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Inside Dubai’s Atlantis The Royal: The World’s Most Ambitious Hotel Opening
— Updated on 15 March 2024

Inside Dubai’s Atlantis The Royal: The World’s Most Ambitious Hotel Opening

— Updated on 15 March 2024
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

When an invite to the “Grand Opening Weekend” of Dubai’s new Atlantis The Royal resort landed in my inbox, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve been to many hotel openings over the past few years, but I had no personal point of reference for something of this size and scale. They’d fly me to Dubai, put me up for a few nights and let me indulge in the various events planned across the $1.6 billion mega-resort, ordained by various celebrity ribbon-cutters including Kendall Jenner, JAY-Z and Beyonce. And The Block’s Scotty Cam.


Around 1,000 VIP guests, celebrities, social media personalities and journalists checked in across Thursday and Friday ahead of the big reveal on Saturday. Most were put up in Atlantis The Royal, which has 795 guest rooms and cuts an impressive shape in Dubai’s futuristic skyline with 43 storeys topping out at 185-metres above sea level.

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Approaching the building was overwhelming enough. New York-based firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates have turned in a Lego-like cantilevered design that looks like one giant game of Tetris (although the staggered blocks would indicate a losing game of Tetris). And the majesty of such a building is an impactful statement from the Atlantis team, who have been working on this project for the past eight years as a follow-up to the famous Atlantis The Palm – which looks considerably dated compared to this bastion of contemporary luxury.

Check-In To A Weekend Of Pure Indulgence

The imposing Atlantis The Royal adds greatly to Dubai’s skyline (Photo supplied by Atlantis The Royal)

Indulgence might be the best way to describe Atlantis The Royal’s “Grand Opening Weekend.” This is Dubai, after all. The city is famous for its ostentatious show of wealth and power, where bigger is most certainly better and anything boutique is often overshadowed by a taste for living large.

Across the US$1.4 billion (~AU$1.9 billion) property, which sits on 17 hectares of land at the peak of Palm Jumeirah island, just a stone’s throw from Atlantis The Palm, you’ve got numerous private gardens, a generously sized fitness centre, direct access to Aquaventure Park – the world’s largest water park – an incredible modern spa, and no less than 17 restaurants and bars. Most of these, mind you, are helmed by top-tier celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, Gaston Acurio, Ariana Bundy, Nobu Matsuhisa and Costa Spiliadis.

Checking in was straightforward. Head past the walls of fire-breathing water features until the sweet and subtle smell of oud smacks your senses. Enter the ebullience lobby, which draws much of its identity from a large-scale art piece aptly titled Droplets, built with five tonnes of stainless steel. And then just relax.

It was a nice little visual preview of the kind of Emirate extravagance I could expect over the following few days, including a showcase of just how many staff they had milling around the hotel to make sure each and every guest was treated like royalty.

I caught the Emirates flight that leaves Wednesday night and arrives early Thursday morning. I didn’t get too much sleep on way over, due to a silly mistake on my behalf, so I was quite keen to get up to my room as quickly as possible.

All guest rooms come with a terrace and either face the Arabian Sea or the Dubai Skyline, split across three different towers – Sunrise, Sunset and Sunlight – with various amenities in each. I was on the 34th floor in the Sunset Tower, staying in a Seascape Room facing the sea.

The first impression was strong, and it’s clear the designers have considered plenty of pain points when styling the rooms. There are touch panels everywhere to control just about every aspect of the room, from the black-out curtains to the lighting and even the opaqueness of the glass window separating the bedroom and the bathroom.

Aside from not having a power point near the bed, I’d say this is the most well-planned hotel room I’ve stayed in recently. I’m even more impressed that Atlantis has resisted the temptation of being overly ornate and gone with something more minimal and calming with beautiful shades of blue to reflect the Arabian Sea.

It wasn’t the US$100,000 (~AU$140,765) per night 11,000-square-foot Royal Mansion that Beyonce and JAY-Z were staying in for the weekend, but it served just fine.

Atlantis The Royal Grand Opening Weekend – The Highlights

The Grand Opening of Atlantis The Royal (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Atlantis The Royal)

I’ll save more chat about Atlantis The Royal itself for when I publish BH’s hotel review ahead of the property’s February 10 opening date. Instead, I want to get into the weekend’s highlights, because there were many. And it goes to show just how much money and effort was put into a project like this, from procuring a private concert from Beyonce only to follow that up with a raucous DJ set from Swedish House Mafia, to ribbon-cutting the various hotels and bars in stages with indulgent opening parties.

Open Restaurants, Open Bars

Nobu’s first-ever beach club (Photo by Cedric Ribeiro/Getty Images for Atlantis The Royal).

Moet Imperial was flowing pretty much the entire weekend and there was no shortage of Champagne during the big Saturday event. Having a glass at the ready whenever you wanted was nice, but the real reason to pace oneself that weekend was the fact that the Atlantis team was just as keen to showcase their many restaurants as they were to get to the main event.

I formed a deep love for Resonance, which I ended each night over the weekend. This is Heston Blumenthal’s first cocktail bar and no expense has been spared in making it a fashionable space; moodier than anywhere else in the resort, but beautifully lit by two avant-garde wall panels that face each other from across the room. Once Atlantis The Royal is ready for the public, the designers will install the world’s largest jellyfish aquarium behind the bar, so expect an incredible sense of theatre and interesting lighting design.

While Dinner by Heston is upstairs, the bar is its own beast worthy of some stomach space. From octopus hotdogs to an innovative oyster dish, the food here has Heston’s eccentricity down to fine art, along with the drinks menu which includes possibly the best Champagne cocktail I’ve ever had.

Retro-themed American diner Malibu, Nobu’s first-ever beach club and Spanish restaurant Jaleo by Jose Andreas offer plenty to love. Although the most memorable space would be the pristine white marble build of Milos by legendary chef Costas Spiliadis. The large Greek restaurant sits apart from the other amenities, with a large outdoor area facing the lobby (and for that weekend, the custom-built stage).

Beyonce & Swedish House Mafia

Beyonce Atlantis Dubai
Beyonce’s excellent performance at Atlantis The Royal (Photo supplied by Atlantis The Royal).

Much has been said over the past week about Beyonce’s invite-only concert in Dubai. It was 70 minutes of pure theatre. Bright, beautifully conceived and multidisciplinary, pulling on everything from Italian opera and Middle Eastern dance to ballet and contemporary R&B.

No video recording was allowed during the performance, but the many security guards deployed to enforce such a rule were no match for the swathes of influencers keen to get some footage onto their TikTok as soon as possible. Leaks were common and Beyonce’s hypnotic grand finale, where she walked out onto a watery field of pyrotechnics and was raised into the sky, has already gone viral.

I wrote more about the concert specifically here so I won’t go into too much detail. I will, however, say that it was a completely overwhelming experience, with Beyonce putting on a tremendous performance that rivals anything I’ve seen in my career. Whether you were a fan or not, no one was walking away from that performance disappointed.

After Beyonce, an elaborate fireworks display served as the resort’s official opening to segue into a high-octane set from a newly reformed Swedish House Mafia. I mentally checked out at about the same time a row of Champagne-pourers appeared to make sure everyone left on the makeshift dancefloor had a full glass at all times.

All I know is that my night finished much like every other night that weekend – with an octopus hotdog and a Champagne cocktail at Resonance.

Up In The Clouds

The floating beds at Cloud 22 (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Atlantis The Royal)

It was closed for the first half of the weekend because Kendall Jenner was hosting a private party up there, but once it was open for the rest of the guests, Cloud 22 became the heart of Atlantis The Royal’s social scene. And out of all the celebrity-backed restaurants and bars, my money is on this being the resort’s most popular space for both guests and locals.

The open-air rooftop bar boasts the most incredible view of Dubai’s complicated skyline, backed by private cabanas – each with its own pool and bathroom – and best experienced on one of the floating day beds. Sunset up here is superlative, and for me was the perfect way to cap the weekend that was.

Atlantis The Royal opens to the public on February 10. Stay tuned for our full hotel review in the coming weeks.

The author flew to Dubai as a guest of Atlantis The Royal.

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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