I recently visited Dubai with the missus and little one (2.5yrs), mainly to relax and revisit our favourite places in Dubai. As some background, I have worked in Dubai for just under a year, although that was 5 years ago, and since then have visited every year. We have stayed in a mix of locations and budgets, but this time we decided to stay at the Raffles because a) there was a relatively good deal going on, b) it was central to everything we wanted to do, and c) Raffles is a luxury brand, so it would (hopefully) be a wonderful experience.
We took the overnight BA flight from LHR and landed at DXB at about 8.30am. It's a flight I've done many times before, although this time I was glad I didn't have to drive straight to work for a full day, as I'd done back in the day! Immigration was swift, and we then spent about 30 minutes sorting out the hire car. Now I know a lot of people on this board recommend Taxis because directions are often difficult and traffic can be a nightmare, but I don't mind it at all. Add the fact that lugging a 10Kg Car Seat around in Taxis would be pretty constraining about where we could go, hiring our own car for the week seemed the only sensible option.
It took just over 5 minutes to get to Raffles from the Airport, which was useful since we were all pretty tired. The drive was a lot shorter than I had imagined, but maybe it was because we'd missed the rush hour.
The hotel itself is pretty imposing from the outside, next to Wafi, and the checkin was very friendly, but relatively quick. We were invited to, and duly had a quick bite of breakfast from the buffet (more about that later) and then hit the sack for about 6 hours! It's only when we woke up that I realised exactly how big the 'standard' room was. It was Huuuge! I've stayed in some relatively spacious rooms, but nothing compared to this. It's probably as big as 2 very generously-sized living rooms, plus a functioning balcony (i.e. not just 2 tiny chairs on a ledge). Personally, this was a boon for us, especially with the little one. The view out of the room was OK (of a small garden). It was very very well kept and the bathroom was also pretty large, with separate tub and shower
We spent that evening in Wafi Mall, which is pretty quiet, but it had Encounter Zone on the top floor, where the LO spent a few hours playing on the rides, activity frames etc.
The next day we started off with a trip to Dubai Mall. This was a lot closer to Raffles than I had imagined, I think it took well under 10 minutes in the car, and was very easy to get to as Raffles is literally on the SZR. After grabbing a copy of the Entertainer, we headed straight to Rainforest Cafe, which the LO loved! Food was OK, but we weren't expecting a gourmet experience. This was followed by a trip to the Aquarium, which went down well with everyone. We then did a bit of retail therapy and ended having dinner there too. One of the things I like most about Dubai malls is that you can get food from all over the globe, of relatively good quality, at very reasonable prices. It puts the 'food courts' in places like Westfield London to shame, with their over-priced and tiny-portioned offerings.
On day 2, we started off with the buffet breakfast as usual. So just a little bit about breakfast; it was quite comprehensive, a good spread of hot & cold, arabic, indian and western fare and the usual cereals, fruits, pastries etc, all presented well and of good quality. Staff were quite proactive in getting tea/cofee, juices and always providing the LO with crayons/drawing paper etc. The actual chefs on the podiums were a bit lacklustre though, and occasionally looked bored. For example, some food had been sitting under the lamps and become quite hard/dry, and the chef tutted when I asked if they could bring out something fresh.
Most of our days were focussed around providing some entertainment to keep the LO happy, and today we visited the Dolphinarium at the Creek Park. Again, I was surprised it was so close to Raffles, less than 5 mins away, probably less if I didn't have to wait at the lights so long! The entertainer voucher came in handy here. The show lasted about an hour, the LO loved it, and it definitely appealed to all the young ones there. Following a quick lunch in the cafeteria, the LO took a quick pony ride in the park and we then headed over to 'Childrens City' which is also in the Creek Park. This place is fantastic for 40Dhms entry fee! I think the LO was too young to appreciate it all, but there were enough play/education areas to keep her happy for about 2 hours. I highly recommend this for anyone with kids between the ages of 2 & about 12. It's a relatively cheap way of keeping them happy & cool for at least half a day. We then hired a quad-cycle thingy and explored the creek park for about an hour; we'd done this before as a couple, but first time with the LO.
That evening, we had the first of what would be 4 dinners from room service. Now, I usually avoid room service at most hotels because it's generally quite expensive, the quality of the food is variable depending on the chefs in the kitchen, and it's quite awkward eating your dinner perched on your bed! However, Room Service at Raffles was amazing! We are both vegetarian, and not only did the menu have ample options, but they were more than willing to provide alternatives that weren't on the menu, all of which were of a quality I'd associate with a mid-level restaurant. To boot, most meals came in at a reasonable £30-35 for the two of us, with starter, mains and occasionally desert. You'd be right to ask why come to Dubai and then have dinner in your hotel room? My only response is that with a 2.5 year old, sometimes that's the most convenient thing to do after a long day, and when the food is that good, then it's not actually a bad thing! Because the room was so huge, they'd wheel in a massive table and 2 chairs, open the balcony doors and place everything so that it felt like we were eating on an open-air terrace rather than a hotel room!
On day 3 we decided to go to 'AquaPlay' at Mirdiff City Centre. This was the only day I wish I'd taken a taxi. I say that because although Mirdiff is about a 15 minute drive from Raffles (I know this, because that's how long it took on the return), it took us about 45 minutes on the way there, via places I'd never heard of before. The primary reason for this, other than my rubbish direction-taking, is the fantastically confusing road signs. You think you've taken the right exit off the motorway and then suddenly you get another 5 options that you have to evaluate at 60mph in under 10 seconds, which essentially means that unless you know *exactly* how to get somewhere, you're likely to get lost at least once. That in itself isn't bad, but what makes is annoying is trying to figure out how to get back on track since it's not as easy as getting off at the next junction and turning around. Anyhow, once we eventually got there, it was lots of fun! About 2-3 hours worth of playtime for the LO, whilst the other half did some shopping. This was the first time I'd been to Mirdiff City Centre too; It was pretty similar to Deira City Centre in terms of shops, but about a tenth of the visitors, it was *very* quiet - but that might have been more down to it being a weekday.
Day 4 was spent at Jumeirah Beach Park. Got there relatively early and settled down at a good spot, 2 deck chairs and umbrellas for about 40Dhms I think, and that was the 3 of us set up for the day! We lunched at the burger place on the beach, which was Maccy D's quality burgers and chips, which were perfectly reasonable (although not particularly healthy!) I think we ended up with some decent room service that night too. We had thought about mixing half the day at Wild Wadi, but reading some comments here previously, seemed like the LO was a bit too young, so maybe next year!
Day 5 we ended up mixing some time between MoE doing some retail therapy and taking the LO to the rides in Magic Planet (they were in the process of moving some of the rides, so not a massive amount for smaller ones) and then later lazying around Souq Madinat Jumeirah. Good relaxing day, and luckily enough to keep the LO happy even though it was a more parent-oriented day!
Day 6 was spent mainly around the pool area in the hotel, which we all enjoyed! That night we decided to put the LO to sleep and then take her in the buggy whilst we had a meal at Indego at Grosvenor House . It was a bit risky, since she's liable to wake up in the buggy, but luckily she slept all the way through, even whilst we moved her in and out of the car seat/buggy twice! I'm a big fan of Indego, yes it's expensive and yes you can get good indian food for about a tenth of the price, but I think the quality of the food, portion sizes, presentation, ambience and levels of service are amongst the best in Dubai, especially for Indian food. In my year there, I'd pretty much visited all the indian restaurants in Dubai, and settled for Indego as 'the one'! I haven't been to Amala as yet, but will do so next time.
On the last day, we ambled around Raffles till midday and then headed to Dubai Mall for the rest of the day, again doing some shopping, generally wandering around, watching the fountains, visiting Souk Al Bahar for the first time and then ending up having dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, which was a lot nicer than the last time we'd visited a CPK (in California ironically!). Raffles were more than happy for us to come back and shower up before we headed to the airport, which was useful since the flight was at the standard (but crazy) 2:45AM slot.
Overall we had a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable time. I can't say we did or saw much that was new to us, but we're big Dubai fans so just revisiting old places and restaurants in themselves is a joy. Dubai is perfect for those with little kids, which is probably why we'll continue going there for a good few years yet. And once the LO is no longer little, we can then start doing all the other fun things we can't do yet as a family, .e.g dune bashing, skiing! Raffles was a hit with us, and I'd definitely recommend it as a first-class option to those who don't need to be on the beach (and even if you do, it's 15 mins away).
Now just about 300 more sleeps to go till the next time!