Myself, my husband and 7 month old daughter arrived on our flight from London at 9pm for our 7 night stay and we were escorted up to the club lounge to check in (we thought this was a little unusual as we were expecting an "in room" check in as advertised on the hotel's website). The lady checking us in was halfway though the process when she received a phone call. When you're checking into the 5* Shangri-La club facilities and overhear your surname and the 4* Traders hotel being mentioned, you know you're in for an "interesting" conversation. She hung up the phone and proceeded to tell us that there was no room for us at all in the hotel and that she was very sorry for the inconvenience (understatement!!!) but not to worry as they'll find us a nice room although she didn't actually tell us what or where room this would be. She explained that the hotel had been booked for an Indian wedding (we later learned that they had about 85% occupancy) although this didn't actually explain how our room was no longer available. We were further annoyed by the fact that the hotel had had opportunity to let us know of a potential issue in advance of our arrival as I'd contacted them on a number of occasions to ask about a cotbed for my daughter, a potential issue with our daughter using the club facilities (highlighted by Tripadvisor reviews and not mentioned on the hotel website) and to book a hotel limousine plus baby car seat from the airport. We were not happy (another understatement!) so my husband requested that he spoke to the duty manager. We were ushered into the club lounge and got left waiting for at least 20 minutes with my husband having to chase for an update.
Eventually the duty manager arrived and he offered us further apologies for the inconvenience and a room in the Shangri-La Residences for three nights "as some people like staying in them" - I'm sure they do but this was not what we booked, plus they were not actually within the hotel but more like a 20 minute walk each way to the lounge (or using the hotel abra or golf buggy service, neither of which were appropriate for a child in a pushchair). Again we had to insist that this was not commensurate with the room that we had booked and my husband felt that we should either have the room we had booked or a better room within the main hotel building. The manager left saying he would see what he could do.
An hour passed (again with my husband having to ask for an update) and while we were repeatedly offered drinks no-one acknowledged that it was now nearly 11pm, we'd missed opportunity to have dinner and were actually very hungry! My daughter was also very tired and hungry but the spare food for her was in our luggage which had been spirited off somewhere unknown and we had to request it to be brought to the lounge to stop her having a meltdown.
Eventually the manager returned offering us a standard room for one night (I thought there were no rooms available?!) before being moved to one of their villas for the rest of our stay. The baby and I were taken to the room (330) while my husband was shown where the villa was to make sure he was happy with this suggestion, although he wasn't allowed to look round due to it being occupied.
Unfortunately, we thought we get some sleep but the Indian wedding party appeared to be in full flow still at gone 11pm and the room we were in was ringing with bangra style music from a band playing outside which only stopped at 1am. Luckily we were still on UK time but that's not the point although we didn't complain as we just wanted to get some sleep!!!
We were told that the villa would be available for us by early afternoon and we though this was fair enough seeing as check-in is from 2pm and to allow for cleaning. So we planned a low-key day to tie in with this, bearing in mind we didn't unpack as we knew we'd be moving. After a couple of hours on the nice but ghosttown-like beach, my husband went to reception at about 1.30pm to see what the status was and was told it would be another couple of hours as it was still being cleaned so we headed up to afternoon tea in the club lounge. The staff in there were, by now, aware that we were being moved to a villa (apparently very exclusive/exceptional/expensive accommodation) and their reaction seemed to suggest that we should be very grateful for us being moved there - not in a nasty way but in a "wow you've done so well for yourselves" way. This was very sweet but, actually, we hadn't asked to be moved to a villa we just wanted the room we booked and seemingly the villa was the only accommodation left in the hotel available to us! Back in our temporary room, we then got a phone call at about 5pm saying that the villa wouldn't be available until at least 6pm. By this point, and having had our temporary room cleaned by house-keeping, we were beginning to wonder if we were being spun a line and whether we'd receive another call to say we'd have to stay in the room we were currently in. Fortunately, at 5.30, they called us to say that we would be moved to the villa in 10minutes and the porter moved our cases while we were transferred by golf buggy.
As an aside, late that first morning, while we were exploring the hotel, a member of staff approached us to advise us that as a "special deal" breakfast was being served on level 5 in the club lounge - we thought this was a bit odd since we knew that was part of the club privileges so wondered why this was being touted as a "special deal". We later found out that due to the 85% occupancy by the Indian wedding party they had sole occupancy of Sofra, the main buffet restaurant, and had brought their own chef so the remaining hotel occupants HAD to use the club facilities for breakfast. This is bad for these guests as the range of food on offer in the club lounge was less than in Sofra so if you'd wanted to go to Sofra you'd be very disappointed. We're not sure what people did if they had booked half board (presuming that the Sofra buffet was normally used for this meal plan!).Similarly, if you'd booked the more exclusive club level you'd be disappointed to know that the facilities weren't exclusive for the 4 days that the wedding party were staying. We also noted that one of the two beaches was closed for their own private beach party. Surely, if this party was causing such substantial demands on the hotel and inconvenience to its other guests, someone higher up in the management structure should have just made an executive decision to give the party sole occupancy of the hotel, or insisted that they paid for sole occupancy. Presumably the wedding was booked months in advance so the hotel should have had plenty of opportunity to close off bookings or alert those who'd already booked that there might be an issue. It was patently obvious that if you were not in the wedding party, you were not getting the level of service or facility that you booked and paid for.
Even after the wedding party departed on the Sunday (day 4 of our stay) it was apparent that there was still a knock on effect to the hotel as it remained semi-deserted for the rest of our stay presumably because people couldn't book rooms weekend to weekend. One of the beaches remained closed off (the one closest to our villa) and the site-services team seemed to use this as an opportunity to do some work in the beach - although bizarrely this seemed to include leaving what looked like a large grey septic tank in full view on the edge of the beach!!!
The point we are making is, if you decide to book a room here it would be worthwhile checking that there isn't a big party due to be using the hotel at the same time as they seem incapable of maintaining the level of service/facilities for non-party guests. The coup de grâce was that wedding wasn't even being held at the Shangri-La but at a different hotel and this was still the level of disruption it caused!!!
Of the club lounge and club service itself, notwithstanding the very pleasant staff, it was an ok standard but we have had better in other hotels we've stayed at. For example, the evening drinks offer and selection was fairly poor, with Beefeater gin and Johnny Walker Red Label whisky being the standard of brands on offer - ok in themselves but not what you would call premium brands. In other club lounges we've used, we've been able to have a wider, more premium choice including cocktails, for example in the Westin Dubai or Sheraton Bangkok etc. The afternoon tea was regularly running low on food despite there not being many people in the lounge and the scones were particularly scarce. The evening canapés were ok, but were variations of the same theme every night (fish skewers with soy sauce, beef skewers with a creamy or tomato sauce and something pastry/fried with sweet chilli dip) and NONE of the food at any meal time was labelled with what it was. Fortunately my husband is happy to do trial and error on my behalf but not so good if you have any food allergies or cultural reasons for avoiding certain foods. By contrast the breakfast buffet in Sofra, which we tried once the wedding party had left, had some labelling on foods and had it's own sections for gluten free foods and other food intolerances.
The lounge itself was in a location on the 5th floor on a balcony overlooking the main lobby - however the outside terrace, which people wanted to use and was regularly full, seemed as though it wasn't designed specifically for the club lounge so didn't have the lovely views that the rest of the hotel affords, the paving wasn't to the standard of the rest of the hotel complex and generally felt like an afterthought. The breakfast offer was never particularly clear. given that on our first morning there was a hot buffet and omelette station outside on the terrace. The second morning we were given a menu to order our eggs from but there was still a hot buffet for the sausages, beans etc. But on our final morning, when we'd decided to dine inside, there was some embarrassment as we ordered our eggs off the menu and went to get the hot items but found that the hot buffet was only there because of the wedding so they had to quickly change our order to make sure I didn't just have a fried egg for breakfast!
In addition, the "reception" desk of the club lounge never appeared to be manned, which is unlike the other hotels we've stayed in and made it unclear as to who you could approach for advice, support, information etc and begs the question as to the point of the desks in the first place.
An additional disappointment, was the lack of intuitive service (I'll say again, the staff were all lovely as individuals, particularly Cherry, Rachid, Theint and Kopila). During the evening drinks, we were either offered more drinks when we still had half our drinks remaining or were left with empty glasses for a good period of time. We also visited the lounge three times a day for the week and were only offered the highchair for our daughter once, on the first day. Highchair?! You're thinking "but they don't let children into the lounge... " We only read about children not being able to use the club lounge here on Tripadvisor AFTER booking our hotel (yes yes, we'll learn in the future!) so we contacted the hotel to see if this could be waived seeing as our daughter is only 7 months and therefore not running around the lounge potentially causing an annoyance to other guests. The reservations team responded to our email back in November to say that they'd spoken to the management and, with special permission, she would be able to use the lounge with us... Unfortunately, during our stay, the Club Lounge manager told us that this child access restriction was actually rescinded last year so, by inference, they weren't doing us a special favour at all!!! So after our negative check in experience, where we were assured that our experience wasn't the norm, and now this discovery, we were left unsure as to whether we should believe anything we were told!
Beyond the club lounge and Shangri-La hotel, the Residences and their gardens/pool/beach area looked very nice and more exclusive if you would like the option to self-cater with the added level of hotel services. The Traders hotel also looked very nice for the prices quoted. We didn't book the Traders originally because we'd stayed in Traders hotels in Malaysia and these were more geared to the business customer which we weren't looking for in our visit to Abu Dhabi. Having seen them in the flesh we would consider booking at the Traders on a return trip to Abu Dhabi as it seemed better geared to a holiday client.
Also, the Souk in the complex was a great facility. There was a mini-supermarket which was well stocked and with good prices (we were able to buy Aptamil baby milk when we ran out) and there were some lovely restaurants too. The apparent remoteness of the Shangri-La complex was therefore not a problem as you could dine at non-hotel prices, have a takeaway delivered (pizza/curry), the taxis are plentiful and cheap if you want to explore the city and the hotel also runs a couple of shuttle buses to the mosque, malls and Yas Island. The taxi to the airport was 32DH and home from the Marina Mall was 42DH.
In summary, and I do realise that we must come across as particularly grumpy with this review, we still had a nice holiday but the purpose of Tripadvisor is to review the hotel not the holiday experience. For a 5* hotel, particularly one of Shangri-La's reputation, we felt that the overall experience was substandard and not what we expected or paid for. I'd like to think we were just unlucky that our stay coincided with such a large event, and staff repeatedly assured us that this was not the usual standard that they aim for. HOWEVER, we would be very wary about returning here, or recommending the hotel to others "just in case".
You cannot get away from the fact that they committed the cardinal sin of hotels in not having a room for us despite having paid, fully, in advance, and having to press them into providing an acceptable alternative, especially when you consider they had several opportunities during email dialogue to resolve the issue before our arrival and saving face at the same time. The fact we had our 7 month old baby compounded the issue and the situation may not have been so bad if we didn't have to worry about her through the farce.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on a one-kilometre stretch of private beach overlooking the strait that separates Abu Dhabi Island from the mainland, the hotel is situated ten minutes drive from the city's international airport, five minutes from the golf course and the new Convention Centre and 15 minutes from the Corniche and the city centre. Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, features 213 luxurious rooms and suites, all furnished to the highest standards in a modern Arabic style. Each room also has a balcony or a terrace providing an ideal setting for viewing striking ocean sunsets and traditional Arabic domes and minarets. Accommodation choices also include six spectacular villas comprising four bedrooms and a private swimming pool. Regarded as an ideal hotel in Abu Dhabi for longer stays, the Shangri-La Residences include 161 spacious serviced apartments ranging from studios to four-bedroom units.The 8.5 Hectare hotel complex provides a wide range of facilities and services for the discerning traveller. These include the signature CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, and a dedicated well-being zone comprising two gymnasiums, a swimming pool and a yoga room. In addition, there are four swimming pools within the grounds. The Souk traditional Arabian market built in a modern setting offers a variety of shops under one roof which are connected by a waterway featuring Arabic gondolas, or abras, which slowly meander through this unique architecture lush garden scenery. Supreme waterfront lifestyle enhanced with Shangri-La hospitality. Designed with luxury and comfort in mind, the Shangri-La Residences has all the features of the hotel at their doorstep. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi Hotel Abu Dhabi