Our Copywriting Executive, Aileen Few, took her first trip to Dubai earlier this month. Here she tells us all about her experience of staying at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray.
Arriving in Dubai at nighttime is an exciting and almost surreal experience, from the glittering pillars and high-ceilings in baggage reclaim, to the skyscrapers that seem to sprout up from nowhere as you drive along the six-lane motorway. It was almost 1am when we pulled up at our hotel, but even after hours of traveling, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray still wowed me.
The grand entrance of this luxury Dubai hotel is lined with gurgling water features and at night its Ottoman-esque frontage is illuminated to make the whole thing even more spectacular. As our band of weary travellers entered the main entrance hall there were more than a few gasps at the ornate decor within. We later learned that 'Saray' means palace in Turkish, and it was no surprise. Everywhere you look there are impressive chandeliers and hand-painted frescos - yet none of it is too much; they've got the balance just right.
Despite the late hour we were greeted with cool, fragrant hand towels and fresh juices by friendly staff before making our way to the guestrooms, where the 'wow's just kept on coming. I stayed in a Deluxe King Palm View room and could honestly not believe that this was the entry-level accommodation. The room was spacious, with furnishings that carried on the palatial theme, but again without being gaudy or overdone. I am a big fan of a good bathroom and this too did not disappoint, with a gorgeous golden sink, huge walk-in shower and a truly jaw-dropping marble bathtub that was closer to the size of a plunge pool than what I have in my own bathroom at home!
The room also had a balcony, which was very private, and from where you can enjoy hazy views out to across the Arabian Gulf to another frond of Palm Island, on which the hotel is located. In the balmy morning heat there was fresh coffee and a fine selection of teas provided in my room before going down for breakfast at Imperium - a magnificent columned hall lit by chandeliers where a sumptuous buffet and attentive staff awaited.
Both in the morning and the evening, dining at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray was a delight. There are a range of restaurants and I was lucky enough to eat at Amala, whose the authentic North Indian cuisine has given it a reputation one of the best Indian restaurants in Dubai. With so many mouth-watering delicacies to choose from, the tasting menu here is a great way to sample a bit of everything. The friendly and attentive waiting staff plied us with beautiful dishes including somosas and scallops until we were full - then we realised that was only the starter! Somehow, though, we managed to eat a whole lot more and thoroughly enjoy it. I'm a vegetarian and don't eat meat except for fish, and they were very considerate about that - giving me extra king prawns and not offering me the other meats (though I have it on good authority the lamb was incredible). What's more, with the Jumeirah Dine Around scheme, guests here can eat at more than 50 restaurants across Dubai, so whatever your dietary preferences there is plenty of choice!
In fact, the thoughtful and attentive service was a constant throughout my stay. The morning after I ate Amala I came down to breakfast on my own and a friendly waiter help me to my seat, taking a plate I was trying to balance whilst carrying coffee too. Then he asked me if I would like anything special to be cooked, "any vegetarian requests?" I couldn't believe it - it's not a small hotel and to know a detail like that without me even mentioning it was very impressive, personalized service!
I spent time by the pool and lovely beach, which was fab, but I must say the highlight for me had to be the Talise Spa. This beautiful, Ottoman-style facility is set over two floors and is the largest spa in the Middle East. There are separate men's and women's sections, both of which contain a wealth of facilities. There's a gym, lap pool, saunas, steam rooms, snow room, a wonderful jacuzzi and heated stone beds. The spa's central focus is an incredible Turkish Hammam, with traditional central heated bath and large cushioned alcoves around the sides where you can lounge, relax and even be brought drinks and snacks by the unobtrusive staff. Upstairs there are some 42 treatment rooms, including rooms for couples. Honestly, I could have happily spent days just in the spa. Bliss!
Traveling in group of adults, I had a more grown-up experience of this luxury Dubai hotel, but seeing their excellent kids club facilities I know I could also have a happy family holiday here with my two-year-old son. The hotel and its surrounds are spacious enough to make room for families, couples and friends alike. I think it would be the perfect place to enjoy a special girls' getaway, and I very much hope to return on my own holiday in the near future!