An opulent stay awaits at palatial Raffles The Palm Dubai - Hotel Insider

With a sprawling coastline, luxury amenities and activities galore, the first Raffles resort in the Middle East is a luxury getaway

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Dubai is known for its love of luxury and is home to more than a few five-star hotels, but for sheer scale and grandeur, few compare to Raffles The Palm Dubai, on Palm Jumeirah.

The first Raffles resort in the Middle East is nestled on the West Crescent of the man-made island and styled as a luxurious palace with 388 spacious rooms, suites and villas, restaurants, swimming pools and spa facilities. With its extensive, palatial building blending Renaissance and Baroque-style architecture, and a lobby featuring 24-carat gold carved ceilings, crystal chandeliers, red velvet drapes and lavish carpeting, its air of opulence is immediately striking.

The National checked in to explore the resort.

The welcome

The hotel's location means there is only one road leading to the property and the drive out is pleasantly scenic on a lovely UAE winter morning with views out to the Arabian Gulf. Arriving at the resort, valet service is quick and we enter to find that we’ve arrived on a rather busy weekend, with preparations under way for a lavish two-day Indian wedding.

Our check-in is delayed — the suite is not quite ready on arrival — and an almost 40-minute wait ensues, something we are not used to by Dubai’s competitive and exacting five-star service standards, but it's excusable given the number of people in the hotel, most of them guests for the wedding. A welcome drink is offered to those waiting for rooms, and the staff are patient and courteous in explaining the reasons for the delays.

The neighbourhood

Spread across more than 10 hectares of Palm Jumeirah and offering 360-degree views of Dubai’s skyline, Raffles' first resort in the Middle East offers an ideal beachside getaway for couples or families without having to leave town, and the fact it's on a thin slice of land with only other five-star hotels and the sea for company means you do feel as if you've left the hubbub of the city.

The room

A Premier Ocean room at Raffles The Palm Dubai on Palm Jumeirah. Pawan Singh/The National

We score a Premier Ocean room, and on entering, promptly forget all about our check-in delay. It has a large living room and bedroom, and an extended balcony set-up complete with sunloungers and a panoramic view of the Arabian Gulf. In contrast to the lobby, the palette in the rooms is entirely pastel tones, with soft blues offset by muted golds, and some striking handcrafted furniture.

There is a spacious executive desk, which comes in handy when my friend has some last-minute work to complete, and a walk-in wardrobe, ideal for long-stayers, or wedding guests for that matter. The Baroque theme of the resort spills over to the furnishings and wallpaper in the room, so you can be sure the hotel’s extravagant vibes are the never out of sight.

The bathroom is similarly spacious, with a walk-in shower and a separate tub. Toiletries by Sicilian brand Ortigia, formulated with natural ingredients, provide a nice touch and complement the surroundings which have a sumptuous Italian touch.

The service

Our 24-hour butler service is discreet yet efficient, bringing us decaffeinated coffee pods for the Nespresso machine without request, for instance. The restaurant and spa staff are similarly quick, and while the hotel is in the throes of wedding preparations, you get a sense it is typically run like a well-oiled machine.

The scene

The indoor pool at Cinq Mondes spa at Raffles The Palm Dubai. Photo: Raffles Hotels & Resorts

Whether you’re here for a night’s stay, an entire weekend or longer, you’re unlikely to run out of things to do. From its award-winning spa and large indoor swimming pool to the 500-metre private beach and two traditional hammams, this is a place for rest and rejuvenation.

And if you want to just zone out on your devices, there's strong, free Wi-Fi throughout the resort. The 24-hour health club is equipped with Technogym machines and aqua fitness classes are offered in the swimming pool. The resort also has one of the most beautiful yoga studios we’ve seen, with a large mandala filigreed on an entire wall.

Guests can also head to Blue Safari Watersports, where jet skiing, parasailing, banana boats, wakeboarding, water skiing and surfboarding are on offer.

For younger guests, there’s a Kids’ Club brimming with games and interactive activities such as Lego, arts and crafts, and puzzles.

The Cinq Mondes spa is a haven of relaxation, and with its secluded, winding entranceways, almost feels like it’s a stand-alone spa destination. We enjoy a much-needed Balinese massage in the serene and refined setting, where there are also hammams, saunas and warm relaxation rooms, making us reluctant to leave the almost meditative space after we’re done with our treatment.

The food

Designed so that guests won’t have to leave the property if they don't want to, the hotel’s restaurants offer an extensive array of cuisine. The spacious Le Jardin serves lavish breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, and if you want to dine beachside, Piatti serves seafood in a setting inspired by the Amalfi coast. Our alfresco breakfast was particularly memorable — it's definitely one of the larger spreads we have seen, even by Dubai standards.

In keeping with the property’s grandeur is Bluthner Hall, the lobby lounge, where an afternoon tea experience fit for royalty is served daily, alongside notes from a bespoke Bluthner Louis XIV grand piano. Sola is the sultry jazz lounge, which hosts performances by acclaimed artists throughout the week, accompanied by a menu of Asian and Mediterranean finger food.

Our dinner, at Matagi, is a highlight of our stay. The contemporary Japanese food is complemented by the beautiful venue, which offers ambience and theatre in a moody, lowlight setting. Entire walls are filled with stacks of Japanese ceiling tiles, offset by patterned floor tiling, and contemporary artwork and lighting. There's also an extensive bar and wine cellar.

We get our meal off to a good start with an order of tenderstem broccoli tempura, served with truffle honey and roasted almond (Dh120) . Salmon ceviche is served with a mango leche de tigre and pickled Italian tropea onion in a bed of avocado purée (Dh80), contrasting flavours that aren't obvious pairings but that work wonderfully together. A Matagi bao (Dh130), filled with Wagyu short rib meat and braised endive is rich and flavourful, and I'd go so far as to say one of the best things I’ve eaten in Dubai. For mains, we pick from the robata section opting for a den miso black cod with yuzu pickled Italian giardiniera (Dh240) and the 72-hour slow-cooked beef short ribs and black truffle (Dh250) which do the meal justice, leaving us with no space for dessert.

Highs and lows

The overall experience of staying in this property, the hallmark of which is luxury and grandeur — if that is your thing — is quite unlike any other. Even if you’re not a guest at the hotel, the Cinq Mondes spa and fantastic restaurants are worth a visit for the sheer quality and variety they offer. Large indoor and outdoor pools are ideal for unwinding and we can't help but wish we had more time on our hands to enjoy the facilities for longer.

Our delayed check-in and the general level of activity and bustle in the hotel surrounding the wedding weekend were the only downsides, but this is unlikely to be the case every time.

The Insider Tip

The resort’s palace-like setting and beachside location make it a hub for events, so if you're after a serene escape it might be worth checking that there's no big weddings or events taking place during your stay.

The verdict

It's not to everyone's taste, but Raffles The Palm is an unrivalled choice for travellers seeking that renowned Dubai bling and a slice of the lavishness and extravagance for which the city has built a reputation.

The bottom line

From $858 (Dh3,151), excluding taxes. Check-in is at 3pm and checkout is at noon;

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future

Updated: March 05, 2023, 1:51 PM