A lux hotel in the Arabesque tradition, the Shangri La is big, low-rise and very comfortable. If you're after a funky, modern design, try the fabulous Fairmont (virtually) next door, or (if the location works for you) the uber-futuristic Yas hotel, instead. We'd probably have returned to the Fairmont (if only for the amazing pool menu!) had the gym and spa opened on time but it was good to try something different.
Smooth check-in and a lovely big quiet room with a firm king-size bed, luxurious bathroom with separate walk-in shower and OK products by L'Occitane, distinct work and dressing zones etc. The room was so huge that the 30" TV was too far away from the bed; they need bigger tellies.
Abu Dhabi city is set upon a series of islands. So the Shangri La's small but adequate beach doesn't have a horizon sea view but (like the Fairmont) looks across a broad stretch of water to the beautiful Grand Mosque (which non-Muslims can visit on Sundays I think but check with the concierge).
For cultural reasons, the hotel has both a male gym and a ladies' gym. I peeked into the men's before heading into the ladies'. These are virtually identical with the latest Technogym equipment (multi-channel TV - and fans - on the screens on the treadmills, cross-trainer, bikes and wave machine). As in all lux hotels, headsets, bottled water and towels are provided. I spent a bizarre hour on the treadmill, watching a TV show about hiking and skiing Mont Blanc.
The gym is a short walk (or longer buggy ride) along a picturesque canal from reception and sits above the spa, with a yoga room above it on the top floor. There's also a blissfully quiet lap pool overlooking the Grand Mosque, a brilliant place to sunbathe or read in contemplative peace and quiet, with no children in sight. When there are no sun loungers free by the pool, this is worth knowing about.
The service we received was pretty shambolic. The staff messed up every request or order. We arrived quite late and ordered room service from a silly Rolodex-style menu that looks cheap and is fiddly to use. We ordered a lentil soup, a butter chicken, an apple pie (for him) and some Vietnamese rice paper rolls and a shrimp and green papaya salad from the Hoi An restaurant (for her), plus 2 glasses of white Bordeaux. Room Service correctly repeated the order to me and then delivered only the first 3 items and two glasses of red Bordeaux instead of white. This was just intensely irritating as we couldn't dine together. The correct wine and the remainder of the order appeared 25 minutes later.
My man was the only person at breakfast at 6.45am the next day and experienced the international buffet at its most spectacular. He ordered tea with cold milk. It arrived with no milk. When prompted for cold milk they brought hot milk. At which point he gave up and left to race cars around the F1 track at the nearby Yas Marina Circuit. Three hours later, I tucked into fruit and sticky buns but getting a cappuccino involved 25 minutes, 3 requests and a tantrum. During the wait, I popped to the bathroom, having informed the waitress that I hadn't yet finished my breakfast and not to clear the table. Returned 2 minutes later to find they had cleared the table. Then the cappuccino turned up.
Our poolside lunch was even slower: 50 minutes is way too long to wait for 2 chicken shwarma wraps and 2 glasses of wine. The shwarma was nonetheless absolutely delicious (lovely dark crispy chicken bits) and came with tahini and garlic sauces. I asked them not to bring fries with mine; needless to say, they brought fries.
To avoid further disasters we ate elsewhere that evening (at Chamas, the fabulous Brazilian barbecue place in the InterContinental; highly recommended, also the elegant bar!).
Next morning we ordered breakfast via room service. They Duty Manager very kindly comped it (also the pool bar lunch) following our complaints, which was good... because once again they got the order wrong! We'd ordered two poached eggs on toast with a side of hash browns; they brought two plates of poached eggs on bread with sausage, turkey bacon and a grilled tomato on the side, and two fresh green apple juices (this stuff is great) instead of one.
As is so often the case, the lighting controls are totally counter-intuitive. We wandered about for ages before working out how to switch the light on in the loo. The "do not disturb" sign is operated by a tiny switch next to the door, with lettering that's unreadable in dim light, so we didn't even spot it until Day 2. The old skool hairdryer was a bit rubbish as well - I hated having to keep my finger on the button to fire it (take your own if you want decent power output!).
We split the bill upon checkout, putting the spa and hotel shop charges on a separate card. This caused immense confusion, so much so that the receptionist even called us later that day, still confused.
Would we go back? Probably not, thanks to badly trained staff (many with poor English). This is a shame because the hotel and F+B are fabulous and the management tried so hard to keep us happy.
MY TOP TIP!
If you have time, do not miss The Saadiyat Story, a stunning visitor centre that outlines the vision for Saadiyat Island, home to the Cultural District where the new Guggenheim, Louvre and Maritime Museums will be appearing in a few years' time, alongside schools, golf courses, nature reserves and so on. With huge models, interactive exhibits and an amazing super-widescreen film, this is the best tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi outside of Grand Prix week - at least until the amazing-looking Ferrari World opens. Watch out though - it will make you want to buy property on the island!
- 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