stopped to marvel at "Droplets," an 11.5-metre tall stainless steel centrepiece that mimics the splatter of raindrops on the desert. The other water features like water walls, twin lobby elevators surrounded by cascading water, three lobby aquariums, the Horizon pool and water candles create an illusion of being constantly surrounded by water. A series of water fountains guide visitors to the "Skyblaze Fountain," which comes alive every evening in a mesmerising display of light, fire, water, music and magic.
At Atlantis The Royal, terraced and stepped towers meet through a sky bridge with pools, lounges, and other amenities. My room was high up on the "Sunset Tower; the other two are "Sunrise" and "Sunlight." In all, they house 795 rooms, suites and signature penthouses, of which 44 suites and signature penthouses have private glass-walled infinity pools.
The property overlooks the Arabian Gulf on the northern side and the fronds of Palm Island on the south. My room, I discovered, had uninterrupted views of the Gulf—miles of aquamarine that almost invade the hushed white and gold of the interiors.
The room was large enough to fit two double beds, a seating area, and a dressing room with plenty of space to spare. The bathroom was spacious, had a roomy tub and was fitted with amenities from the luxury brand Graff. The vanity items came in a rather lurid shade of gold. All very uber luxe!
The balcony was the biggest draw for me. At sunset, as the sky turned flaming orange over the sea, I could see Atlantis The Palm, the original behemoth, and the twinkling lights of Crescent Road stretching out into the horizon before I headed out for dinner at one of the resort's standout restaurants.
Atlantis The Royal doesn't do anything in half measures, especially not when it comes to dining options. The resort has no less than 17 F&B outlets that include eight celebrity chef restaurants, such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Jaleo by José Andrés, La Mar by Gastón Acurio, and Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis.
My first major meal at the resort was lunch at Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis. Facing the sea on one side and the Skyblaze Fountain on the other, it was a perfect start to a culinary Odyssey at the resort. The Greek Mediterranean restaurant prides itself on serving the freshest seafood. Besides the regular tank with humongous lobsters and crabs, it has a "fish market" where the day's "catch" is displayed on blocks of ice with prices. My choice of fish came to me as thin, lightly braised filets in an olive oil-caper dressing and a slice of lime, the simple flavours and freshness of the fish bursting through. The meal was delicious, and the service was warm and attentive.
My stay at Atlantis The Royal was punctuated with several memorable meals. Dinner on the penultimate day of my trip at Jaleo by José Andrés was one such fantastic meal. Predominantly done up in a vibrant shade of red, the interiors were sophisticated yet cosy and inviting. We were served a tasting menu specially curated for us by the chef, which consisted of a series of delicious modern and traditional tapas. However, the highlight was the paella—the Arroz a banda con gambas y calamares—cooked in a large pan on a wood fire in the middle of the restaurant. It was hearty and redolent of flavours of seafood, saffron, spices, and Spain.
Atlantis The Royal has plenty of options if you want to party and have a good time. There's always a party going on at the resort's many pools. Head over as I did to Nobu by the Beach for some good music and better food. Prop yourself on a beach bed and get your cocktails and Japanese Peruvian nibbles served right there.
The Cloud 22 Skypool on the skybridge has some fantastic views of the Palms and is a great place to chill out for a sundowner. Sip some sparkling wine and relax in the infinity pool while the DJ gets the party going.
For more refined clubbing, head to the Asian lounge Ling Ling, where you can party till 3 am to some cool EDM from Thursdays to Saturdays and 1 am on other days. Remember to turn up in your elegant best. The restaurant serves some great contemporary Asian cuisine. And while it does serve large plates, I was partial to the small plates, dim sums, sushi, and sashimi options.
Finally, to round up the gastronomic journey, do not skip breakfast at the Gastronomy gourmet dining hall.
Even if you are cutting down on calories, Gastronomy deserves a cheat day for all its fantastic options. From breakfast options from various cuisines like Indian to Chinese to Middle-eastern to desserts and beverages, it is a veritable foodie's paradise!
Address: Palm Jumeirah - Crescent Rd - The Palm Jumeirah - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 426 3000