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From Airbus To Megabus: A Trip Of Contrasts
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Villa
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Activities & Dining
Review: Al Maha Bedouin Suite
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Dining
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Activities
Review: Dubai International First Class Lounge DXB
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 Dubai To Doha
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A380 Doha To London
Review: British Airways First Class A380 London To Los Angeles
Review: British Airways A380 First Class Tasting Menu
Review: Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Airport LAX
Review: American Flagship Lounge Los Angeles LAX
Review: American First Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: Hilton Austin Airport
To back up a bit, ordinarily redeeming points at this property is outrageously expensive, at 60,000 Starpoints per night. Why is it so expensive, given that Starwood’s highest category is just 30,000 Starpoints per night? Well, because this hotel technically doesn’t have any standard rooms, which means it’s not available at the “standard” award levels. Instead you’d have to pay 60,000 Starpoints per night.
However, I think SPG realizes that pricing is a bit excessive, so for the past few years they’ve had fairly widespread promotions offering discounted redemptions at these types of properties.
Last September I wrote about Starwood’s promotion offering 35% off select resort redemptions, including at Al Maha. The promotion is actually valid through March 8, 2016, so you can still take advantage of it.
That lowered the cost of a redemption from 60,000 Starpoints to 39,000 Starpoints per night. That might still sound high, but there are some aspects to redeeming here which make it an especially good value:
- All rooms are standalone villas with plunge pools
- All rates at this hotel include full board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- All rates at this hotel include two activities per day, like dune bashing, camel riding, falconry, etc.
When you factor in how much you’d otherwise spend on three meals per day plus activities, that’s quite some value.
So we decided to book two nights at the resort. For what it’s worth, the pre-paid rate at this resort would have been ~$1,700 per night including taxes and service charge.
I sure was happy to be redeeming just 39,000 Starpoints per night. The best ways to rack up those points is through the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
We were driven from the Six Senses Zighy Bay to Al Maha, which took about 2hr30min. Driving to Al Maha required driving almost directly through Dubai.
It’s amazing how close Al Maha Resort is to Dubai — it’s only about 60km away, and the drive only takes about 45 minutes. But you feel like you’re a world apart.
Once you enter through the main gate of the hotel, it’s still a ~10 minute drive to get to the actual resort. That’s because the resort is in the 225 square kilometer Dubai Desert Reserve.
As we drove towards the main building of the hotel I noticed just how spread out all the suites were. The hotel has ~42 standalone suites, and they’re extremely spread out, which is great in terms of privacy.
The main lobby building was gorgeous, and upon our arrival we were greeted by the guest service coordinator, Maria. She was lovely, and took our passports and invited us to roam around the lobby while she processed our check-in at the reception desk.
I’m not sure how to describe the decor in the lobby, other than to say that it feels sort of like an Arabic lodge. It’s not the most modern lobby ever, but it blends so well into the environment and is charming.
There were a set of couches in the far corner of the lobby, where people would meet prior to the activities.
There was also a pretty cool shop in the lobby, with all kinds of local art.
After processing our check-in, Maria explained the basics of the resort to us. The resort includes full board, meaning you’re given three meals a day. In other words, if you’re staying for two days, you get a total of six meals. Water, coffee, and tea were included, though soft drinks and alcohol cost extra.
For each meal you also have the option of dining in the privacy of your suite (for lunch and dinner you were entitled to a three course meal off the in-room dining menu), or otherwise in the hotel’s restaurant, where a five course dinner was served. There was tons of flexibility in terms of when you could dine in your villa, though if you wanted to eat in the restaurant, the hours were as follows:
- Breakfast: 7AM-10:30AM
- Lunch: 12:30PM-2:30PM
- Dinner: 7:30PM to 10PM
On top of that there was an all day coffee center with espresso available. There were also snacks in the morning from 5AM until 8:30AM (croissants, danishes, etc.), and then there was afternoon tea from 4PM until 5:30PM.
I’ll talk a lot more about the food in the next installment, though.
After Maria explained the dining at the resort, we were introduced to Bryan, the activities coordinator. He provided a rundown of the activities at the resort, and explained we were entitled to two per day. The choices were as follows:
- Nature walk
- Ghaf tree walk
- Horse riding
- Desert drive
- Wild life drive
- Camel trek
With those formalities out of the way, we were driven in a golf cart to our suite, which was room #22. The rooms are sufficiently spread out here that from most rooms you’ll want to call for a golf cart anytime you want to leave your room. Fortunately they’re great about picking up within minutes.
I requested a golf cart every time because I knew I’d get lost if I had to find my way on my own (I suck with directions).
The paths around the resort are pretty narrow, and almost exclusively used by golf carts, since most guests seemed to request them.
The resort is in a desert conservation reserve, and there are animals roaming around the property freely, including gazelles and oryx. They seemed to be friendly, though going up to them was discouraged. Seeing the animals roam around in such close proximity was one of my favorite things about the resort (more on that later).
Suite 22 was one of the further rooms from the main building, meaning it was extremely private.
The suites blend beautifully into the environment, and look like they have tents as roofs, though best I could tell that was just a design feature.
Through the double entry door was the desk, with the bathroom to the right and the main room straight ahead.
The room was stunning, and featured what must have been a California king bed. It was extremely comfortable, and spacious.
Then past the bed were two daybeds of sorts, arranged around a coffee table.
Waiting on the coffee table was an SPG Platinum welcome amenity consisting of a fresh bowl of fruit, a bottle of red wine, and some Arabic sweets.
Then on the far right of the room was a second desk with two chairs, along with the directory, room service menu, a pair of binoculars, etc.
Then on the left of the room was an easel, for anyone feeling especially inspired by the landscape.
The room had double doors which led outside to the patio and pool. More on that later.
Back on the desk by the entrance was a Nespresso coffee machine, as well as huge bottles of water (the local water was free, while there was a charge for Evian).
There were three dozen Nespresso pods, which is the most impressive selection I’ve ever seen in a hotel room.
There were also six types of tea, with several bags for each variety.
Next to the desk was a kettle. There were also minibar items, all of which were chargeable.
The bathroom was located “behind” the bedroom, and to the right as you enter through the main door. The bathroom featured a spacious walk-in shower, soaking tub, and double sinks.
There’s even direct access outside from the bathroom, should you want to go straight to/from the pool.
The toilet was located next to the shower, in a partitioned off room.
The toiletries in the room were BVLGARI branded, which are among my favorite.
While the room itself was gorgeous, the highlight was no doubt the patio. It featured two lounge chairs, a dining table with two chairs, and an awesome pool.
The views from the deck were breathtaking. Words can’t do justice to how peaceful it was to sit in the evening and just watch the sunset with nothing but nature as far as the eye can see.
The coolest thing, however, was that the gazelles would come right up to our suite. They’d drink from the pool, walk on the patio, etc.
And they weren’t even scared of people, really. They were certainly timid, in the sense that they’d back up a bit if you approached them, and they’d never try to enter your room. But at the same time they saw us and heard us, and had no problem being just a few feet away. So cool!
Wifi in the room was fast, and the air conditioning was excellent.
Al Maha Desert Resort Bedouin Suite bottom line
I mean, what’s not to love? The suite was large and gorgeous, yet fit into the environment. It was rustic, luxurious, and felt sort of like it could have been a room in a safari lodge, or something. It’s awesome to have such a beautiful room in such seclusion, as the villas are so private you can’t even see another room.
Even at 39,000 Starpoints per night, this hotel is an absolute bargain (which will probably make more sense to those who haven’t been after the next two installments).
What do you make of the suites at Al Maha?