Monday, Oct. 13, 2008

Burj Al Arab

This iconic, sail-shaped hotel — which soars 1,053 feet over the Persian Gulf, on an artificial island off Jumeirah Beach — literally epitomizes Dubai's over-the-topness. And though the property, which was completed in 1999, is ancient by local standards, guests still stop to gawk at the self-professed "seven-star" hotel's 600-foot-high atrium when they first enter (many do so after arriving via helicopter or chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph limo). The 202 massive suites (which start at 1,830 square feet and go all the way to 8,396) are all bilevel, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows; dedicated butler service; fully equipped private bars; offices with automated everything; and bed linens, furniture, and window treatments upholstered in opulent velvets and satins. The sprawling baths are stocked with full-size Hermès toiletries (other little gifts, like La Prairie night cream and aromatherapy "sleep spray," arrive in guests' suites each night). The property's common areas are equally excessive; of the six restaurants, Al Mahara, serving high-end seafood, is designed to look as if it were underwater, with a huge aquarium and a dining room accessible via simulated submarine ride from the lobby.

Insider Tip: Splurge for a helicopter tour over Dubai, leaving from the hotel's very own 28th-floor helipad.

Room to Book: At around 3,500 square feet, the Club Suite is hardly the largest here — but it does have both desert and sea views, perfect for gazing at from your dining room (or snooker) table.