When was the last time something surpassed your expectations? When it caught you by surprise by just how good it was?
They say time is precious, and so when we get off work and go away with family we want it to be flawless, that change that we needed to revive the spirit.
Often though, especially if you have children, holidays can be the opposite, full of stress as you try to keep everyone happy. This is multiplied by a factor of 100 if the place you booked isn’t up to scratch.
But sometimes, just sometimes you get it right, more than right. Sometimes it’s just dumb luck but occasionally you make a good decision.
Booking a stay with your family at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai constitutes such a decision.
This famed resort is a premium destination so it represents a certain level of investment, but when it comes to family holidays you get out what you put in, and in the case of Atlantis, on The Palm, Dubai, it’s a gamble that will pay off.
For at this resort the more you put in, the more fun, relaxation, stress-free time, and just ‘everythingdonerightness’ (a word I invented after my stay) you get.
So when it comes to booking and they ask you if you want to go Imperial Class, do it, just do it, because whatever extra it costs you, you will be rewarded.
As we found when we pulled up outside the main entrance to Atlantis.
This was the last couple of days at the end a road trip from Muscat, Oman, to the UAE. I’d done a lot of driving with my family (including young baby), and I’ll confess I was a little tired and a little irritable.
So when I was greeted with a scene that on the surface looked like Kings Cross Station at rush hour I was not hopeful.
But here came surprise number one, organisation like you’ve never seen before, an army of porters rushed out to greet arriving guests and within minutes luggage (and we had tonnes of the stuff) was swiftly evacuated from the vehicle and onto a trolley while you and your bemused family were gently guided inside the huge lobby, a spectacle that plays tribute to a myth, a legend lost in time.
You don’t gawp long though as being Imperial Club guest you are guided to a special lounge for check-in, all hot towels and welcome drinks.
Minutes later you have your keys and you are off to your room, it really is flawless, so much so that I’ve devoted six paragraphs to just how impressive this is considering how many arriving guests Atlantis deals with at any given time.
And that, seemingly small thing, sets the tone for your stay, genuinely everything exceeds expectation, this resort turns customer care on a giant scale into a fine art.
A word on your room, this is Atlantis so don’t expect crisp whites or gleaming marble, instead prepare yourself for a colour palette of coral and aquamarine, which actually made a refreshing change from the whites and wood that are the staples of most five star hotels.
For those with children the Terrace Club Suite, which can be one or two bedrooms, is the ideal base. At 94 sq m it’s huge, with an expansive lounge, and generous master bedroom, plus a huge bathroom with a freestanding marble bath and separate spa shower.
The expansive balcony, with sun loungers and an outdoor dining table, adds to the space as it gazes out at the pools and then the beach and The Palm’s skyline beyond.
Of course, you don’t come to Atlantis to stay in your room, not when you’ve this massive mini-world to explore.
It’s almost difficult to know where to start as the resort has so much going on, but practically speaking the best place is at the Imperial Lounge where you can use their personal concierge service to book restaurants and activities.
This is important as Atlantis is a busy place so a little planning in advance can ensure that disappointment is avoided, especially for families wanting to book services such as baby sitting (amazing for parents who want a night as adults) or tables at the right times for their children. The concierge team are efficient and helpful, and also worth nothing that you can also get complimentary breakfast away from the madding crowd in the lounge (as well as happy hour from 5pm to 7pm before your dinner plans).
With the organisation done, you are free to enjoy Atlantis.
Obviously Aquaventure Water Park is the main destination (especially with a teenage son).
As an Imperial Club guest you enjoy unlimited access to the park and all manner of rides for adrenalin-seekers, it also means that while outside guests are queuing to get in you are already zooming down the flumes. If you happen to be there midweek this means that you’ll get the run of the park, literally running on to every attraction you want.
For families this is simply a great place. A private beach and splash parks for those with young children, combined with all the excitement and thrills of some hair-raising rides (especially at the Tower of Poseidon), it’s a place where fun comes first and the world and its woes seem a very long way away.
A gentler but more entrancing experience is The Lost Chambers, Dubai’s huge aquarium that explores the myth of the fabled world of Atlantis. Guests also enjoy unlimited free access to the inner-sanctum, a spell-binding experience in which you’ll stop and star as giant fish glide past you (again for anyone with young children this is especially captivating). More adventurous guests can chose to dive with the sharks and the stingrays, you can even do yoga in there.
The Lost Chambers is also part of a massive promenade of high end shops and boutiques, an ideal space for the children to run around while one parent or the other pops in to see if anything takes their fancy (mums this is the place for you).
With all that activity you will build up an appetite, thankfully Atlantis is an astonishing epicurean destination in its own right, each restaurant as diverse and delicious as the next to suit every taste imaginable.
Rather than describe them all I picked out three favourites, the first being Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen offering tradition British fare with his touch of genius thrown in. As a family we loved this restaurant, relaxed down to earth staff made us feel incredibly welcome in this very cool eaterie where the Shepherd’s Pie is the stuff of dreams.
The Yuan chinese restaurant is a different prospect, upmarket, sophisticated, where subdued lighting sets the scene for delicious Dim Sum. Surprisingly welcome to children of all ages before 9pm, this does require a little more effort than beach shorts but its food demands respect, so opt for tailored shorts at the very least.
And finally Ossiano restaurant takes the crown for smart, elegant dining. Voted the best spot in Dubai for a romantic meal in 2017, this restaurant’s main illumination comes from the blue waters of the giant aquarium tables stare out at. Essentially if Cunard did submarines, this would be the state dining room. It’s a beautiful, memorable setting enhanced by the service and a seven-course tasting menu.
To sum it all up, Atlantis is resort determined to create lasting memories for its guests and it succeeds. The attention to detail at every level is incredible, nothing is too much trouble and indeed almost every need is catered for, especially for parents and children.
In short as family holidays go, forget the budget (or blow it) and make the best decision you are likely to make and go have fun, a legendary amount of fun.