Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Location
Amenities
Room
Service

Quick Take

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi looks absolutely amazing. The grounds, facilities, and amenities are incredible. The service is friendly but has some severe deficiencies that need fixed.
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Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

I recently stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, and the property itself is immaculate. It’s the luxury you would expect when you see “Ritz-Carlton” in the name. The facilities, grounds, and amenities on offer were beyond luxurious—as was the upgrade I received. However, there are some flaws with the staff that need improved.

Booking Process With Amex Credits

I booked one night at this property using my $200 annual credit from the Platinum Card from American Express. Using the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, you can receive $200 in statement credits each year on your card. On these bookings, you will also receive free breakfast, potentially a room upgrade, and $100 on-property credit during your stay. If you need info on how to make these bookings, read our guide.

All things said and done, I spend $37.13 to stay here. This includes the taxes and fees which put the cost of the reservation over $200, plus settling my bill at check out.

Communication Prior to Arrival

When I booked the room, the Amex Travel website asked if I had a loyalty number. I put in my Marriott Bonvoy number but wasn’t sure if it would link up or offer any special benefits. Remember that hotels are not required to extend loyalty benefits if you don’t book directly with them.

To my surprise, the booking showed up the next day in my Marriott account online. Three days before my visit, the hotel emailed me thanking me for my booking and for my Marriott loyalty. They committed to offering me a room upgrade over my standard “1 king room”, which I saw reflected in the app. The name of the room in the app intrigued me, and I got excited.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws
The 1-bedroom garden suite runs for $512 per night on average.

However, the email from staff also mentioned that they had received my email requesting a designated meeting room to meet with some guy I’d never heard of. This clearly wasn’t me, and I replied letting them know that they may be attempting to contact someone else. They apologized, and that was the last I heard from them prior to arrival.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Arrival and Check In

I took a taxi from the Abu Dhabi bus station, after arriving from Dubai. Hilariously, my taxi driver tried to drop me off at the service entrance. I guess he didn’t think I look like the type of person who stays at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi.

When we arrived at the main building, staff greeted me eagerly and offered to help with my stuff. They opened the large doors and escorted me to the health & security checkpoint just inside the door. To enter hotels or any public spaces in Abu Dhabi, you must show a green pass in Al Hosn (here’s how to get that as a foreigner) or carry proof of PCR test & vaccination. They did a temperature check and verification of my documents then pointed me toward the check-in counter.

While the employee checking me in was very friendly, he was also a bit disorganized. I’ve checked in at quite a number of hotels. It doesn’t take as long as it took here. He thanked me for my loyalty and confirmed my booking for one night. The employee confirmed my free breakfast and $100 on-property credit. He also gave me a list of restaurants on the property. Then, he called to ask if my room was ready. Someone was going to do a “final inspection”, so he told me to wait.

First Change of Rooms

While waiting, I opened the Marriott app to see if my room number was noted. That way, I could get on the wifi while waiting. To my surprise, I noticed that my room type was different now. I went back to the employee to ask if my room type had been changed and how the room types were different. Given my intrigue for the Garden Suite, I was curious.

He explained that I had been upgraded from my normal room. I showed him the screen shot of what my room type said the day before vs what it said now. He said I could choose between either room, whichever I wanted. I asked him which he thought was better, and I got the impression that he was trying to sell me on the one he had already assigned me to, since that was less work for him at this point.

He told me that the Junior Suite was in the main building and had a nice view over the pool. It’s closer to breakfast and the restaurants. The Garden Suite, however, was “far” and not near the night life around the main building. I asked how far it could really be, since I was honestly curious, so he offered to let me see both rooms and choose one. The process seemed more complicated than it needed to be.

Going to look at the room

Another employee came to escort me to a golf cart and drove me to the “far away” Garden Suite, which was…5 minutes’ walk. It’s not far. He pointed out that while it is disconnected from the main building, it’s also quieter. I was very happy with it and said I’d prefer to stay there, not needing to see the Junior Suite. The employee told me to just hang out, and they’d be down with a room key and my belongings in a minute.

Just for data, the Junior Suite costs $375 per night, while the Garden Suite is $512. A big difference.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Second Change of Rooms

About three minutes later, the phone rang. They couldn’t give me this room, since it was apparently assigned to someone else. Since I had liked the Garden Suite and they didn’t want to downgrade me while making me move rooms, they upgraded me to a 2-bedroom Garden Suite. A minute later, the golf cart showed up with yet a different employee, and he drove me to my new suite.  Also, they were elated that I hadn’t used anything in the room, as housekeeping wouldn’t need to go refresh it before the next guest arrived.

Throughout this process, everyone was friendly, but it was disorganized. I’m not sure how they didn’t know which room had been allocated to me in the app or which room was available to give me, etc. This was the lengthiest hotel check-in I’ve been through in recent memory.

Finally, I wound up in villa 1023. The 2-bedroom Garden Suite at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi runs $682 per night on average.

While waiting for the golf cart, I was curious about the “we will upgrade you further” phone call and pulled up prices in the Marriott app. After the 2-bedroom Garden Suite, there are only 2 rooms that are nicer: the Ritz-Carlton Suite ($8,534 per night) and the Royal Suite ($23,895 per night).

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

The 2-Bedroom Garden Suite

Now that I finally had a confirmed room, it was impressive. Luxury beyond luxury. The suite features 2 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Shared Areas

The main entry leads to a living room and breakfast nook. Next to that, there’s a full kitchen.

For comparison, the 1-bedroom Garden Suite only had a mini kitchen with microwave, no stove or oven.

Other than this detail, the living room and entry area of the 1-bedroom suite was extremely similar. Both include a fold-out sofa bed, as well.

From the living room, you can access the outdoor terrace. It includes the same furniture in a slightly bigger space than the terrace at the 1-bedroom suite. You can see the main building, indicating that it’s really not that far from the garden suites/villas to the lobby.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

There’s a yard out back, and each of these villas has some grass separating it from the next villa.

Moving down the hallway, you encounter the half bathroom and then the bedrooms at the end of the hall.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Bedrooms

To the right, the junior bedroom had 2 full-sized beds and its own bathroom. It’s definitely nice.

On the left, the master bedroom is impressive. There’s a very comfortable king-sized bed and ample space. Storage space in the closets is plentiful, and both a TV and Bluetooth media system provide opportunities for entertainment.

In the master bathroom, there’s both a bath tub and a shower. Both the shower and the toilet + bidet are behind doors for privacy.

There is one sink with lots of counter space in front of a huge mirror. The toiletries were great quality and smelled excellent.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

I’ll note that the only outlets in the master bedroom are UK style, which I found odd. Strange that the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi is the only place during my 1 week in the UAE where I needed a UK plug adapter. In the living room and kitchen, I had access to universal outlets.

There is also access to the yard from the master bedroom.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Property

After getting acquainted with my room, I decided to explore the property. There’s a large fountain out front of the main building, and the lobby inside is impressive. It’s huge, open, and bright.

Exiting the rear of the lobby, there are giant marble steps down to the lower level. You can turn left or right to find restaurants and the spa or continue straight to go out to the pool.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws
Hallway to the buffet restaurant and the bar.

The fountain and pool area weren’t packed, but they were busy with people sitting around, swimming, and kids playing. There’s also a Kids Club somewhere on property, but I didn’t seek it out. There’s an adults-only pool somewhere, but it’s currently closed.

At night, I explored the property more, and the walk from the lobby down to the front entrance is quite a distance. Plan for 12-15 minutes of walking.

There is a garden area, which can be nice for a walk in the evening. From here, there’s a nice view to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

From this overlook, you can either take some steps down to the right or follow the road down to the left, arriving at the main gate either way. The property is huge, considering this distance to the rooms, the main building itself, and the numerous garden suites which flank the property.

Restaurants and Service

The day I arrived, by the time I went through the oddities with my check-in, lunch was closing. Several of the restaurants mentioned offering only “snacks” and others are only open for dinner.

Lunch Buffet

I headed to the lunch buffet at Giornotte restaurant, which they were shutting down as I walked in. A friendly employee greeted me, noted my room number, and said that since the buffet was closing I could make a plate quickly before they packed up the remaining items. Given that half of the buffet was packed up already, I picked a few items and had a Pepsi with my lunch.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

The dishes were excellent, by the way.

Employees were friendly and asked if I wanted dessert or anything, which I declined. Imagine my surprise when the bill came for the full $75 buffet (that’s not a misprint). Apparently, getting minimal selections didn’t change the price. I would’ve protested if not for the $100 on-property credit.

Dinner

At 7pm, I went to the Asian restaurant, Li-Jiang. A friendly employee greeted me and asked if I wanted to sit inside or outside. Very few people were in the restaurant as we passed through, and I saw even fewer people outside. There is a view to the mosque and seating options of regular restaurant tables & also sofas around coffee tables.

A very friendly employee came to my table and offered water and menus. I was impressed with the amount of selections they had, ranging from sushi and traditional Japanese to also Chinese, Thai, Malaysian & Indian cuisines. I started with a miso soup and dumplings. When I asked how big the portions were (wondering if this would be sufficient), the employee suggested I keep the menu and order more of I was still hungry afterward.

Dinner falls apart…

Once my food came, the service absolutely fell apart. The employees completely disappeared. I even heard people at other tables complaining about this, as well. I had considered ordering something additional, but the amount of time it took to find an employee (someone from the table next to me went inside to find a server) and the fact my lunch buffet had eaten so much of on-property credit, I changed my mind. After spending so much time waiting, I decided I was done and just wanted the bill. All in all, I spent more than 30 minutes trying to get the bill. And even though I had given my room number to three different employees, the man who brought my bill had a credit card machine and a bill for outside guests. He needed to go change something and re-print my bill.

Don’t get me wrong: the employees were consistently friendly, but the service absolutely stopped once I received my food. It was bad, and I overheard other people saying the same thing I was thinking.

Breakfast

The following morning, I showed up at the breakfast buffet exactly the moment it opened at 6:30am. A friendly employee noted my room number and told me I could sit anywhere, since I was the only person there. I glanced around, unsure of whether I should serve myself or wait, given the ropes around the buffet. When no one showed up, I served myself.

Despite the buffet being “open”, none of the hot dishes were available yet. Maybe half of the cold dishes were on the buffet. Fruits, yogurt, and breads were available. Beyond this, not much. I waited around and nursed my OJ while hoping for more dishes to arrive to complete the buffet. By the time I left the buffet at 7am, they were still setting up the hot dishes. It was a disappointing experience, to say the least. If you open at 6:30, the food should be available on the buffet. Again, the employee I interacted with was friendly, but this is not good quality of service.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Check Out

I went back to my room, brushed my teeth, and then headed to the lobby to check out. Despite telling the employee I was checking out, he kept welcoming me to the hotel and was trying to check me in. I finally gave him the paper my room key came in and said, “I’m checking out from this room—not arriving.” He seemed a bit confused. Again, he was friendly, but he was disorganized. I got him to print my PCR test, and he had some difficulties applying my $100 on-property credit against my room bill. I finally got checked out and called for a taxi, seeming more complicated than it should have been for the process.

Maybe the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi doesn’t get a lot of these Fine Hotels & Resorts booking, or maybe the staff isn’t trained well.

My other interactions with staff were always friendly. They consistently smiled and opened the door when I arrived to the main building. Employees asked how I was doing when I walked by, asked if I needed help or information, etc. The staff are friendly, but things like completely disappearing at dinner and the run-around with checking in definitely need improvements.

Additionally, the breakfast buffet situation irks me. I’m really glad I didn’t have to pay for it. Less than 50% of the options were available by the time I left breakfast, a full 30 minutes after it opened. I’m not difficult to please; however, I see it like this: “Either it’s open or it’s not.” You can’t be open yet not have any of the hot food items available for over 30 minutes. I don’t think this is an unreasonable stance.This is sub-standard.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Review – Luxury But With Some Flaws

Final Thoughts on the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi property is beyond luxurious. Despite the bouncing around in the check-in experience, I wound up in an excellent room. It was fantastic in so many ways.

The grounds and the decorations are excellent. Everything in the room worked correctly. The staff members are very friendly and smiling whenever they greet guests.

However, the service has severe issues. Disorganization seems to be the main theme—disorganized at check in, disorganized at check out, disorganized in the restaurants. If they could fix this, the experience would likely be impeccable.

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Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

8 COMMENTS

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m with Lukas in that you do seem to be grading them on a curve although it’s awfully pretty and with the FHR benefits it’s a good value for one night. Maybe I’m wrong but I got the impression that the outdoor seating area outside your suite was really lacking in privacy, which might make getting some sun in a swimsuit a little awkward if there’s a fairly constant stream of passersby, even more so for women.

    • The average from the 4 categories I rated comes out to 4 stars in the end. You’re welcome to check the math ‍♂️

      • That’s what you got out of that? It’s meant as you being kind in your assessments rather than being incapable of doing arithmetic. As an example, nothing seems to be in walking distance but you still gave 4/5 stars. At any rate, if offense was taken I apologize as none was meant. As an aside, what does the male symbol mean in this context?

        • Christian – I understood your comment (and the one you said you agree with) to mean the hotel didn’t deserve a 4 overall, which is simply the average from all rated categories. Regarding walking distance, within the hotel it definitely is, despite them trying to tell me things are “far”. From the hotel to other stuff? Yes, you will need a taxi. Also, the symbol: I used the shrugging emoji, so I got a giggle from this last part that it showed you the male symbol. Anywho, I think the hotel is meant as a “relax away from it all” so, yeah, it’s not near stuff in walking distance if that was your question about walking.

          • Christian – follow-up question: do you see the rating categories and how many stars I gave for each section? All of my replies were based on assuming you see these rating categories easily, but I want to double-check.

          • Couldn’t answer below your last comment but yes, I can see the the categories just fine.

  2. Wow, I think 4 stars overall is very generous. Service is a huge portion of the hotel experience, I didn’t think this deserved higher than a 3.

    • The rating comes from multiple categories. An honest score in each category wound up with an overall score of 4. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed the overall average until your comment. I scored them pretty low for service, but the other categories obviously bumped up the average.

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