So much of 2020 has been about what we can’t do. So, Travel Specialist Kelsey was delighted to head on a trip to Dubai recently to test out what we can do in the world of travel…
Like most people, for me 2020 has been a year of staying at home and making minimal contact with the outside world. I definitely had some initial concerns about travelling again, both in terms of all the Covid procedures and being on a flight with a number of people.
I have to say, these concerns were quickly dismissed by the excellent organisation at all the airports and hotels I visited on my first trip abroad since lockdown.
When I actually got to Dubai, it felt just like a normal holiday. Ok, I wore a mask whilst walking around the main areas, and there were generous amounts of hand sanitiser available everywhere. But, I was still able to soak up the sunshine, take a dip in the pool, and enjoy the fabulous food and service on offer. Just like the good old days!
Honestly, I wouldn't hesitate to travel again soon, I was so impressed by the health and safety precautions throughout my journey, from the airport to the destination. Here’s how my trip went, from start to finish…
In order to be permitted entry to your destination, there are certain processes and procedures you need to complete. These are in place to keep you, your fellow travellers and everyone in your destination country safe. Every country has different rules, so before you book or travel, you should look at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website for the latest updates. To travel to Dubai, I had a simple checklist to complete in order to be passed fit to travel.
Dubai Travel Checklist:
- Negative PCR Test Certificate (not NHS or Home Test) dated within 96 hours of arrival into Dubai.
- I wouldn’t advise taking the test on arrival into Dubai, to avoid the risk of having to quarantine for up to 14 days.
- Health Declaration Form, filled out prior to travel
- Download ‘Covid Dubai’ App
- This is Dubai’s version of Test and Trace., and is really useful when you’re travelling around
- Passenger Locator Form, filled out prior to checking-in for your return home from Dubai. Emirates will not check you in unless this has been completed before returning home.
I was flying from Manchester Airport for my trip, and made sure to arrive in plenty of time. I parked in the T1 car park, right opposite the terminal entrance. It’s really easy to use (make sure you’ve booked your space in advance) – just pull up to the barrier and you’ll be automatically allowed entry.
A member of airport staff is stationed at the terminal doors, making sure all passengers are wearing masks, and asking which airline you are travelling with to make the check-in process easier.
I proceeded to the Emirates desk, where there were shorter than average queues. I had arrived 2.5 hours before my flight was due to depart, to allow for potentially longer queues and new protocols that can take up time.
I was asked by the check-in staff member if I had a PCR test (he didn’t need to see it, he just wanted to make sure I had everything in place), and if I had completed the Health Declaration Form. Then it was just a quick pull down of my mask to check against my passport, and the process was complete. It was quick, easy, and completely hassle-free.
Inside, most shops were open for in-flight essentials. Some restaurants were closed, because Manchester was under Tier 3 restrictions when I travelled. The small bar upstairs, Pret A Manger, WHSmith and Boots were open.
At the departure gate, boarding goes ahead as normal, in small groups depending on which letter is noted on your boarding card. It’s at this point you hand over your Health Declaration Form.
On board the plane, all staff members wear masks, shields and a protective overall. When I travelled, my flight was relatively full, with only a couple of rows empty at the back of the A380. I flew in Economy both ways, and where possible the airline will seat you with an empty seat in the middle of pairing travellers to help with social distancing. Passengers are not allowed to roam the aisles unless using the toilets.
Passengers are required to wear a mask for the duration of the flight. I’ll admit, this took some getting used to for me, since before that I’d never worn a mask for longer than my Tesco shop! Being able to quickly pop to the toilet for a mask break helped though, and I soon got used to it.
Every passenger is given a ‘Travel Hygiene Kit’ which includes masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes. Emirates also had an announcement every couple of hours to remind guests to keep using masks and the other hygiene products for everyone’s safety.
Arrival in Dubai
After queuing to collect my baggage and passing through the arrivals gate and testing areas at the airport, I was off. On my trip I visited three hotels, One&Only The Palm, One&Only Royal Mirage, and Atlantis, the Palm.
One&Only The Palm
This is a beautifully peaceful and intimate resort that I’d highly recommend to couples. However, the resort does have lots of facilities suited for families as well. The resort is still hosting its famous family brunch at the weekend, which is a really sophisticated and memorable experience.
In terms of Covid precautions, the hotel has set aside an entire floor for anyone feeling unwell or needing to isolate. In restaurants, there are QR codes on tables to see the menu and order; there aren’t any buffet options for obvious reasons, but there’s still amazing choice on offer.
Around the hotel in communal areas, masks must be worn, apart from when you’re eating or drinking at your table, are on your sun lounger, or are in the pool. At the pool, all the towels on loungers are safely wrapped, so you know it’s been sanitised and is safe to use. I thought this was a particularly great touch from One&Only, and really reassuring that you can still go for a couple of laps care-free in these times!
The gorgeous Guerlain Spa is still operational too, offering expert treatments perfect for melting stress away. In all the treatment rooms, guests receive their own make up tray for hygiene. Another great spot for relaxation is the grand main pool, with large days beds, loungers and private cabanas that can be prebooked.
One&Only Royal Mirage
This impressive property is actually three hotels within one resort. There’s the main Arabian Court, then the adult-only Residence, and The Palace, which is currently closed.
At the resort, there are QR codes at the restaurants to access menus and order table service. As at One&Only The Palm, you must keep your mask on throughout the hotel except for in your room, at the pool or when eating or drinking in the restaurants. At the pool here towels are also wrapped up safely.
Anyone seeking adventure will be glad to hear that watersports – which take place in front of The Residence – are still taking place. Equally, the resort’s restaurants and excellent spa are also fully operational, with full health and safety protocols in place.
Atlantis, the Palm
This huge and iconic hotel is perfect for families, and sits proudly at the far end of The Palm. All rooms here were refurbished in January 2020, and really are looking their best.
On arrival, there are automatic temperature screenings, at each entrance of the hotel. Masks are required to be worn around the hotel when not lounging, swimming, eating, or drinking. In restaurants, tables are restricted to no more than eight guests. Buffet restaurants are operational, with food served by staff and a one-way system in place.
Dolphin experiences, Aquaventure, and sealion experiences are all still operational. Aquaventure waterpark requires masks to be worn on check-in, during the temperature check, but then you’re free to roam the park without a mask.
The hotel’s West Wing is ideal for adults travelling without children; this is where the new spa is located. The East Wing has the kids’ club, and is the closest to Aquaventure, so I’d recommend this section for families.
The Imperial Club offers complimentary kids’ club access for your entire stay, along with many other benefits. Particularly for families, I’d recommend requesting an upgrade to this if possible, as it’s extremely good value for money.
The old N Dulge Nightclub has now been transformed into the Wave House. A cool and funky hang out area with arcade games, two bowling alleys, a bar area and an American diner-style menu, with indoor and outdoor seating.
Before travelling, I was a bit apprehensive. But the airport experience was organised, the flight itself felt very safe, and I found that each hotel I visited had really clear rules to follow. I honestly didn’t feel as though my experience was too different to a pre-Covid holiday, with most facilities still open – and the sun was still shining, of course!
I wouldn’t think twice about going on another holiday – as long as you follow the regulations and are sensible, it’s the perfect antidote to all the stress and uncertainty going on at the moment!