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It’s easy to get caught in the trappings of a five-star hotel experience, whether it’s the hottest new architects, the industry’s greatest culinary stars or the thread-count of the sheets. But though there are no internationally recognized standards in place for hotel ratings — they vary by country and by region — there are standards, and while some are basic (hair dryer in the room, Internet) most of them have to do with the level of service a guest can expect to receive at a given property.
And that’s why, despite it being a beautiful hotel — grand lobby, nice spa, the whole bit — it was the service failures of the The St. Regis Abu Dhabi that colored my brief stay there.
The first service failure
When I arrived at Abu Dhabi (AUH) at 4am from Paris-CDG via Doha (DOH), I was jet-lagged, exhausted and tired. I was looking forward to the ride from the airport that I had pre-arranged with my hotel, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, which is set along the Abu Dhabi Corniche, about 25 minutes from AUH.
But at the airport, I sat waiting for a long time and no one ever arrived to greet me. When I called the hotel, after 15 minutes they told me that the driver should be there; have you looked for him? (Yes, I looked for him. What kind of question is that?)
At this point, just plain frustrated, I decided to take a taxi from AUH to the St. Regis, which was about €35 ($38) for the 25-minute ride. When I arrived at check-in at the hotel, the night duty manager’s only answer for me was, “I don’t really know what happened, but we’ll get you checked in quickly.” His non-apology didn’t really help things, and I explained that it’s not really an acceptable excuse for a five-star hotel. Guests pay an extraordinary amount through the hotel to get picked up at the airport— not forgotten at the airport.
To put this experience in perspective, at the Mandarin Oriental Paris I paid for a transfer and they actually met me at the plane. I’m sure they pay extra for that service, but it’s one of the many ways that a luxury hotel should go the extra mile.
This being said, the St. Regis did upgrade me to a nice suite — but I’m thinking that wasn’t much of a stretch; it was still Ramadan when I arrived, so there wasn’t a whole lot of business going on in town and much of the hotel was empty.
I’d originally booked a Superior King Room for AED 751 ($204). (Note that there are smoking rooms here, if that bothers you.) At this SPG Category 5 property, you can book a room for 6,000 Starpoints + $110 with SPG Cash + Points, or 12,000 Starpoints with SPG Free Nights.
It was nice to be upgraded to an ornate suite decorated in typical lavish Abu Dhabi style — there were five different chandeliers in the room!
The huge bathroom was paved in what appeared to be approximately one square mile of marble. The tub was way too small for me, but the shower offered plenty of room.
My favorite feature of the bathroom was the ghosted TV that appeared on the bathroom mirror, both a time-saver for business travelers and a fun distraction for leisure travelers. The future has arrived.
Waiting for me in my suite was a cute little greeting from Miles, my dog, and my SPG Ambassador had a glass of wine and pineapple waiting. It was very nice, but I was just exhausted from my journey and irritated about the whole transfer thing.
The second service failure
The next service failure came the next morning. I had left my adapter in Paris and was running low on all my devices, so I called my St. Regis butler and he said he would try his best, but all they generally have on hand are European adapters.
I explained that European adapters weren’t any good — it would have to be a US adapter or nothing. They still sent up a European adapter anyway, and I told the butler again that it didn’t match my electronics; I would need a US adapter. He said, “Sorry, we don’t have any.”
I found this to be incredible. Nowhere in the hotel was there a US adapter? Not only that, but if they didn’t have any, go get one! I’ve never been to a hotel that didn’t have an adapter for all regions. I know, yes; you (that is, I) should always bring your own. But when you travel as much as I do, you’re sure to lose adapters and chargers along the way. A five-star hotel should have a variety of adapters on hand. In fact, even every budget hotel I’ve been to abroad has adapters.
So I finally lost my patience, and started pushing back. And they did eventually go out and get me one. Which was nice, but it’s ridiculous that I had to argue the point and make a case about basic regional electronics to have a $5 adapter brought to my room.
I slept in late because I got in so late, and ended up getting a headache. It was 111°F outside, and because it was Ramadan the things I wanted to do were on limited schedules, so I ended up just chilling at the hotel all day. My big activity was a trip to the Remède Spa to get a massage, which proved an excellent decision and helped me feel a lot better.
However, after all that, I never got a chance to actually see Abu Dhabi! Luckily, I have a return trip scheduled for later this year, when the weather will be much more comfortable — so stay tuned to read about all the things I’d hoped to do on this trip. (One of them is a falconry experience, which looks awesome.)
Before I left the hotel, the staff sent me an apology bottle of wine and some treats, which was nice, I suppose. But it seemed like too little too late, especially since it was personalized with “The Points Guy” rather than my name.
When I was checking out, I was talking to the same duty manager and explained that they should probably invest in some more adapters. He wasn’t even aware of the situation, and said that they were in some rooms but not others. His ultimate response was, “Sorry we didn’t have any in yours,” and his general attitude was a shrugging, “Welp, I don’t know what to tell you.”
I think The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is a beautiful hotel, but it’s kind of like the adage, they’re not the sharpest tool in the shed. Hopefully, these hiccups were due to Ramadan and not having their A-Team on staff.
Overall, I would classify the property as pretty — but a pretty disappointing stay.