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Amanda Clow and family sample the perfect luxury family holiday in Dubai

Henry and Painted Camel Jumeirah Beach Hotel - Jumeirah Beach
Bab Al Sham Desert Resort and Spa
Dar Al Masyaf - Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach

Jumeirah Beach Hotel - Jumeirah Beach

After a much delayed flight we eventually arrived in Dubai with a half asleep 4 year old at 5am - my nightmare of arriving anywhere early morning had come true. However, a representative from Jumeirah Beach met us as soon as we got inside the airport terminal, helped with bags, got our luggage, carried Henry and whisked us effortlessly into a waiting car where the driver offered us bottled water and cool, scented towels and so began our weeks holiday where the exemplary and outstanding service by all the staff continually amazed us.

It was still dark when we arrived 30 minutes later at our hotel and because of our very late arrival were shown directly to our room. Wow! Our one bedroom suite was quite simply huge. Henry's bed had already been made up in the living area. Trying to keep as calm as possible and not get too excited about checking out everything we managed to persuade Henry that it was still the middle of the night and all got a few hours sleep.

We managed to catch the tail end of breakfast. You can either eat in the air-conditioned restaurant or outside on the veranda. And what a feast. Pancakes, porridge, Thai noodles, continental, full English. You name it, they had it and huge bowls of fresh fruit everywhere.

Happy children, happy parents...
Henry on Abras Next on the agenda was a bit of exploring. We'd already been told all about the activities for children and where to find the kids club, so off we went. As soon as we arrived at Sinbads we filled in a form all about Henry, his likes, dislikes, medication etc. all very comprehensive and just the sort of thing you are happy to fill in when putting your Childs' care in someone else's hands. Before we'd finished Henry had been invited to join in a game of table football with some of the older children. It made him feel really great that some older boys had asked him to join in. Then I saw one of the staff who had discretely encouraged the older ones to come and get him. Now there's someone who understands the priorities of a four year old. The staff who work in the kids club are a completely multinational bunch. They are all qualified in their own countries and then have to go through the Jumeirah International Training Programme. You can drop in and out of the kids club whenever you want and they have different coloured ribbons that they tie round the children's' wrists so that they can easily identify who can come and go on their own or who must be collected by a parent or who can leave but must be accompanied by a supervisor to find their parents. There is a daily programme of events that include treasure hunts, shell painting, face painting, football, table tennis, etc, but for those who want to go 'off schedule' there are plenty of toys and games as well as the fabulous pool within the club to keep everyone happy. The pool always had at least 3 lifeguards constantly supervising all play. Happily settled it was now our turn.

Plenty to keep adults and children occupied, from pools to canapés...
We decided a bit of relaxing by the pool was just what we needed. There are at least a couple of pools. One mainly for families and the other is a little quieter. We chose the later, found a couple of sun loungers and settled ourselves for the day. The Jumeirah Beach is a busy, family orientated hotel and there was always lots of activity going on around us.

After lunch we collected Henry and went to see the beach. All the pools are chilled and when you take a dip in the sea you'll understand why. It really was just like a warm bath. The beach was pretty empty with people preferring the pool where a drink or some fresh fruit is just a short walk away - or none at all if you nab one of the pool waiters.

As we were staying in a suite we had access to the Clubroom where you can have complementary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening drink and canapés whilst you little ones are 'supervised' by a nanny. There are kids books; play stations, some toys and games to keep them entertained while you enjoy a drink. As the canapés are really quite substantial, we ended up making it our evening meal. We returned to the room to have a nightcap on the balcony overlooking the Gulf and all had an early night.

The Jumeirah Beach is a fantastic family resort not only for very little ones but for older children as well. There are plenty of things for whole family. Tennis courts, water sports and a range of activities for older children run out of the Kids Club. Next door is the Wild Wadi Water Park but more about that later. Evening babysitting is available but children can stay in the club and have dinner until 9pm at night.

Room at Bab Al Sham Bab Al Sham

Bab Al Sham couldn't be more different from the Jumeriah Beach. It is in the middle of the dessert and has a very laid back feel to it. The architecture is traditional yet with a slightly modern slant. Our room was very comfortable with everything we needed and Henry's bed was made up each evening, however our bed was so huge that it really wasn't necessary.

Desert days...
There really is very little to do here except swim, read and indulge in the Spa whilst your little ones are in the Kids Club. Unfortunately, as we were visiting out of season, Henry was the only child and really didn't want to spend lots of time in the clubroom with all the staff. So, he ended up spending most of his time with us by the pool. You might think that this meant we had no time to relax. Absolutely not. The pool had the lots and lots of lifeguards who were completely happy to spend hours playing with him. And there are two shallow areas to the beautiful pool that have overhead shading. When Henry wasn't in the pool he was being kept busy with the staff at the bar. He thought it a real novelty that you could sit on a seat in the pool and have your lunch at the bar. He became quite the professional at ordering drinks for everyone which we discovered when we checked our bar bill at the end!

Jetty with boats The Kids Club has the same type of activities as Jumeirah Beach Hotel. I just felt sorry for all the staff that are always on duty even when there are no children there. And they are always so happy.

I did indulge in the Spa services a couple of times and the massage was probably one of the best that I've ever had. And ask for the ginger and lemon tea at the end. Perfect.

Desert nights...
In the evening there are a number of restaurants to choose from. We decided to take advantage of the full dessert experience. A camel ride to a reconstructed fort where you can eat, drink and be entertained. I felt slightly awkward when the beautiful belly dancer came over to our table to 'shake her stuff' however, Henry was completely nonplussed as he'd just spied the falconry display going on in another corner. We all loved the whirling dervishes and Henry spent the next few days trying to spin everywhere he went.

The following day was again spent by the pool and had an early supper up on the roof. Lots of cushions make it all very comfortable, so much so that Henry fell asleep. The sounds of his snores must have reached the bar because immediately a member of staff arrived with lovely snugly blanket for him. So we had the most romantic evening, gazing up at the stars. Thinking about this again now, it really was a very special experience. I don't think there are many places you can go that children and romance mix so effortlessly.

Dar Al Masyaf, Madinat Jumeirah

Dar Al Masyaf bedroom We arrived mid morning. They were expecting us. Bab Al Sham had phoned ahead to give them our eta! Very impressed so far. We were taken directly to our traditional 'summer house' via boat. There are no cars in the resort and you get around either by golf buggy or traditional abras - water taxi. Leon, our personal butler - very very impressed by this point - greeted us by the jetty and escorted us the last few yards to our accommodation. The summer houses are beautiful. Built around a central courtyard each house has a number of different accommodations. A few summer houses then share the use of a private pool not to be confused with the pool complex set close to the beach. We had a one bedroom suite. It was perfect and very big. Bedroom, dressing room, bathroom, separate loo, separate showers, open plan dining and sitting room all finished off with three balconies. Leon showed us round as asked if he could get us anything and I harped on about the ginger and lemon tea at Bab Al Sham. 15 minutes later a tray arrived with ginger and lemon tea. He'd phoned to get the recipe but pointed out that it probably needed to stew a little longer.

Superlative service...
We now had a dilemma. What do you ask a butler to do for you? I can honestly say that it doesn't take long to get the hang of the butler thing. Think of something you're not sure of, and then ask the butler. I must point out Leon did have a team and they were fantastic and made us feel completely comfortable and all their recommendations were brilliant.

The best kids club
Sinbad is the kids club and I think Henry loved this one most of all. He certainly wanted to be there all the time or maybe we'd all just settled into holiday spirit. Big clean, bright air-conditioned rooms, bags of things for kids to do, the most fantastic water park/pool/fountains/slide area just for them. All this plus a daily programme of different activities from tattooing to cooking. I wish it had been like this when I was little. And again, all the staff wonderful. Committed, interested, happy to be looking after your children.

Rest, relaxation and romance...
So what did we do? A bit more swimming and reading and generally lazing around. Dar Al Masyaf felt much quieter than the Jumeirah Beach and we found spending time round the pool very relaxing. We did spend some time on the beach but the sea really does feel too hot - I think I did turn into a Princess at some point! But being by the pool you were offered cool towels to sooth a heated brow and iced watermelon. And then there was also Leon just in case we needed anything else.

It was our wedding anniversary when we were away and my husband wanted to surprise me. So after some discussions with Leon he arranged for Henry to have supper in the kids club and then be picked up by a babysitter who would bring him back to the house. So Henry taken care of it was now what to do for me. We got back from the pool to discover champagne chilling in a bed of pink rose petal ice cubes. Red roses and heart shaped chocolates. At this point I should make it clear that this was NOT from my loving husband but what our butlers had done for us both. A reservation had been made at the Thai restaurant closest to our room, as Leon had remembered my anxiety about leaving Henry with a babysitter he didn't know. I later discovered that Leon, who by now knew Henry well, had taken the babysitter to the kids club early so that they could get to know each other before she bought him home. We weren't offered the menu to choose a dessert but presented with another chocolate heart shaped cake with a candle on.

When we got back to our room, Henry was being read a bedtime story and was perfectly happy. But there was one more thing. They had lit loads of little candles on our balcony, sprinkled yet more rose petals and given us even more champagne and chocolates. With Henry now asleep in bed we sat on our balcony and gazed at the stars yet again. What a day!

Wild Wadi
We came back down to earth the following day with a visit to the Wild Wadi Water Park. Just remembering this makes me laugh out loud. Leave all your inhibitions and personal belongings in your locker and just have some fun. Our first ride with in this big yellow life raft type thing that takes you up hill over water rapids. On reaching the top there is a quiet pool area where lifeguards gently turn you around before you start your decent. This was one of those moments when we were all in the same boat - literally - none of us knew what to expect. We got wet, splashed, bumped, tipped until we cried with laughter. I will never forget that ride in Wild Wadi Water Park. There are other gentler rides and some that only mad people would want to go on but altogether a great family day out.

That evening we decided it was time for a bit of shopping. Who can possibly come to Dubai without indulging in a bit of retail therapy? Jumeirah Madinat has its own Souk and the golf buggies will drop you at the door. In the Souk there are also many many different restaurants from all sorts of international cuisine.

We were surprised by how much we loved our time in Dubai. There service was impeccable and the facilities faultless. If you want to spend your days doing nothing you can or be kept busy by the many activities that are available. It works well with children of all ages. The pools are immaculate and there are lifeguards everywhere.

My only disappointment was that now I had become an official Princess I wasn't allowed to take Leon home with me.

Amanda Clow June 2005

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