Back in March, I wrote about how to book partner award flights on Etihad Airways. We originally booked First Apartments both to Abu Dhabi from London and from Abu Dhabi back to London over the Thanksgiving holiday, but unfortunately, the airplane for our flight from London was switched from an A380 (which has First Apartments) to an A340 (which has Etihad's standard First Class). The airplane switch was somewhat devastating, but at least we will still experience the Apartments on our way home. We planned a whirlwind luxury long weekend in Dubai around these flights and I'll be covering all the details in upcoming posts.
Review: British Airways Club World SFO - LHR
Review: LHR Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge
Review: Etihad Airways First Class LHR - AUH
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Afternoon Tea at At.mosphere Burj Khalifa
Review: Burj al Arab Part I: One Bedroom Suite
Review: Burj al Arab Part II: Grounds and Amenities
Review: AUH Etihad Airways Premium Lounge
Review: Etihad Airways First Apartments AUH - LHR
This is Part II of my Burj al Arab review. In Part I, I reviewed the room and hotel decor, as well as the service we received.
Breakfast at Al Iwan Restaurant
After our very expensive night of sleep, we headed for breakfast in the morning at Al Iwan Restaurant. We had the option to eat a breakfast buffet either at Junsui Restaurant or Al Iwan Restaurant from 7:00AM to 11:00AM, which was included in our rate. We were told when we checked in that Al Iwan offered more international cuisine, so we chose to have breakfast there.
Al Iwan Restaurant is located on the main floor of the Burj and, in keeping with the design of the rest of the hotel, is completely over the top. There was gold and velvet and color everywhere and the buffet was honestly the most extensive I have seen. The buffet was located right inside the entrance of the restaurant, with two rooms for seating flanking either side.
We were shown to a table near the window, which offered a beautiful view of the Arabian Gulf and offered tea or coffee to start. From there, we headed in to the buffet to check out what was on offer. We found that non-hotel guests can dine in Al Iwan for breakfast for the small sum of AED276, which is approximately $75 USD per person, so we decided we had better eat $75 worth of breakfast.
As I mentioned, the buffet selection was one of the largest I've ever seen. There were tables and tables full of congee, fried rice, wok fried noodles, steak, sausages, bacon, pastries, breads, fruits, juices, smoothies, yogurts, Arabic specialties, hummus, dates, potatoes, tomatoes, salad, cheese, crackers, waffles, pancakes, French toast, an egg and omelette chef, and even camel milk.
Needless to say, it was impossible not to find something (or 16 things) that you liked at the buffet. Chris even tried the camel milk!
The food was all excellent and the selection was so massive, I would imagine they'd need a huge team of chefs to prepare all of the food every morning. I can never eat enough to justify the $75 price tag, but we were glad it was included and were able to eat enough to tide us over until our afternoon tea at the Burj Khalifa later that afternoon.
Grounds, Beach and Pool
The Burj al Arab is located on a private island built right in the middle of the Arabian Gulf, and can only be accessed by a long private driveway (or a helicopter, but we weren't that fancy). Because the island is only so large, the hotel's outdoor Executive pool and private beach are located across the water on land in front of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. To get there, you can either walk or request a "buggy" to drive you over. Buggies (golf carts with Jumeirah's branding on them) were frequent and could easily be caught going either direction, which was very nice. We were initially unsure whether there was a need to tip the buggy drivers, but decided that it likely wasn't necessary.
Because the island is private and can only be accessed by hotel guests and people with reservations at the hotel's restaurants and the buggies were also used by guests staying at the other Jumeirah hotels nearby, each time the buggy would go by the guard shack, we would have to give our room number and last name so they could check us against their list when returning to the hotel.
The hotel's Executive pool was a sprawling pool with plenty of seating, lush landscaping, and lifeguards essentially every 10 feet. Lifeguards are required for all public pools in Dubai, but the number of them we saw at en empty pool when we walked by on our first night was absolutely comical. Near the pool was also a life-sized Chess set and a cabana selling sundries. There were also several seating areas between the pool and beach which were served by restaurants or bars where one could enjoy the incredible view of the Burj.
Just beyond the pool area was a sign indicating the path to the Burj's private beach. The beach was beautiful and clean and offered absolutely stunning views of the Burj. We found many more lifeguards down on the beach and enjoyed the rest of our morning there.
As part of the package when booking with American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, we received a complimentary 55 minute Swedish massage for two in the hotel's spa, Talise. Booking the massage was a bit of a challenge, because we wanted to make sure we had time to enjoy all that the hotel had to offer during our stay, but we also had afternoon tea booked for 2:30 PM, so we needed to make sure we would have time to check out and make the ~15 minute drive to downtown Dubai in time for that reservation. We went back and forth with our receptionist while trying to book the massages and finally decided to book a 12 PM reservation, which was the earliest available, in hopes that we'd have enough time to shower afterwards and make it to our other reservation.
The spa is located on the 18th floor of the Burj, so we headed up after spending some time on the beach. We arrived and checked in and were asked to wait for a few moments until our masseuses were ready. After several minutes, a woman came to get me and escort me to the locker rooms separately from Chris. Being the Middle East, the Talise Spa keeps things very separate for men and women. Men had separate locker rooms and facilities on the left side of the spa and women were on the right. The woman took me through the locker room and showed me the amenities available to spa patrons, which made me immediately disappointed that we were so rushed. There was a small soaking tub in the middle of the locker room, saunas, and a very large pool with the most incredible tile work and an amazing view of the Gulf. Everything was included with the booking of a treatment, which was a great value, in my opinion. After the tour, the attendant found me a locker and showed me where I could change and wait for my masseuse to pick me up.
Several minutes later, my masseuse came to pick me up and escorted me to the mens side of the spa where they had rooms for couples. I was reunited with Chris where we were looking sharp in our matching robes and footwear and taken to a room with another incredible view of the Gulf and downtown Dubai. The masseuses started out by washing and massaging our feet and then we moved to the table, where I had one of the best massages of my life. The only problem was that we were running significantly behind. The tour and all the waiting time meant that we were running about 30 minutes behind schedule and all I could think about was how we were going to be able to finish this massage, get changed, return to our room, shower all the oils off, check out and make it to the Burj Khalifa in time for tea. Needless to say, the time crunch completely ruined our entire stay at the spa, but I tried my very best to detach and enjoy regardless.
I would absolutely recommend booking a treatment at the spa if you have more time during your stay. The massage we received was amazing and the spa's facilities were incredible as well. It was absolutely someplace I could have happily spent many hours in.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to thoroughly enjoy everything the Burj had to offer during our short 24 hour stay, but the offerings were all exceptional. Of course, for the price of one night, one should really expect nothing less!
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.