A 5-star hotel on the Palm Jumeriah, Dubai - but can you enjoy a luxury holiday with kids in tow? Robin from Dandy Dad finds out...
The Dukes Hotel in Dubai
Even before my kids came along, I was known for having beer money and champagne taste, and being an urban peacock and aesthete took a lot of time, money and effort. As a creative type I’ve never earned a great deal, but what disposable income I did have was spent on the finer things in life; whether that be made to measure suits, membership to private members clubs, vintage Chablis, Pashley push bikes, weekend breaks away to European cities etc.
I have no savings to speak of but damn – my wardrobe looks great!
However, this lifestyle was curtailed somewhat a few years back by the appearance of two strange little creatures. My wife and I have two daughters aged two and ten months respectively, and the nights spent in gastro pubs, Berlin nightclubs and late night museum openings have long gone. In fact, we hadn't had a holiday for two and a half years, so we felt like it was time to splash the cash and enjoy a luxury break in Dubai for our first holiday with the children.
Late last year we all jetted off to enjoy some winter sun in Dubai; the trendy beach holiday destination that’s host to many a celeb, premiership footballer or captain of industry.
The question is would we actually able to enjoy a luxury break with a two-year-old banshee and a teething 10-month-old? Would we see glimpses of our old leisurely life again? How easy is it to recreate the 'cocktails on the beach' holidays of yore? How are children expected to behave in a 5-star hotel anyway? Are they seen and not heard?
Well, we soon found out…
Dukes Hotel in Dubai- perfect place for children or not?
Dukes hotel in Dubai reception - child proof?
From Mayfair to The Simms
We booked a week’s stay at Dukes Dubai; the new sister hotel of the famous Mayfair haunt made famous by Ian Fleming (it’s where James Bond asks the barman to mix a Vesper Martini, but more of that later) whose atmosphere is described as “quintessential British charm meets cosmopolitan luxury,” which I was instantly drawn to.
It’s a fairly understated (in Dubai terms) 5-star hotel that's located on the tip of the man-made island called the Palm Jumeirah. As well as boasting three restaurants, a private beach, two infinity pools (indoor and outdoor), its own water ride and a fully-equipped gym, it also has a kids club called Dukesy, which is complimentary for guests at the hotel. We figured that any hotel with a kids club should be geared towards families and that the staff would be more attentive (or at least appear to be) to our children’s needs.
If I could describe Dubai in one pithy phrase it would be ‘Blade Runner meets The Simms’. The skyline is pretty breathtaking really, in a Gotham City kind of way. Almost every square inch of land is covered in skyscrapers, and anything else is ‘under construction’ – quite impressive for a city that didn’t even exist 40 years ago.
It’s worth mentioning that there is major building work happening adjacent to the hotel, but to be honest, you’ll see that in most areas, so you just have to ignore it, and it wasn’t particularly intrusive. In fact, the sheer volume of SUVs and supercars powering down the main road drowned out any building noise!
A warm welcome
Dukesy Kids area at Dukes Hotel Dubai
Dukesy Kids area at Dukes Hotel Dubai
Martha in Dukesy Kids area at Dukes Dubai
Arriving in style
In the true spirit of luxury, we got the hotel to arrange for a chauffer to meet us from the airport. However, despite a comfortable and stylish journey (this had to be one of the most impressive SUVs I’d ever seen), we could have saved ourselves around £70 by just jumping in a cab, which are cheap and plentiful in the city (in case you wondered, car seats for children aren’t mandatory in licensed vehicles).
When we arrived at the hotel, we really did receive the warmest of welcomes. The manager who greeted us and showed us to our room knew Scarlett and Martha by name, and as an extra special touch, the kitchen had baked them some personalized cookies – this is the level of customer service you can expect in Dubai. As we’d been travelling for over 15 hours by that stage, we ordered room service from one of the hotel’s restaurants and eventually got the girls off to sleep before we took a nightcap on our balcony, to observe the vibrant neon skyline.
As with most of the larger hotels in Dubai, it’s entirely possible to spend your entire holiday on-site. When you have a private beach, an indoor and outdoor pool, a lazy river, an open-air cinema, three restaurants, a gym, a hair salon and yoga classes at your disposal, there’s no real need to venture further afield. Which is just as well, because on day three a visiting doctor diagnosed our poor daughter with bronchitis, which as you can imagine, put a stop to any plans we had for sightseeing!
However, we did manage to make it to the Dubai Mall and Atlantis at The Palm, which are definitely worth a visit (read more below).
You think Westfield in London is impressive? Does it have a massive an aquarium built into the side of it? Well, this is what the term ‘shopping mall’ means in Dubai.
Not only have you got four floors of designer stores spread over 13 million square foot of land, but there’s also an underwater zoo on the ground floor! The Aquarium is actually a separate attraction (it’s about £10 to go in and walk underneath it) but one wall is glass and is visible from the Mall itself, and the kids will love just staring at the sharks and rays as they glide past.
Cunningly, they’ve plonked a Rainforest Café right next to the Aquarium, which did prove to be irresistible to our eldest daughter, who loved it when the elephants and gorillas came alive, despite the obvious ambivalence of her younger sibling. Suffice to say, there’s plenty to occupy the little ones if you need to blow what little spending money you may have left!
(Read more about the Dubai Mall here)
Robin AKA Dandy Dad and his stylish Martini
Atlantis, The Palm
This massive structure is visible from wherever you happen to be on The Palm. A huge, sprawling nautically themed hotel and leisure complex, Atlantis, The Palm is well worth a visit even if you’re not a guest, as there are countless bars, restaurants and activities to enjoy – the Dolphin Bay experience is supposed to be amazing but is eye-wateringly expensive.
We booked an early supper at Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen, which was as good as it’s older London sister, with a very tasty kids menu and delicious cocktails. We then wandered along the private beach (there is access to the beach from the restaurant’s garden if you lie and say you’re guests at the hotel) and stopped at a swanky beach bar to watch the sunset.
WARNING: The drinks are outrageously pricey. However, it was our last night in Dubai and we’d stayed in and ordered room service for the majority of our holiday because poor Martha was ill, so we decided to treat ourselves, and it also gave the girls a much needed change of scenery.
If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed…
In summary, we couldn’t have been happier with the Dukes Dubai hotel. From the patient, friendly waiting staff in all the restaurants, to the concierge and receptionists, the customer service was top notch – and this goes for the majority of places you’ll encounter in Dubai.
In fact, there’s a little anecdote, which neatly encapsulates our experience. On the Saturday night, we decided that we’d pay a visit to the opulent looking Duke’s Bar, to enjoy a martini before supper and see how it measured up against its namesake in Mayfair. The waiter stopped us as I wheeled in the buggy and told us politely that children weren’t permitted in the bar. Crestfallen, we trudged out and made our way downstairs to the British themed hotel restaurant on the ground floor, sans aperitif. Five minutes later the same barman appeared at our table and said he’d just spoken to his boss, and he would wheel the drinks trolley down to the restaurant and happily mix any cocktail off the menu at our table; now that was a nice touch. As was sending a ‘get well soon’ card and more confectionary goodies when Martha was at her most sick.
If you’re looking for a luxury beach break away with the kids then Dubai does the job really well. There may be precious little culture to speak of and there’s relentless building work happening throughout the city, but in between relaxing on your private beach, sucking down cocktails and deciding which gourmet hotel restaurant to eat at that evening, you won’t really care too much…
Nightly rates at DUKES DUBAI start from £240 per night for a DUKES room, including breakfast and taxes. For more information please call +91 4 455 11 11 or visit Dukes Dubai
Review written by Robin Sherwood AKA Dandy Dad