Journey to Atlantis

Diving into the pure luxury of Atlantis, The Palm.

Atlantis, The Palm, is a travel experience like no other – a luxurious resort that takes the concept of ‘total immersion’ to new heights, or depths, as the case may be.

Paul Chai

31 December, 2020

As we bid a less than fond farewell to 2020, it’s time to look ahead and perhaps plan something special for 2021. Something grand and completely out of the ordinary – worthy of your first post COVID overseas trip once the things start getting back to normal.

Well this is just the sort of place for you. There are more chandeliers in the corridor of the Royal Bridge Suite at Atlantis, The Palm than there are in most boutique hotels. After entering this USD$27,000-a-night abode you are confronted by rows of audacious arches, colourful ceiling murals, pink-and-grey marble floor tiles, six-foot-high indoor plants and taller-still displays of fresh flowers – and you haven’t even entered a room yet.

As you move through the ‘over-the-top’ surrounds you will find a private bar, library, and 16-seater dining room. In the living room there is a television screen the size of a soccer goal and the decor does not hold back; carpets swirl with giant seashells, fluted columns tower over the room and gold is the go-to for myriad surfaces. On an extreme scale from ‘one’ to ‘Kardashian’ it is definitely closer to the reality TV stars who, incidentally, love to stay here when they’re in town. 

We have only been allowed a peek at this over-the-top suite, but everything about Atlantis, the Palm – the resort at the heart of Palm Jumeirah, the manmade island in Dubai – is audacious. As you stand on the Bridge Suite balcony and survey the palm-shaped island before you – with each “frond” an Emerati millionaires’ row – it is the living embodiment of “go big or go home”.

And you don’t need to be an internet-busting celeb to get in on the indulgence.

There are more chandeliers in the corridor of Atlantis, the Palm’s Royal Bridge Suite than there are in most boutique hotels

The resort is designed around the myth of Atlantis, Plato’s scribblings of a sunken exotic city full of treasure and exotic animals

Atlantis, the Palm’s grandiosity starts with its theme. The resort is designed around the myth of Atlantis, Plato’s scribblings of a sunken exotic city full of treasure and exotic animals. Key to Atlantis, the Palm’s retelling of this story is the Ambassador Lagoon, an 11-million litre marine tank that is the centrepiece of the resort. 

You will see guests selfie-ing wildly in front of the sparkling blue waters of the tank but behind it is the Lost Chambers Aquarium. On my first day at the resort I am taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium full of local marine species as well as a recreation of the Great Barrier Reef. There are fierce arapaimas from the Amazon River and we get to see where they breed thousands of moon jellyfish, their translucent forms lit with black-light giving their habitat the appearance of an all-day rave. Standing in front of the Ambassador Lagoon, surrounded by Atlantian statues that appear straight from the set of Aquaman, we learn that the marine life here are fed 472 kilos of restaurant-quality seafood every day and the special food prep room is as fascinating and extreme as the rest of the resort. 

That evening I have a far more palatable view of the lagoon from Ossiana underwater restaurant, with a signature Pearl Diver cocktail in hand. This drink is a celebration of the pearl trade in the region and combines Absolut Elyx, camomile, lemon and yuzu juice served with a pearl made from chocolate and filled with sweet syrup. 

That night I dine at Seafire, Dubai’s own-brand steakhouse, where a knife sommelier offers guests the choice of a range of international cutlery. I forgo the Dundee-esque Australian option for a sleeker knife from Japan since I am having the miso-glazed salmon with ginger broccoli and citrus crumbs, rich in umami flavour with just the right amount of spice.

The following morning I have another encounter with the Ambassador Lagoon, this time fully immersed. Aquatrek sees you kitted up with a modern plastic version of an old diver’s helmet and a guide leads you along a walkway past reef sharks, gliding sting rays and schools of tropical fish. It is initially disorienting and not just because you soon realise that you are part of the entertainment for incoming guests as they take their selfies. I can also see into the windows of the high-end underwater suites whose living rooms look out onto the marine vista.

There are so many celebrity chef options at Atlantis, the Palm you could dine with a big name every night for a week. After my Aquatrek and a laze by the resort pool I have a round of aperitifs at Nobu where I order Matsuhisa Nobu’s signature martini – vodka, sake, pickled ginger and cucumber – and snack on the classic miso-marinated black cod. For mains I am seated near the huge pizza oven at Giorgio Locatelli’s Italian eatery where I have a Napoli pizza, perfectly cooked with a hint of sweetness in the tomato base, and a salad of baby spinach, smoked ricotta and walnuts with a cold Peroni. The night ends at Ten Cocktail Bar with a blood-orange margarita nightcap and some apple shisha on the open balcony.

The following morning I have another encounter with the Ambassador Lagoon, this time fully immersed

You will live the high life regardless of how you dive into this unique travel offering

My last full day at Atlantis, the Palm is a Friday, the first day of the UAE weekend and as is customary I settle in to some expat day-drinking at the resort’s epic brunches. This is one of the many ways that Dubai, at least resort Dubai, reminds me of Singapore. Both are huge cities that grew from nothing, Dubai from sand, Singapore from swamp. Now they are magnets for international workers, whose sky-high salaries are funnelled into diversions such as six-hour weekend meals.  

I am heading for Bread Street Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay’s diner that is as subtle as Chef Ramsay’s reaction to an undercooked chicken leg. 

A life-sized portrait of Gordon glares at you from a Union Jack background promising a “roast revolution”, more UK flags can be found on cushions and couches, and the music is cranked to compete with a chatty crowd filling up on hot and cold starters and ordering an array of tweaked British classics like beef Wellington. Around the corner at Saffron the brunch scene is even wilder with DJs and live performances and you need to be 21 or older to be admitted.

Atlantis, the Palm is all about scale. It has the region’s biggest aquarium, more celebrity cooks than a MasterChef final, underwater suites and underwater excursions in the hotel lobby; you might not be able to afford the Kardashians lofty bridge suite, but you will live the high life regardless of how you dive into this unique travel offering.

Atlantis, The Palm is open to guests from around the world and has a strict COVD-19 program and hygiene protocols in place for the safety and health of guests.