We jump aboard the first cruise around iconic islands
Whether you’re a resident or tourist in Dubai, you can’t possibly have failed to hear about The World Islands development, which lies 4km off the Jumeirah coast. But for all the talk and press surrounding these plots of reclaimed land, few people have actually had the chance to see them, beyond peering at Google Earth or snaps in magazines, or forking over a few million dirhams to own one.
Enter Nakheel’s newest venture, which is offering the public a chance to see the project with their own eyes via a two-hour cruise, with a snoop around the inside of the Palm thrown in for good measure. It’s the seafaring equivalent of nosing around your neighbour’s house when they’ve put it on the market, except you don’t need to pretend you’re interested in buying.
Nosey parker that I am, I don’t hesitate when a Nakheel representative invites me on board one of the maiden tours one morning. Coffee in hand, I clamber aboard a boat moored at the Nakheel sales office, located near the base of the Palm. There are two trips available – an hour-long excursion around the inside of the Palm, or a two-hour session that takes you both to The World and around the inside of the Palm on the way back – I test on the longer of the two.
It takes about 15 minutes to make it out to The World, and today we’re lucky the water is calm enough that the ride isn’t bumpy – though one passenger, ill-advisedly wearing a skirt, still manages a Marilyn moment thanks to the breeze. Cruising through the breakwater and between the islands that make up The World, they’re far closer together than they appear on Google Earth, so it’s a shame you can’t swim from one to the other (they’re privately owned of course). In seconds, the friend I’ve made on the boat and I decide the development would make the best game of hide and seek ever. Our excitement peaks when we spot a tiny island near entrance through the breakwater, only a few square metres in size, but boasting enough space for a sun lounger, a palm tree and a Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired hidey hole under the sand for our pirate-inspired drinks. Our fantasy seems almost within reach when it’s revealed there are still islands available for purchase, but it is quickly snatched away when we hear the starting price (Dhs73 million is a little out of reach).
If you’re expecting to be able to gawp at mansions of the rich and famous, you’ll be disappointed. Few of the islands have seen any development work to date, with Lebanon the only place you can visit so far. Yet moseying around the inside of the Palm is a different story. There are hundreds of completed villas lining the fronds, displaying a baffling array of different architectural styles, from Tuscan villas to medieval castles to Ottoman palace-inspired mansions.
There’s far more to see here than around The World, including motorised pedalos – we spot Atlantis guests whizzing across the water on these nifty little crafts – so the easily bored may do best to stick to the tour of the Palm for the time being. It’s hard to know whether to stare at all the new hotels being constructed along the eastern edge of the Palm, or inwards and into people’s back gardens. Being nosey has never been so acceptable – or so chic. Nakheel’s tours cost Dhs700 per hour for 10 people, Dhs1,500 per hour for 15 people, Dhs3,000 per 2.5 hours (minimum cruise) for 25 people. The World and Palm Jumeirah cruise lasts two hours, with daily trips 9am-11am, 11.30am-1.30pm and 2pm-4pm. For info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.