Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Kellie Jez
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There’s no shortage of luxurious and over-the-top hotels to choose from in the glittering city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. And if you’re searching for a place to stay in the city, Atlantis, The Palm should be a serious contender, thanks to its onsite Lost Chambers Aquarium and Aquaventure Waterpark, not to mention its prized location on Palm Island along the shores of the Arabian Gulf.
I recently stayed at the hotel to speak on a media panel about travel trends for the Global DMC Partners Connection conference.
During my stay, I had the opportunity to attend an event at the new and neighboring Atlantis The Royal, where I got a first look at the hotel’s extravagant lobby, fancy shops, Cloud 22 rooftop bar, and tapas restaurant Jaleo.
As a solo traveler there for a conference, I really enjoyed staying at this massive, rather extravagant (when in Dubai, I guess!) mega-resort, and I highly recommend it for families or groups, especially those who want to enjoy everything Palm Island has to offer.
The Atlantis, The Palm resort sits at the center of Dubai’s stunning Palm Island, also known as Palm Jumeirah. This area is actually man-made — if Dubai doesn’t have it, they’ll make it!
The man-made island offers more coastline to visitors and locals and there are several hotels and resorts on the island, which means Atlantis, The Palm guests have various options for dining and activities that aren’t too far away.
From above, the iconic island is shaped like a palm tree, so it’s worth grabbing a window seat for your next flight to Dubai (if not — the resort has a helipad, so you can view the island from above via helicopter tour).
Atlantis, The Palm is about a 30-minute drive from Dubai International Airport (DXB) and is about equidistant to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. There’s also a monorail stop nearby, the Palm Monorail Atlantis Aquaventure station. Finally, the Atlantis The Royal is located next door — a new property that features luxury amenities such as an opulent 90-foot infinity pool and signature Sky Bridge, as well as private residences.
It’s worth noting that Dubai is a city with traffic, and the hotel’s location feels far from some of the city’s attractions. But, there’s quite a bit to do at the resort itself, so if you plan to really enjoy the onsite pools, beaches, waterpark, and dining options, this may be a perfect spot for you and your family.
When booking directly, room rates at Atlantis, The Palm start at around $450 per night. However, the hotel’s website features offers where you may be able to score discounts, and you may be able to find better rates through an online travel agency (OTA).
While my room was the most basic of the room options — a double queen room — there are Imperial Club rooms, suites, and signature suites, which include underwater suites that feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls through which you can admire marine life swimming all around you.
Although my stay as a press speaker was covered by the conference, the hotel itself didn’t comp my stay and didn’t know I was reviewing the property. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
By comparison, rooms at Atlantis The Royal rates start at more than a couple thousand dollars per night when booking direct. However, you may be able to find discounts via direct offers, OTAs, or even booking through Amex Travel, where I spotted a nightly, non-refundable rate of under $1,000 for anyone crazy enough to brave Dubai’s extreme heat in August.
Amex Platinum cardholders can get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when they pay with their Amex Platinum card.
Atlantis has a free loyalty program called Atlantis Unlocked. Provide the required information to join, and you’ll get benefits like 10% off room rates, discounts on spa services, dining, and activities, complimentary experiences, and more. The hotel also features The Atlantis Circle, an Atlantis Dubai Dining Rewards Program.
Dubai International Airport seems busy 24 hours a day, and many flights from European and Asian countries land at and take off from DXB through the wee hours of the morning.
My Emirates flight from Madrid (MAD) landed at around 1 a.m. local time, and by the time I got to Atlantis, it was around 2:30 a.m.
I walked the very quiet red carpet right into the hotel’s towering entrance. Staff offered to help, but I wanted to keep my luggage with me so I could go straight up to bed and not have to wait for my luggage to be delivered.
While the check-in desk wasn’t packed at the time, there were a few others checking in, and I waited a minute or 2 before someone was able to process my check-in.
While I waited, I admired the over-the-top, flashy lobby decor. It certainly was a show-stopper.
The giant ceilings and marine-inspired design scheme were near overwhelming. It reminded me of a cross between Walt Disney World and the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona.
Walking in certainly offers that “wow factor” and part of it may be due to the incredible blown-glass sculpture in the middle of the lobby. The structure was designed by Dale Chihuly and made with hundreds of pieces of blown glass. It feels like a representation of the elements, especially water and fire, thanks to its bold colors.
Check-in was processed quickly — I entered some info via the provided iPad, then handed over my passport and a credit card for incidentals.Hot Tip:
I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve® for incidentals. When staying at a hotel that isn’t part of a major loyalty program like Marriott Bonvoy, skip any hotel co-branded credit cards. Instead, use a flexible rewards card that gives you bonus points on travel or hotel purchases. You can get 3x points on travel purchases using your Chase Sapphire Reserve card. In my case, I charged a locker at the onsite water park to my room, meaning that even though that’s not technically a travel purchase, it was coded as a hotel charge, so I got bonus points on that spend.
The agent who helped me was friendly and fast and assigned me to room 11349 on the 11th floor in the West Tower.
I weaved through the maze of twists and turns to get to the West Tower elevator bank, realizing at that moment how big the hotel really was. Luckily, with 8 speedy elevators in the West Tower bank alone, I never had to wait more than a minute for an elevator.
I did notice there were a few stands with hand sanitizer located around the hotel, but this was the only remaining sign of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything else felt decidedly “back to normal.”
There seemed to be endless amenities at this property, including a fitness center, the Awaken Spa, several pools and beaches, the Aquaventure Waterpark, the Lost Chambers Aquarium, and a kids’ club. The hotel also offers Wi-Fi and valet parking, and there’s even an onsite helipad.
The AWAKEN Fitness center was stacked with Technogym equipment, free weights, and plenty of other fitness items, with views overlooking the beautiful outdoor pools and the resort grounds.
The gym offered a few fitness classes each day (some required an additional fee and others were free), as well as personal training options, a stretch pod, and cryotherapy.
Group fitness classes ranged from the complimentary Group Power Stretch, Power Legs and Abs, and Teen Fitness to paid options like Boot Camp and Underwater Yoga. The fitness center was open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
The AWAKEN Spa was large and airy and featured a shop with products from Augustinus Bader, treatment rooms offering all sorts of luxurious and rejuvenating body, face, and spirit treatments, a sauna, a steam room, a hydrotherapy area, and more.
In order to access the hydrotherapy areas, sauna, and steam room, you must pay an additional fee or book a treatment, which would grant you complimentary access.
Treatments ranged from the typical massages and facials to locally-inspired options like the Desert Sand and Date Sugar Infusion Immersive Body Experience and rose hydration treatments. There’s also a beauty salon and a nail salon.
Atlantis, The Palm features 2 massive swimming pools: the Family Pool, where you can play sports like water basketball, and the Palm Pool, a lagoon-style pool that weaves through the resort and actually feels more like several pools combined. The property also has 2 large, clean, and beautiful beaches.
The beaches and pools had plenty of open chairs and private cabanas for rent. The cabanas were ideal for groups, as many offered ample space and chairs, as well as amenities like fans, ideal to beat the heat.
I often find when staying at large resorts that people feel the need to wake up extra early and reserve beach or pool chairs, but this wasn’t happening here. It was so nice to know that there was plenty of space available.
Now, here’s a closer look at the pools and beaches on offer.
One of the main reasons I found this property to be so great for families is because of its pools. Children were not limited to the Family Pool — in fact, I probably saw more children at the Palm Pool.
As an adult traveling alone for work, I wished there was an adults-only space, but I definitely look forward to bringing my son back at some point. Both pools offered life jackets for children, and there were always chairs and umbrellas available, which was great.
Pool attendants were friendly and helpful. I was immediately offered towel service and given a small buzzer to request food or beverage service.
Staff walked around offering sunblock and ice-cold popsicles to guests throughout the day, which I gladly welcomed, as temperatures were nearing about 100° and the sun was relentless.
Besides ordering drinks and snacks from your chair (I opted for sparkling water, and thankfully, my liter of San Pellegrino came in a bucket filled high with ice), there were several different spots where you could have drinks and food, including a few gelato shops, a fruit stand, and restaurants with both sit-down and bar areas.Hot Tip:
Yes, Dubai is part of the Middle East, but it often feels more like Las Vegas or Miami. While you may want to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting cultural sites, pool attire doesn’t require the same level of modesty. Everyone, especially women, will feel comfortable wearing whatever they like at the Atlantis, The Palm pools, the beaches, and the water park. If you’re dining at a hotel restaurant (or otherwise), make sure to check the dress code ahead of time, especially during Ramadan.
The resort is flanked on 1 side by a long, sandy beach called Palm Beach. The sand was white and the water crystal clear, and you could even take in views of Dubai’s magnificent skyline.
Just know that the Arabian Gulf is not the place for a refreshing dip, at least in May. However, those that love hot baths will be very content with the Gulf’s warm waters.
A beach swing overlooked the water, the ideal spot for social-media enthusiasts who want to get the perfect shot for bragging to their friends and family stuck at home.
There’s also a large Aquaventure Beach that’s part of the water park on the other side of the resort. It offers water sports such as jet-skiing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
One of the best selling points for family travelers is the free entry to the onsite Aquaventure Waterpark, featuring 105 slides, play areas for children, a lazy river, a surf area, a quiet zone, the Aquaventure Beach, and plenty of spaces to eat, relax, and play. Atlas Village within the park also has dolphin and seal experiences.
The park is a record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most waterslides in a single water park. Note that all rooms and suites have complimentary access to the water park, but it’s very crowded, as many visitors and locals also pay to get in.
Since I was at Atlantis, The Palm for work, I didn’t have a lot of time to just hang out, but when I did, I knew I had to explore this exciting amenity. I thought I might feel a little odd going to a water park alone as an adult, but I braved the heat, crowds, and social anxiety for the sake of writing about it and ended up having a great time.
Do know that the water park will likely be crowded and busy. I found that people were often pushy, loud, and rather abrasive, especially when it was time to score a pair of free water shoes at the Guest Services Desk. But if you go in with your game face on, you’ll have loads of fun.
The park is located off of the East Tower of the hotel. You’ll need to look for the area that says Hotel Guest Entrance.
There, you’ll give your room number and be handed a bracelet that you can scan for drinks, food, lockers, and more to be directly charged to your room.
Speaking of your room, leave as much as you can in the room so you don’t have to purchase a locker for your valuables or belongings. Locker prices start at AED25 (~$7) for the smallest size, which fits a purse.
Both towels and single-use water shoes are free (you can get these, as well as purchase lockers, at various Guest Services stands throughout the park).
I recommend bringing lots of water and sunblock — or be prepared to purchase it there. I highly recommend taking advantage of the free water shoes (though, as I previously mentioned, obtaining them through pushy crowds felt like a “Hunger Games” moment).
You can also take golf carts to, from, and around the park. This is a nice option if you need a break from walking in the heat. The carts stop at various parts of the park and leave/arrive between the Palm Pool and Palm Beach.
I went down a few slides (I particularly liked Shark Attack, where you slide down a weaving, pitch-black tunnel on your tube and then are tossed into an aquarium tunnel where you float underneath an aquarium with sharks and fish) and floated down the lazy river.
When I couldn’t take the heat anymore, I headed to the quiet zone to relax on a shady chair and recover from all the excitement.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to actually enter the Lost Chambers Aquarium, which is also free for hotel guests. But there is a part of it, the Ambassador Lagoon, that you can view from the hotel in the East Tower. I really enjoyed checking that out.
The manta rays were especially fun to view, and it almost felt like they were smiling.
Lost Chambers features more than 65,000 marine species across 21 different exhibits.
If you don’t want to actually go inside the aquarium, you should at least head over to see the Ambassador Lagoon on your way to the water park or when exploring the property. Or, if you’re in the market for a splurge, book one of the suites that offer an underwater viewing wall.
The Atlantis Explorers Club welcomes children from 4 to 12 years old, while teenagers 13 to 17 can visit The Zone. From playing Xbox to fingerprinting and special marine life programs, kids of all ages can enjoy a variety of different activities in both of these designated areas.
In addition to the aforementioned activities, Atlantis, The Palm also featured a basketball court, tennis courts, a giant chess set, beach soccer, ping-pong, a helipad, water sports options, 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi, and valet parking.
You can access Wi-Fi by simply clicking to confirm you’re a hotel guest. I found the Wi-Fi to be fast and functional for personal and business use during my stay.
There were also various shops to purchase swimwear, souvenirs, clothing, accessories, and gifts, as well as a pharmacy for things like over-the-counter medicine or sunblock.
I spent a solid portion of my time in various meeting rooms at this property. They were spacious and comfortable — perfect for large events.
Finally, the hotel also features the Dubai Balloon at Atlantis, a hot-air balloon that rises nearly 1,000 feet into the sky, offering passengers 360° views over Palm Jumeirah and of Dubai’s skyline.Hot Tip:
It’s also worth noting that the hotel felt very accessible. Although it’s large and does require some walking, there aren’t many stairs, so the property is accessible for anyone in a wheelchair. However, those with mobility issues or who struggle walking longer distances may find the resort a bit too large. Shower stools, toilet frames, and physically challenged phones are available but subject to availability.
Stepping off the elevator on the 11th floor, I made my way down the carpeted hallways to room 11349.
Upon entering, I noticed the 2 queen beds, which, at 2:30 a.m., looked very enticing. I wished I had been given a King Room with just 1 bed, but I was too tired to go back down and fuss about it.
Immediately to my right, I had a small bar area with a Nespresso coffee machine and capsules, as well as snacks, a minifridge, and mugs and wine glasses. There was also a price list so guests could check what the damage would be before picking up a snack or a beverage.
Further into the room was a workspace with a chair, desk, lamp, and a few electrical outlets, which had U.A.E. power outlets (you’ll need an adapter for U.S. plugs) and 2 spots for USB cords.
There was a large dresser and TV, as well as a bedside table between the beds. The decor was ocean-chic — and pretty literal — with door and drawer handles shaped like sea coral, blueish-toned carpet, weaved wood, and elements of sea glass and pearl throughout the space.
Working at the desk was surprisingly comfortable, and although there wasn’t any overhead lighting, the 2 lamps seemed to provide the right amount of light in the evening, while natural light streamed through the large balcony doors during the day.
The beds were cozy and plush, with fresh, soft sheets and an ample duvet, perfect if you accidentally set the air conditioning too low. I never heard a single voice or bang from other guests and I got deep, restorative sleep during my stay.
The room also featured a closet with slippers, a safe, an iron, an ironing board, and lots of hangers.
I also appreciated the AC and USB outlets by the bed, and that the lighting was practical and easy to operate in the room. The air conditioning was also a breeze (literally) to operate, which I welcomed, as the room would heat up in the afternoon when the sunlight streamed in and temperatures would rise.
The views from my room were stunning, overlooking the resort, helipad, and Arabian Gulf. Although the balcony was more of a Juliet-style terrace without seating, I loved watching the helicopters take off and land throughout the day and enjoyed the sea views, too.
Housekeeping was on point, coming once in the morning and once in the early evening for turndown service. They wrapped all my cords in a cute little octopus cord holder, which I thought was adorable.
They also left me a bucket of ice each evening, which I welcomed after coming back to my room from dinner.
A few large, sealed, reusable glass bottles of water in the room were refilled and resealed daily for guests, which I also loved, as it was a sustainable and hygienic way to provide guests with safe drinking water.
The bathroom was a highlight of the room — it was covered in beautiful marble and featured an inviting, standalone soaking tub.
Two sliding doors opening up to the room (apart from the main bathroom entrance mean you can soak in the tub while enjoying views of the Gulf at the same time.
There were separate rooms for the shower stall and toilet (along with a bidet), and although there was just 1 sink, there was a lot of counter space for toiletries and other items.
A fresh flower sat on the sink area, and below it were dental and shaving kits.
The shower was a good size and offered strong water pressure, with shelving that featured Atlantis-branded amenities.
The scent was pretty average with just a basic, clean scent.
I also appreciated the good lighting in the bathroom and discovered 2 plush robes hanging by the entrance of the bathroom.
Guests have plenty to choose from when it comes to dining. From various Michelin-starred restaurants like Hakkasan and Nobu to Ossiano (which has an underwater aquarium wall) and authentic Lebanese restaurant Ayamna, there’s something for every traveler here.
Breakfast was offered daily at the enormous Saffron restaurant. I made my first mistake at breakfast on my first day when I chose to eat outdoors. Even at 9:45 a.m., the heat was intense, so I ate indoors for the rest of my breakfasts.
I’ve eaten my fair share of hotel breakfasts, and I think Atlantis, The Palm wins the breakfast buffet award, at least post-COVID-19.
After a rough few years of reduced hotel buffets, it was a pleasure to explore the never-ending options here, which included things like 2 omelet stations, a waffle station, an eggs Benedict station, a smoothie bar, fresh fruit, endless pastries, macarons and other sweets, a chocolate fountain, and to my utter delight, an Indian and Asian breakfast section.
I didn’t have too much time to explore the buffet each morning as I was rushing to meetings and panels, but I made sure to get an omelet or a plate of eggs Benedict. And I particularly loved the Indian food section, where I discovered I have a deep love for khichdi, an Indian dal dish.
The paratha was some of the best I’ve had outside of India and Sri Lanka. I especially enjoyed the green juice, and the coffee, which you could order from servers, was delicious.
Service was speedy and friendly at the buffet, from the waitstaff to the chefs at the omelet stations. Staff members always seemed to offer a smile and a genuine greeting each time without fail.
The fruit was also fresh and delicious, and although I didn’t partake in the chocolate fountain or the sweets, I did indulge in a macaron — it was worth it.
The breakfast buffet was available from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for AED 170 (~$46) with tea, coffee, and juices (children 4 to 11 were half-price). If you go earlier in the morning, you’ll encounter fewer crowds. Late risers take note: It gets very busy after 10 a.m.
Service was excellent in the hotel. While the reception staff was generally friendly, I felt that many of the staff members that worked in other areas of the hotel, like the breakfast waitstaff, elevator attendants, pool staff, and housekeeping were exceptionally friendly.
No one was aware I was reviewing the hotel, and I repeatedly saw staff addressing other guests just as kindly as they were addressing me, which I thought was wonderful.
Staff members were also speedy. Housekeeping always cleaned my room right after I tapped the digital “Make Up Room” sign, it seemed, and my coffee orders came quickly and efficiently at breakfast.
Atlantis The Royal is a new property under the Atlantis umbrella that recently opened at the end of 2022. An opulent property geared towards adults, the experience starts off by checking out the unique structure, reminiscent of Jenga blocks, which encompasses hotel rooms, suites, and private rentals. The hotel is about a 15-minute walk from The Palm, or a quick, 2-minute drive.
If you’re wondering how glam it really is, just know that the hotel’s launch event started with a performance by Beyoncé.
The 43-story building has a number of dining and drinking options — there are 17 restaurants in total, 8 of which are led by celebrity chefs. I had the opportunity to dine at Jaleo, a José Andrés restaurant serving up tasty Spanish tapas and offering traditional Spanish guitar and flamenco performances.Hot Tip:
Although the Middle East does have strict laws regarding alcohol and pork, most hotels and hotel restaurants in Dubai serve alcohol — it’s readily available at The Atlantis, whether you want to sip white wine by the pool or have a cocktail at dinner. Pork products are also served at most hotel restaurants. The Atlantis specifies that the minimum age for consuming alcohol at the hotel and its restaurants is 21.
Coming from Spain, I thought the food and ambiance were as authentic as you can get outside of the Iberian Peninsula, from the paella, Iberian ham, and croquettes to the stomps, twirls, and claps of the “bulerias.”
I was also able to attend one of the first private events held at Cloud 22 on the 22nd floor, which, I can say with absolutely no doubt, is the sexiest rooftop infinity pool and rooftop deck I have ever seen.
The views were incredible, overlooking the entirety of Palm Jumeirah, the Arabian Gulf, and the sparking Dubai skyline.
Everything about Atlantis The Royal feels glamorous, from the chic pool beds at Cloud 22 to the dazzling, luminous lobby, featuring eclectic art and what feels like the most marble I’ve ever seen in a single place, and sky-high ceilings.
Note that some of the guestrooms and suites offer private pools, but all offer stunning views.
Everything about Dubai is over the top, and Atlantis, The Palm and Atlantis The Royal are no exception. I highly recommend Atlantis, The Palm for a family-friendly pool and beach adventure or for groups.
For those seeking privacy, glamour, and luxury, Atlantis The Royal is the perfect spot. It’s also ideal for honeymooners looking for a stylish, chic getaway.
A trip to Atlantis isn’t cheap, but that’s to be expected across the entire city of Dubai.
If you’re ready to brave the heat, summer trips are more affordable, and there are plenty of water activities and air-conditioned areas to keep you cool at either of these resorts. Although I managed to have fun at the Aquaventure Waterpark alone as an adult, I’d much rather return with my family in tow — and plan to do so soon.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Yes, Atlantis, The Palm is definitely worth it. The large, extravagant hotel is excellent for families with its beautiful beaches, massive swimming pools, a gorgeous spa, and its very own water park and aquarium.
Atlantis, The Palm is special thanks to its stunning location on Palm Jumeirah, and its Aquaventure Waterpark and Lost Chamber Aquarium. The 5-star hotel has amenities like pools, beaches, a spa, and a fitness center, as well as more than 1,000 luxurious rooms and suites.
Atlantis, The Palm is perfect for children of all ages. The kids’ club is open for children ages 4 to 12, and the teen club features activities for teens ages 13 to 17. There’s an onsite family pool and water park, and the beach offers shallow waters ideal for small children and babies. All in all, Atlantis, The Palm is an extremely family-friendly hotel and resort.
The onsite Aquaventure Waterpark is free for all guests staying at Atlantis, The Palm and Atlantis The Royal in Dubai. Both towels and single-use water shoes are also complimentary. However, the water park is not free for anyone that’s not a guest at the hotel.
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