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.

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.

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!