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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
Rather than having traditional room keys, the hotel uses gold tokens to access guest rooms, which seems like a fitting touch.
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.
Past that was the massive living room.
There was a dining table with seating for three.
Past that was the living room, with a three person couch, a comfortable lounging chair, and a desk.
Across from that was a console with a flat screen TV.
The minibar was beneath the TV, though oddly I didn’t see an in-room coffee machine.
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.
There was also a fruit plate on the dining table.
Then a set of double doors led into the bedroom, which featured a comfortable king size bed, and a chair with an ottoman.
In the corner of the room was a flat screen TV, and on the opposite side of the room was a 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.
Past the bedroom was a 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).
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.
The room also had a large balcony with two chairs and a day bed.
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.
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.
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.
This hotel is huge. YUGE.
The hotel has several lobby bars which are popular with non-hotel guests for afternoon tea, cocktails, etc.
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.
The atrium near reception is also really impressive.
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.
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.
On top of that there was a menu off of which you could order eggs.
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.
There was a very nice evening snack selection. While it won’t be a substitute for dinner, everything seemed to be high quality.
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. 😉
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.
The hotel has a great view of the Abu Dhabi skyline in the distance.
The hotel also has a couple of pools, which are beautiful.
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.