Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah review: Another level of luxury

If you build it, they will come. That's what the creators of Dubai's "The Palm" project must have been thinking a few years ago when they came up with the seemingly hare-brained scheme to plonk a gigantic palm-shaped man-made island in the middle of the Arabian Gulf and expect it to become a residential quarter and a tourist attraction.

They were right, of course. Construction had barely begun on the Palm and the interest poured in, with exclusive villas selling and five-star resorts sprouting upon the 94 million cubic metres of sand that had been dumped in such a pretty arrangement. The Atlantis mega-resort became world famous. David Beckham bought a house.

And so the Palm continues to flourish, with new properties – impressive, five-star properties the lot of them – continuing to appear on its sandy trunk and fronds.

The latest of those is the Waldorf Astoria, the first island-bound iteration of the luxury New York hotel brand. Like most things in Dubai it's bright, it's shiny, and it's built on a scale that's difficult to get your head around.

The Waldorf is a gigantic structure, shimmering white in the desert heat, a beacon of polished newness among the construction sites that still dot this part of the Palm development. Everything about it still has that new-car smell as I step into the air-conditioned and frankly enormous foyer at the beginning of my stay. I'm met immediately with a slick smile and a greeting from the concierge: "Mr Groundwater, welcome."

Oh, these guys are good.

A few minutes ago I'd been zipping through Dubai's busy highway system, racing through the bright lights of the city at night, just another visitor in a new Mercedes with blacked-out windows. Now, however, I feel like an honoured guest. 

People know my name. I'm being led through the gargantuan corridors of the Waldorf, immaculate hallways that provide access to all 319 rooms and suites. I'm being shown to my abode with its views of the twinkling Dubai skyline. I'm resting in a plush king-sized "Waldorf signature" bed.

The next day that twinkling skyline has been replaced by the shimmered orb of the desert sun, which is beating fiercely against my tinted balcony door. There's a rush of heat as I throw it open and gaze at my view, the sail-shaped Burj al Arab in the foreground, the city of Dubai proper lying in the distance. 


The Waldorf Astoria is perched on the north-eastern tip of the Palm, occupying a large part of the arc that wraps around the fronds. On one side of the hotel lies the Arabian Gulf; on the other, a 200m-long secluded beach and views towards Dubai Marina.     

It would be tempting to hang around for the whole day in the air-conditioned comfort of my enormous room – each of the abodes here is 52 square metres or more – but why just stay here when there's the air-conditioned comfort of six different restaurants and bars to hang out in? So I wander through the quiet hotel corridors, past the smiling concierge and out, briefly, into the heat of the day.

Down by the pool is where the action is today, where people are lounging in cabanas, or sipping drinks on deck chairs by the sand, or cooling off in the clear waters that are either contained in the pool or flowing free around the Palm. Such a spanking new hotel still has a relatively low occupancy when I visit, which means I can wander straight into the Palm Avenue restaurant and take a seat overlooking the water and have food arrive in next to no time.

This is living: a cold drink on a hot day. Nothing to do but choose which part of the pool to laze around.

There's plenty I could to today, if I felt like it. I could head out to see the aquarium at the Atlantis. I could visit the world's biggest shopping mall back on the mainland. I could go to the top of the world's tallest building. I could ride on the world's fastest rollercoaster. Or, I could hang around here at the Waldorf and go to the day spa.

But heat like this encourages idyll, which is why most guests tend to while away their days poolside, enjoying the drinks service that arrives at their cabanas, picking over food and trying to figure out how to ensure they'll never have to get off this man-made palm-shaped island of sand.

Because there's a lesson here. If you build it, they will come. And if you make it nice enough, they'll never want to leave.

Take a 360-degree tour of the hotel below.





Emirates flies daily from the east coast of Australia to Dubai; see www.emirates.com/au 


The Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm has 319 rooms and suites, starting at around $350 a night.

Ben Groundwater was a guest of the Waldorf Astoria

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