In September, Emma Wood, one of our lovely leisure travel consultants, was very lucky to be invited, along with 4 other agents, to visit and experience Abu Dhabi courtesy of a leading tour operator.
Here’s Emma’s Travel Diary of an unforgettable experience…
It all began at Heathrow Terminal 4 where we checked in for the A380 service with Ethiad Airways, direct flight to Abu Dhabi. I have never flown with Ethiad before and I was very impressed. After a seamless check in and take-off, we were treated to lovely in-flight food, complimentary drinks and a varied entertainment system. The flight was on time and very comfortable.
Just over 7 hours after leaving London, we arrived in Abu Dhabi and a very modest 36 degrees (at 8pm at night!) and were met by our driver who transferred us to our hotel for the night…….the Jumeriah at Saadiyat Island Resort. This is a beautiful, modern but homely hotel situated directly on the Saadiyat Island, boasting beautiful white sands. The hotel is situated in wonderful gardens with comfortable seating and pool areas. This hotel caters for both families as well as adults/couples. It also boasts an excellent gym and spa. I did fall instantly in love with this one! Ideally located, this picture shows the view from my room, overlooking gardens and ocean.
After a beautiful buffet breakfast, we headed off to our first hotel visit of the day, the Jumeriah at Ethiad Towers Hotel. This property is situated in the city located opposite (and across the road) to the Corniche beach area, which stretches for 4 miles. This is a very elegant hotel featuring both traditional and contemporary features. It’s ideally located within the city and offers spectacular views over the ocean and of the Presidential Towers. It also has its own observation deck, where you can sit and enjoy the views. The hotel has a choice of restaurants, baby sitting services and various swimming pools. This is an ideal location for those looking more for a city hotel rather than a beach resort.
After a lovely lunch here, we had an afternoon at The Louvre Abu Dhabi. This is a wonderful museum celebrating art and civilisation. Even if you are not involved with art generally, I really would recommend this visit. It was a wonderful afternoon.
After our visit here, in the early evening, we made our way back to Saadiyat Island to check into our hotel for the evening, Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas. This is a prefect hotel for families and couples/adults alike, set in a 5-star location on the beach with lots of different dining options. All rooms, villas and suites are set around the resorts gardens and pools. This photo shows my Classic room at Rotana Resort.
After another lovely buffet breakfast, we checked out and headed to our first hotel visit of day 3, the St Regis Saadiyat Island. This was beautiful! It offers a more traditional, elegant, discerning but homely feel, again situated right on the beach. There are lots of wooden features within the architecture, which blend so well with the marble. Every room type, from the lead-in rooms all the way up to the suites, include a butler service. In my opinion, this hotel is more suited to couples/adults rather than families with children. They do allow children but do not have the facilities for them like the other two hotels I have visited in Saddiyat Island.
We were then taken over to Yas Island, home of the theme parks and of course, the Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix! We were invited to look around the Yas Hotel (soon to become W Hotel Abu Dhabi). This hotel really fits into its surrounding on the track itself. A very modern, minimalistic ‘space age’ looking hotel, offering superb views and sounds of the track. Definitely a good choice for race lovers who want to be part of the atmosphere!
Below is a room at Yas Hotel (to become W Hotel Abu Dhabi).
After a lovely hosted lunch here, we made our way to our final hotel of the day and our bed for the night. Roughly a one hour drive away, into the desert itself, we experienced the beauty of the Jumeriah Al Wathba Desert Resort. This is a brand-new property, suited for couples rather than families. It is a relaxing, quiet resort set literally in the desert in low-rise, whitewash buildings with a Moroccan feel to it. This is an ideal location for a 2-night break form the city or beaches of Saadiyat. It has been described as a ‘magnificent, desert retreat’ and it did not disappoint at all! Pure desert luxury!
This photo shows the pool area at Al Wathba Desert Resort.
After a beautiful buffet breakfast, we checked out and headed back into the city to have a look at our first hotel of the day, the St Regis Abu Dhabi Corniche. This is a true gem situated along the Corniche stretch, not far from the Etihad Towers, but boasting its own private area of the beach, which is reached via a marble decorated underpass, under the road, straight from the hotel. Like the St Regis Saadiyat, this is a traditional, discerning, homely hotel which gracefully employs modern, contemporary features. This hotel gives you the best of both worlds; city location but with a private beach. All rooms have stunning city/sea views and along with the butler service, again…. I would truly recommend this hotel!
A bath with a view!
City and sea view rooms at St Regis Abu Dhabi.
After a superb lunch, we then headed off to our last hotel of the day and our home for the night, the Eastern Mangroves by Anantara. This hotel is locatied just a short, but accessible distance from the city, and is set in beautiful surroundings overlooking the Mangroves. It has a distinct ‘Thai’ feeling to it, portrayed through its decoration. Here you have the facility to enjoy waterfront swimming, mangrove kayaking and paddle boarding, or simply stroll along a waterfront promenade. All rooms are spacious, contemporary and light and the hotel offers a choice of ‘wellness’ options. I would recommend this hotel to couples/adults.
After yet another beautiful buffet breakfast, we checked out and headed for a day at the Theme Parks!! Back over to Yas Island we went and spent most of the day at the indoor theme parks of ‘Ferrari World’ and ‘Warner Bros’. Here is where you’ll find the outdoor waterpark as well, but we just didn’t have time! Both parks offer the whole family great entertainment. Ferrari World, as the name suggests, has rides and experiences based on the world of Ferrari. Warner Bros was my favourite! Set in little town scenarios, each dedicating themselves to a different Warner Bos character, eg, Flinstones World, Gotham City, etc. In each there were different rides and experiences suitable for the whole family. This would be a great day out to do something different. Highly recommended. You can easily spend all day there!
After being ‘all themed parked out,’ we made our way to our last hotel of our stay in Abu Dhabi before our flight home in the morning, The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi. This hotel was truly amazing. As you can probably imagine, this property did not let us down at all. Situated within the shadows on the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the hotel has 10 venetian inspired buildings forming a crescent around one of the city’s largest outdoor pools. It caters for both families with children as well as couples/adults and has 8 different restaurants to choose from. It also has a fully equipped fitness centre. It may be the largest hotel that we stayed in but it still retained that homely atmosphere amongst the grandeur of ‘The Ritz Carlton’ image, as my photo of the grand staircase (below) shows!
This is it! The end of the most fantastic trip I have ever been on. We all headed off to the airport for our return flight back to Heathrow, with quite a few sad faces as we didn’t want to go!
I can honestly say that this was a trip of a lifetime for me. I am truly passionate about the UAE generally and after having been to Dubai before, I can truly recommend Abu Dhabi as that alternative destination, offering you everything that you would want from your holiday.
I was so lucky and privileged to have experienced it!