Thailand's Centara Hotels & Resorts group opened its first outpost in the UAE in October, with Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai occupying pride of place along Nakheel's Deira Islands waterfront city project.
As the third Centara Mirage (a brand known for its uber-family-friendly offerings) property globally, it follows the group's Lost World-themed resort in Pattaya and the Explorer’s Playground-themed property in Vietnam.
With that in mind and a toddler in tow, we set off to discover what child-friendly staycations at the resort look like.
Despite the sultry summer weekend on which we visit, the lobby is packed to the brim. And that’s saying something, as the space is easily one of the largest hotel reception areas that I have seen, with dozens of plush couches, a lobby bar, and a wide passageway leading to the gift shop, lifts and spa.
Efficiently, there are several check-in counters all along the corridor, which are staffed when things get busy. Not so conveniently, after standing in a queue for 15 minutes, we're informed it's for large groups only.
When our turn to check-in finally arrives, the receptionist has us on our way in under five minutes, armed with a QR-code-studded manual to help with spa bookings and restaurant reservations.
Centara is on the new Deira Islands development, a waterfront city off the coast of Dubai. If you feel the need to step out of the premises, Souk Al Marfa and the Waterfront Market are only a stone’s throw away.
Globally, the resort has implemented Centara Complete Care, a programme developed in collaboration with Ecolab and Swiss certification company SGS. A team of hygiene and quality managers monitor the 12-pronged action plan, which follows guidelines set by the WHO, World Travel & Tourism Council and local health authorities in all six countries the Centara brand is present.
We stay in the Mirage junior suite, a spacious room with a wraparound balcony, double bed and a bunk bed. Other room options come with a double bed, two double beds with or without bunks and a two-bedroom suite with three double beds. The resort is sizeable, with 607 rooms and suites in total.
The junior suite has a well-appointed layout with plenty of open space for children to bounce around in, with a couch, luggage rack and cupboard discreetly tucked away in their own corners.
The double bed is lush without being squishy-soft and is wide enough to sleep three, lest the little one decides tonight is the night she absolutely "must sleep between mommy and dada”.
The bathroom’s not massive, but segregates the toilet from the bathing area with a frosted glass door. It’s stocked with Purple Lotus products, while some other room categories offer Herbal Essences.
The balcony is a real highlight, and offers views of the beach, myriad pools, water slides and the lazy river that snakes around the property. It’s a happy sight.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but the highlight of this property is its swim-tastic options. A lagoon-shaped family pool is open to all while the heated spa pool is for those ages 16 and above. A third pool on the beach is equipped with a long line of inflatables for those who fancy a workout in the water, and then there's the ocean, of course.
Three waterslides, one more than fun than the next, are poised above their own little pool, while little ones can toddle about in a shaded splash pad with a mini slide, fountain spouts, misty tunnel, water guns and loads of other aquapark features set in only a few inches of water. A lazy river wraps around all of these, complete with single and double floats, and several merriment-inducing “waterfalls” along the circuit.
While the pool arena faces west, if it's still too hot in the afternoon, send the children to the soft play area or arcade-style games room, while you make a beeline for Spa Cenvaree.
That said, there’s plenty for adults to do in the arcade (I remain the undisputed air hockey champion in the family) and for kids to enjoy in their dedicated candy-themed spa.
The adult spa focuses on traditional Thai healing, and offers treatments such as Tok Sen (which entails the masseuse tock-tocking away on your body with a wooden hammer); Signature Salt Pot Muscle Melter massage (which involves steamed clay pots filled with coarse salt and medicinal herbs being gently rolled over the body); and Thai Warrior (which is part-massage, part-deep stretch and utterly loosening). All of these cost Dh680 for two hours.
The children’s spa offers treatments such as Rapunzel hair braiding, face painting and nail art (Dh250 for 90 minutes); Strawberry Shortcake body massage (Dh150 for 45 minutes); and Superstar mini facial, hand and foot massage (Dh250 for 90 minutes).
The resort also organises daily activities for little ones, including a beach disco, movie night and firework displays.
However you choose to mix and match your activities, one thing’s almost for certain: your children will slumber soundly all night.
There are no fewer than six restaurants at Centara, most of which operate on a buffet system: Suan Bua and Mirage Family Lounge primarily serve Thai dishes, and are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner for those on the all-inclusive package; Sheesh does Lebanese fare; Uno Mas is a European restaurant; and the poolside Sands and Waves serve snacks and barbecue.
Of the various dishes we sampled during our two-night stay, here are a few highlights: the red and yellow curries and basil noodles at Suan Bua’s lunch buffet are masterful, as is the fish tagine at Sheesh’s Lebanese dinner buffet. Sands does a mean Hawaiian pizza and Caesar salad off its a la carte menu, and a creamy pasta alfredo (popular with the little ones) at its evening buffet. The creme brulee at Uno Mas is moreish, but the set menu overall is nothing to write home about (more on this below).
Highs and lows
The myriad pools are the USP of this resort.
While everyone can get into the main “family pool”, it never feels overly crowded as some toddlers spend the day in the shaded water park, while older children delight in burning their energy on the water slides, as others bob about in the lazy river.
There are plenty of restaurants to satiate your taste buds after a full day of watery fun , but the set menu at Uno Mas (the only option if you take the all-inclusive package) leaves much to be desired. It is bereft of options compared to the posh restaurant’s a la carte menu, and the ones offered (among them a shellfish soup, steak and chocolate pastry) are average at best.
Avoid the couple’s therapy room in the spa if even one of you is getting the hammer-heavy Tok Sen massage, which sounds to the other like incessant construction work — not quite ideal for relaxation. This is definitely one for families with children, unless you don’t mind being around hopped-up-on-chlorine tots.
Have child, will revisit — come fog or sunshine.
The bottom line
Rooms at Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai start at Dh499, including breakfast for two adults, but excluding tax. Up to two children can stay and dine for free. Rates for the Mirage junior suite reviewed here start from Dh1,144, per night, including taxes. Check-in is from 3pm and check-out is at noon, but the resort tries to be flexible where possible; www.centarahotelsresorts.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.