Honeymoon Blog: Dubai
Resorts: Ramada Downtown Dubai (2 nights)
Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites (2 nights)
Duration: 5 days, 4 nights
Date: 19th – 24th April 2018
Price range: £££
We both wanted to do something big for our first wedding anniversary and Dubai had been on both of our travel lists for a few years. Personally, I really enjoy researching the hell out of a location before booking any holiday, so I hit Pinterest and within about 1 minute I was practically packing my suitcase.
Inspired by how much there is to do out there I quickly started making a plan.
There are two main areas in Dubai, Downtown and the Marina. Both had plenty to do but as we’d never been before and wasn’t sure about getting between the two (ease and price) I decided to book a couple of nights in each area.
You don’t need to break the bank for amazing accommodation in Dubai, their basic standard seems to be luxury but location was key to me. I wanted to be in walking distance to main attractions from both hotels. We decided on two nights each at the Ramada Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites. Both hotels were pristine and the rooms went above and beyond our expectations! We even got a free upgrade at The Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites. I swear the suite they gave us had a bigger floorplan than our house! Comprising of three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a big kitchen and a lovely open plan living space. As well as a balcony which looked out on to the marina.
I wanted to have one special meal during our time there, knowing that being budget conscious would mainly mean eating in subways (and there’s an iHop in the mall which may have received a few visits from us 🥞🤤 - it has an incredible view of the Burj Khalifa!). After doing some research into top restaurants in Dubai I decided on the Armani restaurant, located within the Burj Khalifa. I can’t comment on the many (and there’s LOADS) other luxury restaurants but I’m so glad we went to Armani. I was adamant that I would wear my wedding shoes so despite being so close we got an Uber which kind of added to the whole experience. Driving up to the secure entrance and being escorted out of the car by a very handsome doorman gave me a bit of a spring in my step. Until I nearly stacked it because I can still barely walk in my wedding stilettos…or any stiletto in fact! That aside, the entire experience was of pure first-class luxury. We were sat out on the balcony so could see the beautiful and famous Dubai Mall fountains and their theatrical displays every half an hour. Looking up revealed the steep rise of the Burj Khalifa which we were almost at the base of. The food was even better than the location, I can’t really remember what we ordered now but each dish was so perfectly cooked and exquisitely seasoned that my mouth is watering now just thinking about it! They even treated us with a complimentary dessert to share in celebration of our wedding anniversary!
Ok so I love shopping but my god this mall was so big I actually found it almost stressful. You could easily get lost in there for days, it’s like a city within itself. There are different sections, with more affordable shops in some and then all the sudden the style changes and you just know you’d have to re-mortgage to even buy a pen in any of the sparkly shops you’re surrounded by. Still great for a window shop though! We didn’t go in the aquarium but just seeing the massive tank from the outside was pretty impressive. There’s also an ice rink, cinema, impressive food options and the infamous Dubai Mall Fountains (as well as loads of decorations and installations which add to the magic and opulence of the entire place). Click here to find out more about the epic Dubai Mall.
While doing my research I checked out a few of their beach clubs but kept finding that you had to pay for entry which kinda bugged me as I’ve never paid to get on a beach before. So eventually I found Barrasti Beach which was a cool looking, free entry beach club just round the corner from our marina hotel, perfect! I’m so glad we did go as it was a great day. They were doing a What the Duck event and the pools were absolutely filled with mini rubber ducks and their section of the sea had huge inflatable ducks. There was a great vibe, whether you wanted a pool party feel, chilled beach day or even watch footie on a giant screen, there was something for everyone. We were only there during the day but there was no roudiness that you’d maybe expect at that kind of place in other parts of the world. The sea was ok, not the nicest I’ve been in but I really didn’t go to Dubai for that. You could see the palm from the beach but to be honest it did have quite an industrial look as there is so much building work going on, this is true throughout most areas of Dubai. The other thing you could see regularly was skydivers...
So as I laid there sunbathing and reading my book on the beach I kept getting distracted by the people drifting out of the sky. This was particularly distracting as I knew I’d be one of them the next day.
For our one year anniversary my height-hating husband had decided to book us both a tandem skydive over the palm. It was meant to be a surprise, however a certain apprentice managed to blurt it out. In all honesty I’m glad he did as I think I’d have FREAKED OUT if I was just told on the morning that I’d be jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet with a stranger and parachute attached to me. Well that’s exactly what happened.
And it was insane, incredible, terrifying and probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. I can honestly say that the scariest bit is the build-up. The anticipation of what you’re about to do is kind of inconceivable, the wait on the plane as you keep gaining altitude and knowing you’ll be jumping out of the door instead of landing as normal. You also get your own videographer as part of the standard package so all of this part is documented for you to watch back and laugh at later.
The pro divers are reassuring in a funny way. By that I mean how calm they are is reassuring and kinda concerning if you know what I mean! But they’re super professional, friendly and make the experience awesome. Attached to my guy we both made our way over to the open door and I held on to anything that I could.
Honestly the hardest thing was watching Tom go out first but to be fair he I think it was the only way that he would go just wanted to get it over and done with.
The second you get out of that plane all of the fear just disappears and your free falling and it’s crazy and I think in all honesty your brain just doesn’t allow you to even comprehend what are you are physically doing it’s like it just can’t handle that the level of fear. So you put all of that to one side and simply marvel at the exhilarating feeling of free falling and feeling like you’re invincible.
After free falling for I don’t know how long, my diver pulled the chord for the parachute and we proceeded to glide effortlessly over the sea taking in the birds eye view of The Palm, the Dubai Marina, the Burj Al Arab and everything for as far as the eye can see! I’ve honestly never experienced anything like it before. If you’re going to skydive anywhere, I’d definitely say do it there!
There are two main water parks in Dubai, the Aquaventure Waterpark (at The Atlantis Hotel) and the Wild Wadi Water park. Picking between the two was a no-brainer for me as I really wanted to visit the iconic Atlantis Hotel. However, for the sake of writing an information blog, during my research the other park looked equally as good in terms of slides and attractions, and a very similar price (have you been to both and can compare? Get in touch and let me know which one was your favourite!).
With only 4 nights and 5 days to squeeze everything in, we ended up adding the park on to our skydive day. After the skydive was delayed a couple of hours due to visibility this did reduce our time at the park to just the afternoon. As with most of our journeys, we got an Uber out to the park. It was really cool to be driving along the impressive man-made island knowing what it looks like from the sky, having seen it from that exact angle just a short time ago!
Despite only having a few hours at the park we still managed to get on every ride (we even did our favourites a few times), partly thanks to the park being relatively quiet so queues were almost non-existent. The slides here were some of the best/terrifying water slides I’ve ever been on (and I’ve done my far share over the years), much to Tom’s delight. Having just skydived from 13,000ft you’d think it would take a lot to raise my heart rate again so quickly but wow did these do the job. On several occasions I was sure I’d be flying out of the rubber ring (probably wise to say at this point that for the girls out there, make sure you wear something with plenty of support!) There’s a great mix of solo, double and group slides.
You also get some pretty awesome views of the Atlantic Hotel from certain parts of the park. Take some time while at the top of the queue areas to take in your surroundings and look out towards both the marina and downtown skylines.
I couldn’t go to Dubai without experiencing the amazing sand dunes which surround the bustling city. My mum had visited back in her travel agent days (back before it had become the skyscraper haven that it is today) and would always say about the incredible dunes and an atmospheric meal out under the stars.
We booked our sand dunes bashing experience through viator.com (I always hugely recommend this site and use it for most of our holidays, it’s a great way to find local excursions and experiences before heading out, prices are clear and there’s tonnes of reviews to make sure you’re booking with reputable people) so everything was organised and we even received texts the day before to re-confirm everything. The trip included pick up from our hotel and a stop at a quad bike centre before heading out into the dunes. A sucker for a quad bike, Tom jumped at the chance to get on four wheels and I obligingly clung on to dear life as he tour around, the speed increasing as his confidence did.
We then headed back to our 4x4 and set out on to the dunes! My god when they say ‘bashing’ they really mean it. Our driver was at leading the fleet and I have a feeling this was because of him being such a good driver. Despite being a very good driver, I was still pretty terrified every time our car was on the brink of rolling down a dune. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat and had white knuckles clinging on to anything I could the entire time. How our driver never lost control of the car is beyond me.
Taking a pit stop in the middle of the dessert gave us photo opportunities during the sought-after golden hour. Well, that’s what I did while everyone else had a go at sand surfing. My choice to opt out of this was supported as tom face planted all of about 0.0001 seconds after starting. He was spitting out sand for days hahaha (sorry babe).
Our final stop was the Bedouin-style camp. We arrived as the sun was setting and enjoyed watching this while on a short camel ride, before heading into the camp. You had some free time before the meal and shows, in which we tried out the sheesha and I got a pretty henna pattern on my hand. The whole evening was a lovely experience and I was sad to be leaving when it was time to head back to our hotel.
Another must-visit for me was of course the Burj Khalifa. It’s pretty hard to miss, wherever you are in Dubai! It’s a breathtaking building and simply mesmerising to see in person. Make sure to catch the nightly light show which runs every 30 minutes from 7:45pm – 10:45pm. We were lucky enough to be able to watch this from our room at the Ramada Downtown Dubai (we paid a little bit extra for a room with a view of it and it would 100% worth it).
One of my highlights from this holiday was without a doubt watching the sunrise from the Observation deck at level 124. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen and was without a doubt worth the early alarm (you can get in from 5:30am). Watching the sun slowly creep over the Dubai horizon and bring life to a new day in this bustling city was a truly beautiful moment. Once the sun was up we headed over to the other side of the building to take in the views of the coastline, the marina area, The Palm and the iconic Burj Al Arab.
This was all booked in advance via getyourguide.com https://www.getyourguide.co.uk/dubai-l173/burj-at-the-top-sunrise-t79319/
Despite the incredible amount of construction going on at all times (and I mean all times, we’d be walking back to our hotel at midnight and there’d still be cranes moving about in the sky) the city is immaculate. I always felt extremely safe and all locals we spoke with were very friendly. Even walking around in the evening there was very much a friendly, safe feeling, perfectly fine for young families even.
Despite the rumours you’ve probably heard, there’s no reason to feel uncomfortable out there if you’re not wearing their traditional clothing. We saw plenty of women walking around in skirts and sleeveless tops and no one was glaring at them. Personally, I wanted to be respectful of the culture that I was in, so I covered my shoulders and wore light and airy trousers. The exception for this was obviously at the beach. Speaking of addressing rumours, you can absolutely drink alcohol out there. You’ll just pay quite a bit for it!
If you do want to visit a mosque or take a day trip over to the incredible looking Abu Dhabi mosque, then women are required to cover pretty much everything but their face.
There’s honestly so much more I could say about Dubai but I’m already over 2,000 words! We managed to fit so much into our time here and loved every second. There’s still loads more things we didn’t manage to squeeze into our short visit so we’ll definitely be going back again!