Dubai is held in high regard for its iconic landmarks and ever-developing cityscape. A busy metropolis that when driving down the Sheikh Zayed Road, feels like you’ve been catapulted through a time warp and into the future. 3D printed buildings, the world tallest tower and the world’s only seven star hotel. All stand present and correct on Dubai’s evolving landscape of architectural marvels.
Traversing the city by road can be an absolute nightmare, as heavy traffic inevitably plagues the streets of Dubai. So this week, we jumped at the opportunity to view the city from an entirely new perspective with a little help from the team at Xclusive Tours.
Easily located on the marina walk promenade (close to the city premiere marina hotel and Sahara restaurant) and just a few minutes walk from Dubai Marina Mall, probably the most convenient place to find parking. The Xclusive marina is easily located by its vibrant red branding and numerous flags and there is a comfortable air conditioned lounge to use while waiting for departure.
Safety is paramount and all participants on the tour are provided with life jackets and a short safety briefing, before being able to access the boats. Boats are smaller than expected and comprise of rows of blue leather seats that are more comfortable than they may appear. It’s important to note, that there is no shade on the boat, so ensure to pack sunglasses, sun screen and a hat (water is provided free of charge). Thankfully, once you’re out at sea, the breeze created by the momentum of the boat is cooling enough that you shouldn’t notice the heat.
Our 90 minute tour of The Palm Jumeirah provided a great way to do a bit of sightseeing in the laziest way possible (sitting down). Taking us from Marina, around the Palm to the touristy Atlantis and back past one of Dubais most photographed images, the sail shaped Burj Arab.
The tour begins in Dubai Maria, an exclusive area that didn’t even exist fifteen years ago. Home to thousands of expats and a number of swanky hotels, Marina is one of the focal area’s of the city, due to it’s upmarket feel and prominent beachside location. Making it perhaps the most desirable area to live in the whole of Dubai.
Dubai Marina is the biggest man-made marina in the world, measuring an impressive 3.5km long, with an additional 7km of waterfront promenade, boasting a number of restaurants and nightlife spots. Our informative guide Kareem injects life into the tour with numerous facts and a large dollop of humor, while we cruise at a leisurely pace. Passing Pier Seven, the multi-tiered nightlife hub that is home to some of Dubai’s most exclusive restaurants (Cargo, Fume and Asia Asia to name just three), the Xclusive Tours sightseeing cruise begins slowly, lulling you into a false sense of security, before kicking things up a notch!
Leaving behind the glitz and glamour of marina, with its wrap round balconies and structures of glass and steel. We head out past Bluewaters Island, another man-made island and the newest addition to Dubai’s skyline and soon to be home to the world’s largest Ferris wheel. Dubbed the Dubai Eye, this tourist attraction is said to hold 1,400 passengers at a time and at an elevation of 210m, will be twice the height of the London Eye! With an estimated budget of $2 billion, it’s certainly something to look forward to when it opens to the public in 2018.
Hitting open water, Kareem stretches the engine out as the boar happily bounces along the waves. We whizz past Jumeirah Beach Residence and its rows of bronzing sunbathers and tiny parasols. The boat travels a lot faster than you’d expect and there’s an element of adrenaline rush added to proceedings, ask the boat crests waves and follows the lull of the tide. At times you may come out of your seat and experience weightlessness and one thing’s for sure, it’s not boring!
Being a sightseeing cruise, there are plenty of places to drop anchor and pause for photo opportunities. Using the cityscape of Dubai as a futuristic backdrop.
Nautical jokes aside, riding the ocean waves is a great way for visitors to get their bearings and experience this expansive city from afar. Not only that but the perspective offered from being out at sea, provides some remarkable views that are impossible to replicate on land.
Much like the boats themselves, the tour whizzes along quickly as participants are thrown snippets of information and the very best of Dubai’s landmarks. Call a tour of Dubai’s finest hotels if you will but it’s interesting none the less.
Circumnavigating the western crescent of the iconic Palm Jumeirah, we pass fishing boats and traditional wooden dhows. We also get a peep into the lagoons and the residential ‘fronds’ where you’ll find luxurious homes belonging to a swathe of celebrities, such as Eddie Murphy, David Beckham and legendary footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Glinting in the distance stands Burj Khalifa, watching proudly over this desert city.
At the halfway point of the tour we reach Atlantis. The all-in-one resort hotel that opened in 2008 and boasts an impressive 1539 rooms. The Royal Suite, located in the bridge at the very top of this hotel is said to cost $35,000 per night, with a minimum stay of four nights required! Say what you will about the Atlantis, there’s little doubt that it’s an impressive structure that offers 23 dining destinations, a 17 hectare waterpark (home to the worlds largest waterslide) and an aquarium featuring more than 65,000 marine animals.
Having not been out to the Palm for a number of months, we noticed that the 14km stretch of boardwalk has now been completed and looks set to be a great place for running. With food trucks on the way, this could be one of the best new places to grab some exercise this winter, though the jetties that reach out to sea, are still to be completed
Although the Atlantis is impressive, it doesn’t quite compete with the sail shaped structure of the world’s only seven star hotel. An instantly recognizable symbol of Dubai (London has Big Ben and Paris had the Eiffel Tower) the Burj Al Arab is representative of luxury, glamour and exclusivity.
Despite having seen Burj Al Arab countless times, it never fails to impress. A beautifully designed building, situated on its own private island and now brandishing a newly opened pool deck and terrace that floats! At 305m in height, this is the world’s tallest hotel and arguably the world’s most impressive. Seeing the architecture up close and from different angles to the norm, a stop at the Burj Arab was the highlight of the trip.
Zipping along the shoreline and bracing ourselves for the kicks and glides of the waves, we pass Madinat Jumeriah and a number of Sheikh’s palaces, before passing under the Middle East’s only monorail and into the waters of the Palm Jumeriah’s lagoon.
Interesting fact. Did you know that there’s a private island at the bottom of the palm that’s shaped like the UAE? Neither did we but ‘Princess Island’ is there and was a gift to the Sheikh’s wife for their wedding. We also passed an impressive yacht owned by the Sheikh’s son. A brilliant white super yacht going by the name ‘Quatrro Elle.’ Our guide informs us that this unique name derives from the four L letters that adorn the side of the boat and represent Live, Love, Liberty and Luxury.
Our tour ends back under the skyscrapers of marina, as we pass beneath the observatory, Princess Tower (the world’s tallest residential tower) and the one of a kind twisting structure known as the Cayan Tower.
Our ninety minute tour quite literally whizzed by and at 200 AED per person is an option that you may want to explore if visiting Dubai. Though we would recommend taking the later tour (3:30pm), as the lighting will be better and less harsh for your photographs, plus you may even see the start of a glorious Dubai sunset.
We were invited on our Xclusive tours sightseeing cruise. All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE