The social media influencers are out in force at Cloud 22. One is raising her body out of the infinity pool, overlooking the Dubai skyline, just enough so that her bronzed derriere is on show and her partner can snap it on his phone.
A DJ stands inside a gigantic head-shaped structure made from silver shards and pumps out heavy disco tunes, his head bouncing up and down to the music whenever he notices someone is filming.
That’s no surprise. Look-at-me hedonism is what makes Dubai, well, Dubai.
And here is its latest effort. Perched more than 300ft in the sky among the clouds (although we don’t see a single one during our stay), Cloud 22 is Atlantis The Royal’s crowning glory: a rooftop infinity pool and lounge with sweeping views over the Palm – Dubai’s famous artificial tree-shaped archipelago and the city’s forest of sparkling skyscrapers.
It is big, bold and brash. The numbers speak volumes: there are 795 rooms and suites; 17 restaurants and bars; 17 high-end boutiques; 7,000 fish in three giant tanks in the lobby; a wellness space spanning 36,000 sq ft and a team of 2,100 staff from 100 different countries. And the pools? I lose count at 26 (but there are 92).
Infinity and beyond: Harriet Sime checks into Dubai’s Atlantis The Royal for a ‘lavish’ weekend. Above is Cloud 22, the resort’s rooftop venue
The hotel is spread over six towers and arranged in Tetris-style blocks, Harriet reveals
The hotel gained attention long before it began welcoming guests, when in January it put on a Grand Reveal, inviting big names and anyone who’s anyone to a celebration in which 4,200 bottles of Moet & Chandon were consumed.
More than £100 million (with Beyonce paid a reported £20 million to perform) was spent on the occasion.
Until this year, the most famous hotel launch in history was in 2008, when the Atlantis’s big sister The Palm, opened just next door. In 2008, Kylie Minogue performed and ‘the world’s biggest fireworks display’ could apparently be seen from space.
Above is Harriet’s Palmscape room type, which is furnished in blue and white and comes with ‘drippings of gold’
Harriet reveals that her toothbrush and nail clippers at the hotel are ‘caked’ in gold
The Cloud 22 rooftop infinity pool and lounge is ‘perched more than 300ft in the sky among the clouds’
Spread over six towers and arranged in Tetris-style blocks, Atlantis The Royal is already at 75 per cent occupancy.
Guests come from everywhere, but most fly in from North America, Russia and Britain. Celebrities are flocking here, too. Idris Elba has stayed with his wife, as has the Prince of Morocco. And they’re the only ones the hotel can talk about.
I’m here with a friend for a lavish weekend. We’re staying in a Palmscape room 20 levels up which is furnished in blue and white and comes with two giant beds, dark wood sliding doors, a balcony overlooking the Dubai skyline and drippings of gold. Even our toothbrushes and nail clippers are caked in the colour.
Harriet dines on spicy kebabs and smoky five-herb stews in Ariana’s Persian Kitchen, pictured
‘Idris Elba has stayed with his wife, as has the Prince of Morocco. And they’re the only ones the hotel can talk about,’ Harriet writes. Above is the hotel’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurant
Harriet observes the ‘immaculately-dressed’ pool butlers delivering plates of oysters on ice
ATLANTIS THE ROYAL BY NUMBERS 795 rooms17 restaurants7,000 fish92 swimming pools£24,000 a night for Panoramic Penthouse£1.2 billion cost of construction2,100 members of staff
People-watching is a pastime of mine. And there’s no better place to do this than the Atlantis. Here, men with partners young enough to be their daughters canoodle by the pool. There are sweaty, stressed out nannies pushing prams around the pristine grounds. I even see one man dressed in an Erling Harlaand-style pyjama suit carrying a paint pot.
On closer inspection, it’s a Louis Vuitton handbag. And a quick Google search reveals it cost £2,385. Back at the infinity pool, we spend the afternoon sipping on Aperol spritz while helicopters whirr endlessly above in the white Arabian sky, dropping off the hotel’s latest VIP guests. The immaculately-dressed pool butlers deliver plates of oysters and fruit platters on ice, stopping to adjust umbrellas as the sun moves across the sky.
In an attempt to find a more authentic Dubai, we drag ourselves away from the beefed-up bodies and big lips the next morning. A short taxi ride takes us to Madinat Jumeirah where we dive into the souks and barter over handwoven cushion covers, medjool dates the size of kiwis, and, of course, gold.
Authentic Dubai fix complete, we head back to the hotel with plastic bags overflowing with goods, cool down with a dip in the sea and dry off on the sun loungers which line the hotel’s mile-long stretch of imported golden sand.
But despite the bling and mind-boggling scale of the hotel (with rooms starting at £464) the service is intimate and impeccable (every member of staff is adamant on pronouncing my surname correctly) and the food is superb.
At the infinity pool, Harriet spends the afternoon sipping on Aperol spritz while helicopters whirr endlessly above in the white Arabian sky, dropping off the hotel’s latest VIP guests
The hotel’s Horizon Penthouse. In total, there are 795 rooms and suites at the resort
Guests of the hotel come from everywhere, but most fly in from North America, Russia and Britain. Above is the terrace of a Sky Pool Villa
Harriet writes: ‘So, did Atlantis live up to the hype? Absolutely. Would I come again? Definitely (if my lotto ticket comes up)’
Beyonce sings at the hotel’s ‘Grand Reveal’ in January
We dine on spicy kebabs and smoky five-herb stews in the Persian restaurant.
At beachside Milos, we devour stuffed calamari, fried aubergine with creamy Greek cheese and the tastiest, zingiest tomato salad.
And, at our striped sun loungers at Nobu by the Beach, we’re delivered oysters on ice and buttered black cod on gem lettuce.
Evenings, meanwhile, are spent nibbling on tiny vegan tacos stuffed with deceivingly meaty pineapple that’s been cooked for 20 hours at Heston Blumenthal’s Resonance bar.
The drinks are a treat, too. There’s every cocktail imaginable, including several tequila versions designed by American supermodel Kendall Jenner.
But I’m most impressed by the non-alcoholic cocktails. There are various versions of zero per cent gin and negroni mocktails that make me want to pretend I’m teetotal for the weekend.
So, did Atlantis live up to the hype? Absolutely. Would I come again? Definitely (if my lotto ticket comes up). I just need to remember to pack my fancy pyjama set – and buy that designer paint pot.
Doubles at Atlantis The Royal cost from £464 a night (atlantis.com).
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