Looking for a beginner-level wellness staycation in Dubai? World Traveller reviews the new Vitality Weekend at Swissôtel Al Ghurair

Sophia Dyer
Mar 25, 2021

The packed wellness staycation itinerary dips its toes in fitness, health and wellbeing for a balanced rejuvenating weekend

Life in the city moves fast, and we all know that when you’re constantly rushing from A to B, your wellbeing can drop off somewhere in between. Even those who prioritise hitting the gym or the spa can end up feeling exhausted by the fast pace of the urban lifestyleparticularly as jetting off to another country isn’t as easy as it used to be. The good news is, if you’re someone who’d benefit from some 9-5-friendly rejuvenation, despite not being a fitness or well-being aficionado, we think we’ve found the reset button, and it doesn’t involve a flight. 

The Swissôtel Al Ghurair, situated among the historic architecture of Deira, is a hidden gem of wellness. The Swiss are renowned for their ability to rejuvenate so it makes sense that this five-star hotel has a large spa with eight treatment rooms, and some of the biggest bathtubs we’ve seen. Taking their commitment to revitalisation a step further, the hotel has just launched a Vitality Weekend staycation. The full-board experience takes place from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon and includes a well-organised itinerary of activities designed to leave you feeling well-rested and inspired. The line-up includes Aquafitness, a nutrition talk, a skin-assessment, massage, skin yoga, Zumba, sunrise yoga, and an ice-bath workshop. World Traveller went down to test out the staycation, here’s how the weekend unfolded and what we thought:

Swimming pool at Swissotel Al Ghurair
The swimming pool at Swissôtel Al Ghurair. Image credit │ Swissôtel Al Ghurair

Friday morning 

After an early check-in and dropping our bags off into the room, we head straight to Aquafitness with Swimming Wonders, which is rightly so first on the itinerary as it’s the mildest movement of the weekend. This light exercise was a gentle way to start the day, although for those who like to start their Friday with a heart rate pumping workout, we recommend getting this in at the hotel’s gym or before you check-in.

After the class, a range of healthy juices and snacks (we loved the homemade granola bars) are served poolside as you dry off. The pool here – as with the rest of the hotel – has stunning views over Deira that are particularly noteworthy. 

Next up is a talk with nutritionist Stephanie Karl of Up and Running Dubai before a three-course lunch. The talk, which takes place over Zoom, covers the basic nutritional information and some helpful tips for improving your diet if you’ve never calculated your BMR.

Lunch is served in restaurant Liwan, but those on the Vitality Weekend have a set menu for each meal. The most note-worthy of the meal is a delicious piece of pan-seared Norwegian salmon, followed by a generous portion of mango custard Verrine. 

The spa at Swissôtel Al Ghurair. Image credit │ Swissôtel Al Ghurair

Friday afternoon 

After lunch, the Spa & Wellness program begins in the Swissôtel’s renowned Spa & Sport. It’s large wood-paneled, and mood-lit design is instantly calming, while the friendly staff are well-informed and answer any questions with ease. 

We start the program with a 30-minute back massage, which is particularly tension releasing, before heading to ‘skin yoga’. Skin yoga, it turns out, is a facial massage that you perform on yourself under instruction. Locally based yogini, Elisabeth Bohler guides the process in a calm, low-lit room informing us that creating a dedication to this practice in your daily life will rejuvenate the collagen in your skin. We’ll admit that we were dubious, but seeing as her skin is most definitely glowing, we give it a go. After spending 30 minutes massaging our face, it’s surprising how much you can feel it in the muscles! 

The massage at Swissôtel Al Ghurair. Image credit │ Swissôtel Al Ghurair

Then we meet with Soraya Jouzy from Pearl Tree beauty distributors for a 30-minute skin workshop. She talks through your lifestyle habits before making personalised skincare recommendations. What could’ve easily been a sales pitch for the Anna Semonin products available for sale in the spa, was actually a really nice conversation with an expert and concluded with a free serum upon Soraya’s recommendation which worth $95 – was certainly a nice surprise.

Friday evening 

At 6pm we’re whisked away to the sixth-floor terrace. As well as providing us a stunning sunset view across the architecture of Deira, it was also the setting for our – seriously sweat inducing – evening Zumba class. Post workout, a three-course meal was served on the Liwan Terrace, where we were invited to enjoy the sweeping views of Deira once again, but this time sparkling in the dark of the night.

Saturday morning 

After waking up rested, we returned to the sixth-floor terrace for sunrise yoga (which was more of an early-morning session as the sun had risen). Elisabeth guiding the wellness retreat attendees through a gentle vinyasa flow to a soundtrack of relaxing music. The movement sequence was adapted to the crowd – which was made up of yogis – but Elisabeth informs us post-class this would usually be a beginner level class.

Following a special set healthy breakfast, it was time for the weekend’s biggest challenge – the ice bath. For those interested in wellness, you’ll likely already know the benefits associated with cold water therapy. Popularised by Wim Hof, submerging yourself in subzero temperatures is said to boost your immune system, increase blood flow and, arguably most importantly, is the ultimate proof that the human mind can conquer (freezing) matter. The workshop, led by Elisabeth, follows Wim’s method by starting with a breathing meditation that sets the serotonin rushing before being guided to the edge of the bath.

Liwan restaurant at Swissotel Al Ghurair
Liwan restaurant Swissôtel Al Ghurair. Image credit │ Swissôtel Al Ghurair

A few pep talks and hand dips later, we’re the first to lie down in the ice cube-filled paddling pool. Although doubtful to begin with, we manage to stay completely submerged for three-minutes and are, with the help of Elisabeth’s calming words, able to breathe through the discomfort. An experience that must be felt rather researched, we can say that it was completely transformative and remains so days later. This was certainly the highlight of our weekend and with some ice bath workshops in Dubai being up to Dhs900, we think it’s well worth booking the entire Vitality Weekend here for Dhs725 (for a single) just for this experience. 

Saturday afternoon 

Post-ice bath and sat down to another three-course lunch, each element of this weekend has us feeling elated and revitalised. With a late check-out of 4pm, the rest of the afternoon is spent soaking up rays by the pool. 

Swiss select bedroom at Swissotel al Ghurair
Swiss Select Bedroom at Swissôtel Al Ghurair. Image credit │ Swissôtel Al Ghurair

Overall 

The weekend feels targeted at newcomers to wellness, with gentle workouts, beginner-level information, and lots of well-sweetened food. It’s perfect for a weekend of ‘me-time’ or for an introduction to wellness and fitness. But if you’re someone looking for a hardcore detox, you might want to find a retreat with more cardio and less dessert. Though the amazing price (Dhs725 for a single or Dhs1200 for two) for a full-board staycation with a packed itinerary is certainly an excuse to do something wholesome with your weekend. 

We checked-out feeling more inspired, motivated, and invigorated than when we arrived – and if that ‘vitality’ feeling is what you’re looking for come Saturday afternoon, the Swissôtel Al Ghurair is calling. 

Inspired to check-in? Click to book a staycation