February 16, 2009 The recently-launched luxury Atlantis hotel rises towards the sky from the man-made island of Palm Jumeirah, but unlike it’s mysterious namesake, this Atlantis is unlikely to get ‘lost’. The ocean-and-aquatic themed resort is impressive, and not surprisingly everything about it is big - from the development price of US$1.5 billion to its size (it's spread over 46 hectares of reclaimed land) and its 1, 539 rooms. It also features a massive 17 hectares of water park activities and an 11 million liter marine habitat that is home to more than 65,000 marine animals.

Marine life and aquatic fun

Atlantis boasts its own bottlenose dolphin population at the tropical Dolphin Bay. Set in over four and a half hectares Dolphin Bay is the first marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center in Dubai. Guests and visitors can take part in a 90-minute interaction program that includes an education session from a resident marine mammal specialist and then 30 minutes in one of the shallow water lagoons petting, playing with and feeding the dolphins.

A full time team of over 165 marine specialists manage the resort’s eco-system including vets, biologists, divers, laboratory managers, food technicians, mechanics and curators.

There is also a huge waterpark, the centerpiece of which is the Ziggurat. Its summit is the launching point for a selection of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping (and body drenching) slides and rides including "The Leap of Faith", where riders experience a 27.5 meter near-vertical drop down the face of the Ziggurat before being propelled along a clear acrylic tunnel through a shark-filled lagoon.

There’s more opportunity to view the marine life in "The Lost Chambers", a maze of underwater halls and tunnels under one of the lagoons. More than two hundred and fifty species can be seen in the open-air marine habitat including sharks, eels, rays, piranhas and numerous species of exotic fish. Suites feature bedrooms and bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling views of the underwater world.

Eat, relax and party!

When you’ve had enough of watching the aquatic life you can indulge yourself in one of 27 treatment rooms at the spa. There's an array of treatments and rituals including body wraps, facials, exfoliation and massage using precious essences and oils.

Dining highlights include a selection of regional or international dishes, served inside or al fresco and prepared by world-class chefs including Nobu, Giorgio Locatelli, Santi Santamaria and Michel Rostang.

An Arabian coffee house, in-house nightclub (complete with suspended catwalk surrounding the dance floor) and facilities to amuse (and separate you from) the kids are also part of the package.

If you can tear yourself away from the opulence of the resort Dubai offers plenty of adventure activities from desert dining to sand-boarding, deep sea fishing and moonlight dhow cruises.

There's also some out of the ordinary activities on the guest program that will add to the uniqueness of your holiday splurge - you can take a mixology class to improve your bartending skills, a drum session with professional percussionists, or learn meditation or self hypnosis (perhaps to quell the rising anxiety brought on by the thought of your next credit card bill).

On that point, no visit to a resort such as this is complete without a spot of retail therapy and Atlantis won’t disappoint. There is a range of luxury boutiques offering everything from designer brands to exclusive local products.

On the horizon

Other ‘big things’ planned for Palm Jumeirah include plans for the US$790 million, 62 storey Trump International Hotel and Tower.

However, Palm Jameirah isn’t the biggest man-made island; that honor will go to Palm Deira, which at 46.35 million square meters will be bigger than Paris.

Now, in case you’ve just been awarded a particularly large pay rise – or want one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences – you’ll find prices and other information on the Atlantis, The Palm website. Prices begin at around the USD$500 mark per night, but if you want to go all-out, a top of the line room in the Regal Suite will set you back in the order of USD$1700.

Karen Sprey

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