Dubai Travel Update: Where Luxury Goes Deluxe

Posted on January 9, 2009 @ 3:27 am
by Mary Bush

In a recent poll of travel agents, 51% chose Dubai as the most important tourist destination of this century. They already know what the rest of us will soon find out-that Dubai is a world class travel destination like no other, poised to capture the attention of U.S. luxury travelers. Dubai has spent the last few decades transforming itself from a desert backwater into an extravagant, anything-is-possible city. Recent developments, both in the air and on the ground have only upped the ante in terms of services targeted at the most discriminating clientele.

For well-heeled travelers looking to experience this incredible destination, the ability to travel to Dubai in unsurpassed style is evident from the moment of departure. Emirates Airlines, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, operates non-stop Dubai UAE flights from a number of U.S. cities. Dozens of new double-decker Airbus A 380 aircraft feature 14 first-class suites, plus another 76 in business class. In addition to unparalleled comfort and gadgetry at one’s seat, there are spacious lounge areas available for premium passengers and even a shower for those flying first-class to ensure their Dubai travel adventure begins feeling as fresh as possible.

Upon arrival, travelers can take advantage of several “meet & greet” services headquartered at the new VIP facility in the international arrivals terminal. One option by Marhaba (‘welcome’ in Arabic), a division of Emirates Group, offers a “Diamond Service” to travelers where a seasoned escort whisks you and your luggage (via golf cart) to the front of sometimes long immigration lines. They also handle airport transfers in any manner of luxury automobile.

Luxury hotel choices in Dubai abound, with new properties opening regularly, each trying to one up the last. The iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, the world’s only “7 star hotel”, is the hotel Dubai is famous for. The tallest hotel in the world (in the shape of a sail), it boasts myriad options in terms of accommodations, with rooms starting at around $1,000 per night and reaching $28,000 for the Royal Suite.

Many other well-known luxury chain hotels and unique desert resorts (a night in a luxury Bedouin tent, anyone?) are also available, though the Dubai hotel generating all the buzz these days is the just opened Atlantis, the Palm, a sister hotel of the Bahamas Atlantis property. (A $25 million opening party is scheduled for November 20 with a star-studded line up of entertainers. It is anticipated that the $6.5 million fireworks display will be visible from space!) Located on the man-made Palm Jumeriah island, this 1,500+ room hotel sits on almost one mile of beach, has it’s own aquarium with 65,000 marine animals and offers more dining, spa and other recreational options than we could do justice to here. Some 3,500 staff aim to offer guests a unique Dubai vacation experience. Not to be outdone by other hotels, Atlantis’ signature Bridge Suite unites the two wings of the complex above a huge arch and costs approximately $25,000 a night.

Dubai Attractions: The Best Dining, Shopping and Adventuring

Cuisine choices in Dubai are as diverse and extravagant as the city itself. Visitors enjoy an almost infinite number of options covering every type of cuisine imaginable. Dubai hotels offer some of the highest quality meals to be found. They are also able to serve alcohol with meals, which is not generally allowed elsewhere. The arrival of the famed Atlantis hotel has added to the offerings in a grand way. In addition to other eateries, the hotel has opened 4 restaurants, featuring Italian, seafood, Japanese and French themes, run by celebrity chefs with a total of 10 Michelin stars between them!

After sleeping and dining in some of the best venues the world has to offer, no Dubai holiday is complete without some unforgettable shopping. When it comes to shopping, Dubai doesn’t disappoint. The city boasts some 40 world-class shopping malls and 4,000 retail shops, with 800 or so selling the finest gold jewelry in the region. Add to that scores of exotic souqs, and you’ve got a shopper’s paradise. However, a new entry to the market is getting all the attention.

The Dubai Mall opened in early November adjacent to the Burj Dubai, already the tallest building on earth and still under construction. This new mega mall will feature branches of some of the world’s best-known chains (Bloomingdales, Marks & Spencer, the Galleries Lafayette), 1,200 other shops, an Olympic-size skating rink, its own 10 million liter aquarium, 22 screen cinema and 120 restaurants and cafes. Malls are important in a climate that is too hot for outdoor shopping a good portion of the year. Dubai’s unique malls have become entertainment destinations unto themselves.

For visitors wanting to experience more traditional Dubai attractions, however, many rewarding options exist. “Souqs” or markets focusing on a particular item-gold, spices, textiles– are fascinating to explore—and shop in! If you’d rather dive into the area’s history and culture, arrangements can be made to explore the narrow alleyways of Dubai’s old town and its excellent museum in the Al Fahidi Fort.

Those seeking a bit more action in their Dubai vacation need not look far. The area offers superb facilities for sport and recreation, from golf and water sports to desert safaris and dhow (creek) cruises. Dubai tours can take you across the desert and through the rugged Hajar Mountains to the fishing villages of the Arabian Sea coast. Or, you can go off-road, traveling far into the desert to visit a Bedouin village, and then watch the sun set over the sands before enjoying a barbecue deep in the dunes. Your Dubai guide can even arrange dune surfing or a trip to the camel races.

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