It has been almost 2 months now since we have returned home from our holiday to Dubai and frankly… we are missing it! We had such a good time and it will be a memorable holiday for sure.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dubai. I had heard so much already and everyone who I had spoken to had indicated it was their favourite holiday and that they couldn’t wait to get back. I must admit, I did think they must be exaggerating.
So here is information on what we enjoyed, what is worth doing and perhaps what is worth skipping!
Firstly, I want to reiterate that we did enjoy Dubai. Very much so infact. However I would be lying if I said it wasn’t missing something. For about a week I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then I was speaking to a fellow Instagram mama and she had asked me where I would rank Dubai out of all the places we had visited. For me, New York, Cuba and Venice remains top of that list. It was then it occurred to me. It was substance. Dubai was missing substance. Therefore you are lacking historical features and a sense of the ‘past’.
Dubai is very much ‘man made’ and so whilst you get a cultural feel of the place, you do miss other aspects. It feels…. sterile.
When we were there I kept likening it to our holiday to Las Vegas. So if you have been to Vegas before, you will know what I mean.
However, Dubai has clearly been made for your enjoyment. It has been described as a playground for adults and I would agree with this. And because of that, you need to take it for what it is. There really is plenty to do and I can see why people would visit more than once.
Where we stayed
We stayed at The Atlantis on the Palm. Without a single doubt it is the most luxurious hotel I think we have stayed in. We were lucky enough to be placed on the 14th floor and facing The Palm. I had emailed them the year before to ask that should there be rooms available, we were placed high up and facing the ocean. I was still surprised though when they met our request. It was a really lovely touch.
The hotel is well known for its aquarium which is free for residents to visit as and when. Whether you visit the aquarium or not, it is visible regardless from other areas of the hotel. It really is very striking and we noted many people visiting the hotel just to get their famous photo. (see Ita below!)
The hotel is very big and always very clean. The reception desks are sprawled along one side so although the hotel is very busy, there seemed to be enough staff to help. When we were checking in, I must admit I did feel pushed into buying the breakfast package but I declined it. In hindsight, you probably do need to have this package but the truth is it is so expensive for what it is.
In many ways The Atlantis is very child friendly, in other means it really isn’t. We visited the Wavehouse Bar and Restaurant the most because their menu was most suited to our needs. The other restaurants are fine for one offs, but a 3 year old really just wants nuggets and chips so it was frustrating that nothing like this was on offer. You will note 2 very very small fast food places by the entrance to the water park from the hotel – and that really is it. Typically, when we go away we like to splash out on one nice meal at least (mostly for us adults to enjoy) but we didn’t realise how booked up the restaurants get by people who aren’t residents at the hotel.
Unless you purchase the breakfast package, there is nowhere else to have breakfast either apart from a small coffee bar. However, every day we noticed that the queues for the breakfast room were really long and it always looked very busy inside too.
On the 3rd day we realised that there is a Starbucks over by Dolphin Bay which is on the opposite side of the water park. I would estimate it would take about 30 minutes from our room to walk there for a coffee. It is a shame there was not a Starbucks situated closer or even inside of the hotel.
Cabs are situated right outside the hotel. There are 2 types; the normal standard cabs and the flashy ones which you are always shown to first. We actually spent quite a lot in cab fares as everything worth seeing is at least a 30-40 minutes ride away. There is a monorail service which runs from the hotel (at the top of The Palm) down to the end of The Palm, which you can then decide what mode of transport you would prefer to take, either a train, bus or cab. We decided due to time restraints to get cabs as they were the easiest for us.
As part of our stay at Atlantis, we had full access to the onsite aquapark, this was another highlight for Ita. The aquapark is the best one we have been to, it was huge with so many different slides and rides.
The areas are split into areas for the families and the thrill seekers. We spent 99% of our time at the Splashers area, Ita would go on the same slides constantly for hours on end. The staff here were always so friendly and polite and they always engaged with Ita. This made all the difference.
If you are more of a thrill seeker, there are some amazing slides available, for example The Leap of Faith which is plunge from nine storeys high and you drop right through the centre of a lagoon with sharks and stingrays. It looked awesome!
What to do?
As we were there for 6 days we planned what we really wanted to do and see. As stated earlier, Dubai is there for your entertaining pleasure so I wanted to do a few things that we would not otherwise be able to do back in England.
Our hit list included; The Malls, Mermaids of Arabia, Hello Kitty Spa, Motion Gate Theme Park, Global Village, Souks and Burj Khalifa. We did think if we had time we would also visit Miracle Garden and The Dubai Frame. However, first and foremost we wanted this to be a holiday. I had spoken to many people who had visited Dubai before and their trip seemed so busy and fussy. It was really important to us that we experienced a holiday here and went home less tired than we arrived.
We visited The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and The Galleria Mall, which is much smaller.
They were all so similar in layout and design. Even the tiles were the same. If we were to go back, I would definitely visit Ibn Battuta Mall which is considered the largest theme mall in the world and looks visually stunning.
At Mall of the Emirates we visited The Toy Shop where Mermaids of Arabia is situated. (More info on this below). This Mall is also where Ski Dubai is. When we visited it was fairly quiet which we liked. We also treated ourselves to a couple Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes which were amazing!
The Dubai Mall is not one to be missed as the fountains really are so impressive. It is based in Down Town Dubai, very close to the Burj Khalifa. However this Mall was by far the busiest and so we didn’t get much time to look around.
The Galleria Mall is where Hello Kitty Spa has been moved to. It is very small – only one floor with a handful of shops. There was nowhere to eat here and there were also no cabs outside. Bare this in mind when you visit. The best way to get around this is to order an Uber or a Careem (a popular cab hailing app).
We noticed that Dubai really came to life in the evenings and was less busy during the day. So if you are travelling with a small child as we were, I would say you will get the most out of your trip by being up and out early. (To be honest, isn’t this likely anyway?)
So let’s move on to activities.
As stated, we really wanted to plan activities around Ita so with that in mind I knew we wanted to take her to Mermaids of Arabia and the Hello Kitty Spa.
Mermaids of Arabia
Mermaids of Arabia are on the second floor of The Toy Store within The Mall of Emirates. This is at the Ski Dubai end (you will notice this signposted).
Ita had a full makeover and transformation into a beautiful mermaid and posed in a giant sea shell afterwards.
There are 3 different packages ranging from 110 AED to 200 AED.
Ita was gifted the 3rd package which included;
Mermaid makeover and simple hairstyling
Costume dress-up and photo shoot
1 free printed photo to keep
1 glamorous photo frame with sparkling jewels for decoration
Digital copies of all photos taken during the photo shoot (sent via email)
1 sparkling tiara to keep
This was a big highlight of our trip and thoroughly recommended. They also do a pirates version for little boys too. The link to their website is below but do check out our Instagram TV for the video of Ita’s visit.
Here you can even meet a mermaid too!
Hello Kitty Spa
The Hello Kitty Spa has recently relocated to The Galleria Mall. This is a female only spa so was perfect for my and Ita, but did mean that Dominic had to wait outside on his own!
The Spa is beautifully decorated in Hello Kitty and they offer lots of treatments. Ita had a manicure and her nails painted with the famous Hello Kitty face. It really is such a lovely experience. The mini robes are very cute.
She was lucky enough to get to make some soaps too which was actually something she enjoyed the most from this experience.
The staff were all so friendly and made such a big fuss over Ita.
The options are very reasonable and range from about 60 AED for nail polish to 590 AED for mummy and daughter packages.
The link to their website is below but do check out our Instagram TV for the video of Ita’s visit.
Part theme park and part market!
Global Village features pavilions with displays from countries near and far where visitors can pick up traditional items and snacks.
This festival park brings cultures together as visitors discover different parts of the world in just a few hours. The pavilions are designed in the image of iconic structures or local architecture from London’s Big Ben to the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, the Taj Mahal and Ancient Egypt.
There is a lively atmosphere here created by parades and all kinds of shows, from fire-breathing street performances to concerts.
Plus, there is a big funfair here too! We also visited Ripleys Believe it or Not here and Ita absolutely loved it.
We really enjoyed Global Village especially the souks. As with Dubai in general, the attention to detail is remarkable.
Global Village is seasonal however and is only open from October to April. This is because of the weather. If you are visiting Dubai during these months though, I would really recommend here!
We had planned to visit the Motion Gate Theme Park but on the morning of going, Ita politely asked whether she could go to the splash park. Initially I was disappointed but I wanted us to have a nice memory of our holiday so we did just that. There’s always next time we thought!
One thing that I really want to point out, is just how far everything is from each other. When you visit London or Manhattan (or actually most cities) for example, you can spend the day walking around at your own leisure seeing the sights. You simply can’t do that in Dubai. Everything is separated by dual carriage ways so you need to take a car ride. It means that whilst you could definitely see a few things in one day, you would need to do this via cabs which takes away the spontaneity of it and adds more to my initial thoughts on how fake everything felt. It is quite hard to describe unless you are there.
Let me try explain, the Dubai Frame for example is something you really only want to see rather than go in. So you would need to get a cab there, just for a photo outside with the frame in the background… it is a bit weird! If you could leisurely stroll here and then on to somewhere else, then it would make sense.
We flew overnight with British Airways, so the airport was empty and the check in was completely stress free which was a good start to holiday.
The flights were around 7 hours going and 8 hours coming back. I would say in hindsight, this isn’t long enough to do an overnight flight. In my head, Ita would be sleeping the entire flight but that doesn’t happen. She slept maybe 5 hours? This meant she was a bit tired on our first day in Dubai. Ita is very good when it comes to travelling so perhaps the night flight would be ideal for children who aren’t?
We also bought a blow up block cushion to bridge the gap between the chair and the one in front. This enabled Ita to lay down better. I have seen companies selling these for a ridiculous amount of money (£79!!!) but this one only cost us £12 from Amazon.
We arrived in Dubai in the morning the next day and passport control was seamless and again stress free, the buggy was waiting for us outside of the plane.
We couldn’t fault BA at all and would happily fly with them again.
Top Tips for Dubai
- Plan and plan again. You cannot be spontaneous here. Book restaurants and the things you want to do in advance.
- Remember to account for the money you will spend on cabs / taxis
- The best time to travel is between October and April. This is when it is less hot. During the summer months it is unbearable and will limit what you can do.
- Take it for what it is – it is a playground! It is meant to be fun!
Check out our vlogs from Dubai!
Please note, our visits to Mermaids of Arabia, Hello Kitty Spa and Global Village we’re all gifted visits.