Why was this our choice? Well, for a start, we LOVE Sofitel properties (we even got married at the Sofitel in Fiji!). While I had been to Dubai before, I’d never taken the family and wasn’t really sure what that would be like – most of the properties I’d stayed at before would have been a bit squishy for the four of us. And finally, I’d never stayed on The Palm before and was just really excited for this. We considered a couple of other properties, such as The Atlantis of course, but again, we felt the pull of the Sofitel brand. And finally, we scored a pretty good deal for a big family resort in a super expensive destination. So that really solidified our decision.
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Getting to Sofitel The Palm
Before leaving Australia, we emailed the Sofitel and arranged a private airport transfer. From previous trips, I knew taxis were cheap and efficient in Dubai, but there’s nothing having someone greet you at the airport with a sign with your name and sorting everything out for you. We just wanted our arrival to be as seamless as possible.
The driver was on time, but he was slightly tricky to find – this may be a function of the airport itself. The exit area is really long, so there was a lot of crowding at the start of it and all along the right-hand side, where the main waiting area is. Quite a way down, it opens up another waiting area on the left-hand side, where our driver was waiting for us. But for a while we worried we’d missed him!
The transfer was not cheap, but it was luxurious. Sparkling water was also provided for us in the car.
The driver didn’t seem to want to talk to us much though. He seemed to speak English well but didn’t want to engage much with us. There could be a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it was really early in the morning! Secondly, he might have been used to passengers who didn’t want to talk. But for us, we like to chat with drivers and get information on where we’re travelling from a local.
The drive took about half an hour (it would probably take a bit longer in more traffic).
We arrived in Dubai just after 5am local time after an overnight flight from Perth.
We all know hotel check-in time isn’t usually until 2pm (or even 3pm in some places, ugh!) but Dubai does things differently. Because Emirates, the UAE’s national airline, operates so many flights and Dubai is the major hub, many hotels have adjusted to the flight schedule. This meant our check-in was 8am. And not only that, our arrival into Dubai was so seamless that we arrived at the Sofitel at around 7am, and they checked us in without question. Winning!!!
Some of the information provided to us upon check-in could have been a little clearer, but it was efficient and friendly. Much appreciated after an exhausting overnight journey! We paid a 1500AED deposit upon check-in (about $630 AUD / $410 USD). Technically, we didn’t have to pay this, but it meant having to pay for everything up front every time we ordered a meal or drink anywhere in the resort. We found the deposit was easier, then just signed for the bills as they came. (Also, read more about our Dubai travel costs for more information on this).
Staff then loaded us onto a golf cart to transport us to our room, and gave us a bit of a tour.
Over our stay, we encountered staff all over the resort – from check-in and concierge staff, to food and beverage staff at the various eateries, to cleaners and pool lifeguards. Everyone was approachable and reasonably friendly.
There were some stand-outs – one of the staff who took us back to our room one night via golf cart carried Mr. 6 up to our room and popped him in bed for us! He was also telling us about his kids, and we just LOVE getting to know the staff when we stay somewhere so this meant a lot to us.
This was a bit of an exception though. We do wonder whether it’s a cultural expectation thing, particularly in an upmarket resort. As in, that staff are meant to be pleasant and efficient but not overly friendly? Anyway, for us and our cultural context (being laidback Aussies we hate hierarchies or people feeling we’re unapproachable) we found this jarring.
The Sofitel The Palm has several different room types to accommodate travellers, ranging from classic resort rooms to multi-bedroom suites. These are spread out in different buildings depending on the room type.
We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment (or Junior Suite). The configuration was a king bed in the bedroom for us, and the sofa bed in the living room for the kids. We were all extremely comfortable, but the kids are less fussy – I personally wouldn’t have loved sleeping on the pull-out. But the kids sleep this way often when we travel and they seem to enjoy the novelty.
Both the living room and the bedroom opened up to a balcony that overlooked the waterfall pool. This would have been lovely in slightly cooler weather, and unfortunately at the time we stayed that pool was empty and being renovated (which we weren’t told prior to arriving). If the pool was in working order and the weather was nice, I would have had a coffee out there each morning.
The room featured a kitchen with stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, and washing machine.
Off the living area, there was a separate toilet and a walk-in closet with a safe and plenty of room for luggage.
A very spacious bathroom, with the biggest bath we’ve ever used, adjoined the living area and bedroom. One note on the bath though – we never managed to get enough hot water to fill it! There was plenty of hot water for showers though.
Both the bedroom and living area had a TV with cable channels such as Discovery.
Dining at Sofitel The Palm
Dining was a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. We were on a half-board plan which included breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner. However, it didn’t cover every place and the menu was restricted when it was covered. Not all venues were open for lunch which restricted choice further. (For a place that does the half-board option really well with no annoying restrictions or confusion, we liked the Cross Bali Breakers.)
The included buffet breakfast was excellent and a highlight of our stay, especially for the children. Western, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Continental options were all available each day. There were no issues of quantity either. I also liked that any style of coffee (i.e. barista-made) was complimentary. It drives me nuts when you order a proper latte (yes, we’re Australian coffee snobs) and a place charges extra for it.
We had the early check-in from 8am, although I arrived at 6.30am and they happily checked us in straight away. This meant we were at the hotel for breakfast service, however breakfast was not included this day. This makes sense though because it’s included the last day. We were still able to charge it to our room and head to breakfast, which was a fantastic way to start the trip and ward off any jetlag!
We tried as many of the restaurants as we could, however couldn’t try them all. This was mainly because several are open for dinner but not lunch, and the heat meant that evening was the best sightseeing time and therefore the best time to leave the resort. This was a shame as we really would have liked to try the Porterhouse Grill, and some friends we made said they really enjoyed it.
The Asian-inspired restaurant, Hong Loong, was quite delicious and I enjoyed ordering a Singapore Sling with dinner. We found it quite dark inside though (as in, the lights are very dimmed, past the point of ambience in my opinion).
Lunches at Maui and The World Eatery were so-so, but the portion sizes were large.
Laguna has two sections – the restaurant and the beach club. Children aren’t allowed in the beach club which was irritating, so we didn’t eat there. As it was so hot, the beach club was more appropriate for the kids than the restaurant in terms of seating and access to the water, so again this was a shame.
Manava, the seafood restaurant, is only open some days, so being able to eat there depends on your booking days.
The Sofitel Dubai The Palm has several pools, although as mentioned above, one of these pools was empty and being renovated while we were there, which was a shame.
The main pool is quite impressive – it’s a large lagoon shape between the beach and the imposing main building. Many cabanas are available for rent, and there are also many sun lounges around the pool too. We never had a problem securing a lounger, although it’s definitely ‘first in, best dressed’ when selecting the best location.
In the main pool there is a shallow splash pool end for little ones, and the depth is reasonable on the outer edges. However, it is really deep in the middle – over two metres! – which seemed excessive and meant the kids needed to be careful. What ends up happening, of course, is that everyone crowds the outer edges of the pool rather than spreading out throughout the pool.
We knew there were waterslides at one of the pools, which was really exciting for the boys. However, while we expected they wouldn’t be super thrilling, in fact they were very small with a tiny dribble of water coming out. They were exciting for the three-year-olds in their floaties, but for our kids (who are only six and eight!) they weren’t overly fun. I think this is pretty disappointing given the demographic and also the marketing.
It was possible to order drinks and light bites by the pool, but the costs were prohibitive ($25AUD+ for one Corona beer, and about $15AUD for a milkshake!). We looked around and everyone clearly thought the same – in the searing heat, people were bringing drinks from their room and refusing to order from the bar. I’m sure some of this is cultural as well, but it was definitely a contrast for us, used to resorts in Fiji, Thailand, Bali etc where you laze by the pool and continuously order food and drinks.
Sofitel The Palm is located on the Crescent, which is the round breakwater on the outside that protects the beaches on the fronds. The hotel itself sits on the inside of the Crescent, meaning it has a protected beach.
This protection means the water is very still – the only movement comes from any water sports happening nearby. This means the water is great for the kids to swim in.
However, when we were there, it was so hot that the water temperature was actually uncomfortable. It felt like warm bath water. Mr. Winter went for an athletic swim and couldn’t last long due to the water temperature. It also means you can forget snorkelling – you won’t find any life in that temperature water.
All this being said, it still made for a nice change to have an ice cream on the beach and look across the fronds to the skyscrapers of the city. There are also some really impressive buildings on The Palm that can be seen from the beach, such as Atlantis The Royal.
For the most part, we really liked Sofitel The Palm Dubai. We think it’s an excellent option for families with young children especially.
However, there were a few things we didn’t like. We would have liked to be informed before our stay of the extensive renovations taking place, but once these are done the resort will be better than ever.
There was certainly a ‘detached’, though friendly, vibe from the staff, but we wonder if this is a cultural difference and a style of service geared to a different demographic. It could also just be a function of the resort’s sheer size.
Overall, if you’re looking for a family holiday package on The Palm, the Sofitel is one of the more reasonably priced options that is particularly geared to young families.
Why not give it a go for yourself? Book Sofitel Dubai The Palm here.
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