Review: Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

Introduction: The Flight Of A Lifetime
Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge Washington Dulles Airport
Review: Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles Airport
Review: Etihad Business Class 787 Washington To Abu Dhabi
Review: Shangri-La Abu Dhabi
Review: Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Residence Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport
Review: Etihad Residence A380 Abu Dhabi To Sydney
Review: Hyatt Regency Sydney
Review: Virgin Australia Lounge Sydney Airport
Review: Virgin Australia Business Class 737 Sydney To Melbourne
Review: Etihad Lounge Melbourne Airport
Review: Virgin Australia Business Class 777 Melbourne To Los Angeles


After spending a night at the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi and then flying from Abu Dhabi to Cairo and back in a day, I had two more nights in Abu Dhabi before my flight to Sydney.

As luck would have it, Etihad offers first & business class passengers a complimentary stopover hotel for 1-2 nights when connecting in Abu Dhabi, and I was eligible for that. While the hotels they offer are pretty decent, they have a special offer for passengers traveling in The Residence, who can get two nights in a Khaleej Suite at the Emirates Palace, which is considered to be Abu Dhabi’s best hotel.

Etihad

Booking this turned out to be a bit of an adventure, so see my previous post for more on that. However, in the end getting a suite for two nights that retails for ~$1,500 per night is awesome.

Emirates-Palace

The Emirates Palace is right on the waterfront and has a great location, though is probably most popular for its incredible selection of restaurants rather than the actual hotel. I’ve visited the Emirates Palace probably a dozen times over the years, and have eaten at several of their restaurants. No trip to Abu Dhabi is complete without seeing this palace of a hotel.

However, I was curious what it would be like to actually stay here, rather than just visiting to gaze at the impressive lobby, eat at the great Emirati restaurant, etc.

I was driven to the hotel by the Etihad chauffeur, and the drive took about 30 minutes. The hotel has a very impressive exterior — the hotel’s name isn’t false advertising.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi exterior

As soon as I got out of the car I was greeted by the friendly bellmen and directed to reception, which was located inside the lobby and to the right.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi entryway

Once there I was assisted immediately, and within a few minutes the friendly associate and a bellman walked me to my room (I insisted I didn’t need to be escorted, but in retrospect I’m happy I was, because I would have never found the room on my own).


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi reception

As we walked to my room the friendly German-Italian associate explained that while other hotels are built vertically, this hotel is just as big, but built horizontally. It’s about one kilometer from one end of the palace to the other, and the walk to my room took a good 10 minutes at a fast pace.

I was assigned room 3319, located at the far end of the hotel (I’ll have more about just how big this hotel is a bit further down).


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi room entrance

Rather than having traditional room keys, the hotel uses gold tokens to access guest rooms, which seems like a fitting touch.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi room key

My Khaleej Suite was big, at nearly 1,200 square feet. Inside the entryway was a guest bathroom to the left, with a sink and toilet.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite half bath


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite half bath

Past that was the massive living room.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite living room

There was a dining table with seating for three.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite dining area

Past that was the living room, with a three person couch, a comfortable lounging chair, and a desk.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite living room


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite living room

Across from that was a console with a flat screen TV.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite living room TV

The minibar was beneath the TV, though oddly I didn’t see an in-room coffee machine.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite minibar

There was a lovely welcome amenity waiting on the console, consisting of some sweets, and as I arrived at the room the butler also appeared with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite welcome amenity

There was also a fruit plate on the dining table.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite welcome amenity

Then a set of double doors led into the bedroom, which featured a comfortable king size bed, and a chair with an ottoman.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite bedroom

In the corner of the room was a flat screen TV, and on the opposite side of the room was a vanity.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite bedroom


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite bedroom sitting area


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite vanity

The attention to detail in the room was pretty incredible. For example, they had his and hers eye gel next to the bed, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite bedside eye gel

Past the bedroom was a closet.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite closet

Then past that was the master bathroom, which featured a sink, soaking tub, a toilet and bidet, and a walk-in shower. The bathroom was nicely appointed, though wasn’t all that huge for a suite (most suites have double sinks and a partitioned off toilet).


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite bathroom


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite bathroom


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite tub


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite toilet & bidet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite shower

Again, the amenities were damn impressive. They had his and hers shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel, and also had a seemingly endless supply of other toiletries.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite toiletries


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite toiletries

The room also had a large balcony with two chairs and a day bed.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite balcony

The balcony had beautiful views of the beach and sea in the distance, including a massive yacht and the Atlantis Abu Dhabi, which is under construction.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite balcony view


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi Khaleej Suite balcony view

Overall I thought the suite was large and luxurious. Would I ever decorate a place the way the Emirates Palace does? Of course not. But this is the UAE, and this place is also a self proclaimed palace, so… 😉

In terms of the hotel’s other facilities, I don’t think there’s any way to do justice to how massive this hotel is. While there are plenty of guests in the public spaces, the wings with the guest rooms are “secured,” so can’t be accessed by non-hotel guests. I really felt like I had my own private palace, as the hotel felt empty. The public areas of the hotel were so impressive.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi hallway

Getting to the main reception area was a good 10 minute walk, as it first involved walking down several corridors, then down two hallways the size of the one below, and then there was even more walking.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi hallway


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi hallway

This hotel is huge. YUGE.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi massive public spaces

The hotel has several lobby bars which are popular with non-hotel guests for afternoon tea, cocktails, etc.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby lounge


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby lounge

One afternoon I of course had to have one of the Emirates Palace’s famous gold cappuccinos, which I wrote about in a separate post.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby lounge


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi gold cappuccino menu


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi gold cappuccino

The atrium near reception is also really impressive.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby

Anyway, breakfast was included with my stay both mornings, and was served in Le Vendome Brasserie. The first morning it took me a good 30 minutes to find this restaurant. It takes a while to get a sense of the layout of this hotel. The restaurant almost feels like a cathedral — what a place.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast restaurant


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast restaurant

While I’m used to over the top breakfast buffets in the Middle East, this one might just be the best one yet. The selection was incredible, both in terms of the quality and quantity. I’ll let the pictures mostly speak for themselves, but my gosh, this was a top notch buffet.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

On top of that there was a menu off of which you could order eggs.


Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi breakfast menu

As a suite guest I also had access to the Palace Lounge, which is the hotel’s executive lounge of sorts. The hotel has two of these — one in each wing. I only realized I had access to this on my second night. The guy who checked me in mentioned that I had access in passing, but I never got anything explaining the hours, etc. I happened to walk by it the second night, so checked it out. In case your room rate doesn’t otherwise come with access to this lounge, you can purchase access for a steep 840AED per night (~230USD).

The space is fairly small, though I never saw anyone else there.


Emirates Palace Lounge


Emirates Palace Lounge

There was a very nice evening snack selection. While it won’t be a substitute for dinner, everything seemed to be high quality.


Emirates Palace Lounge evening spread


Emirates Palace Lounge evening spread


Emirates Palace Lounge evening spread


Emirates Palace Lounge evening spread


Emirates Palace Lounge evening spread


Emirates Palace Lounge evening spread

On top of that, you could order drinks all day. I ended up spending quite a bit of time working from the lounge, given that working from bed while jetlagged doesn’t usually end well.

In terms of the hotel’s other facilities, the hotel has a pretty decent gym. It was a total pain to find, and by the time I actually found it I already had my steps in for the day. 😉


Emirates Palace gym


Emirates Palace gym


Emirates Palace gym

You really can’t do justice to how big the hotel’s property is. Walking the perimeter of the hotel is at least a few kilometers.


Emirates Palace grounds


Emirates Palace grounds

The hotel has a great view of the Abu Dhabi skyline in the distance.


View from Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

There’s also a pretty nice beach at the hotel, though if it’s a beach vacation you’re after, I’d recommend instead staying on nearby Saadiyat Island, at the Park Hyatt or St. Regis.


Emirates Palace beach

The hotel also has a couple of pools, which are beautiful.


Emirates Palace pool


Emirates Palace pool


Emirates Palace pool


Emirates Palace pool

There are two other things I should mention about the hotel.

The first is that the service was flawless across the board. Usually I lower my expectations of service in the Middle East. While everyone is usually well intentioned, service is typically not especially polished. The service at the Emirates Palace was the best I’ve experienced at any hotel in the Middle East. Every single person I interacted with at this hotel was not only friendly, but polished and attentive. This includes the people in the breakfast restaurant, in the lobby bar, in the executive lounge, at reception, etc.

The other thing worth mentioning is that I really felt like I was the only guest at this hotel. This is a massive hotel and the public facilities are typically busy during the day, but the guest room wings are reserved for hotel guests, and were always eerily empty. I saw a couple of Chinese tour groups checking in, though they didn’t seem to be staying in my wing. Sometimes I felt like I had the whole side of the hotel to myself, as I don’t think I ever saw anyone else in my wing.

Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi bottom line

I had a fantastic stay at the Emirates Palace, especially when you consider it was included with the cost of my Etihad Residence ticket. This is a hotel I’ve visited many times for food and drinks, but have never stayed at. The Emirates Palace exceeded my expectations, and has phenomenal service, beautiful rooms (the decor isn’t how I’d decorate a place, but…), and really does feel like a palace.

However, this is also Abu Dhabi’s most expensive hotel, and I’m not sure I’d necessarily return on my own dime. As a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist there are several great options that are much more reasonably priced. However, if you don’t have any loyalty and want to splurge, the Emirates Palace is Abu Dhabi’s best hotel.

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Comments

  1. I find this kind of hotel to be soulless. Sometimes there is such a thing as too big. Luxury should be about quality and intimacy of space and service. That said, I enjoyed the review.

  2. The room decor reminisces of a Golden Girls set. The restaurants looked like several nursing homes I’ve visited. When spaces and rooms are so large the question is: does housekeeping have the staff and necessary designated time to clean and disinfect all surfaces? Vacuum carpets, cloth seats, make beds, wash glasses, disinfect a tub and bathroom, mini-bar refrigerator gaskets and shelves and so forth?

  3. Rumor has it that this was supposed to be the original Royal Palace – but deemed to small so they built the new Royal Palace Complex next door.

  4. Oh. My. God.

    Best hotel in Abu Dhabi, best plane seat in Abu Dhabi. That’s how you travel in style!

  5. I stayed in the Emirates Palace last year and it is a phenomenal hotel, I had a similar experience as you Ben, the service is top notch and it is definitely the best hotel I ever stayed in. Even though the hotel is unbelievably big, it still felt warm as if I came home (only this hotel is a palace). One of the most noticeable aspect of my stay was that the person who brought me to my room, remembered my name when I saw him a few days later and greeted me with my last name. How do they even remember!? Furthermore, you will get unlimited free soft drinks in your minibar. The butler even asked which soft drink we preferred so your minibar will be refilled every day with that drink.

    There are some pretty amazing deals; I booked my stay (standard room) at Expedia for around 1600 euro’s/ 6 nights which is only 266 euro per night including breakfast for 2 persons. A standard 5* hotel in Amsterdam is around the same price (if not even more expensive) and you are lucky if you receive a complimentary bottle of water in your room.

  6. the room doesn’t look like $1200 per night to be honest. The decor is awful, it looks like a mustard colour everywhere.

  7. Seriously, my GOD. This review has drawn out what? FOUR weeks now? Thursday or something there’ll be a lounge review and then … around June 15, the Residence review?

    I feel like such an idiot for looking forward to this trip on your behalf. 🙁

  8. A little over-the-top for my personal tastes. Not sure I’d stay, even if it was free.

    “Across from that was a console with a flat screen TV”

    Can we just call them TVs yet? 😉

  9. Sorry to inform you that ,The Eye gel is the same brand that Oman air Business Class use,So I think it is not first class standards

  10. What a fabulous place, and kudos for pushing and getting it for free.

    It’s funny tgat you mention there not having a coffee maker in your suite. When a guest “is” paying $1,500 a night, they’d be pissed at the idea of making their own coffee! That’s what your butler is for.

  11. Excellent report Ben, but it appears your personal bag has grown even bigger than your carryon since the last time you wrote about it 🙂

  12. The breakfast looked like it had everything…except for real bacon 🙁
    This was also a great review not only for you readers, but also for the Etihad staffer that called the hotel to make sure you got a suite because they were sure that the follow up blog post would be worth it from a pr marketing angle. Job not only well done, but exceeded and the electronic high fives over the phone, SMS and email between Etihad marketing and The Palace marketing are burning up data. Now they are in the process of emailing out a link to your review to their respective bosses. Each will be the office pet of the week. Win-win-win for everyone!
    I know the above sounds cynical. It is, only because I work in a services marketing environment. :-/ Anyways, I DO enjoy reading your posts.

  13. @william, he’s doing this for the extra views. The review of the residence probably won’t go up til the end of next month

  14. @Leo, Amouage is the national perfume brand of Oman. So of course they are using it in their business class. Strange logic by the way to conclude that it’s not first class because of that.

  15. That’s not an Atlantis being built. It’s a hotel that ripped off Atlantis in design.

    Little known fact: There’s a hotel tour you can book for 100 AED that takes you through the interior, explains the architecture and you get a golf cart ride around the ENTIRE property including both wings and the private marina which is a great photo spot.

    They’ll also take you inside the 65,000 AED/night suites, show you the amenities and let you poke around and take as many pictures as you want.

    As it’s rarely booked, I got the private treatment and it included a welcome Arabic coffee, date and cold towel along with some other offered treats.

    Highly recommend and then stay for a drink.

    E-mail guest relations to book.

  16. Ben, first of all- your new website layout and design are great. Congrats.

    The hotel does indeed look massive. It is tacky but also at least it’s relatively monochromatic (unlike the Burj Al Arab) which makes it a bit less tasteless.

  17. @JoeMart regarding your question: “does housekeeping have the staff and necessary designated time to clean and disinfect all surfaces? Vacuum carpets, cloth seats, make beds, wash glasses, disinfect a tub and bathroom, mini-bar refrigerator gaskets and shelves and so fort.”

    Yes they have. Saw great documentary just on the houskeeping and I was impressed. Schooling takes 3 months, “academy style” after then they graduate, so to speak. They are being taught all the processes and procedures etc. And not all have actually passed the first time. So the hotel-palace is also “picky” on who do they select.

    Shame cannot find a link so you could see for itself. It was rather interesting.

  18. Furniture placement in the room looks less than desirable. Lack of attention to detail is disappointing.

  19. For this trip I wonder why you left out the flight of LA to Dulles. I think it is crucial because is is truly the start of your trip. I just want to see a trip report of it.

  20. I think Sheikh Zayed would be a bit surprised to hear someone state that the hotel (which opened in March 2005) was planned to be his palace. One of his family’s palaces is just down the beach to the left of the hotel where the yacht was moored but was built eons ago.

    Some suggest that the interior looked chintzy – perhaps they were not aware that all the gilt on display is real gold. Bring your sunglasses and cameras have a very hard time in all that “sunshine”.

    Ben – you thought that the hotel was basically empty when you were there. Correct. Tourism in the UAE is extremely affected by the electronics ban and the general problems in the Middle East. We were in Dubai in January and the price for the Hilton Dubai Creek was only 500 AED when it would normally be 1000 AED. So the Palace was probably empty except for the aforementioned Chinese tour group who definitely would not be staying in the suites wing.

  21. Nice review. Your comment about feeling like you’re the only one to be staying there makes me think about what a complete waste of food that buffet had. I’ve been to similar buffets that don’t seem to be used at all and wonder what they do with all that food. I hope the staff can take it to their families as I don’t imagine there’s a lot of homelessness in UAE.

  22. Im with Todd, seeing the buffet and the lack of people gives me not interest in the concept. What a waste

  23. BEN
    Really not impressed. The Middle East is very different mind set . Money
    is never selective into which palms it may fall into . More is not better & every
    Shoe meets a sock. Your fortunate in hearing what i haft to convey . indeed .no charge for the consultation . I travel
    A great deal it my world as well, but prefer less . Ps I like the Middle East I have
    Been many times more than most , Hotels very few impress me it’s the people around me & the local residents. But u are doing a good job ,mostly in detail.
    I liked your comments Concerning mr& Mrs well put like your blog
    I know this is your life, I do not envy nor emulate anyone, Try with a transatlantic crossing. On HMS QM2 Cunard lines. how civilized with an invitation to polite society and calmness Would like to hear your views we are in the same business of travel it’s my Life I love it keep up your blog I told. Many people
    About your adventures. you have expressed your view on foie gra’s , it’s better
    Than IRAN C like. Comparing an apple to an orange. I like your country very much especially Baden Baden I go often and stay in my little Zimmer B&B & The breakfast Is out of this world, and healthier . Your KALB – S is the best. Your views are. Interesting But not agreeing in all respects keep in touch
    Peter. NYC

  24. Just want to point out the building under construction, which looks like Dubai’s Atlantis is Fairmont Marina.

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