I arrive at the “first holistic well-being resort in Dubai” on a Thursday evening late, but not before making a brief stop at Sofitel, The Palm, to get help in locating the property. Due to the lack of signage to the hotel, it is easy to confuse The Retreat for an extension of the neighbouring Sofitel property. When I get to the actual entrance, the check-in is as muddled as the arrival, and takes longer than necessary.
Located on the East Crescent of Palm Jumeirah, The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery is a 30-minute drive from the two major Dubai airports. The Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall are 25 minutes down the road, while IMG World of Adventure theme park is 20 minutes by car. The 255-room hotel is in the same vicinity as Atlantis, The Palm, and Anantara, The Palm, which means there are some great photo vantage points within walking distance of the front and back of the property with views of the Burj Al Arab, Atlantis and the JBR skyline.
Of the five room categories available, I’m staying in a club room – one category above the standard – so slightly bigger and on a higher floor. It has floor-to-ceiling windows, a terrace, sitting area and king bed. Upon entry, the air-conditioning is set so low that it takes about half an hour for it to return to a temperate level. The bathroom has its own tub and a good-sized shower. I am impressed by the size of the terrace and the view of the private beach and Atlantis in the distance, but am less impressed by the flickering bedside touch lamp, which I promptly unplug when it’s time for bed.
Despite its “holistic” status, I find the service more irritating than relaxing at times. From a food service point of view I find it silly that the staff at a holistic resort like this would be in a mini-flap about being asked to explain the gluten-free items on the buffet (some are labelled, others aren’t). In addition, I wait 15 minutes for butter to go with my bread, and am served Diet Pepsi instead of Diet Coke, which wouldn’t matter so much if I had been told that was all they served. I am also perplexed by the blank stare I get from the concierge when I ask about the running map advertised in the in-room guest services book. On the flip side, the beach and pool staff are refreshingly helpful and go out of their way to find me a shady spot, despite it being a busy beach day.
Definitely more beach- and wellness-focussed than a party place (there’s no alcohol). Juices, detox programmes, and laughter yoga are more the speed here, and believe me, you won’t miss the latter as the chuckles of the hotel’s yogis and their guests fill the resort from the beachside podium at sunset.
Overall, it’s a family-friendly vibe, and there are plenty of them enjoying the pool, kid’s club area and giant games boards at the beach club. The 2,000-square-metre Rayya Wellness Centre is the centrepiece of the resort and offers six all-inclusive wellness retreat programmes. Set over two levels, the spa is a good spot for relaxation. It houses a yoga studio, Jacuzzi, wet and dry saunas, a Cryotherapy room, and an oxygenation-infused relaxation room.
Options are limited. Besides the all-day dining restaurant, Vibes, which serves health-focussed à la carte and buffet options, there is only one other restaurant, The Social Kitchen. It is open from 7pm to midnight and serves healthy Levantine cuisine with menu items clearly marked “healthy”, “organic”, “low-carb”, “gluten-free” or “vegetarian”. Prices start from Dh48. I can vouch for the slow-cooked lamb shank (Dh163) and the chicken avocado salad, but would suggest sharing. Those looking for a detox kick will appreciate the vitality drinks menu (from Dh42) here. Chapters lobby cafe and Ripples Pool Bar are more casual spots for a coffee or juice. The breakfast buffet, while too busy, is full of variety, and health fanatics will enjoy the selection from the anti-ageing and gluten-free corners, as well as the fruits and salad offerings that come with labels outlining the health benefits.
The private air-conditioned beachside cabanas that come stocked with a variety of snacks, mini bar and Wi-Fi (from Dh500 for the day), the in-room pillow mist selection, and the hotel herb garden.
The lack of staff knowledge and the frigid room temperature, which was an issue for the duration of my stay.
The healthy-minded will enjoy the packages offered here, as will those looking for an alcohol-free family retreat.
The bottom line
Rooms at The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel start from Dh1,000 per room per night, and include taxes, breakfast and Wi-Fi. The 24-hour retreat package costs from Dh1,249 per person and includes a welcome ritual, orientation, wellness lunch, group-based activities, consultation with the naturopathic doctor and breakfast.
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