See it goes like this babe, if you want me to be a travel writer were simply going to have to stay at more hotels…
Well, the conversation may not have begun that way, but that’s the excuse I’m using to explain our upcoming “Month of the Staycation”.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reviewing some of the best hotels our adopted home, the United Arab Emirates has to offer. Now world-renowned for elegance and luxury, we are out to prove the UAE can also be immensely family-friendly, and not necessarily out of reach for your average international visitor.
Our reviews start only minutes from our home in Abu Dhabi with an overnight visit to the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dubai.
Firstly, you’re probably asking what is Bab al Bahr? Literally, it means “gate to the sea”, but it’s in fact referring to the location of the hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The area goes by many names but in colloquial terms, it’s called “Between the Bridges’ – part of the Abu Dhabi mainland before you cross the canal Khor al Maqta to Abu Dhabi island.
Nestled between Maqta Bridge (Old Airport Road) and Mussafah Bridge (30th or Al Khaleej Al Arabi St) is a strip of luxury hotels along the canal front, each boasting their own private beaches and stunning views.
Compared to some of the amazing architecture you see in the UAE, the Fairmont is visually a bit of a let down; a very glass block looking structure from the outside, but inside the finishing is elegant and classy.
We had the pleasure of staying in an exclusive Presidential Suite situated on the top floor, beautifully decorated and befitting of the special occasion we were celebrating.
One of the Fairmont’s great draw points, other than being a luxury hotel with amazing restaurants and a beautiful canal front pool area, is the view it commands over to Khor al Maqta’a and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
This is slightly interrupted at beach level by the rather prison looking Military General Head Quarters building, but from the lobby and upper hotel floors, the views are just stunning. It’s well worth paying extra for a room with a Mosque view (and of course make sure you visit the Mosque during your visit to the capital – more on that here!)
Location-wise it’s ideal for exploring the Capital. You are within a 15-minute drive of the International Airport, Yas Island and the Grand Prix Circuit, prestige shopping and entertainment at Yas Mall and the theme parks Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld.
You’re also only minutes away from ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre), the Twofour54 media free zone, and less than 30 minutes from the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Within walking distance, you have Souq Qaryat al Beri as well as Traders Hotel and the Shangri-La all with their own assortment of luxury shopping and dining options.
Perks, packages and let downs
Accessing a little touch of luxury every now and then might be much easier than you think. Mr Globetrotter prides himself on being a bit of a points jockey, so through our current credit card, we are able to sign up to the Fairmont Presidents Club, which includes free overnight stays, upgrades and dining vouchers (NB please note this offer no longer valid with Citi card – Feb 2017).
On this occasion, we have used all these benefits in one go for a night of pure grown-up indulgence as part of a mid-week birthday treat. Combining this with 2-for-1 dining vouchers at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse with The Entertainer made what might seem a lavish mini-break into an incredibly affordable and enjoyable experience.
(More coming on travel hacking from Mr Globetrotter soon – I have committed him to finally writing a post on here to let you in on some of his secrets!! Hint: Changing cards often and keeping on top of deals! )
We did have a very comfortable stay but something I can’t help but find a little baffling is the absolute persistence in the restaurants in trying to flog you expensive imported bottled water. It is not recommended that visitors drink tap water here but there are perfectly adequate local bottled water brands; given their generosity in providing a fruit basket, even an amazing birthday cake for my husband, why did we have to fight to get the bottled water we want?
I also don’t like that even as residents we have to pay tourist taxes on top of absolutely everything – not an exclusive problem at the Fairmont this is across all hotels in the UAE…
And if I’m being utterly nit-picky about the rooms, something I would have liked is an easy to access USB point in the room for charging devices – I thought these days this would come as standard in a luxury hotel room?
And one truly annoying thing – the smoke detector! It was placed in the room immediately above the bed with its twinkly flashy lights all night. I know there’s health and safety but then there’s just plain annoying. Nothing a pair of jocks wrapped around it at 1am couldn’t fix.
What about with kids at Fairmont Bab al Bahr?
The hotel is certainly well set up for all age groups. We have taken the kids here many times for Friday Brunches (CuiScene is certainly one of the best for food choices and service), using the pool facilities and several outdoor events with our local social club Aussies Abroad where we have used the huge green lawns and amazing catering to their full advantage.
There is a separate shaded kids pool area as well as lifeguards around the main swimming pool. They have previously been able to lend us flotation devices, even buckets and spade to use at the beach. There’s also a range of beach sports like volleyball and soccer available on request.
The suite we stayed in could have easily fit our full family of 5, smaller rooms you would struggle, however, without then needing the expense of two rooms.
This is the second adults-only staycation we have had at the Fairmont (previously we have used their 36-hour weekend package which includes the CuiScene brunch) and again we have left happy satisfied and refreshed from escaping to a little touch of luxury close to home – I even made it back in time for the school run the next day : )
Disclosures: As described above our accommodation was covered by loyalty club benefits courtesy of our privately held credit card, no compensation was given to write this post. All views as always are my own.
© Our Globetrotters