Atlantis The Palm review, Dubai: Underwater luxe

Our rating

4 out of 5

Ute Junker discovers that bigger really is better in Dubai.


Dubai didn't invent the bigger-is-better approach, but it has lifted it to a whole new level. So don't be surprised to learn that The Palm is an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm tree beneath a crescent. Apart from high-end hotels and residences, there's not a whole lot here to see or do, but if you're staying at Atlantis The Palm, that doesn't matter. Covering 46 hectares, this underwater-themed fantasy resort has more than enough attractions to keep a family entertained for a week. 


There are soaring columns, low-hanging lamps, oversized ottomans, giant clam shells cascading water and a colourful 18-metre high Dale Chihuly glass sculpture – and that's just in the lobby. Head downstairs to check out the Lost Chambers Aquarium, where 65,000 marine animals live in an 11-million litre tank. Walkways allow you to marvels at the rays and sharks gliding past – a mesmerising experience. 

For a more direct type of water sports, 1.7km of beachfront awaits outside, along with two huge swimming pools.

More into skincare than swimming? The elegant ShuiQi Spa and Fitness has separate areas for his and hers areas, and a wide range of treatments available in elegant treatment rooms.  


There's nothing small about Atlantic The Palm, and that includes the rooms. There are more than 1500 rooms, each with their own balcony, across two separate towers. Some overlook The Palm, others looks straight out to sea. 

The entry-level deluxe suites are significantly larger than your average hotel room. Inside the huge bathrooms, stocked with ESPA toiletries, is a supersized tub with a view. If money is no object, the hotel's two "underwater" suites, Poseidon and Neptune, feature floor-to-ceiling windows looking directly onto the aquarium. 


In contrast to the flashy public areas, the rooms are surprisingly low-key. The only aquatic motif is the subtle coral print on the curtains; the rest of the decor is done in neutrals with slight Arabic touches, such as feature arches and desert colours. 


With 21 restaurants on the premises, there is no need to go out for meals. The buffet breakfast at Kaleidoscope is a wonder to behold, while Nasimi Beach Club is a good option for a light lunch. For dinner, Levantine offers fabulous Lebanese food, accompanied by bellydancing and live music, while Seafire Steakhouse is the place to go for beef sourced from the resort's own Queensland cattle station. Yuan is a popular choice for high-end Chinese in a sleek setting, while at Ossiano, you can gaze into the Ambassador Lagoon as you dine. There is also a Nobu outpost. 


The hotel is home to three of Dubai's most popular family attractions: the Aquaventure water park and the Dolphin Bay and Sea Lion Point experiences. At the latter, you can interact with your favourite marine mammals – touching is not only allowed but encouraged, within strict guidelines. At Aquaventure, you can choose between 11 thrill seeking slides, including the Leap of Faith, which has a 27-metre vertical drop. There is also a 45-minute river rafting experience that features tidal pools and white water rapids. Aquaventure is free for Atlantis guests.


Atlantis The Palm has aims to appeal to both the family market and luxury travellers, and most of the time it succeeds. Families will love the huge array of on-site activities, while the restaurants and the spa more draw in a high-spending clientele. The only downside for the luxe market is the fact that the resort is a tourist destination in its own right. The public areas are always busy, occasionally verging on chaotic, which will put off those who enjoy a more exclusive feel. 


Transfer time from Dubai Airport is around 40 minutes. 


Rooms at Atlantis The Palm start from $600 a night. See;

The writer travelled courtesy of Atlantis The Palm and Emirates Airlines.