Fairmont The Palm
Dubai, UAE; 11-971-4-457-3388; fairmont.com/palm-dubai; 381 rooms and suites, starting at $835 and $1,400 respectively
Dubai is the land of hotels, and the Fairmont is the newest, built on a frond of the palm "island" constructed out of dredged soil and sand that announced to the world that Dubai was getting out of the oil game and into the tourism business. The lobby is a gorgeous collection of arches and the butlers on the Fairmont Gold floor are British, but when you come to Dubai, you have to be prepared to take the glamour with a side of disappointment.
Nothing is convenient in Dubai. Even the 30-plus-kilometre metro line – with a stop a 20-minute walk from the hotel – drops you off a kilometre from the Dubai Mall (the world's biggest, natch) that it purports to take you to. The Palm is a 20-minute drive from anything.
The Cigar Room is a wonder. I had a Cuban triangle: 15-year-old rum, a Churchill stogie and a 20-year-old port, sampled in that order, each amplifying and expanding the flavour of what preceded it. The barmen, who told me the triangle idea came from the hotel's cigar sommelier Luis Urrea, were knowledgeable, proud of their craft and friendly to boot. It was good enough to make the rest of the stay worthwhile.
The rooms are every bit as good as what you've come to expect from a Fairmont. They're well-appointed, with good views, accented in dark woods and commodious rather than spacious. They're luxurious, but just this side of opulent, suitable for a practical, tasteful sojourn rather than a total blow-out.
Eat in or Eat Out
I ate at Frevo, the hotel's Brazilian spot. I had a monstrous nine-course, all-meat supper, of which only one cut, the picanha, or rump cap, was neither dry, nor mealy, nor tasted vaguely of offal. The breakfast buffet in the Flow Kitchen, however, was a morning glory, complete with smoothie bar, a patisserie and a full complement of Arabic options. So I'd say breakfast in, and for your other meals, take your chances elsewhere in this food-challenged emirate.
If I Could Change One Thing
Fairmont's Gold floors usually offer slightly better service, and slightly better amenities than the rest of the hotel. With the exception of the balcony that's perfect for a sunset drink, the Palm's Gold floor offered worse service (calls unanswered, wake-up call ignored), and a vastly inferior breakfast to what was on offer elsewhere in the hotel.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.