- One of the most decorated luxury hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, was recently named the “best hotel in the world” by the Ultratravel Awards.
- The Burj has been called “the world’s first seven-star hotel” and “the most luxurious hotel in the world” by travel writers and critics.
- I recently spent a night at the hotel and a night at its sister hotel next door, the five-star Jumeirah Beach Hotel, to see how the two compared.
- While I expected the two hotels to be fairly similar in quality, I was surprised to find just how much more luxurious the Burj Al Arab is than Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
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How luxurious can a hotel possibly be?
I was determined to find out the answer to that question on a recent trip to Dubai. I planned to stay at two well-regarded hotels by Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, a Dubai state-owned luxury hotel chain.
The first was the Burj Al Arab, a $US1 billion hotel shaped like the sail of an Arabian dhow ship. In just the last year, it was named the Best Hotel in the World by The Telegraph’s ULTRA Awards and given a Five-Star Award by Forbes Travel Guide. When it first opened, a journalist was supposedly so enamoured with the Burj that she exclaimed that it must be a seven-star hotel, a rating that does not exist.
The second was the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, a family resort next door shaped like a cresting wave. It was renovated last year with a new lobby, guest rooms, and restaurants.
I figured that my experience at both would be about the same: over-the-top luxurious.
I was wrong. Keep reading to see what it was like.
To start with, let’s talk about location and architecture. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel sits on its own private beach on the Dubai coastline. Its iconic wave-shaped building is one of Dubai’s most recognisable.
But the Burj Al Arab’s shape, that of the billowing sail of an Arabian dhow ship, is even more iconic. The Burj sits on its own private island across the water from Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
You can only get on the island with a reservation. It provides an unobstructed view of the sea and the city.
When I entered the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, I noticed the newly renovated lobby atrium, designed to let in lots of light and show off walls painted to evoke the sea. It’s very calming.
But the Burj’s atrium is an architectural masterpiece. According to the Burj, it is the tallest in the world at 590 feet. The kaleidoscopic colours produce a trippy effect.
The dining room and other spaces on the main floor of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel are tastefully decorated in keeping with the ocean theme, though it doesn’t seem to get a ton of sunlight.
The main floor of the Burj screams over-the-top grandeur. It’s not just the gold, though there’s plenty of that, but the deep colour of the saffron and ultramarine tiles and the ornate furniture. Each room feels like its own art piece.
The main pool at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel is spacious, dotted with palm trees, and features a swim-up bar. It’s a good place for a family vacation. I took this photo early in the morning. By the afternoon, this area was bustling.
The Burj’s infinity pool, however, looks directly out onto the Arabian Gulf, which makes it the perfect spot for sunset Instagram photos. There’s a hot tub embedded in the infinity pool and an attached beach with loungers. It doesn’t get much more picturesque.
An Ocean Deluxe room at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel goes for around $US300-500 per night. It has a plush, king-size bed …
… and a view of the beach and the Burj. It has a couch and a small seating area, but the room is only about 150 square feet.
It’s nothing compared to the Burj. Every room there is a duplex suite that goes for about $US1,500 a night. It has a large, open living room, an office, and a dining area. There are enough seating options for a Sheikh’s entourage.
The bedrooms at the Burj are so spacious I couldn’t fit mine into a single photo. The bed is a DUX mattress, which can cost up to $US15,000.
The bedding is made of Eiderdown feathers harvested from the abandoned nests mother Eider ducks use to keep their eggs warm. There’s a pillow “menu” of nearly a dozen pillows of varying degrees of material, thickness, and firmness.
The toiletry products in the bathroom at Jumeirah Beach Hotel are Elemis, a London-based spa company. You get a few travel-size bottles of the body wash, which goes for around $US30-40 for a full-size bottle. It’s nice stuff …
… but it’s not the set of full-size his-and-hers Hermès toiletries, including cologne and perfume, that each Burj room comes with. I kept the bar of Hermès body soap and stuck it in my suitcase. All my clothes now smell like Hermès.
The difference extends to the food. At the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, I ate dinner at Villa Beach, an in-house restaurant that serves freshly grilled seafood. I ordered the fish of the day, which came well-cooked with a few sides. It was tasty …
… but it wasn’t the Michelin-starred experience that I got at the Burj’s flagship restaurant, Al Mahara, run by British Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw. Among the dishes I had there: crispy oysters topped with caviar, lobster salad topped with truffles, and a $US266 salt-baked whole sea bass encased in salt and filleted table-side.
Breakfast at Jumeirah Beach Hotel was nothing to sneeze at. It had more than half a dozen breakfast stations with breakfast from all around the world, including English, French, Chinese, and Indian cuisines.
What the breakfast at the Burj lacked in variety, it made up for in privacy. My personal butler — each room gets one — brought a full breakfast spread for me to enjoy in my room. It included a smoked salmon eggs Benedict topped with caviar and fresh juice, pastries, and coffee.
By the time I left both hotels, the answer was clear: The Burj is indeed far more luxurious than its 5-star sister hotel.
The Burj’s complimentary Rolls-Royce chauffeur drove home the point as it took me to my next destination. But the real question for travellers: Is the Burj worth $US1,000 more a night than the Jumeirah Beach Hotel? Only you can answer whether you need that level of gold-plated luxury.
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