The towering grandeur of this palace by the sea, some 60 minutes from Dubai, is simply titanic
Immersion down through the ages has represented renewal. We wash away what was, so that we can embrace what will be.
The bigger that submersion, the bigger the renewal, or at least that’s how it feels floating in the Arabian Gulf. Head half out, the slight crackling of fish feeding underneath providing the sound track to reverie as I hang in the water and survey the scene.
Ahead of me it’s a study in blue. The cerulean of the shallows gives way to turquoise and then darker azure as the sea reaches out to meet the horizon. The perfect celeste sky stretches up from that intersection, punctuated only by the silver crescent moon, its lingering presence in daylight adding an ethereal quality to the portrait.
Dipping below the waterline, the cool morning sea washes over me, that act of immersion sweeping away the world and worries. Emerging invigorated I pan my gaze back to the beach where my daughter is busy building a castle from the white sand, studiously decorating it with shells of red, orange, pink and white collected from the shoreline.
She doesn’t have to look far for inspiration, for behind her climbing into the sky is the palace that is the Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah.
The towering grandeur is simply titanic, a fitting description as exploring this castle by the ocean it appears as if the ill-fated liner had escaped the ravages of the iceberg and pressed on through the decades, finally coming to rest here on the shores of the emirate.
It might only be a 60-minute drive from the modernity of Dubai, but by the time you arrive you have travelled back more than a century to an elegant age where luxury wasn’t a homogenised box-ticking exercise and when service was an art.
The lobby is a romantic affair, the dramatic central clock tower, a feature of all Waldorf Astorias (this one pays homage to the emirate’s pearl diving history), is framed beyond by an ornate double stair case that weaves upwards, conjuring images of the DiCaprio’s Jack in his black tie aboard Hollywood’s imaging of the Titanic.
The rooms continue the illusion of being on a cruise liner, 14 floors up the cavernous king grand junior suite and its separate living room gazes out directly at the ocean, the expanse of blue a constant invitation calling you back.
The view continues in the bedroom, and if you are lucky enough there’s more scenery accessible from the balcony. Plus, throw in more space with a walk-in dressing room and a marble clad bathroom with freestanding bath and monsoon shower room for good measure.
After the hassle of driving all that way, and then the oh so laborious task of being checked by smiling staff and being escorted politely to your stately accommodation, one of course needs to unwind from the stress. Happily the Waldorf Astoria Spa plays it part here, and courtesy of the in-room babysitting service even parents get to relax together in the VIP couples’ suite. Here time melts away with the 60-minute Sea Breeze full body massage expertly ridding you of the knots and tensions of 2020, coronavirus, deadlines and ‘daddy, daddy, daddy’.
Invigorated, if a little fuzzy, it’s time for dinner on the deck of the Lexington Grill, a US-inspired steak joint with succulent cuts and stars overhead. We put our faith in our server Julee who repaid us with the Land & Sea sharing platter with prime tenderloin (medium rare and cooked to perfection), lamb chop and lobster (charred, smoked and paprika, chili and garlic butter) washed down with something red. Chef Lendl Pereira’s delicious fare leaves you sated, satisfied and sleepy.
You awake to a glass calm ocean and head out to your balcony, the aroma of your morning coffee mixed with the view from your lofty tower. A sea fret covers the land in a gossamer mist and you sit somewhat spellbound, frozen in time. That is, at least, until the smiling tug of your daughter who demands breakfast, beach and the pool.
The 400 sq m family pool surrounded by luxury cabanas is a place to beware, for here stalks Akram, the most helpful, friendly and persuasive of crew members. While he ensures your little one has all the ice-cream she requires he also ensures you are kept fed and well-watered. Azure the beachside restaurant provides the perfect spot for parents to sit, sip and smile as their little ones play.
It would be churlish to turn down the services of the Pearl Kids Club though, even just for an hour to remember one’s name and that of your partner. There Michele is waiting to connect and care for your child, so much so that for days after they tell you how much she is missed.
Happily it is also Michelle that provides the in-room baby-sitting service, so mother and father can head off guilt-free to Umi, the incredible Japanese restaurant of this resort. Again, we put our faith in the server this time the excellent and educated Chei, who delighted us with Ebi prawn tempura, chicken NanBan and edamame to start. However her triumph was the Gindara Miso black cod which flaked to fork and melted in the mouth – truly memorable.
The secret to the Waldorf Astoria isn’t however the food, or the view, the room or even the sea. It is Akram by the pool, it is Julee and Lendl in the Lexington, it is Chei in Umi, Michele in the Pearl, Claire the leisure club manager plus other team members too numerous to mention who epitomise hospitality, defined by the dictionary as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests”.
You recognise as you drive away from this resort that you were able to immerse yourself in a brief moment out of everyday life, and thus leave renewed and ready to dive in to what comes next.
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