Time Out tries out the Atlantis The Palm special birthday package, including the Poseidon underwater suite, Aquaventure water park and dinner at Ossiano
Birthdays can sometimes be a bit of a letdown. Weeks of planning and nerve-jangling anticipation all building up to the big day, which, when it eventually arrives, often passes in the blink of an eye, with about as much fanfare as a one-man band who’s forgotten to bring the trumpet.
Thankfully, though, the amazing team at Atlantis have come up with a plan to ensure this one is an unforgettable experience, highlighting the very best this iconic hotel has to offer – and they invited Time Out over to try it out.
I can hardly contain my excitement as we arrive in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes to be told we are staying in the Poseidon underwater suite. I’ve only ever seen this place on the Atlantis website and nothing can quite prepare you for seeing it first-hand. The Poseidon is an opulent space, set over three floors and featuring floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sensational views of some of the resort’s 65,000 marine creatures. The phrase “sleeping with the fishes” might have more grisly connotations, but in this case, it meant being just a pane of glass away from sharks, rays and all manner of awe-inspiring sea life.
Settled in, I manage to desist from my goldfish impressions at the window long enough to hop on a buggy to Aquaventure, the laugh-a-minute water park. At this point I should probably tell you we have a personal butler, Nuwan, a consummately charming chaperone who is our guide and aide, swiftly becoming our new best friend. As we rock up to our private cabana and take a tour of the rides, I’m struck by the “They must be famous” looks some of the other guests are giving us. VIP status is a massively rare commodity for a humble journalist, but if you can’t go A-list on your birthday, when can you? After surviving the Leap of Faith, an exhilarating plunge down a water chute from a height of nine storeys that leaves me feeling like my heart could jump out of my throat at any moment, we grab a beautiful bite to eat at The Shore as my cardiac rhythm returns to normal.
Tummies settled, we excitedly rush back to Aquaventure to enjoy some more riveting rides – Aquaconda, Slitherine, Rapids – before heading for some pampering at the ShuiQi Spa.
I’ve put my feet through a lot over the years, not least when I recently managed to almost knock my big toe off opening the freezer door. So the chance to have podiatrist Laura Grosbois give them some serious TLC with a precision Bastien Gonzalez pedicure was one not to miss (even big beardy blokes need some preening, right?). Wonderfully relaxed after a leg massage, I get my glad rags on and pop to ultra-chic Japanese eatery Nobu for a pre-dinner nibble on some superb signature black cod while we chat to the super-friendly staff.
Our appetites truly whetted, we spend the rest of our celebratory soirée in the capable hands of the extremely talented Grégoire Berger at Ossiano. It is our first experience of this Time Out favourite and the amiable chef has conjured us up a special menu that is as indulgent as it is intricate, flavourful as it is filling. We were told it would be a seven-course affair but I count at least ten, each one a triumph infused with all the passion and mastery Berger clearly has at his disposal. To top it off, they even send a diver down into The Ambassador Lagoon to wish me a happy birthday from behind the glass – although this was topped by a marriage proposal at another table. (She said “yes”.)
After retiring to our aquatic abode and spending the night dreaming of our fishy friends, we awake refreshed and ready for our final treat, a Dolphin Bay encounter with those most marvellous of mammals. The live wire Lily is our entertainer for the morning and provides a fitting finale to this most incredible of experiences. If you’ve never kissed, stroked or hugged a dolphin, you've never lived (and the wife won’t get jealous, either).
I could never say I haven’t had fantastic birthdays in the past, far from it. But the memories of this one will forever have a special place in my heart. Atlantis, I salute you...
The package Time Out tested starts from around Dhs34,000. For more information and to book, visit www.atlantisthepalm.com.
Four to try More great birthday experiences Hot air balloon safari Catch the sunrise from 4,000ft with this hot air ballon ride over the desert. See roaming camels, galloping gazelles and the mighty Arabian Oryx in their natural habitat before a breakfast including smoked salmon and caviar followed by a safari in a 1950s Land Rover. Dhs1,250 per person. Half day. www.platinum-heritage.com.
mclaren sprint experience If you can’t afford your own supercar, or just don’t want to scratch it, Dubai Autodrome has the answer. Learn the racing line in an Audi TT before getting behind the wheel and feeling 625bhp of pure V8 power as you thrash round the track setting new records. Dhs1,950 (must be aged 21 or over). www.dubaiautodrome.com.
Private film screening at VOX cinemas Why share the cinema with complete strangers who kill the mood by coughing through the film when you can hire your very own screen for the night? Vox’s luxurious GOLD cinemas come with reclining chairs and gourmet grub. Prices vary. To book a cinema email email@example.com.
Yacht party You’ve seen all the hip-hop and R&B videos where the artists party hard on a superyacht, right? Well this is your chance to gather your posse and recreate this indulgent experience. All the catering and decorations are taken care of, so just bring the bling... Prices vary. Up to 200 guests. www.xclusiveyachts.com.