My Trip / The Ship / A Tip

Those of you who have been paying attention . . . just for grins let’s kid ourselves and assume that’s 100% of you . . . will have noticed that this recent series of blog posts has been called “Golden Circle 2013”.   I’m curious.  Did that unfamiliar term cause you even a moment’s pause or did you just shrug your shoulders and mutter “Whatever” like some bored tween being asked to clean his room?

Picture from my balcony on Navigator of the SeasGOLDEN CIRCLE 2013

Not that it happens all that frequently on these pages but there happens to be a perfectly logical reason for the use of this term.  Every year our franchise organization, Travel Leaders, sponsors a reward trip for some of its top performing franchisees called, not coincidentally, the Golden Circle.  To qualify you have to be willing to sport a gold belly button ring of no less than twenty-four carats.  (OK, I’m being silly.  Fourteen carats is perfectly fine.)   Actually, you just have to be the creme de la creme of the travel industry, able to dispense expert advice, draw upon decades of distilled experience and resolve prickly problems all without breaking a sweat or mussing your hair.

This year’s trip was a seven night Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas in and out of Civitavecchia, Italy, the port near Rome.  More about the cruise ship momentarily.  But why, pray tell, did I fly to Rome from Dallas-Fort Worth by way of Dubai?  For those who can still afford a globe, even a cursory glance will reveal this is not exactly the most direct route.  In fact, it is 14 hours from DFW to Dubai and another 5 1/2 hours from Dubai to Rome.  I promise I was not amassing frequent flyer miles.  I did it for the perfectly sane reason all of us travel zealots do what we do.  I succumbed to a new destination’s allure, a new airline’s ambiance and a new culture’s attraction.   The travel itch, mon ami, simply has to be scratched!

Navigator of the Seas PromenadeNAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS

The Golden Circle cruise was aboard the Royal Caribbean vessel Navigator of the Seas.  The cruise that I was on was the penultimate cruise before the Navigator left the Mediterranean for its new home, Galveston, Texas.  Would you believe that the reason for this repositioning was that I struck up such a fast friendship with the captain that he wanted a home port nearby where I could continue giving him little navigation tips to enhance his career?  No, I didn’t think so.

Would you believe that I wrote an entire post explaining this move back in May?  You should!  It was called Travel Industry Proposes, Royal Caribbean Disposes.  Read this post and you will learn that not only is the ship coming to Texas but will be undergoing an extensive dry dock revitalization.  In upcoming posts as we sail from port to port, we . . . that is the we of majesty in case you didn’t notice my toe ring . .  will share  more about this charming vessel.

Sidewalk cafe in Ladispoli, ItalyA TIP

Being slightly intoxicated by the holiday spirit(s), I have magnanimously decided to share three tips for those contemplating booking a Med cruise!   First tip, never ever book your flights to arrive the day the ship sails.  That is a sure-fire recipe for unnecessary stress.  Arrive at least a day earlier. as I did.

Secondly, if you are sailing from Civtavecchia (near Rome), you might want to consider booking an overnight stay in the charming little town of Ladispoli.  (Bonus tip:  the accent falls on the second syllable.)  I stayed at a modest but perfectly suitable little place called the Hotel Alle Tamerici which offers a very cozy restaurant.

Tip number three.  So how do you get from the madhouse known as Fiumicino Airport in Rome to the tranquil Italian seacoast?  I’m glad you asked.  You simple contact Raffaele Rispoli with My Cab In Rome.  Raffaele is a charming and knowledgable denizen of that region of Italy and will gladly spirit you wherever you need to go.  Here is his website and email address (rrispoli at gmail dot com) if you would care to avail yourself of his dependable services.

Did this blog post ignite an all-consuming urge to experience even more?   There are two possible responses to that impulse:

1)  Take two aspirin, lie down and see if the feeling subsides

2) Click on this link where you can view over 200 pictures I took on my Golden Circle trip

Check back soon to hear about our first port of call.

Should I Dubai Before I Die?

Here is my variation on a well known, eighteenth century children’s prayer . . . with humble apologies to the original author:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Should I Dubai before I die?  To make that choice, I must know why!

The world contains innumerable grand and glorious places to experience yet each of us has been allotted a finite amount of time to explore its mysteries.  This quandary is madeShould Dubai be my next destination? considerably trickier by the fact none of us knows exactly how much time we have before we shuffle off this mortal coil.   The nearer we draw to that inevitability, the more acute the decision-making process becomes.  I am certainly closer than many of my readers.  About the only consolation I have found so far in growing old is I no longer have to worry about dying young!  Granted, it’s not much but can you say that?

The question I would like to posit in this post is this:  Should you add Dubai  to your “farm list” (as in “before you buy the farm”)?  Sorry, I just couldn’t bring myself to use that other overtaxed, ubiquitous phrase (you know, the one that involves a lower appendage striking a milk pail).  Since I am not a fan of authors who raise questions but offer no answers, here is my never humble opinion:  YES, you should!  I can think of several compelling reasons but in the interest of brevity, here is one of the best.

In Dubai You Can Experience Arab Culture In A Secure Place

I must tread lightly here so as neither to offend nor be misunderstood.  The mention of the religion of Islam and the Arab world in general sparks a plethora of emotions here in America.  Because of the tragic yet undeniable reality of radical Islamic terrorism, many in this country are left in a quandary. They are caught between curiosity and even admiration for one of the world’s oldest and most erudite cultures and a totally understandable apprehension about sating that curiosity in a safe fashion.  For you folks, I have wonderful news.  Dubai is the perfect place to visit to learn more about this culture in a safe and secure environment.

Experiencing Arab hospitality

One of absolute highlights of my brief trip to Dubai . . . I think I have spent more time writing about Dubai that visiting it . .  was a stop in the old section of the city called Bastakiya.  My intrepid guide Susan with Desert Adventures (more about both below) led me to the extremely ??? structuremodest structure you see in the picture to your left called the Bastakiya Majlis.  Before entering she explained that you never knew who might be relaxing within from a humble tradesman to a member of the royal family.

As we entered, we were greeted with what can only be described as effusive hospitality of the sort you identify with the legendary Bedouin custom of Diyafi where even an enemy must be given shelter and fed for a few days.  I was warmly greeted by a handful of men and immediately asked by the man in the picture above, I believe his name was Ahmed, to join him on the mat where he was seated.  I was quickly brought some tea, a little afternoon treat and invited to hold the Hookah pipe which I believe they call Shesha.  The gentleman then began to tell me how he had served in the military and how richly God had blessed him and his two devoted wives.  I used to quip that I had a child and two wonderful wives at home but Ahmed was serious!  I have no doubt, had we had the time, he would have gladly passed the afternoon sharing conversation and extending hospitality.

Gold Souk MarketI wish time permitted me to share many more compelling reasons for making Dubai your next destination.  Since it does not, I point you to the Desert Adventures website which describes just a few of the many available options with this paragraph.

You could be discovering wrecks in the ocean, seeing the world’s tallest tower, attending a diva’s concert, trying your skills at belly and salsa dancing, or going to the theater, feasting on an mouth-watering Arabic buffet in the desert, swimming with the dolphins, dinner cruise on an Arabian dhow, dune bashing, exploring heritage sites, shopping, setting up a business, or even skiing – yes, in the desert! – are just some of the things you can do. The list is endless.

Dubai's Gold Souk marketBoth of the pictures directly above were taken in the market called the Gold Souk.  When we send our clients to Dubai, we use the gold standard of middle east inbound tour companies, Desert Adventures.  Susan Jorehri, whose impeccable knowledge of the destination was earned through more than a decade of local residence, could not have been more kind or informative.  When you get ready to plan you next trip to Dubai, contact our Travel Leaders offices.  Working with Desert Adventures, we will make sure your “farm list” experience is golden!

The One&Only Time A Royal Mirage Is A Real Oasis

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a mirage this way. “Something (such as a pool of water in the middle of a desert) that is seen and appears to be real but that is not actually there; something that you hope for or want but that is not possible or real.”  With apologies to the famous lexicographer, quite obviously Mr. Webster has never vacationed in Dubai.  (Being dead for some 170 years, Noah, is hardly an excuse.)  It may be the One&Only example of this phenomenon but I am about to tell you about a mirage that really is an oasis.

One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai

One&Only Royal Mirage lobbyOne of the first things you need to understand about this sprawling 65 acre resort is that it is very much three experiences in one setting.  The three very distinct environments are named The Palace, Arabian Court and Residence & Spa.  The overview page on their website does a masterful job of describing the unique characteristics of each section.

There are few hotel lobbies that literally stop you in your tracks when you enter.  This, however, is Lobby of the One&Only Royal Miragecertainly one of them.  I am thinking seriously of reworking the entry way to my tract home with a similar skylight.

Speaking of my own humble domicile, I may have to get my attorneys involved with the architects of this property who shamelessly stole the landscape plans to my own back yard even down to the bullseye fountain in the foreground.  Surely they realized the first reaction people were going to have is “Wow, just like Terry’s yard”?Royal MIrage viewTo say the accommodations are stunning doesn’t even begin to do them justice.  I was shown this room just before the guest arrivedRoyal Mirage accommodations.  Let’s be honest.  How would you like to arrive from a long journey to this?

I would love to tell you whether this is a picture of a Prestige room in the Residence, a Prince suite in the Arabian Court or a Superior Gold in the Palace but to be perfectly honest, after seeing so many spectacular rooms in all three sections and with hunger pains beginning to nip, my little gray cells had started taking an early Qaylulah, the Arabic version of a siesta.

Perhaps detecting the famished look in my eyes, my delightful guide Vanessa Thodda, Senior Sales Manager at the resort, suggested we pause for a brief repast.  A twist of the arm being wholly superfluous at this point, Vanessa (who reminds me of Cheryl Lobo, one of our top agents), Susan Joehri from Desert Adventures (more about this great company in the next post) and I found our way to the Eauzone in the Arabian Court section shown below.  The sumptuous fare and elegant surroundings were only surpassed by the convivial company.

Eauzone Restaurant at One&Only Royal MirageThe formula for a world-class property is not that complicated even if it is not easily duplicated.  You take a stunning setting, add elegant accommodations, include delicious cuisine served in a variety of stellar venues, throw in a world-renowned spa and add a pinch of gracious service and warm hospitality. Voilà!  You have the oasis in the desert you have always dreamed about.  And, despite its name, it is no mirage!

Check back in soon to learn why Dubai is must see destination.  After that final Dubai post, we will board Emirates for the next leg of our journey.  Next stop, Rome.  Actually, Ladispoli but more about that later.

One&Only X 2 = Double Delight

We can’t all be Issac Newton I suppose (although, I must say, I do love his fig bars) but here Fmaous mathematician Isaac Newtonis an equation so rudimentary that even I can grasp it.  If a single One&Only Resort is  magnificent, then ipso facto two One&Only Resorts are twice as delightful, right?  Unless, that is, you insist on dragging out that confusing expression “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” in which case you have me totally lost.

Setting mathematics quickly aside for something I do understand, let’s talk a little travel.  As I trust you have noticed, I have been writing lately about my latest junket, the first stop of which was Dubai.  While I was there, it was my privilege to visit not one but two amazing gems of the Middle East.

ONE&ONLY THE PALM, DUBAI

To give you a feel for the opulence, the picture below is me standing in my bathroom in the Presidential Suite drawing my bath.  Just kidding!  This is actually the lobby but you do have to admit it is quite breathtaking.  (In point of fact, the sumptuous bathrooms do feature oversized freestanding bathtubs as you will learn below.)  If you need a sense of perspective, I am six feet six inches tall and exquisitely sculpted not unlike the iron lattice-work in the background.

The lobby of the One&Only The Palm, DubaiEvery square inch of this property oozes stylish luxury.  This is especially true of the public areas such as the dining rooms and bars.  The resort features a marina (of course) and one of my favorite spots is the 101 Dining Lounge and Bar pictured below with a panoramic view of the marina and the Dubai skyline.  When they told me the dress code was “smart casual”, I was a little concerned about flunking the entrance exam but they graciously let me in with a provisional pass.

101 Dining Lounge and BarThe other two elegant dining venues are called Stay and Zest.  Said together they sound to me a little like a command you might issue to an over-exuberant puppy, “Stay, Zest!  Down Stay at the One&Only Palm, Dubaiboy!”.   Setting aside the bizarre way my mind works, these are two extraordinary restaurants.  To cite their website, “Different seating arrangements including a sharing table area as well as a unique Pastry Library concept are key to the restaurant’s DNA.”   That works out extremely well for me since it appears consuming pastries in obscene quantities is deeply imbedded in my personal DNA.  Zest is the primary dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I particularly like the outdoor seating by the pool in the midst of beautiful Moorish style gardens.

This amazing resort offers you your choice of accommodations in three locales: the Manor House, Palm Beach Mansions and Beach Front Villas with various categories within each.  I started this post with one of my lame little jokes about the lobby.  Just to prove that I was indulging in only a slight exaggeration, here are pictures of The Grand Palm Suite with its sumptuous bathroom in the Mansion section.

Typical Manor room Bathroom in One&Only The Palm, Dubai

Be sure and spend some quality time in the world-famous One&Only Private Spa featuring every amenity you can imagine and several you probably couldn’t!  I will return shortly for the second part of this post that will describe the One&Only Royal Mirage.

Before I go, however, I would like to invite you to visit this site where I have posted over 300 pictures from my Golden Circle 2013 travels.   There will not be a test at the end so don’t feel obliged to look at all of them.  The first link in this paragraph will take you to the picture album and the second link to all the posts in this category in case you would like to catch up with my most devoted (some might say, demented) followers who slavishly read every word I write.

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!

Let The Journey Begin: Dubai Or Dust!

I have been in the travel business for well over 25 years.  I will refrain from interjecting the tiresome old saw about being in kindergarten when I began.  One glance at my weathered countenance would quickly dispel such illusions anyway.  Unfortunately, the creases in my face are beginning to bear a striking resemblance to a West Texas river bed after a ten-year drought.

One of the things that got me into the travel business originally, besides a fiscal naiveté befitting a first year business major, is my seemingly unquenchable thirst for adventure.  Another less flattering way of saying the same thing is that I have the attention span of a fruit fly.

Unlike my more mature counterparts, I spend very little time reflecting on the past.  My brother, for example, is the family historian.  I am the family futurist.  Most of my psychic energy is expended contemplating my next foray into the sometimes testing but never tedious world around me.

The Club at DFW

The Club at DFW: The only civilized way to start your journey!

This morning*, I set off of on another of my episodic jaunts.  If you happen to have read one of my previous posts, I gave you a few hints as to my upcoming itinerary.  You need simply to read this post, and the next several to follow, for the denouement.

Every successful journey is immeasurably aided by a good beginning.  This one, I must say, is going quite swimmingly so far. It started with being collected at my domicile by a black car arranged for by my dear friends at RideCentric.  After buzzing by my favorite Starbucks for my obligatory tall, skinny, French vanilla latte, we were off to the airport.

Upon checking in at Emirates (the glistening flying chariot that, even as I pen these words, is spiriting me to Dubai), I headed to The Club at DFW (complimentary for those of us blessed to find ourselves in business class).  The breakfast tacos were quite tasty, I must say.

I have been for quite some time very eager to sample the highly vaunted Emirates flying experience.  Oh, I have been on an Emirates plane before, it just never actually got airborne.  Faithful readers will recall I have even been to a couple of Emirates events.  Today, however, is my first occasion to actually fly on Emirates.

As I write these words I am somewhere over Chibougamau (and no, I did not make that up), so I still have numerous hours to go.  For those of you who hang on my every syllable . . . let‘s not delve into embarrassing percentages . . . here are my preliminary observations.  The service on Emirates is every bit as good as advertised.

Flight attendent on EmiratesIf you own an airline (and don’t we all), you better know how to hire the right people.  There is a magical line between effortless grace and obsequious fawning.  My attendant, Jason, must have a Masters degree in that subtle yet critical distinction.  He manages to be helpful without being harassing.  Restaurant servers take note!

The food, so far at least, has been quite delectable.  I say “so far” since I have a lite-bite and a hearty breakfast still to go.  (Hey, it’s a fourteen hour flight and I have to keep Meal service on Emirates my strength up if you expect me to keep cranking out these literary masterpieces.  You don’t think John Steinbeck actually lived off grapes, do you?)  I particularly enjoyed the salad trio of prawn, salmon and lobster.

The flight to this point has been as smooth as a leisurely punt down the Thames.  I write these words with no small measure of reluctance out of fear I may be tempting fate to send along some white-knuckle turbulence just to keep me humble.  Let’s pray not!

The entertainment center called ICE (for information, communication and entertainment), Emirates in-flight entertainment centeris quite elaborate.  So elaborate in fact, I have yet to muster the energy to decipher it.  I haven’t gotten past the screen that shows one’s excruciatingly slow progress toward one’s destination.

Fortunately, munching on Godiva chocolates, sipping port and rambling endlessly on to you, my adoring readers, seems to provide an adequate diversion so far.

Speaking of rambling, I am bumping up against my self-imposed word limit for any given post.  I would tell you my limit but invariably you would start counting words!  Not to worry!  I will be back with more mind-numbing, sleep-inducing, gray cell-suffocating blog posts before you can say “Just take me out and shoot me!”   Dubai or Dust!

* Owing to undependable access to wi-fi during my travels, these posts are being published several days after the events described.  If you remember literature class, it is written in the historical present!  One last note, all the posts related to this trip can be found under the category Golden Circle 2013 on the homepage right rail.

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?

One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives

One&Only Reethi Rah

First things first.  The title of this blog does not contain any typos.  To demonstrate it we need to journey back to your freshman English class with Ms. Pringle and parse this title.  Don’t memories of parsing sentences, declining nouns and conjugating verbs just make you tingle all over?  OK, first you have to stop thinking about the girl who used to sit in the row ahead and two seats over.  She is now twice divorced, sixty pounds overweight and has a drinking problem, so try to get a grip.

Element One:  One&Only

This is an absolutely incredible collection of resorts in some of the most beautiful locationsOne&Only Resort in the world.  We are talking places like Dubai, Mauritius, and Cape Town.  At the risk of contributing to the delinquency of hormonally charged teenage guys around the blogosphere, this is one of the rotating pictures on the One&Only website homepage.  My own hormones, sadly, are a mere shadow of their former selves and yet I confess my opinion of hanging basket chairs has just skyrocketed exponentially.

I also have to admit that to call a resort chain One&Only seems a little incongruous to me. Shouldn’t a chain called “One” & “Only” have only one link?  Aren’t you glad your mind doesn’t work like mine?  At any rate I am very glad this particular chain has several links because every one of their resorts is in a class by itself.  As they like to put it, each of their resorts “delivers a distinctive experience born of its environment and local culture.”

Element Two:   Reethi Rah

I know it sounds like a pep squad cheer from some small Ivy League school (Reethi Rah, Sis Boom Bah)  but it actual means “Beautiful Island” in Dhivehi.  I will take their word for that because, while my English may not be all that stellar, my Dhivehi is non-existent.  Reethi Rah is an all-villa resort with 130 of the “most luxurious and spacious villas in the Indian Ocean.”

Reethi Rah roomAll the One&Only Resorts, Reethi Rah included, are known for their signature Spas by ESPA.   Apparently you can dash from a steamy sauna directly into a stimulating ice fountain which honestly sounds a tad too stimulating for my taste.  I am more of a “tranquil, one-hour, full-body, please don’t hurt me massage”,  kind of guy.

You need not fear that your palate will have to take a back seat to all that pampering.   I know you will love the international cuisine and spectacular wine cellar at The Reethi Restaurant.  The Tapasake serves tapas-style Japanese dishes in an over-the-water setting and Fanditha is a “boho chic” beach restaurant offering Mediterranean cuisine. I have always believed if you are going to be chic, you might as well go the whole nine yards and be boho chic.  Not to sound immodest but I have been told I pull it off fairly well.  Wait, maybe that was bozo chic.

Here is a little insider tip about the property from Nancy Brassem, Destination Specialist at ID Travel Group.  “The courtyard situated before accommodations features a chaise lounge.  At the base of each couch, the resort provides a warmed foot bath and foot massage before your even enter your room.  What a welcoming, relaxing start to your trip!”

Reethi Rah, MaldivesReethi Rah Lap Pool Maldives

Element Three:   The Maldives

The Republic of The Maldives, also called the Maldives Islands, is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean southwest of India.  It is a double chain of twenty-six atolls.  You are probably wondering how the heck does one get there.  One excellent way is to fly Emirates from any one of several US Gateways to Dubai.  Stop off a couple of days and experience the United Arab Emirates.  Next, hop an Emirates non-stop flight to Malé International Airport.  Then comes the fun part.  Take One&Only’s luxury yacht for the 75 minute boat ride to the North Malé Atoll and the Reethi Rah. 

Piece of cake, right!  Come on, where is your sense of adventure? Just think.  When friends ask where you got that glorious tan you can shake your pom poms and shout, “Reethi Rah, Sis Boom Bah!”

Go Ahead Emirates: Make My Day

One definition of a good job is one in which every day is a little different from the one before.  I guess that is one reason I like the travel industry so much.  Not only is every day distinctive but every six months or so,  just for grins, we all get together and reinvent the entire industry.  Some of us find that a tad stressful but I suppose at least It keeps the little gray cells from atrophying.

DAY ONE

Earlier this year I experienced not one but two of those unique sorts of days thanks to one of the world’s most successful and fastest growing airlines:  Emirates.  Back in Dallas Cowboys Stadium Big ScreenJanuary Emirates staged a huge event for nine hundred or so Dallas / Fort Worth luminaries (and a few dimmer bulbs like me) at the iconic Dallas Cowboys Stadium of all places.  Perhaps you will recognize the big screen that hovers above the field like a suspended Walmart parking lot.   The event was hosted, appropriately enough, by Daryl “Moose” Johnson, the former Cowboys fullback.

I must say, Emirates knows how to do things right.  To give you an idea of the decor check Emirates Launch Event in DFWout this little item.  For those who may be wondering, this is not the hallway leading to my office although I think we can all agree, if there were any justice in this world, it would be.  In case you are also wondering about perspective, it is considerably taller than me, not the loftiest of standards, I will grant you.

DAY TWO

My second little “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” came  two months later in March when I was invited by Emirates to drive out to DFW Airport for a nice breakfast presentation and then to tour one of their 777s  which by then were shuttling people daily back and forth between DFW Airport and Dubai.  After the tour, we reconvened for a sumptuous lunch.  I told you they know how to do things right!

OK, steel yourself for a study in contrasts.  Close your eyes and conjure up the last time you flew Emirates First Class on the 777domestic coach in a middle seat wedged between a Japanese Sumo wrestler and a contestant on their way to an audition for “The Biggest Loser”  I know, shudder!!!

Now take a peek at what greets you when you arrive in first class on an Emirates flight to Dubai.   You know, now that I think about it, I never did find the little mini-bar or the make-up mirror on my last Spirit Airlines flight to Detroit.  Whether you are fortunate enough to fly first class on the 777 or the A380, you get you own freakin’ suite!   Now that’s just plain decadent.

First Class on the Emirates a380

This may come as a surprise but in addition to booking business and vacation travelers, we also have a missionary / humanitarian contract with Emirates for those traveling for more altruistic motives.  You can connect to 125 destinations in 74 countries through Dubai.  If you are flying from DFW or SEA, be sure and ask about the brand new firm upgrade offer from Economy Class to Business Class.  So if your purpose for travel is business, pleasure or even service to humanity, Emirates and Travel Leaders would be more than pleased to “make your day” too!