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On the final stop of a trip that took her to Sydney, the Maldives and the Middle East, TPG contributor Sarah Silbert stayed at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Read on for her impressions, and for a look at the pros and cons of traveling to the UAE during the sweltering summer. (All photos by Zach Honig.)
After the flight of the lifetime in Etihad’s Apartment on the A380 and an amazing stay at the Conrad Maldives, I felt more traveled-out than usual. With those two amazing experiences under my belt, I was more than ready to be back in New York and enjoy the comforts of home. That said, I’ve never been to the UAE, so a two-day trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai made for a nice last leg of our whirlwind vacation.
Having seen countless depictions of Dubai’s opulence, I’ll admit I was initially disappointed that we ended up staying in the slightly tamer emirate of Abu Dhabi, located about an hour and a half away by car. That said, it turned out that a leisurely stay was exactly what we needed, and the St. Regis Saadiyat Island’s facilities — including an expansive beachfront pool complex, a spa and rooms with balconies — fit the bill.
Rates were very reasonable during our stay, and that’s because few tourists choose to brave Abu Dhabi during the hottest time of the year. With temperatures regularly north of 110 degrees, being outside can be downright painful. Thankfully, though, there’s plenty to do indoors in the UAE, a point that was driven home during a trip to Ski Dubai before our flight home.
A Starwood category 6 property, the St. Regis Saadiyat Island starts at 20,000 Starpoints a night. Depending on when you plan your visit, paying cash could be a better value. We were hoping to book through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts in order to score a $100 spa credit, which Zach is eligible for thanks to his Business Platinum® Card from American Express, but the rate ended up being a bit higher than the AAA rate available directly through the hotel, which ran us 675 AED per night (about $183), plus tax.
Note: For a limited time, you can earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express or $5,000 in the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. If you get both cards, you can earn enough points for a three-night stay at this property.
After the only flight on our trip to fall short of expectations (Male to Abu Dhabi in Etihad economy — complete with loud, hyperactive children), we arrived at AUH airport a bit before midnight. It was a painless 25-minute taxi ride to the St. Regis from the airport, and when we arrived there were a surprising number of families hanging out in the elegant, palatial lobby, but luckily no wait at reception.
We were upgraded to an Ocean Suite, which features a balcony overlooking the beach and pool and includes two generously sized bathrooms. This upgrade couldn’t have come at a better time in our trip, as we were worn out and planned to spend the next day relaxing at the hotel rather than hitting up the sights.
Though our room wasn’t decorated quite as lavishly as the suite TPG stayed in during his recent trip to the St. Regis Abu Dhabi (yes, there are two St. Regis properties in the capital of the UAE), our Ocean Suite was spacious and comfortable, with a luxurious yet laid-back design that fits with the hotel’s beachfront location.
Inexplicably, there was a roll-away bed set up in our suite (you can see it in the corner of the photo below). I’m not sure how this miscommunication happened, but it wasn’t a major issue or anything.
There’s a large living room which proved comfortable for working and reading, and I liked the vanity table in the bedroom, which doubles as a mini-desk.
The suite has two bathrooms — the larger one with a shower and tub and the other with only toilet facilities. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island provides Remède toiletries (which you’ll find at other hotels in the St. Regis brand), and I’m a fan of the line’s exfoliating shower gel and the lotions, which don’t have overpowering scents.
The sizable balcony with lounge chairs is a nice spot for watching the sunset and viewing the action down at the hotel’s beautiful pool, but in the 115-degree weather, I couldn’t stand more than a few minutes before retreating to the comfort of the air-conditioned room.
The included buffet breakfast is located downstairs, in a large dining area that was crowded both mornings during our stay. It was especially packed on Saturday, when many locals stop by. We had to wait 10 minutes or so for a table, but the next morning (a Sunday, a workday in the UAE) we were seated immediately.
While the breakfast spread was one of the most expansive I’ve ever seen, even on the less-busy Sunday it felt like an obstacle course to travel from station to station filling my plate. Small children were everywhere, and I was constantly avoiding bumping into them. Despite the somewhat chaotic nature of the breakfast scene, the options were great — with everything from Indian curry and naan to pastries and eggs.
Breakfast was enough to keep us full for hours, so we opted for a late room-service lunch. Everything we ordered was good, but every time we called room service or the front desk, we had trouble getting through. On one occasion, it took three tries to get through to someone, and the receptionist who finally answered the phone was pretty unapologetic. That one occasion excluded, though, hotel staff were very polite and helpful.
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island has seven eateries on the property, including the New York-style 55th&5th Grill, a beachfront seafood restaurant and a patisserie. In true lazy, end-of-vacation form, we only had room service on our day at the hotel, but I appreciate the number of options.
I indulged in a facial at the hotel’s Iridium spa, and was impressed with the beautiful facilities and the hospitality. Upon arrival I was offered green or red tea with a side of dried fruit, and after my treatment I was led to a lounge area and served more tea.
Located in a separate facility around the corner from the hotel, the pool was quite large and empty.
Fortunately, the gym was kept very cool, but with high temps, you’ll definitely work up a sweat walking the few hundred feet from the hotel to the fitness center.
You can also play golf on site, if you can stand the heat — as some guests admirably did during our stay.
Coming at the end of a long trip, our stay at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island provided a great opportunity to relax and explore the property’s many amenities. From the beautiful spa to the beach to the lovely ocean-view suite, every detail was luxurious and the atmosphere was clearly designed with relaxation in mind. While I won’t deny that my sights are set on the over-the-top, stupid-expensive Burj Al-Arab for my next trip to the UAE, I’d gladly return to the St. Regis Saadiyat Island, and I’d recommend it to anyone traveling to Abu Dhabi.
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