I was able to tag along with my husband to a trade show in Abu Dhabi (IDEX). We stayed at the Ritz Carlton. Now, normally, I absolutely adore the Abu Dhabi Ritz Carlton. The staff are very attentive, the food in the Club Lounge is good, the swimming pool is peaceful. However, this time, due to the high demand related to the trade show and/or limits on occupancy due to the pandemic, we had to stay in one of the “villas” separate from the main hotel. Our villa was old. It seemed to not have been updated since the 1970’s. The villa smelled musty, the furniture was uncomfortable, and the patio furniture was covered in bird droppings. I work remotely, so was trying to work from the villa while the hubby was away at the show. I had to move a lot of furniture just to find an outlet (no handy multi-outlet and USB port like in the modern world). The internet was slow and I often had to resort to using my cell phone as a hot spot. The mini bar was empty (COVID, I guess), and the mini fridge storing our self-purchased snacks and drinks was tepid. Even the Club Lounge food was not to the same level of fabulousness as in our past stays. The staff was still great, and always ready to re-fill a wine glass, or offer a golf-cart ride from the main hotel. The concierge desk went above and beyond to find me a tee time at a golf course nearby. (Shout out to Troon Golf and the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. I enjoyed it so much, I played twice.) However, this 9-day stay was not the usual perfection we have come to expect from the Ritz Carlton brand. Next time we will stay somewhere else if we can’t get a suite in the main hotel.
The REAL treat came in the long weekend following IDEX. Before leaving the UAE, we spent a glorious 5 nights at the Saadiyat Island St. Regis Hotel! We splurged on a one-bedroom suite with a sea view. I really can’t recall enjoying a hotel more than I did this one.
We kicked off the weekend by meeting friends for Friday Brunch at the Buddha Beach Bar. The vibe of this casual beach restaurant is so cool: a little hippy, very natural, very zen and relaxed and, yet, swanky. I believe in non-pandemic times they might have served a buffet, but what they did was much better. The menu was all small plates, from starters to entrees, to desserts. For one set price, we were able to order whatever we wanted, as much as we wanted. We began with appetizers and worked our way through the menu. Our server made suggestions (all of which were magnificent). The theme of the food is Asian-fusion, with a modern spin. You choose the category of drink package you want (non-alcoholic, house cocktails and wine, or champagne), which also, not surprisingly, affects the price of your meal. I chose house and my husband chose champagne. Our friends also had the house drinks. The house cocktails were creative, unusual, and spectacular. The wines were also quite nice. The favorite dishes of the day included the crispy lobster dumplings, ceviche, tuna nigiri, wagyu chalaquita, and the mille feuille for dessert (a chocolate, caramel, banana dream).
After wining and dining for several hours we saw our friends to their taxi and waddled (a little tipsily) to our suite. We were greeted by an almost obscene amount of decadent desserts, fruit and nuts laid out on our dining table. It was, truly, enough for 6 or 8 people. We were not in the mood, at all, to eat, but we did snack on the spread over the next few days. Our suite was really quite perfect! It had a separate living/dining area with a half bath. The bedroom had two separate closets (no arguing over space), a King-sized bed with top quality bedding, a dressing table for me to do my make-up and hair outside the bathroom, and a spectacular bath with a deep soaking tub and a shower. The toilet had its own little room (a nice touch) and the double vanity easily held both our toiletries. The ceiling fan over the bed was also a nice touch, given the warm weather. I really felt like I could stay in this suite a very long time and not feel cramped. AND, there were outlets and USB ports galore throughout the suite! No moving furniture required. Our spacious balcony, with a bistro table and a sofa and coffee table, had a full view of the ocean. I was in heaven! St. Regis hotels frequently give you a butler. Our butlers at Saadiyat Island were truly amazing! In addition to providing bottomless treats, our butler also arranged for in-room COVID tests needed to travel, printing service, and ironing of our dinner clothes.
Outside our suite, the property of the St. Regis Saadiyat Island was equally impressive. The furniture, furnishings, art and decor were absolutely stunning and awe-inspiring. I felt so proud and privileged to be a guest there!
As if we hadn’t eaten enough at brunch, we ate well all weekend. The included breakfast was also an all-you-can-order situation. I usually started with fruit, moved to eggs, and finished with a waffle. No lunch was required. We ate at the Thai restaurant, Sontaya, one evening. It was very delicious. The other nights we met friends at various restaurants in Abu Dhabi.
Every morning and evening we took a long walk on the beach. We were able to walk quite a ways, past several hotel properties, and back. The adult pool was very peaceful and tranquil for relaxing and reading. There was hardly anyone else there. It has a Roman bath kind of vibe, with private alcoves to hide from the sun or other bathers. The wait staff at the pool bar were very solicitous. The lifeguard even caught our attention every time some of the golf course gazelle came close to the pool so we would notice them.
The day before we departed we played golf at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club (also a Troon Golf property). The course is pretty challenging. One hole, in particular, sported a mine-field of bunkers. Of course, I ended up in one; it seemed somewhat inevitable. But the course is in such a lovely setting and the views are spectacular. We didn’t even fret over our abysmal scores.
Even though by the end of the weekend we had been gone from home for over two weeks, I really did not want to leave! Our weekend at the St. Regis was really a dream mini-vacation! I can’t wait to return! I can’t recommend it enough.