Jumeirah Zabeel Saray - Hotel Exterior - Beach View DayI’m generally quite an avid fan of the Jumeirah group. They really have led Dubai’s hospitality sector for many years. Jumeirah Emirates Towers have stood side by side for nearly two decades, at the doorway of New Dubai like a married couple welcoming guests into their home. Madinat Jumeirah is an exceptional development, exotic, luxurious, modern yet embracing traditional lines of architecture. Do I even need to explain the Burj al Arab, that brilliant spinnaker of a construction, billowing in onto Al Sufouh’s white sands, and becoming a new symbol, not just for Dubai but for the whole Gulf area. A brand less than 20 years old is now found over much of the eastern world and Europe, is growing at an exponential rate, and has a reputation for unique concepts, environmental and cultural responsibility and luxurious Arabian hospitality.

And so I was expecting quite a lot when I stayed at their flagship Palm resort. Perhaps therein lies the problem – they have built themselves up so well, we are prepared only for the supreme, or to sharpen our knives and cut them down to size. And I’m going to do a little of both.

First, to build them up…

FullSizeRender 34Service: Check in is a dream – a separate lounge with old school space invaders tables and free refreshments mean any waiting time is done in comfort.

Rooms: Are gorgeous – deliciously Ottoman, with sumptuous fabrics and geometric embellishment all over the place. The bath is big enough for four (yes, we tried it out with the kids), and views cover most of the palm (depending on where in the hotel you are).

Facilities: The spa is iconic. The kids club is excellent for littlies, and the bigger ones can spend the day at Wild Wadi for free.

Decor: Superfluous, and even someone like me, who usually prefers a more minimalist approach, can appreciate most of the bells and whistles.

FullSizeRender 28Restaurants: Music Hall, just one of the attached supper clubs, is legendary – a Beirut import, which is probably not quite the same as the original, but bringing a distinctly Dubai flavour to the show.

And now to cut them down…

Size: Zabeel is a fairly sprawling resort, with over 400 rooms, 10 restaurant/bars, a stretch of private beach, and an 8000 square metre Spa. But somehow, it still manages to feel crowded. The pool is jammed with hotel guests and day-trippers alike, meaning that even paying 1400AED per night for a hotel room doesn’t guarantee you a lounge for just an hour of sun-worship.

Restaurants: With the removal of Voi (French Vietnamese), the dining has slipped into a more mainstream Dubai flavor, with the highlights being the Rib Room (Steakhouse) and Al Nafoorah (Arabic). Restaurants Amala (Indian Fine dining) and Lalezar (Ottoman) started well, but have faded into lackluster obscurity over time, leaving them to be very pretty but vacuous venues.Imperium does still put on a good brunch, but competition at neighboring resorts (particularly the One and Only), will have guests searching further afield

FullSizeRender 27Decor: Some may find the whole thing a little over the top, but that’s not what gets me. My issue is with the disjointed pieces that disturb the flow of the ambience. The pods on the terrace outside Voda bar just don’t fit, the lighting outside also – fluorescent bulbs in stellar chandeliers, the under-floor blue lights shining onto the interior planters. Those features and a few more were enough to wonder if the initial interior designer still has any sway.

Beach: Palm beaches still aren’t perfect. I’m sure with time, the construction debris will disappear completely, but with a lack of high movement in the water, it can tend to get a little slimy at times. Not just Zabeel, all hotels on the Palm are similarly affected.

Summary: 7/10

  • Accommodation Style: Five-star beach resort
  • Rooms: 379 guest rooms, 26 suites and 38 Royal Residences
  • Price: From 1200AED ($330US) for a deluxe king room in low season. From 1700AED in peak.
  • Facilities: AC, babysitting, connecting rooms, restaurants and bars, wifi, free parking, tour desk, transfers
  • Activities: Day spa, sauna, fitness and wellness centre, hammam, private beach, pool, library, children’s playground, kids’ club, Tennis, multiple water sports, nightclub, banqueting and events, 
  • Languages: Chinese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Filipino, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Indonesian, Hungarian, Hindi, French, Spanish, German, English, Arabic
  • Perfect for: families with young children, couples who like a bit of bling and want to party into the wee hours
  • Also not bad for: girls spa weekends
  • Pros: As above (checki-in, rooms, spa, kids’ club, crazy decor, Music Hall)
  • Cons: As above (crowded, restaurants could be more interesting, decor edges on wacky in places, beach not completely awesome all the time)
  • Location: Palm Jumeirah, Dubai (map)
  • Nearest Airport: Dubai International Airport (45 minutes drive), Al Maktoum International Airport 40 minutes, Abu Dhabi International (1 hour drive)
  • Bookings: Via website, Phone: +971 4 453 0000

A guide to ratings: These take into account the price, quality, service and the facilities, and in effect are a value rating.

  • 0-2/10 = exceptionally overpriced. Avoid at all costs, even if it means travelling to stay elsewhere overnight.
  • 3-5/10 = overpriced in respect to quality. Don’t stay unless there are no other options.
  • 6-7/10 = reasonable value. Check other options in the area just in case, but not a bad choice over-all.
  • 8-9/10= worth seeking out. Great value in respect to the offer, one of if not the best option in the area.
  • 10/10= super place. Stop what you’re doing, book a plane ticket and go there now.

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