Dubai check out: Atlantis, The Palm, explored

C&IT editor Yasmin Arrigo and Creative Direction & Motivation managing director Chris McQue report on their first impressions of the Kerzner property

Atlantis, The Palm
Atlantis, The Palm

WHERE IS IT? Set on the infamous Palm Island Jumeirah, Atlantis is the first hotel to open on the Emirate's long-awaited man-made island. As it is located on the crescent of the palm, the hotel is at the furthest point from the mainland.

Groups arrive at Dubai International Airport, where Atlantis' fleet of luxury cars collect delegates and transfer them to the Palm. En route, cars pass through a tunnel and on re-emerging, Atlantis awaits in the distance, rising up from the sea like the mythical city itself.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Once the car draws up, the sheer scale of this sea-themed behemoth with its two Royal Towers is evident and emphasised by the bright Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the lobby.

The conical structure is ten metres high and is made of 3,000 pieces of coloured blown glass in reds, oranges, blues and greens to represent the colours of the ocean.

Indeed, Atlantis had the potential of overplaying the sea-theme in a garish fashion, but has narrowly escaped this by commissioning internationally renowned artists such as Chihuly and Albino Gonzalez, whose hand-painted murals tell the story of the ancient city across the lobby's arched ceiling.

GROUP CHECK-IN? The entire west tower is devoted to meetings,and groups can check in at a dedicated reception desk in the main lobby - or the events team can organise a swift check-in within the conference centre entrance with a welcome drink. This may be the better option while Atlantis gets over some of the teething problems that are inevitable with a project of this scale. When C&IT visited, it was no surprise to see irritated guests complaining about tardy room service or being unable to get through to reception due to jammed phonelines. And even while the lobby is bedecked with art from the world's most talented masters, you could also be forgiven for thinking that you were back in the airport terminal.

SLEEP TIGHT The 1,539 rooms include two Lost Chambers suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the Ambassador Lagoon, while the Bridge Suite covers 924m2. Groups wanting a more exclusive environment can hire the Imperial Club - a resort within a resort with 150 rooms and a private club lounge.

MEETINGS MENU Spanning 5,600m2, the Atlantis Conference Centre boasts a separate entrance with 1,000m2 of pre-function space plus a Royal Terrace, where groups of 250 can enjoy sundowner receptions. The stylish Atlantis Ballroom can hold 2,500 while boardroom options include rooms for 12. For outdoor options, the Palm Grove is a private space with traditional Arabian hospitality, while the Bridge and Terrace Suites provide exclusive backdrops for private dinners with butler service for VIPs.

ADDED VALUE Here's where Atlantis really comes in to its own. In addition to the Lost Chambers, with more than 65,000 marine species on display in a series of avenues, there is the thrilling Aquaventure, with its near-vertical Leap of Faith waterslide, and the Shark Lagoon. The resort is also a haven for spa enthusiasts and foodies. The spa and fitness centre features 27 treatment rooms, while the gourmet offering includes Nobu Dubai and outlets by Michel Rostang and Giorgio Locatelli for quality dine-arounds.

CLIENT FIT Groups of all sizes can take advantage of its multifarious events space and incentives offerings. However, it takes a real leap of faith to let go of the environmental and ethical concerns with regards to captive marine wildlife and the seemingly insane level of water consumption in such an arid destination. Yet once delegates move beyond this, its appeal for aquafreak, gastronome or sunseeker is undeniable.

AGENCY LOWDOWN
Agency Creative Direction & Motivation took a group of 45 principals from an automotive finance company to Atlantis, The Palm in the first week of October, just days after its opening. Managing director Chris McQue gives his feedback on the most famous new property on the block

Why did you choose Atlantis? We wanted to take advantage of the global publicity generated by the first five-star resort on The Palm. We entitled the conference 'Building for the Future', which perfectly fitted recent developments client-side and required the right 'sense of place' for the event. It was an adventurous but calculated step onto The Palm.

Did the property meet expectations? Unquestionably. Every guest has commented that the programme and venue surpassed expectations, and these are well-travelled directors. Although the scale of Atlantis impacts on a physical level, the 'internal theatre' was matched by the smiling service we encountered everywhere.

How did it compare with other hotels you have visited/used in Dubai? Extremely well. We were handled in exemplary fashion. A themed, 1,500-room property is not for everyone, but the 'wow' factor is huge and careful layout means corporate and leisure visitors co-exist happily. One question is whether the monorail and six-lane 'trunk' of The Palm will be able contend with increasing Dubai traffic, but we had no problems.

Top tip for event planners considering Atlantis? Entry-level 'Atlantis' category bedrooms are very good indeed with open-plan bathrooms and all the usual five-star touches. The Imperial category only adds additional lounge facilities. However, don't underestimate demand and take a chance on early guest room access if you are flying overnight from Europe - negotiate a deal and book your rooms from the night pre-arrival. The same goes for the superb range of restaurants, the 27-room spa and for the Dolphin Bay experience; with more 3,000 in-house guests, demand is high and you need to prebook provisional space with agreed release-back dates when awaiting personal preferences from incentive winners - think 'Vegas' when it comes to leisure and entertainment choices!

Would you pitch it again? We are already and we are also working with Kerzner on a special package of benefits for UK corporate clients. Like its Bahamian predecessor, Atlantis, The Palm will face increased competition from the ferocious five-star sector in the area but to a great extent, I feel the Atlantis product has been future-proofed for some considerable time to come.

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