Review: Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

This is the fifth post in an Etihad to Abu Dhabi trip report.


To say that I procrastinated about which hotel to book in Abu Dhabi would a be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. I must have changed my mind a dozen times, switching between both of the Hyatt’s, the Ritz Carlton, the Intercontinental and the Le Meridien.

A few things made up my mind for me in the end:

  • The UAE isn’t a cheap place to visit so I wanted somewhere that would include breakfast to help keep unnecessary costs down – The Hyatt’s and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi both fitted the bill on that requirement thanks to my hotel status.
  • The Ritz-Carlton was cheaper than the Park Hyatt although more expensive than the Hyatt Capital Gate.
  • I’m going to try to hit top-tier status with Marriott and Hyatt next year and, while staying at a Hyatt on this trip would have no effect on status qualification next year, the two nights at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi would roll over to next year’s Marriott status chase.
  • Both the Hyatt properties have been reviewed by the big points & miles blogs recently…and quite a few times. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi has seemingly flown under the radar.
  • The main sight I wanted to visit in Abu Dhabi was the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque and the Ritz-Carlton is very convenient for anyone visiting the mosque…you can see it clearly from the entrance of the hotel:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 58

Cost

The rates at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi weren’t at all bad for this time of year (1 AED = $0.27 approx.)….

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi-charges-1

…..although, when you initially see the prices on Marriott.com, you have to remember to add 16% for all the surcharges and taxes:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi-charges-2

Total cost for the two nights was $446 including buffet breakfast each day.

Award Availability

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi is a Tier 2 property which makes the cost of an award night 40,000 Points.

ritz-carlton-award-chart-2015Ritz-Carlton award chart

Award nights are very easy to find at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi and, to prove that point, at the time of writing there are only 18 days between today and the middle of December 2016 that do not have award availability.

I chose not to spend 80,000 Marriott Rewards points on my stay as that would have meant a truly terrible return on my points (0.55 cents per point) and I aim to get at least 0.8 cents per point when redeeming for Marriott or Ritz-Carlton award nights.

Location

As a general rule you’re probably not going to get a chance to do too much walking in Abu Dhabi unless you’re staying on the Corniche…and even then you’re not going to do that much walking as there isn’t that much to see that’s within walking distance.

That makes the hotel location in Abu Dhabi a bit more irrelevant that normal because, unless you have a specific place you want to be close to, you’re going to be using inexpensive taxis to get everywhere….so you may as well choose the hotel based on some other consideration.

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi-mapRitz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Google Maps location

In my case the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi was about as far away from the Corniche (top left of the map) as you can but it still only cost $13 including tip for a 25 minute taxi ride.

First Impressions & Check-In

I arrived at the hotel at around 10pm at night and, unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a line at the check-in desk.

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 56A daytime view of the check-in desks at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi

Check-in was efficient and the front desk clerk walked me through the Marriott Diamond benefits I would receive during my stay (bonus points, internet access, arrival gift etc..). He went on to point out that Marriott Platinums didn’t get executive lounge access as a benefit at Ritz-Carltons (which I already knew) but that I could buy lounge access if I wanted to. I politely declined.

There was to be no upgrade this time and, to be honest, I didn’t even bother asking for one. For a two-night stay I was pretty sure whatever room I had booked would be just fine so an upgrade wasn’t really important.

The Ritz-Carlton’s lobby has very high ceilings, is incredibly ornate and had been decorated for Christmas:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 57Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Lobby

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 54Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Lobby

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 53Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Lobby

Like a lot of Ritz-Carltons, the property’s design is a little over the top and is in stark contrast to the more modern and minimalistic feel of the Park Hyatt’s (for example).

The grandeur continues through the lobby to other areas of the hotel with big, wide staircases….

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 52Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – stairs to patio and pool area

…and chandeliers in the elevator lobbies:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 51Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Lobby

The grandeur diminished once I was up on the room levels with the hallways looking a lot less ornate than the lobby below:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 50Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Room level hallway

The Room

My room was on the 5th floor of the resort and looked out over the grounds of the resort towards the Abu Dhabi Grand Canal. I had to take the front desk clerk’s word for that because I couldn’t see much at 10:15pm!

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 1.1Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Night time view from the room

The room starts off with a small hallway leading to the main sleeping area with the bathroom on the left :

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 028Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

The room is a nice size (450 sq ft or 42 sq m)….

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 5Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

…and comes with a king size bed…..

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 4Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

….a small-ish glass table and chair….

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 6Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

…and a 42″ LCD TV which I never switched on:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 7Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

The bathroom is the highlight of the room and can be opened up to the sleeping area by pulling back the shutters that divide the two areas:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 115Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

The bathroom is divided in three with the a shower unit and a toilet/bidet in separate cubicles off the main bathroom area:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 15Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Bathroom

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 13Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Bathroom

The shower cubicle is a very good size and houses a rain shower in the ceiling as well as a hand-held shower on the wall.

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 123Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Bathroom

The water i the shower heated up reasonably quickly but the pressure wasn’t as high as I would have liked it to have been. Whether that’s a result of water-saving measures or bad design I don’t know.

The main bathroom area has a large soaking tub (which Joanna would have loved had she been with me) but it was completely wasted on me!

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 14Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Bathroom

The room came with a Nespresso coffeemaker:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 20Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Nespresso coffee maker

And, of course, the standard mini-bar…..

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 25Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Minibar

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 23Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Minibar

….together with the standard ridiculous prices….

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Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room Minibar

The View

When morning came I finally got to see what view I’d been given….and it wasn’t too bad at all…..

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 30Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room View

And if you look at it as panormaic shot you can see the crescent shape of the resort:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 31Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room View

Connectivity

Unlike at Marriott hotels there didn’t appear to be more than one speed of internet available to guests but, whatever speed it is, it’s more than enough for everyday work. I uploaded and downloaded files with no issues at all, although I didn’t attempt to stream or download video – that could slow things down.

The small glass table, which although perfectly ok to look at wasn’t great for work, game with two multi-purpose power ports and a host of AV inputs which may be of use to someone:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 21Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

One side of the bed was very well catered for withe two usable power sockets….

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 22Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

…and a control panel for all the lights in the room:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 26Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Deluxe Guest Room

But the other side of the bed was devoid of sockets or controls – not great for couples!

Dining:

The Ritz-Carlton has a good array of restaurants to choose from with the main one being the very large informal cafe/buffet where breakfast is served:

As wasn’t about to take photos of the throngs of holiday makers having breakfast you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that breakfast was extensive.

There were two omelette stations – each with two chefs – and the food on offer ranged from American/English to Arabic and Chinese.

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 153

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Breakfast

There was just about every breakfast item you can think of on offer with fruit, cereals, breads, pasties and juices complementing the hot buffet items. They even served gammon….

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 154Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Breakfast

…although the sausages were made from chicken and there wasn’t any bacon in sight 🙂

Dinner options at the hotel included the following:

  • A European/American buffet (same restaurant as breakfast)
  • The Forge – Steakhouse
  • Li Jiang – Chinese cuisine
  • Mijana – Lebanese/Arabic cuisine

And it’s worth noting that all were very expensive indeed. As an example, the cheapest steak at The Forge  (without accompaniments or the mandatory 16% surcharges and taxes) was over $52 and, to my mind, that’s a rip off. I’ve had some amazing steaks in some of the best steakhouses in LA and NYC and they certainly don’t charge that for a basic steak.

Other Amenities

The resort has a very large pool area…..

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 85Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Pool Area

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 84Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Pool Area

….and plenty of sun loungers to go around:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 81Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Pool Area

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 80Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Pool Area

There were a few cabanas dotter around as well and, for the short time I was there, there was no issue reserving one:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 83Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Pool Cabanas

Further on from the pool area is a small beach alongside the Abu Dhabi Grand Canal together with more sun loungers for guests:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 82Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Grand Canal Beach

If lunging by the pool or the Grand Canal isn’t quite your thing and you have something more energetic in mind, the resort has a well equipped gym:

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 72Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Gym

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 71Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Gym

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 74Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Gym

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 73Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Gym

ritz-carlton-abu-dhabi - 75

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Gym

Overall

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi is a perfectly nice resort with friendly staff and, at the time I visited, reasonable room rates…..but there was no wow factor for me (except for the food prices!).

It’s a very ornate resort and the decor isn’t to my taste (but I’m sure there are those who would love it). The room was nice, comfortable and more than big enough but I couldn’t quite see past the excessive prices at the restaurants.

This is most definitely a resort and not just a hotel so it’s designed to have people come and stay…and not really go anywhere else. They have a captive audience. With the buffet being the cheapest dinner option at $60/person (for reasonable but not exactly gourmet food) the value just isn’t there and it feels a bit like you’re being gouged because they believe you have nowhere else to go.

I’m well aware that the UAE is hardly the cheapest place to visit but there’s expensive and then there’s “you’re kidding me?!” expensive, and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi falls into the latter category when it comes to dining – and there’s no need for that.

This time next year I’ll probably be back in the Emirates using up some more AAdvantage miles before the devaluation, but the Ritz-Carlton won’t be on my list of places to stay. There are plenty of choices out there (as my pre-departure procrastination proved) and I’d much prefer to give one of those places a try to see how it compares.

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