- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
Located on the outer West Crescent of the Palm Jumeirah Islands, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is a fair drive to downtown, the malls and most attractions, which is no doubt why there is a little bit of everything for almost everyone here.
At first, I wasn’t sure what it was trying to be—the family friendly haven, the high glamour hotel, the hip and happening party place, the beach resort—it has an eclectic range of personalities.
Enter into the lobby and, love it or hate it, it’s impressive. This, along with most of the indoor communal areas of the hotel, was inspired by the imperial palaces of the Ottoman era and is very ornate with lots of marble, colonnades, a large fountain with coloured lighting, and an incredible floral display. ‘Opulent bling’ sprung to mind and for the short spell that I visited, I loved it.
You would be forgiven for being overwhelmed here: it’s busy and there is such a diverse range of things to see and do that I’m sure you could stay a week and have a completely different type of experience every day: a spa day; a casual day by the pool or beach; sports; shopping in air-conditioned comfort at the sixteen boutiques along the hotel’s elegant ‘Avenue of Indulgence’; stopping to refuel with a coffee at the Sultan’s Lounge; or enjoying a long, leisurely brunch. Or you could take in a movie in the traditional cinema room; dine at one of the seven restaurants; have drinks on one of the terraces; enjoy a concert in the Music Hall (on show nights); or even watch football on the big screen at the cool and contemporary Voda Bar that’s open ‘til 3am. And there’s an eclectic mix of offers to match, from happy hours and ladies’ nights, to special menus and evening spa packages that you can’t fail to miss—just look on the various screens each day.
Sadly, for me, there were moments here that didn’t feel as luxurious as I’d expected, such as sun loungers that had seen better days and badly fitted fixtures in my bathroom – a shame as some general maintenance could easily put that right. However, the service is a good standard throughout and it’s fair to say that everyone I met was enjoying themselves. There’s something here to keep all ages happy including kids, fun-in-the-sun seekers and people who like to mingle.
First impressions were how busy it was; to be expected as it’s a large hotel and it was Friday, the start of the weekend in Dubai. It was positively bustling as I pulled up to the entrance and there was a really good buzz about the place. There were plenty of ‘meeter’s and greeters’ ready to collect my bags and escort me up the short pathway with its relaxing water features, into the lobby. It didn’t give off the ‘wow’ factor that greeted me indoors—a grand statement of ornate features and fixtures. It didn’t say “come in and relax” but rather “step into another world and have fun in opulent style”.
The check-in area was busy but I only waited a few minutes to be attended to. It was not an intimate kind of check-in but it was friendly, efficient, and I was welcomed by name and given a chilled towel and drink to enjoy as I stood at the desk. The staff member offered to show me to my room on the fifth floor and even though it’s a big hotel, I was relieved to find that the corridors upstairs were quiet.
Rooms and suites
My room was 46 m² (495 ft²) and located at the back of the hotel on the fifth floor with an impressive view over the resort, sea and Palm Island beyond. Walking in via an entrance hall with ceiling spotlights lighting the way, I passed the bathroom to my left and to the right, the wardrobe and chest of drawers, but my eyes were drawn to the sweeping view in what otherwise felt quite a dark room, even with the lights on. There was a lot of rich, dark wood—the floor, the doors and furniture—and opulent touches included lavish gold wallpaper, Ottoman style furniture with brass handles, lamps, and a marble-topped dresser. There was also a good size desk and the wardrobe had plenty of hanging and drawer space, as well as a useful beach bag. Plenty of mirrors too, including one that was full length that made getting ready for dinner easy, as did the powerful hairdryer. My bed seemed on the small side but was very comfortable and dressed in soft, white linens.
The mini bar included soft and alcoholic drinks and a small selection of nibbles including crisps and sweets. There was also a kettle and a good selection of teas and ground coffee.
Outside on my balcony there was a rattan table and two chairs, however one of my cream chair covers was stained with greasy marks, which should have been changed before my arrival. Also, there was a lovely metal overhead light fitting which looked new, but it didn’t cover the marks where the old one had clearly been removed and some touching up of the paintwork would not have gone amiss.
Air-conditioning was easy to use and efficient, whilst the complimentary WiFi was good for general web browsing. There was also a 48” interactive HD LCD TV with a large selection of satellite channels and an iPod/iPhone docking station.
I also viewed a Junior Suite that comes with access to the Club Lounge and a host of benefits, as well as a one bedroom Imperial Suite which came with access to the Turquoise Lounge with free soft drinks and nibbles. I’m pleased to say that both were much more spacious and felt lighter, brighter and nicer to be in, so I’d definitely recommend upgrading. There’s also a separate estate of 38 five-bedroom residences next to the hotel.
On first impressions, the Turkish inspired bathroom looked opulent with its swathes of grey marble. There were some lovely touches that looked freshly added including Ottoman style pendant lighting and beaten silver metal accessories and a basin, but there were areas that just didn’t live up to what’s expected in a 5-star luxury hotel, including some rather bad grouting, a badly filled hole in the tiling, and a hole that hadn’t been filled in at all that all stuck out like a sore thumb. The deep soaking bath is big enough for two and had a domed Turkish style ceiling and there was a window from the bathroom into the bedroom that let in more light, with a blind for privacy. The toilet cubicle adjoined the walk-in shower cubicle, with a frosted glass sliding door serving both areas. Simply slide and close yourself in to whichever area you wanted privacy. But it was not simple; instead it was heavy and became an effort.
Robe and slippers were provided and there were all the usual bathroom amenities, as well as mouthwash and 50ml bottles of very nice smelling Penhaligon’s shower gel, conditioner, lotion and shampoo.
Brunch in Dubai on a Friday or Saturday is one of those things you simply must do and Imperium pulls out all the stops—a very extravagant and luxurious affair. The huge dining room is bright with high ceilings and elegantly decorated with chandeliers. All kinds of hot and cold food displays with chefs on-hand to ensure there was always lots of everything was the order of the day. It was the perfect place to try new flavours, from exquisite micro salads that looked like works of art served in cocktail glasses, meats and fish including huge prawns and oysters, mini lasagnes, Oriental dishes, beef Wellington, an entire room dedicated to cheese, mini desserts and stacks of chocolates…the list goes on and on. It’s just as well brunch lasts for three hours, from 1pm to 4pm, so get there at the start and make the most of it. Upgrading to a package including free flowing wine, champagne and cocktails is worth it if you really want to make a day of it. The service was spot-on, plates cleared, glasses topped up and even my lobster claw cracked and cleaned for me upon request. It’s easy to see why this brunch has a good reputation and I would certainly recommend booking in advance for a good table.
Other restaurant options
I ate lunch another day at the casual dining beach bar and restaurant, Plaj, where there was a lovely breeze and my tandoori chicken wrapped in flatbread, accompanied by dips, was just what I fancied and arrived in no time at all. Service was excellent.
There are ten restaurants and bars, all with outdoor terraces, and something to suit all tastes and styles from the lively Voda Bar and the ornate Sultan’s Bar, to the Rib Room steakhouse and Al Nafoorah Lebanese restaurant, that I was told must be booked as it’s very popular with guests and locals alike.
Spa and wellness
The amazing Talise Ottoman Spa is spread over two floors, has separate spa areas and facilities for men and women, and 42 treatment rooms, including private VIP suites. For a start, it’s very inviting: tea lights and votives lined the entrance hall and helpful reception staff led me to the changing area where I was given a locker and told that the best thing to do was explore and enjoy. And boy did I do just that. I visited on a Saturday morning around 10am and had most of the facilities to myself for about half an hour, so I dipped and preened myself in the various pools, adventure shower, steam, sauna and snow rooms, the thalassotherapy pool and swimming area. But my absolute favourite was sitting in the rather grand Turkish Hammam pool. It was stunning and surrounded by alcoves with plush sofas reminiscent of a traditional Turkish bath house. I would have loved to have stayed for one of the evening sessions they hold here—what must be very atmospheric. There is so much to do without even booking a treatment but if you wish to indulge, there are plenty to choose from and a CARITA beauty salon too. There’s also a comprehensive gym and fitness studio with state of the art equipment and personal instructors on hand, with complimentary group taster sessions.
Pool and beach
The resort’s infinity pool is very large and faces Palm Island. Many guests were enjoying the view whilst keeping cool, although the water, in May, was warm. There’s plenty of space for adults and kids alike and even the occasional inflatable unicorn or two! It’s a very popular place, so get there no later than after breakfast to get the spot you want. Or it gets quieter around 4.30pm which is still lovely and warm, both in and out of the pool.
Loungers—some of which are beginning to look over-used, so be choosy—tend to be in pairs or sets of four and are close together, so select your neighbours wisely. Parasols provide the shade, chilled water is delivered in iced bags, and you can have drinks from the bar brought to you. If you want to be away from ‘the action’ and not feel so on top of your neighbours, there are loungers in the grassy garden areas near the pool that are more secluded and some guests were taking advantage of the trees for natural shade. There were some loungers without mattresses that didn’t look inviting, so if nothing better comes along, head to the beach.
Here there are plenty of loungers, parasols and more space to spread out, as well as beach butlers who deliver complimentary bottles of iced water as required, and take drink and food orders. There’s a lovely breeze compared to beside the pool. I visited in mid May and there was a sign warning of jellyfish, but I took a dip anyway and didn’t see a single one although lifeguards are on duty until sunset to help out, just in case…There are (payable) water sports including windsurfing, waterskiing, snorkelling, banana boats and pedal boats, with a ten minute stand up paddle board taster lesson available for free, whilst sightseeing boat trips are available too.
An ideal place for families with young children, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s complimentary Sinbad’s Kids Club looked like good fun. Designed for children from 4 to 16 years old, it includes a mini water park, a covered swimming pool, a rock climbing wall, a playground, a soft play area, interactive game stations and iPads. Children under 4 are welcome but must have an adult with them, but as there are loungers by the pool and playground, parents can stay close by if they wish. Babysitting (chargeable) is also available with at least a day’s notice.
Children from 12 years can also join in activities including volleyball, archery and water sports. And there’s a giant chess board near the kids’ club for families to enjoy, or for a complete change of scene, the screening room shows family movies daily—just check with the concierge what’s on.
Staff and service
Service at the hotel does not suffer because of its size. It’s very good, friendly and professional, from the reception staff who helped me to choose where to dine, to the knowledgeable concierge, attentive restaurant staff, charming housekeeping staff and even the security staff. There were a couple of occasions—at housekeeping and in-room dining service—that I was handed a service comments card to complete. Given that there was already one in the room, this was unexpected and felt a little excessive.
Most of the guests hail from the UK, however, there were many nationalities staying during my visit and there were locals including expats and Emiratis who had checked in for the weekend. The age range was mixed: lots of families with young children enjoying the pool in particular, several adult families and couples. There were those that wanted to relax and those that wanted to dress up for dinner and socialise ‘til late.
I had to leave by 6.45am but had been informed that I could order breakfast from the room service menu. I phoned down for assistance with my luggage and someone was there within five minutes. I was the only person at reception and check-out was very quick and pleasant, with the porter taking my bag outdoors and helping me into my car as he wished me goodbye.
How to get here
45 minutes by road from Dubai International Airport
443 rooms, suites & villas