Travel specialist Amy shares her experiences of travelling to Dubai and the impact Covid 19 had on her experiences.
I have been working for Destinology for 11 years as a travel consultant. I have travelled around the world visiting hotels and resorts, trying activities and experiences and, my personal favourite, tasting the food in some incredible restaurants on the beach, in the trees and even under water. I have never experienced anything as disruptive as Covid 19, so I was keen to see the impact it had on my client's travels and the changes that it has made in resort, if any.
I was excited to be returning to Dubai, it is a destination I love. The combination of beach and city is perfect for ‘flop and drop’ for a few days, exciting adventures and designer shopping!
At the Airport UK & Flight
Before travelling I undertook a PCR (Covid 19 Polymerase Chain Reaction) Test. It must be negative to travel and is valid for 96 hours from the date of test. You can take this test in Dubai but I do not recommend it, you will read why later in the article.
At the airport, check-in was easy, but I personally do like to arrive early and I always book a fast track, which I recommend to all my clients, to avoid any queues. Travelling is part of the holiday and it should be as simple as possible. In the departure lounge there are limited services, outlets are takeaway. Social distancing measures are clear, and every other seat is blocked to ensure people stick to the rules.
I flew Emirates economy from Manchester to Dubai. The flight itself was almost fully booked and seat changes are not allowed due to Covid 19 track and trace. Emirates provide travellers with a hygiene kit which includes masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and alcohol wipes. Sanitisation of the plane and seats takes place after every journey and before boarding, which is carried out in a very organised manner row by row, in small groups to avoid queues. Aircraft cabins have been fitted with advanced HEPA air filters which remove a high percentage of viruses and eliminates dust, allergens and germs from the air for a safer onboard environment.
Cabin Crew wear masks, visors and gowns and travellers must wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking and your pillow and blanket are individually wrapped which provides peace of mind as you know it is unused.
Arrival & Transfers
Arrival in Dubai was a little chaotic, I promised myself I would be honest about this. The PCR test on arrival looked to be quiet, but I strongly advise against this option as you would have to quarantine in your hotel room until the results are confirmed. If positive you would be transferred to a government quarantine facility for a minimum of 14 days.
To avoid the chaos, I will be recommending the Marhaba service, which ensures you are escorted through passport control. There is a cost for this, but it far outweighs the waiting and queueing, I believe you would arrive at your hotel at least an hour before everyone else which is invaluable if your arrival like mine was at 01.00am. My wait was 45 minutes and this is due to covid certificates being randomly checked – this is a process I fully support as health and safety does need to be priority.
On arrival all visitors must download the Dubai track and trace app, tracecovid which can be downloaded via apple or the playstore. Transfers are socially distanced, and there are strict local rules in place around hygiene and cleanliness of vehicles and numbers of passengers.
My trip was for 4 nights, staying for 2 nights at One&Only The Palm and 2 nights at Atlantis The Palm.
Rules and regulations across Dubai in relation to Covid 19 are strict. We recommend you follow the rules at all times. Wear your face coverings when moving around the hotel, on any tours you take and in any public spaces. Remain cautious and follow social distancing as you would in the UK.
One&Only The Palm
The One&Only The Palm is high-end luxurious in my opinion. It is perfect for couples, although families are welcomed. For the ultimate privacy and social distancing there are Villas with their own private pools. Guests who stay at One&Only the Palm return time and time again – they love the personalised touches and level of service.
During our stay the pool area was really very tranquil and the complementary day beds are socially distanced and sanitised as per local regulations. For a little more distance you could book a Cabana which has air-conditioning, sofas and a tv if you need it. The resort feels intimate and even though it was occupied by other guests we sometimes felt we were the only ones there.
Breakfast was served A’la carte which was very relaxed.
In terms of health and wellbeing, the hotel has a policy where guest rooms are sanitised when the guest leaves the room each time, it takes about 20 minutes and covers all touch points. Public washrooms are sanitised after each use and signs indicate either sanitised or sanitisation required. The same signage is used in restaurants and lounges and tables are only allocated when sanitisation has taken place.
Sanitisation stations can be found in prominent locations in the resort, chlorine levels in pools are checked regularly, pool towels are individually wrapped and delivered to guests, hygiene on all beach and pool services are in place. At the Gym and spa there is reduced capacity and I recommend booking.
Atlantis The Palm
This is the Dubai destination for families and the young at heart. The hotel has an onsite waterpark - Aquaventure, an extensive variety of dining options, a fantastic kids’ club, an aquarium – The Lost Chambers and a private beach.
Atlantis the Palm guarantees to leave a room empty for 24hrs after cleaning and prior to guest check in to avoid any cross contamination. Across the resort there are sanitising stations and masks are readily available. Temperature checks take place at all entry points, sometimes by thermal screening so you don’t even know it is happening. Atlantis also have a credit for covid test reimbursement which can be spent in resort and there is testing in resort for your onward travel.
I love the Club Rooms at Atlantis the Palm, they are really VIP and include complimentary pre-dinner drinks. Luckily, I stayed in a Club Room which also meant I could Breakfast in the Club Lounge, much quieter than Kaleidoscope, the main Breakfast venue. For the benefit of customers and for personal research I ventured to Kaleidoscope at Breakfast to take a look! The buffet service is available, however guests are now accompanied through the delectable array of options by a server, to ensure cleanliness and hygiene is maintained – the perfect buffet experience.
Aquaventure Waterpark – when walking around the park you should wear a mask, which are available from staff dotted around the park. You don’t need to wear a mask in the pool, on the water slides or when on a sun-lounger, unless you are approached by staff.
An experience of a lifetime. On this trip I was given the opportunity to do the Aquatrek at Atlantis’ Ambassador Lagoon. I am not a strong swimmer and I am not a lover of sharks, so I was a little nervous, but my job is to try out experiences that you might love, otherwise how can I possibly be true when I make recommendations. Aquatrek is walking in the lagoon amongst stingray, sharks, a multitude of fish and other marine species and I didn’t even get my face wet! As soon as I was immersed in the lagoon my fears were chased away by the magnificence of the view. It is breath-taking and I highly recommend this to everyone, feel the fear and do it anyway.
Rules and Regulations
- Masks must be worn in public spaces and when moving around the hotel. When you are lying on the beach or enjoying a meal they are not compulsory. You soon get used to the protocols.
- Dubai authorities have strict rules in relation to social distancing, even for the sun beds! And for hygiene standards across the hotels and resorts. Destinology have access to the hotel protocols which can be found on our website, and should you need more information please contact us as we have contacts at each hotel which can provide resort level detail. These regulations are for the protection of visitors and residents, personally I found they did not intrude on my enjoyment of Dubai in any way.
- Local regulations for all restaurants and bars indicates tables are for a maximum of 8 persons, although this number is determined by the size of venue and overall booking numbers, you may find only 4 guests per table and you are not allowed to push tables together, even if you are in one travelling group.
- Full drinks menus are operating in outlets, restaurants, and lounges, however they can only be served in conjunction with food service. Drinks around the pools we visited were served with a bowl of snacks, which sometimes felt like a whole meal.
Activities and Adventures
- Shopping – travellers must wear masks when in public, gloves are optional although you will see very many people wear them too.
- Excursions are still taking place. Social distancing and sanitisation rules are strictly adhered to by Alpha who arrange the excursions for Destinology in Dubai.
- City Tour – socially distanced travel to everywhere you need to see in Dubai. We visited Dubai Marina, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa (currently still the tallest building in the world), the Souks and Al Fahidi and Pointe The Palm.
- Taxis are the easiest way to travel around the city, and again local rules and regulations are strictly adhered to.
- At Atlantis The Palm we experienced high levels of sanitisation in relation to Aquaventure water park, including availability of disposable masks and sanitisation stations and all equipment used at Aquatrek were sanitised including the crocs underwater adventurers have to wear.
Departure in Dubai was busy, however before you enter the Emirates area for your return journey you are temperature checked. I recommend you complete your UK passenger locator form prior to leaving your hotel, as you cannot check-in without it and you do not want to be at the mercy of airport Wi-Fi last minute.
Social distancing measures clearly mark the floor and at check-in desks there are screens.
Amy’s Top Tips for Dubai in 2021
- Get your PCR tests 96 hours before travelling
- Book Marhaba for easy transfer through Dubai Airport
- Get your travel consultant to pre-book activities and adventures to avoid any disappointment
- If you are thinking of Dinner for a special event, use Destinology travel concierge service to pre-book before you leave home
- Book a Club Room, we recommend this for every traveller, the benefits are well worth extra initial cost
Amy travelled to Dubai in December 2020 all information applies to that time. Should you wish to speak to Amy or one of her colleagues, who she has briefed thoroughly on her experiences, please contact us.
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