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Life's a beach.

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BACK in February, 2007, a GulfWeekly headline screamed 'Costa Packet Dubai' and highlighted the anger some Bahrainis and ex-pats living in the kingdom felt about the growing cost of visiting the region's most popular short-break hotspots.

Prices for trips to the most popular family retreats had increased by a whopping 40 per cent and angry regular visitors thought they were being priced out of the market as the Emirates grew in popularity as a holiday destination for visitors from across the world.

But, as in most things, timing is an important factor if you want to secure a room at the much-acclaimed Jumeirah Beach Hotel at a bargain price.

And, when many expats set off home for a return to Europe or the US, they are missing out on all the action as families traveled in the opposite direction.

The Szecowka family stayed for a few nights in a spacious room overlooking the glorious Gulf and the pools that surround the property at a quarter of the normal rate and checking the hotel's website as I write this, bed and breakfast is less than BD160 a night ... and let me tell you, the breakfasts at this establishment will set you up for the day!

The hotel staff members are very cute and expertly trained from the moment you are greeted from the taxi, to your wait to sign in at reception - providing little touches of excellence, like fruit juices and water for the children whilst the paperwork is swiftly sorted.

Jumeirah oozes class, from the lift (wait for the clear-glass framed one at the far right which offers fabulous views and demands a journey up to the 24th floor and back down to whatever floor you are staying at) to your room.

We were on the 11th floor and our room was spacious even with two extra put-you-up beds for the children by the vast window.

If I was to be picky on the money side, it was irritating to have to pay an extra BD10 for the second bed, not necessary, methinks. But, with that grumble aside, apart from the fact that the shaving mirror was fixed awkwardly to the bathroom wall so much so that one had to impersonate Quasimodo to shave, the hotel was pretty much perfect.

There was no kettle for tea or coffee-making but a quick call to housekeeping sorted that matter out. Apparently it's only offered if it's asked for, so that's worth remembering.

Back to breakfast, on your first morning at the hotel you are offered a guided tour of the Latitude restaurant area and what a mouth-watering maze it turns out to be.

In three separate sections are the delights of a world of quality cuisine - smoked salmon, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, cakes, buns, bread - the list is endless and the choice superb.

Again, polite, quick and helpful staff ensured the breakfast was absent from any blues and there was even a safe play area with Playstations for the children to keep them entertained whilst dad and mum filled their plates up again.

Next to the hotel lies Wild Wadi waterpark - a firm favourite with the young and the young-at-heart.

It boasts 30 rides and attractions, many of them linked, ranging from a soothing lazy river ride to black holes of sheer terror.

Although an enjoyable day out, the facility looked a little tired compared to the recently-opened Lost Paradise of Dilmun theme park in our own backyard, or rather, desert.

The various pools around the hotel are inviting, fun for a swim and splash about and there were plenty of loungers for the guests to soak up the sun too. It was, however, a shame that Sinbad's Kid's Club was under reconstruction and out of bounds for my two youngest children, Imogen, nine, and Stan, five.

But the glorious sandy beach close by made up for that little disappointment big time - beautiful, clean and picture postcard perfect when the waves lapped up to the shore.

At night the Jumeirah Beach area came alive in a captivating manner with a short buggy ride to a jetty providing boat trips to neighbouring hotels, resorts, an indoor souq and restaurants in an enchanting canal-like setting.

There were also photographers on hand at every corner to take family snaps of the holiday experience and even a room where a henna artist offered painted mementoes.

We were able to sample the fare at The Meat Company restaurant and an excellent Italian without having to book a table in advance, something unheard of during the Easter holiday peak period, I'm told.

No visit to Dubai, however, is complete without a trip to the Mall of the Emirates, a swift, cheap taxi ride from the hotel.

Inside, of course, is an indoor skiing facility, where you can play in the snow and then enjoy a coffee as the kids find out how to slide down the slopes with expert tuition as mum and dad enjoy a steaming cuppa while trying to work out how much it must cost to keep the temperature at minus four when it's roasting outside.

Although I love Bahrain I can appreciate the attraction of a trip to Dubai, flights are frequent and the Szecowka family flew with Gulf Air. It's a great place to visit and the summer time is the best, and most cost effective, time of all.

And the big question; is Jumeirah all it's cracked up to be? The answer is most positively, yes.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Aug 31, 2008
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