Check In: Rixos Bab Al Bahr
Neighbourless, save for a random tower block under construction, in an empty expanse along Ras Al Khaimah’s coast, sits the new Rixos Bab Al Bahr: three enormous pyramids of suites gathered around a stretch of sand that’s lined with loungers, parasols and SPF-coated holidaymakers from Russia, Turkey and beyond. Billed as the region’s first all-inclusive resort, it’s just an hour and 20 minutes from Dubai, but feels miles from anywhere, and the entertainment – restaurants, spa, market stalls, pool parties, bars and even a nightclub – is all contained within its gated perimeter.
Already fully booked most of the year, it’s proving popular with families, thanks to the packed lineup of daily activities – from darts tournaments and water polo to beach volleyball and live bands – many of which are compered by a man with a mic and an abundance of enthusiasm.
When it’s party time, poolside attendants dance to the beat of this year’s favourite clubland tracks, rallying bobbing paddlers amid multi-coloured inflatables. It’s family fun on steroids. And if you want placid beach views and zen escapism, there’s a bit of that of that too.
While staying at a Turkish hotel chain it would seem almost rude not to partake in the Turkish tradition known as ‘hammam’. This bathhouse ritual will see you escorted into the spa’s authentic-style steam room by a masseuse in a towel, and laid out on a marble slab to be scrubbed free of your dead skin. Few things in life will leave you feeling smoother – but brace yourself for 30 minutes of intense heat.
The Fitness Centre
There’s a broad programme of fitness classes from Zumba to yoga and gym equipment so you can work off those eat-as-much-as-you-like calories.
The Restaurants, Bars & Club
Rixos is unusual in this part of the world as it offers an all-inclusive holiday package, so rates include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks and even the mini bar, though certain drinks require supplementary fees. There are 14 dining and imbibing options, so even if you stay a fortnight, you could try somewhere new every day. Here’s where we went…
ALL-DAY DINING: Seven Heights offers “global cuisine” for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper until 3am! Breakfast is the most eclectic meal of the day, offering lasagne, cauliflower cheese, salad Niçoise and Chinese-style noodles alongside scrambled egg and sausages.
LUNCH:Besides the eponymous patty selection, Toast’N Burger – open for lunch only – serves salads, such as the Mimoza, a layered potato, carrot, chicken and cheese stack. Su, by the pool, is open from 7am until 6pm for snacks and drinks.
DINNER: Come 6.30pm, five more options open their doors, four of them fine dining. Fish Bone needs no explaining, nor does Meat Point; Lalezar is a temple of Ottoman decor dishing up Levant fare; Aja specialises in Asian classics; and L’Olivo offers casual Italian if you want to keep your flip flops on. Most restaurants are clustered around ‘Entertainment Square’, where you can watch nightly performances, from dance routines to acrobatics.
Our favourite dish was the creme brûlée at Meat Point, served with a crisp pistachio biscuit and three sweet co0ndiments: cranberry compôte, chopped nuts and creme Anglais – it was loaded with so much vanilla it looked like it was peppered. Delicious.
BARS AND CLUBS
After dinner, most guests gather around the stage in Entertainment Square in anticipation of some theatrical action.Other nocturnal options include the onsite nightclub, which goes by the title Inferno, the resort bars including Mojito, which pours several varieties of its namesake and closes at 1am, and the Cigar Bar, which closes at midnight, where you can catch that night’s big game on television (both are open from 4pm). Sea & See by the beach, open 7.30am to 10pm, serves house grape, hops and Latin American cocktails throughout the day. It has to be said that there’s something deeply satisfying about downing a sweet and salty margarita in the middle of the afternoon and then walking out without paying for it, which of course is something you can do as often as you like in this all-inclusive resort.
Rixy Club looks after kids aged four to 12 with all kinds of distractions, from “funny gymnastics” to discos and talent shows. For the over-12s there’s Teen Republic, with DJ workshops, karaoke and a teens-only net cafe!
Most of the 655 rooms enjoy Arabian Gulf views and there are 6,500 staff serving guests!
In this all-inclusive resort the only thing you pay for is the basic hotel rate, spa treatments and additional fees (from Dhs9) on premium drinks.
• Double room for two per night: From Dhs1,260 per room per night (rate valid until 31 July 2014)
• Signature hammam treatment: Dhs275 for 30 minutes
INFO: Rixos Bab al Bahr, Ras Al Khaimah, 07 202 0000, www.rixos.com/en/rixos-bab-al-bahr-hotel