Luxury Hotels

One&Only, a boat trip, and a floating restaurant

Michael Wale, Olivier Louis

It was the night before departure and all through the house, in this case the luxury One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai, complex, life went on as though nothing was happening.  This giant 65-acre resort used to be beachside looking out at the Gulf, and nothing else. Now thanks to the trillions spent in creating more land, The Palm and The World islands, sunsets have to share the picture with buildings. The gal was meeting up with Brit Michael Wale, recently arrived CEO of One&Only parent, Kerzner, and with Olivier Louis, the Frenchman who has masterminded this complex since it opened in 2002.

Palace lobby ceiling

For the first time, my room was in the Palace, connected to both the Arabian Court and the Residence (and yes, it was mind-taxing and I never did find the gym that is used by all three adjacent properties, but that was because my stubbornness stopped me either using a map or asking the way).  Palace end suite 537 was so comfortable it would have been tempting to stay put, but Michael Wale had arranged an evening out. First we had cocktails in the sand in the beach bar – I discovered the very agreeable taste of a Schooner, namely Belvedere Vodka with Limoncello.

Perfect pre-flight fare

Then we took the resort’s boat shuttle, a superior yacht that must surely be a twin of the transfer boat that One&Only Reethi Rah, in the Maldives, uses to go back and forth to Male International Airport.  Our destination, ten minutes’ away, was 101, a floating seafood restaurant on the dock of One&Only The Palm, the youngest (vintage 2010) in the One&Only quartet of hotels here in Dubai.  This is where I discovered, by the way, that the right seafood is perfect pre-flight fodder: next time at 101 I will once again go for Yannick Alléno’s tuna carpaccio followed by fresh squid-ink pasta topped with gold leaf.

Horses ‘guard’ the entrance

Michael Wale had just returned from gorilla watching at One&Only’s newest resort, in Rwanda (he admitted that when he started in the hotel business a few years ago he never dreamed he would one day have the honour of naming a baby-girl gorilla Paradiso, and he will be returning to see how she grows up).  He wants to grow the brand’s ‘nature’ properties, but he also wants to extend its luxury beach resorts, and go into city hotels and residences.  And then, a far cry from real-life endangered gorillas, he waved me off as a hotel car swept past the lifesize horse statues that grace the outside of One&Only’s The Palace, Dubai. THIS WAS OUR RESTAURANT SETTING


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Luxury Hotels

Staying at the Ultras’ best hotel in the world

Front view

What, honestly, is there left to say about Dubai’s iconic luxury Burj Al Arab resort? Actually, admits the gal, there is quite a lot.  Within the last few months there has been a brand new MD, Tony Costa, who has carefully listened, not rushed in too fast but, all the time, carefully thought what he will do to bring the 1999-vintage property up to the present (goodness, you might well say, do you mean the 202-key, all-suite hotel is not only coming up to its 20th birthday but is also last century?). Thanks to the unique exteriors and interiors, above, by Tom Wright, WS Atkins and John Cherrington, this is a truly timeless 28-floor structure.

Sunrise view, from 1111

But time passes.  I looked out of end suite 1111 across, at sunrise, to sibling resort Jumeirah Beach Hotel, just finished an interior upgrade (less sock-it-to-you, more subtle colours).  I looked down, to a party from Guangzhou or Guilin taking selfies outside ‘The Burj’. Even at the eternal site-of-style that is the Burj everything evolves. Two years ago a gigantic deck was floated here, from Finland, to add outdoor pools and lounging areas, cabanas and another restaurant.  Two months ago a camel was hired, on a part-time basis: three days a week he arrives, from his desert home, in the back of an open truck to give rides across the Burj’s approach bridge, hotel guests only (consensus, clever marketing plus brilliant photo opportunities).

Jumeirah CEO José Silva

There is more to come, but neither Tony Costa nor his boss, CEO of Jumeirah José Silva, is giving anything away.  Both believe that actions are more vital than words and both, crucially, belong to that small group of luxury hoteliers who truly understand that luxury, with its endless myriad of details, ultimately makes money (this is the opposite of the a growing industry global norm, by the way, which sadly tends to see short term profits, partly accrued through cutting luxury at every corner).  At Burj Al Arab, which will attain 68% average occupancy this year, 40x% of guests are repeaters, who tend to stay about seven nights, versus first-timers’ three nights.

New event space

This is Dubai’s luxury hotel that weathers any downturn, and the current over-supply of rooms has no effect here.  This is also the venue for such big global events as the annual Ultras, held for the first time in Dubai on November 21st, 2018.  Why did they move here?  Well, Dubai is increasingly seen as the centre of world luxury travel, says the Ultras’ Chairman, Nick Perry.  As evidence of this, both he and Chris Hartley, CEO of the Ultras’ main sponsor, Global Hotel Alliance GHA, live in Dubai.  On that night, however, many other world players arranged, on purpose, to be in town, and showing how ‘the Burj’ evolves, the evening was launch for a brand new event space, that looks set to become one of Dubai’s hottest tickets. SEE SUITE 1111

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Luxury Hotels

Dubai’s sensational new luxury palace hotel

Indoor pool…

Staying in any hotel just before official opening can be hit or miss – the gal remembers several of the latter, which in all fairness should not be mentioned by name. Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai on the other hand, was, apart from some of its restaurants and the spa, all ready to go. There were a few other people staying in the 390-room extravaganza, so the gal did not feel lonely – and there was too much to see and experience in this Palace That Nver built. Look at it from the rear, garden, view above (the resort covers just under nine hectares on The Palm).  And the interior is opulent and sumptuous.

Rose-pink Portuguese marble column

One week later, on the day of opening, a Middle Eastern royal was being driven by.  Stop, let me go and have a look at it, he said.  He so loved the interiors, with soaring columns of pink Portuguese rosa portugala marble and what seems like acres of gold leaf, that on the spot he booked the Presidential Suite, which costs just into five figures, US dollars, a night, plus four other rooms for good measure.  This is a seven-floor palace that has, admittedly, been some time in the making.  Think how long it took, for instance, to hang over 6,000 priceless Italian chandeliers. I actually had two in my room, or rather giant suite #504, looking out over the Gulf – see a video below.

Terrace view

It would be tempting to spend a lot of time in the suites. Room service, even before opening, was outstanding, with exact presentation on the hotel’s bespoke gold-edged Villeroy & Boch china (for the record, cutlery is Sambonnet, most glassware is Schott Zwiesel and, at breakfast, toast comes in a shiny silver rack with Beurre Echiré butter, and Francis Miot jams). Nothing but the best here – hence the imminent arrival, on December 15th, 2018, of miX by Alain Ducasse, an unheard-of three-floor rooftop restaurant with lots of different areas, including outdoor terrace dining.  Ducasse, it seems, has been chosen by this extraordinary hotel’s owner, who has personally been architect and interior designer.

Nver Mkhitaryan

And who IS the owner? Nver Mkhitaryan is a global polymath, author of Man and Dwelling.  He is Baron of Castle Stewart, Wigtown, in Scotland.  He is an avid collector, say of antique firearms, of which apparently he has over 300. He loves Bluthner grand pianos, and ordered a white one to go into the semi-circular lobby lounge, called The Bluthner Hall, where every evening at seven a butler and one of Kempinki’s Ladies in Red, both clad in Versailles style, perform a near-professional minuet (see another video, below). Judging by the calibre of the 23-room Cinq Mondes spa and its approach corridors, and the indoor pool and the 24/7 Technogym, he is also a fitness guru.  And he has, by the way, built a really memorable luxury hotel. SEE VIDEOS OF THE LOBBY, SUITE 504, AND THE NIGHTLY 7 O’CLOCK MINUET

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