Towering over the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, Atlantis, The Palm sits atop the reclaimed land of "The Palm", or Palm Jumeirah, the world's biggest man-made island whose fronds contain the houses of wealthy Emeratis, shopping malls and apartment complexes. From a drone's-eye view, Palm Jumeirah looks a bit like a palm-shaped rubber stamp and this mega-resort is right at the top of this improbable island, accessed via a tunnel under the sea.
Palm Jumeirah is on the coast of Dubai, a Singapore-on-Sand where unfeasibly large buildings have sprouted from the unforgiving desert in much the same way that the Lion City has spun swamp into concrete and metal. It is a dreamlike drive to the Palm, past museums shaped like Arabic script, the silver stalagmite of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, and mega-malls and American fast food shops for miles.
There is no doubt that Atlantis, The Palm covers a lot of space, with over 1500 rooms and around 5000 guests, the lobby has the buzz of a lightly shaken hornets' nest but it is also so comically outsized – with calming water features, arresting marble floors and an insanely large glass sculpture by American sculptor Dale Chihuly featuring 3000 pieces of coloured glass – that you never feel crowded. As an Imperial Club guest I am whisked off to a quieter room (itself the size of a boutique hotel lobby) past the 11-million-litre Ambassador Lagoon, one of the top ten largest aquariums in the world. Check-in is a breeze and I am up in my room while my head is still spinning.
Most of the bling is reserved for the public spaces and a Deluxe King offers muted, sand-coloured walls and marble-topped benches, the bed dressed simply in crisp white linen. My Palm Room looks back along the man-made island with beauty in the symmetry of the artificial fronds. Stepping on to the balcony you are hit by the sheer chutzpah it took to build Palm Jumeirah.
Atlantis, The Palm's restaurants read like a wish list of MasterChef special guest judges: Gordon Ramsay, Giorgio Locatelli, Nobu Matsuhisa. But the real surprise is down the stunning staircase at Ayamna Lebanese restaurant, where you will find a banquet as OTT as Atlantis itself. You might have some cold mezze like a creamy shanklish cheese salad, silky labneh with garlic or a fish tajine with Middle Eastern spices. You might have hot mezze like grilled meats with cheese sambousek (filled pastry) and lamb kebbeh. You will have too much food.
You don't, really, but if you must make a break for it, head just off the Palm Jumeirah to the expat haven of JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences) and the Brits-behaving-badly party spot that is LSB (Lock, Stock and Barrel). This venue-cum-nightclub counts as grungy in highly polished Dubai and is packed tighter than the sand holding up the nearby Palm. Then hit JBR Walk, a pedestrian strip that takes in international hotel bars like tiki-tastic Trader Vic's.
Popular with the extended stopover crowd, Atlantis, The Palm is the ultimate fly-and-flop destination whether you want a burger by the pool or a six-hour brunch by Gordon Ramsay. There is a water park, the lost city of Atlantis-themed aquarium, kayaks to explore the nearby palm fronds, cocktails and shopping and upmarket hookah. Just remember to catch your next flight.
Palm King rooms start from AED1067 ($A430) per night for two people with access to the water park and aquarium included. Imperial King Rooms start from AED1619 but you have access to a very good value happy hour each evening with drinks and buffet included, along with buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and airport transfers. Atlantis, The Palm, Crescent Road, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; See atlantis.com/dubai
The scale: there's so much to do that you could get lost for a week.
The scale: such a huge space you can get lost looking for your dinner reservation.
OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE
Paul Chai was a guest of Atlantis, The Palm and Emirates airline, see emirates.com/au