The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi sits proudly along the banks of the capital’s Grand Canal, a stones throw from the statuesque Grand Mosque and many of the emirate’s landmarks and attractions. It’s locale however, is only a small percentage of what makes this hotel the perfect staycation destination.
From the moment you catch a glimpse of this vast, palatial property as you drive through the ostentatious archway announcing your arrival, you’re quite sure this is not your ordinary hotel. Featuring a total of 447 luxury rooms and suites alongside 85 exceptional 1 and 2 bed villas, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is a true testament to the world-renowned Ritz-Carlton brand and offers accommodation for every discerning traveller.
The style of the hotel has been inspired by the 15th to early 17th century Renaissance in the majestic city of Venice, no doubt a nod towards its prime canal front location. Consisting of ten stately buildings arranged in a crescent formation framed by manicured gardens and its own stretch of beachfront, this hotel is easily the most impressive among its neighbours.
As you waft through the momentous lobby, which in true Ritz-Carlton style is adorned by the biggest chandeliers you’ll have ever seen, second only to those in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque next door, you’ll be greeted instantly by traditionally dressed staff and if you’re staying in a Club Suite (which we thoroughly recommend, but more on that later) you will be whisked upwards to the 7th floor where your own private check in awaits.
Your home for the weekend will be in one of the ten buildings, with each room from Deluxe Guest Room to the beautiful Venetian Executive Suite, occupying a different location or floor.
As mentioned, we opted for a suite on the Ritz-Carlton Club Level and each room or suite on this floor enjoys magnificent views of either the illustrious Grand Canal, stately gardens or the breathtaking Grand Mosque. For those of you that have not yet visited Abu Dhabi or haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this building up close, our description of its stop-you-in-your-tracks beauty won’t do it justice, for it needs to be experienced firsthand.
The suite is as extensive as the hotel itself, reminiscent of a small one-bedroom apartment with a sizeable living space complete with seating area and desk leading through to a separate bedroom and beautiful marble bathroom. The King size bed takes center stage facing a large 42″ LCD TV complete with down comforter and duvet. There is even a pillow menu which is great if like me, you have trouble sleeping on the usual soft, fluffy pillows that come as standard in most hotels and means you can swap as you see fit to firmer, neck supporting options or even those suited to people with allergies.
The bathroom was our favourite part, discretely separated from the main bedroom by a sliding shutter, the deep marble bathtub is the perfect spot for unwinding in the evening under the bubbly depths of the Asprey branded products you’ll find.
There’s a separate rainforest shower for those that are shorter on time. The decor is a calming combination of deep mahogany furniture, buttercup yellow and duck egg blue textiles, a rich yet traditional mix that echoes throughout Ritz-Carlton properties here in the Middle East. The very best thing about taking a Club Level Suite however, has to be the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge itself, accessible only to Club Level guests who flock here like well-dressed animals come feeding times.
Designed with the busy, demanding guest in mind whether on vacation or business, the Club Level Lounge offers a seamless blend of both intimacy and exclusivity with a personalized service and attention to detail that are the very hallmarks of The Ritz-Carlton. Glass fronted, this private lounge boasts a panoramic view of Al Maqta creek, best enjoyed after dark. The service is elevated, if that was even possible and offerings include complimentary food and beverage presentations throughout the entire day, free internet access and pressing for two garments per room each day. It’s a delightful space, offering breakfast, midday snacks, afternoon tea, evening hors d’oeuvres and cordials and deserts from 6:30am right through until 10pm, however complimentary cookies and coffee are available 24 hours of the day. From catching up on the morning news over freshly makes pancakes or poached eggs to sipping on a glass of bubbly observing the sport, revelling in the hushed yet animated chatter of the other guests, being in this space is a true pleasure and thoroughly recommended.
Of course, the other notable breakfast option is to take it in your room for a lazy weekend treat. Room service here is impeccable with a wide variety of international offerings for each and every age.
That leads me nicely onto life outside of the 7th floor at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal and its no surprise that dining here, in a hotel of this size is excellent. There are 10 hotel restaurants in total, including 3 signature restaurants – Lebanese, Asian and Steak house. For carnivores the aptly named ‘The Forge’ is one of the best meateries in Abu Dhabi serving up speciality steaks in a stylish setting, all paired with the world’s finest wines.
A personal favourite is Li Jing with a menu full of delicious South East Asian delicacies such as homemade Dim Sum and authentic rice based dishes. Meaning ‘ beautiful river’ in Chinese, Li Jang boasts a fantastical open kitchen where diners can marvel at the chefs theatrical handiwork. For warmer days the outdoor terrace, itself enjoying views of the Grand Mosque is a great place to enjoy light, spicy dishes alongside innovative cocktails against a backdrop of melodic sounds from the resident DJ on weekends.
For more casual dining, Giornotte is open for all day eating, resembling a classic Italian villa and serving Mediterranean fare both indoors and on the outside patio and Dolce seems to be a favourite spot of both little ones and ladies-who-lunch with homemade ice cream and cakes served in the relaxed, modern café.
The focal part of the hotel is the enormous 1,600 square meter infinity pool located within the crescent. For a hotel of this size, catering for every guest around one singular swimming pool should be a challenge, but not for The Ritz-Carlton. There are sunloungers a plenty, sprinkled with the odd cabana for those seeking extra shade or privacy. There is a separate shallow pool for children and helpful break points for when your arms get tired of trying to swim from one end to another. Just in front of the pool is the hotel’s own beach area. Yes, it’s on the sandy banks of the canal and not the twinkling waters of the Gulf itself but you’d never know it and the peace and quiet on this spot is most welcome after a tiring week, disturbed only by the faint hum of a jet-ski whizzing past. One thing we would say is that if you’re fussy about your lounging location then you need to prise yourself out of bed early to get a prime spot around the pool as due to the sheer occupancy here, you’ll miss out on the shade if you lie in.
If you have had enough sun worshipping, there is a luxury beachfront spa that offers relaxing treatments and a 24 hour fitness centre with state-of-the-art gym equipment and classes allowing you to further indulge in your down time.
This is our second visit to The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi and so many times we are disappointed upon a return visit but we’re pleased to say that our experience was just as good, if not better than our first stay. The service is what really makes this hotel stand out. This coupled with a home-away-from-home style of accommodation and it’s picture perfect setting, makes it the ultimate staycation destination.
Click here to visit the hotel’s website and make a reservation.