Fond Of The Frond: Dubai’s Iconic Palm Island

Most people who know anything at all about Dubai have heard of or seen pictures of the iconic Palm Jumeirah Island.  If not, you should watch this fascinating YouTube video about its construction.  I find the accomplishment mind-boggling even taking into consideration that my mind stays boggled a fair portion of the time anyway.

Palm Island, Dubai UAEThe entire structure is an engineering marvel but considering my occupation (you know, travel savant) you won’t be surprised to learn that my favorite portion is the outer ring called The Crescent.  As you look at this picture, the structure in the middle of the Crescent and dominating the landscape is Atlantis.  I published a post about the resort a few days ago which can be read here.

On the extreme right (eastern end) of the Crescent is another great resort, Anantara, which I will tell you about in this post.  On the extreme left (western end) of the Crescent is the One&Only, The Palm and at just south of The Palm is the One&Only Royal Mirage.  I will tell you about the latter two in a subsequent post.

Whew!  Now that we have north, south, east and west pretty much covered, let’s take a brief visit to the incomparable Anantara.  As you will soon discover, I like pretty much everything about this hotel but among my favorite features are the villas out over the water.

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa.If you can pry your eyes off all the “beautiful people” in the foreground (and I use that term in the loosest possible way), you can see the majestic over-the-water villas in the background.  In case you care to do a quick reality check on my judgment in this regard (never a bad idea), I direct your attention to a post on The New York Times Travel blog that was published just two days ago, can you believe it, on the very same subject.  Those shameless bugggers over at the Times have spies everywhere trying to scoop me!   (Note to Shivani Vora.  I just linked to your post.  A reciprocal link would be nice.  Just sayin’.)

Now I want you to close your eyes (never mind, that won’t work unless you are a camel, and a literate one at that, and can read this post through your eyelids).  OK, just imagine yourself floating aimlessly on a pool float in front of your swim up bungalow when you suddenly feel the need to slake your thirst.  Do you paddle over to your domicile, clamber out and retrieve a drink?

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & SpaDon’t be silly my pampered friend!  You are on vacation and this is the Anantara, after all.  See this little boat with the ice chest?Beverage boat at the Anantara  Your boat butler will simply paddle over to you and offer you the refreshing beverage of your choice.  How cool is that?

Another thing you are going to enjoy about this luxury property is the dining options.  Crescendo offers international cuisine in a dazzling open air setting.  According to their website, Mekong “evokes a feeling of the Far East with a melange of traditional Oriental ingredients . . .”  It sounds inviting.  It seems like forever since I had a really good melange.   Perhaps most surprising of all is Bushman’s Australian Restaurant And Bar.  This venue even features a Salt Guru (no, really) to help you select the perfect salt variety to compliment your meal.  I don’t know about you but I have had a Salt Guru on retainer for years. 

Night falls on the Anantara DubaiSadly, the sun is setting, not only on another glorious day at Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, but also on another of these masterful posts.  Wipe away that tear little buckaroo.  I will return very soon with another thralling installment.   That is sort of like thrilling but more captivating!

Dubai’s “A” List: Atlantis and Anantara

I trust you have been dutifully following my most recent journey at Golden Circle 2013.  I have arrived in Dubai which is for me a brand new destination.  As a widely traveled, highly skilled (if not particularly modest) travel professional, what do you suppose was the very first thing I chose to do upon arrival?  Head straight for the world-renowned Dubai shopping mall?  No, you must have me confused with Paris Hilton which isn’t easy seeing as how she weighs slightly less than my right leg and she carries more money in her coin purse that I have in my retirement account. Oops, that’s right, I don’t have a retirement account.  Sorry!

No, to the contrary, I set off to do a series of hotel site inspections.  I realize you lay travelers have trouble identifying with such odd behavior.  You are normally slipping your swim suit on under your clothes in the airplane lavatory so your hotel transfer can bypass check in and take you directly to a waiting deck The World Islands Dubaichair and a towering pina colada.    You have to remember, we in the travel industry are consummate professionals who routinely put duty before personal gratification.  (If you are buying that, could I interest you in Paraguay on the Dubai World Island? It’s a steal – this week only – and if you pay cash I will throw in Sri Lanka and a set of steak knives.)

As entertained as you no doubt are by my witty banter,  we had best move on and take a look at the first two hotels I visited.

ATLANTIS

Atlantis in DubaiOK, this is a test.  I took this picture from my hotel window.  Can you pick out  Atlantis in this shot?  My, what keen eyesight you have!

Just in case you think I write these blog posts from a cabin in northern Minnesota and all my travels are a figment of my imagination, here is a shot of me standing in the entry way of said resort.  At first glance, you may suspect I The entrance to Atlantis, The Palm Dubaimight have appropriated a stock photo of Tom Cruise from the internet but, no, this is really me.

Everything about this hotel is both spectacular and colossal including its domination of The Palm skyline.  Regrettably, there will be space here only to touch on a few of its amazing features.   I promise to return soon to give Atlantis The Palm the robust treatment it richly deserves.  I would love to talk about the decor, the vast array of room types, the selection of more than 20 restaurants and bars, shopping options and so forth. But for now, let me highlight just three features worthy of special attention:

The Lost Chambers Aquarium

Adults and children alike will enjoy exploring the underwater mazes and tunnels of the lost civilization of Atlantis. Along the way you will encounter sharks, eels, seahorses, and piranhas. The aquarium boasts over 20 remarkable marine life exhibits including a touch tank.  That’s right and if you don’t believe me, just ask the director Nubs.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium DubaiAquaventure

Aquaventure Waterpark is billed as “non-stop water, non-stop fun”.  For the thrill seeker, they tout “the Leap Of Faith . . a 27 meter near vertical speed slide” and “other heart-thumping slides that catapult you through shark filled lagoons.”   Just when I thought I was going to have to either up the amperage on my pacemaker or discretely check out and find a hotel for wusses, I discovered the option to relax on their private beach surrounded by lush tropical landscapes.  To give you a sense of its scope, virtually everything you see in this picture I took is part of the waterpark.

Aquaventure Atlantis The Palm DubaiMarine Animal Adventures

Another option is to upgrade your Atlantis experience with one of their up close marine animal adventures. For the uninitiated, “upgrade your experience” is hotel speak for pay a little more.  But hey, in this case, it is well worth it.  The options include feeding eels, groping groupers  or petting piranhas (OK, I might have thrown in a couple of my own verbs there) in one of their Behind The Scenes Tours. Marine Animal Adventures Dubai

You can even do a ten minute photo session at the water’s edge where you can “hug, kiss and dance with dolphins”.  Apparently, there are lots of lonely people out there finding it a challenge to to meet someone.  If you are a certified scuba diver take the plunge into the largest open air aquarium in the Middle East.

Marine Animal Adventures Atlantis DubaiMy goodness how time flies when you are penning classic literature for the ages.  I seem to have run out of space to tell you about the second spectacular “A” lister, the Anantara Dubai Palm.  Please don’t be dismayed.  I will be back in two shakes of a shark’s dorsal fin with a sequel to this post in which I will extol its equally impressive virtues.

If you are simply too famished to wait for the main course, sample this starter I wrote a while back to whet your appetite:  Jumpin’ Jumeirah:  The Anantara Dubai Palm.  Stay tuned!

One Aldwych, Five Stars, Fifteen Years

Prestige, for any luxury hotel, begins with a distinguished name and quite often encompasses a noteworthy address.   Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park AvenueThe Peninsula Beverly Hills, South Santa Monica BoulevardAnantara Dubai The Palm, East Crescent

Somehow, One Aldwych has managed to marry both in one succinct name.  Let’s be honest, you are not going to mistake their name for a small motor lodge on the outskirts of Topeka, Kansas.  The fact that the hotel is located in the heart of Covent Garden adds additional luster to anyone longing to find ground zero in the pulsating heart of London.

One Aldwych Covent GarderThere are so many good things to say about this luxury hotel I hardly know where to start (which is unusual for me because normally I don’t know when to stop!)   I will let you judge the exterior for yourself by this image.  Does this not look like the sort of welcome sight you would long to return to after an exhausting day of trudging around London?.  To me it screams home away from home which is strange, I suppose, since it looks nothing like my recently downsized domicile.

The public areas inside are, if anything, even more impressive.  Animal lovers take a deep breath.  This is not some unfortunate canine papered over with comic strips by an One Aldwych, Covent Garden lobbyeccentric dowager from Stow On The Wold.  It is simply The Beano dog (for 75 years Britain’s number one comic) “Spencer” who patiently lingers at reception to greet you.

If you at first found this picture unsettling, I have no idea what you will make of some of the other great art scattered throughout the hotel such as this piece called, fittingly I suppose, “The Oarsman”.  We have a saying in Texas One Aldwych The Oarsmanabout braggarts that they are “all hat and no cattle”.  I guess you would have to say that this poor chap is “all oars and no boat”.   The hotel has original artwork throughout wych you can view here.  (Sorry, just too easy.)

One of the many great things about this property is its location.  And trust me, as someone who has been to London almost twenty times and has walked the shoe leather off a couple of pair of shoes, location is extremely important.  The tube (subway) system is great (get a pass from your trusty travel agent before you leave) and taxis are ubiquitous (and very dear, as the Brits like to say) but even so, if you are the adventurous sort, you will find yourself doing a lot of walking.

The hotel has the neatest little online map pointing out fifteen great things to do, one for each year of their history, don’t you see?  Some are interesting restaurants, some shopping suggestions, others are exhibitions running this summer and they even offer theatre (British spelling) suggestions.  As a quick aside, as a lover of words, one of my favorite aspects of British life is the not so subtle differences in language.  As George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have said, “The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.”

One Aldwych studio suiteLet’s do one more thing right and splurge a little on one of the signature Studio Suites.  These are stunning circular rooms at the apex of the hotel.  Check out (before you check in) a list of features and amenities of this room category.

A couple of other quick items before I conclude.  They do a marvelous afternoon tea with a twist.  Not a twist of lemon . . . it curdles the cream . .  but a theme inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  You simply must take a look at this unique presentation.   For those compulsive personalities for whom walking ten miles a day is simply inadequate to maintain their obnoxious state of buffness, there is a very nice fitness center and 18 metre (there they go again) chlorine-free swimming pool.

Spa Treatments at One AldwychShould you require my presence, however, I shall be found in the nearby spa not doing anything but rather being done to!

Jumpin’ Jumeirah: The Anantara Dubai Palm

In case you have been too busy rearranging your sock drawer lately to notice, there is a brand new five-star luxury resort coming to Dubai on September 15th called the Anantara Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort & Spa.  Whew, let me catch my breath.  That’s a mouthful.  Apparently words flow as freely as petrodollars in the United Arab Emirates.  Let’s take a moment and dissect this rather elongated name.

Those of you, like me, whose TV’s are set to automatically open on the golf channel Jumeirahprobably recognize the word Jumeirah, even if you have no clue how to pronounce it or what it references.  That would be because the word is emblazoned across the cap and various other clothing articles worn by Rory McIlroy, the young Irish golf phenom, as one of their chief celebrity spokespersons.  Rumor has it . . .  admittedly a rumor I have tried to ignite . . . that I was a close second on their “short list” for a lucrative endorsement contract.  No easy jokes about my stature, please!

Jumeirah  is the name of a world-wide luxury hotel chain based in Dubai with resorts in such illustrious and exotic settings as Abu Dhabi, Bali, Baku, Kuwait, Maldives, Mallorca, Shanghai, Phuket and  everyone’s all-time bucket-list favorite Xishaungbanna.  According to their abbreviated website, “The word Anantara in Sanskrit means “without end” and evokes the freedom, movement and harmony that are the spirit of the Anantara Experience.”

Anatar Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort & SpaOne of the upcoming dining options will be an Australian Grill restaurant.  I am impressed that they know how to “throw another shrimp on the barbie” even in Dubai.  The Mediterranean beach restaurant sounds a little more to my taste.  Indulge me for a moment as I picture myself slowly twirling my pita bread in plates of succulent tzatziki and hummus and popping Greek olives like buttered popcorn all while an attentive waiter makes sure my wine glass never dips below half full.

The room types are particularly intriguing.  Imagine having to choose between a one bedroom beach pool villa with a personal infinity pool, a one bedroom over water villa poised over the ocean, or a generous Anantara two bedroom beach pool villa that offers the pinnacle of luxury and is ideal for families and friends.  Decisions, decisions.

Anatara Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort & SpaOne of the best known features of this resort is the Anantara Spa which is designed to restore balance and harmony between body and mind.  They might have their hands full in my case trying to balance my wobbly body while simultaneously harmonizing it with my rather disjointed mind.  But hey, if they are up for the challenge, I am more than willing to submit myself to as many “intoxicating aromas” and “exotic elixirs” as my paltry wallet and their strained patience can endure.

Anatara Spa

Our friends at Emirates are standing by to whisk you away to the grand opening.  Don’t let some A-list celebrity or overpaid sports figure beat you to the punch.  If you have always dreamed of staying at a hotel located at the crescent of the iconic Palm Jumeirah surrounded by lush gardens and tranquil lagoons (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), this is your opportunity.  Should I book you the room with the personal infinity pool or the villa over the ocean?