“I promise you, it’s open” I insisted on my taxi ride over to Bluewaters Island, Dubai’s newest purpose-built neighbourhood. The driver was not convinced. I couldn’t blame him; I had been equally dubious when I was first told I was getting a sneak peek, just weeks ago. “But it’s nowhere near complete!” I recalled myself scoffing.
But complete it is – albeit with retail spaces in the process of being filled – and the much-anticipated Caesars Palace open along with it (neighbouring Caesars Resort is slated to also open sometime this month). The group’s first property outside North America and only the second bearing the upscale “Palace” moniker, it’s a bold move considering the form of entertainment the Las Vegas brand is best known for, which won’t be the case here. But if there’s anywhere in the world that can match Vegas’ glitz and verve, it’s Dubai, and as I made myself comfortable in this new playground, I had to admit the hotel felt perfectly placed.
If – as I was – you’re expecting the sensory assault of a Vegas- style hotel, you’re going to be surprised (in my case, pleasantly so). You’ll find no palatial pillars, no booming music, no glaring technicolour lights. Instead, the airy space in tones of light taupe feels relaxed, with just a few modern sculptures to indicate the Caesars brand – a bust of the politician and another of a horse, styled as you’d see on an ancient vase, in the lobby. You have to look up for the flashiest bit: the ceiling is lit up with a colourful Renaissance fresco of a personage crowned with laurels.
It’s all pretty sleek and this carries on into my spacious One- Bedroom Ocean Suite, which, mercifully, ditches the region’s predictable modern-take-on-Arabia design inspo for just a few subtle Romanesque motifs amid chic grey tones. Aside from the view, which sprawls from open sea to the Palm through floor-to-ceiling windows leading on to a balcony, the decadent high-back bathtub is an attention-grabber, and on closer inspection, there are lots of thoughtful touches. Find a little pull at the end of the wardrobe, which opens to a folding full-length mirror that offers views from every angle; lift up the top of the vanity in the bathroom for excellent make-up lighting; press the button near the entry for a hidden valet cabinet where you can place your laundry and pressing to be taken away and returned without having your privacy interrupted; at turndown, Neom Organics’
“Scent to Sleep” collection – pillow mist, body oil and hand lotion – is provided to help ensure your 40 winks. And for families or friends travelling together, many of the 194 rooms’ doors are set within a mini-corridor away from the main hallway, so that an additional external door can be closed and locked, adjoining two rooms as if they were separate wings of a single accommodation.
From my balcony perch I could see ample waterside lounging opportunities below, so I high-tailed it down to the pool area. Here, along with three pools, a Jacuzzi and a kids’ club off to the side, there’s also Neptune, a poolside restaurant and bar. Staking my claim at one of the large cabanas with loungers in the sun and seating under cover, I ordered a pizza (one of the better ones I’ve had in Dubai) while checking out the seascape ahead – free of construction, it’s got to be one of the least-adulterated water views in town. Plenty more loungers are spread along the beach, where you can also take part in a friendly game of volleyball or set out on various water sports.
If it’s a party you’re after, Cove Beach is just a minute’s walk away (Caesars’ guests have complimentary access), sandwiched between the Palace and the upcoming Resort. Multiple pools and dining areas, thumping beats and a decidedly youthful crowd have already made this a hotspot. My advice? Book one of the ultra-plush, oversized hammocks and settle in for an afternoon of rosé and sushi.
The hotel’s star dining experience is Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, which, with its bright colours and live kitchen, is probably the most showy offering on site. Chef de cuisine Craig Best leads the kitchen, and having previously worked under Ramsay, it’s safe to assume you’re getting the celebrity chef’s signature dishes, such as beef Wellington, as he intended them to be. The Maldivian tuna tartare melts in the mouth, as do tender scallops served with puréed peas and lardons. The atmosphere is more fun than fine, and my drink comes garnished with a biting quote from the TV chef (“The beef is so undercooked that it is starting to eat the salad”). This is also where breakfast is served – a spread of fresh dishes with local touches (date pancakes, pistachio crêpes) and an impressive selection of pastries. Other dining options include Chinese and dim sum at Zhen Wei, and Roman Lounge for light bites and afternoon tea. Laurel Bar, which is setting itself up to be one of the chicest spots this side of town, comes complete with sultry tones, a live singer and a baby grand piano, plus a sophisticated drinks menu that will change every six months (the current concept is inspired by colours).
For a final dose of indulgence, there’s Qua Spa. Though it’s not a sprawling space, my experience doesn’t feel lacking. The 90-minute Gold Dust treatment, with Carol Joy London products, combining exfoliation and massage left me feeling silken and blissed-out. One of the spa’s unique elements includes the Iyashi Dome, a Japanese technology that, among other benefits, can burn 600 calories in a 30-minute session. Treatments on one of Dubai’s only quartz beds will launch later this month, too.
Expect plenty more to open in the near future: I saw a Hamac beach shop just off the lobby that looked to be under progress, and Havana Social Club will specialise in distilled-sugarcane drinks and cigars. You may also spy a large white dome near the beach – this is going to be the Rotunda, a 500- seat theatre that will host Caesars’ Vegas shows, starting this month. And, soaring over all else, is the immense Ain Dubai, right opposite the hotel – plans are that Caesars Palace will manage the attraction once its wheel starts spinning.
This story was originally published in the December 2018 edition of Condé Nast Traveller Middle East, as seen below