Good Morning Britain's Charlotte Hawkins finds the sun-drenched Dubai can do ‘relaxed’

  • The artificial Palm in Dubai was constructed at an estimated cost of $12 billion and features 30 beachfront hotels
  • These include the Anantara hotel, which boasts striking sea views, superb over-water villas and a main beach
  • If you love polo the Per Aquum Desert Palm has plenty to watch, with some suites available overlooking the action

Dubai may be better known for its bright lights and bling rather than as a family destination, but having been there before having children, we wanted to see if we could also make it work as a holiday choice with our one-year-old daughter, Ella Rose.

During our last visit, we enjoyed fine-dining restaurants, visited the malls, and drove a buggy over the sand dunes. On this occasion, we wanted hotels where we could stay under one roof but still find plenty to keep us occupied.

The first time we took Ella Rose abroad, we went on a short-haul flight to a tried-and-tested family resort closer to home. Choosing Dubai meant contending with a much longer flight, but it was a gamble we were willing to take.

The ‘swim-up’ rooms at the Anantara on The Palm mean you can have easy access to the water with numerous lifeguard stationed oversee kids' safety

The ‘swim-up’ rooms at the Anantara on The Palm mean you can have easy access to the water with numerous lifeguard stationed oversee kids' safety

Sunshine, of course, is guaranteed in Dubai, and temperatures often soar to more than 100F, but we timed our break so that it was warm but not blisteringly hot.

They don’t do anything by halves in Dubai, and that is certainly true when it comes to hotels. Pick the right one and you’ll get great service, incredible food and drink, and the perfect atmosphere.

We stayed on The Palm for the first half of our break. Man-made at an estimated cost of $12 billion, it has 30 beachfront hotels. It means you can get away from the bustle of the centre of Dubai but still be close to all the action.

We chose the Anantara, which has striking sea views and superb over-water villas. It’s not just the main beach you can enjoy either – there are several other smaller man-made ones dotted around the resort which were ideal for Ella Rose.

We had a ‘swim-up’ room, which meant easy access to the water and so was perfect for keeping our daughter entertained. There were lifeguards at every turn so we felt reassured about her safety.

Having the water at our door was useful for us too, as a cocktail boat floats by every afternoon.

This resort ticked all the boxes – it was spotlessly clean, and there were plenty of loungers and towels to make sure guests had every opportunity to relax.

However, we soon discovered that being on holiday with a one-year-old means that you do not get the chance to sit down too often – no matter how many luxurious loungers there may be scattered around.

For those parents who want a bit of ‘me’ time, there’s a kids’ club for youngsters aged over four.

Debut: Charlotte holds daughter Ella Rose at the polo as she sits on a horse for the first time - she didn't last long in the saddle before deciding it was too adventurous

Debut: Charlotte holds daughter Ella Rose at the polo as she sits on a horse for the first time - she didn't last long in the saddle before deciding it was too adventurous

We liked the hotel’s children’s menu as it wasn’t just everything with chips, but had dishes such as spaghetti bolognaise (which turned out to be a bit messy for small fingers but the waiting staff took it all in their stride), and healthier options including poached chicken with vegetables and mashed potato, which certainly went down well with Ella Rose.

The Beach House is a great place to sit at lunchtime and watch the world go by, and a definite dinner highlight was the Mekong restaurant, which offers a combination of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

For the second part of our holiday, we moved to the Per Aquum Desert Palm.

We weren’t sure what to expect, venturing inland, but I love horse-riding, so the idea of going to a hotel where they play polo matches was very appealing.

There is a wonderful sense of calm as you are surrounded by the green fields of the 160-acre estate. It is a truly beautiful setting, with cascading flowers in abundance, and olive trees hundreds of years old imported from Italy.

Getting into the swing: Charlotte and one-year-old Ella Rose relax in a bright red swinging chair during their Dubai break

Getting into the swing: Charlotte and one-year-old Ella Rose relax in a bright red swinging chair during their Dubai break

We stayed in a spacious suite overlooking the polo fields. You might feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but you still get a great view of the Dubai skyline in the distance.

The country club vibe is helped by a varied events programme. We went to a ‘Tipples and Cheese’ evening, and the Vintage Friday Brunch at the Desert Palm must be among the best in Dubai. 

Starting with champagne and oysters at 12.30pm, the brunch goes on until 4pm, giving everyone the chance to make the most of all the sumptuous food and wine on offer.

Eating at the fine-dining Rare restaurant was a memorable experience as the food was exquisite. The restaurant specialises in steaks, but you’ll find it difficult to choose between other dishes such as slow-roasted duck breast with confit duck leg, or miso black cod.

The waiters and waitresses were exceptional – on our first evening, Ella Rose started to get fidgety, so waiter Azhar offered to take her for a walk to meet the chefs and the other staff.

The neighbouring Epicure restaurant dispenses with the usual buffet offering for breakfast and just does a la carte. You have to be strict with yourself not to be tempted by the amazing selection of fresh cakes and pastries.

Per Aquum Desert Palm delivers everything you need for a relaxing break in the sun, and shows you can still have a family holiday while preserving that ‘grown-up’ feeling. Pictured is a view of its entrance at night

Per Aquum Desert Palm delivers everything you need for a relaxing break in the sun, and shows you can still have a family holiday while preserving that ‘grown-up’ feeling. Pictured is a view of its entrance at night

At Per Aquum Desert Palm you need not worry about missing any of the action if there’s a polo match on - some of the suites overlook the field (pictured)
At Per Aquum Desert Palm you need not worry about missing any of the action if there’s a polo match on - some of the suites overlook the field

At Per Aquum Desert Palm you need not worry about missing any of the action if there’s a polo match on - some of the suites (left) overlook the field

To help you wear off some of the excesses, there is a gym, the option of going horse-riding, or swimming a few lengths in the infinity pool. Meanwhile, the Lime Spa has an extensive menu of treatments. 

I had a blissfully relaxing Lime intuitive massage tailor-made to suit my needs.

And you don’t need to worry about missing any of the action if there’s a polo match on – the thermal beds overlook the field, so giving you the perfect view while relaxing.

On one occasion, we took a tour of the estate for a closer look at the horses, and it meant Ella Rose could try sitting on one for the very first time. 

She may not have lasted too long in the saddle before deciding it was too adventurous, but I have high hopes that experiencing her first polo match will mean she’s more interested in the future.

At Per Aquum Desert Palm there is sense of calm as you are surrounded by the green fields of the 160-acre estate. The resort features cascading flowers in abundance, and olive trees hundreds of years old imported from Italy

At Per Aquum Desert Palm there is sense of calm as you are surrounded by the green fields of the 160-acre estate. The resort features cascading flowers in abundance, and olive trees hundreds of years old imported from Italy

It was quite something watching all the action from our balcony, hearing the thunder of hooves and the thwack of the polo mallet as it hit the ball, while we sat and enjoyed the sunshine. We fell in love with this real gem of a hotel.

For all those who knock Dubai for being brash, it has so much more to offer.

It delivers everything you need for a relaxing break in the sun, and shows you can still have a family holiday while preserving that ‘grown-up’ feeling.

We came back refreshed and relaxed after some special family time together. And for me, it was the perfect tonic before I had to set my alarm again for 2.40am, ready for my appearances on the Good Morning Britain sofa.

TRAVEL FACTS 

ITC Luxury Travel (itcluxurytravel.co.uk, 01244 355527) offers four nights’ half-board at Anantara The Palm (staying in a Premier Lagoon View Room) and two nights at the Per Aquum Desert Palm on a B&B basis (in a Palm Suite) from £3,739 per family, based on two adults and one child sharing. 

The price includes return Emirates flights from Heathrow and transfers. 

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