x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hotel Insider: the Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah

Hala Khalaf checks into the new Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah.

A junior suite with a sea view at the Waldorf-Astoria. Courtesy Waldorf-Astoria
A junior suite with a sea view at the Waldorf-Astoria. Courtesy Waldorf-Astoria

The welcome

Despite a complete lack of signage on the drive to our destination, our phone’s GPS app enables us to finally locate the hotel. The lobby, beautifully decorated in warm shades of cream and turquoise, mimics the original Waldorf Astoria in New York in terms of grandeur. But it is busy, and there are small queues at the reception counters; we’re surprised that our check-in lacks a personal touch until after the paperwork is done and a personal concierge appears.

The neighbourhood

The hotel opened in August, and boasts 346 rooms and suites. The 18-hole Al Hamra golf course is right next door and Ras Al Khaimah’s many water parks are a short drive away. The hotel’s grounds are extensive, all accessed by an awe-inspiring white marble door, handmade in Syria, and flanked by huge iron lanterns from Lebanon, each larger than an SUV.

The room

We start off our stay in a Tower Suite with a sea view but move to a one-bedroom suite when it becomes apparent that nothing can be done about the yellow water pouring from the faucets. Still, our room is over 120 square metres of opulence, with two bathrooms and dressing rooms, three 42-inch TVs, a living room with a queen sleeper sofa, an adjoining lounge-cum-office area and large, thick rugs.

The scene

Most guests are from within the UAE – expatriates and Emiratis – as well as large tour groups of Russians and Europeans. A private lap pool for adults keeps rowdy children at bay, and the children’s club for ages three to 12 offers arts and crafts, game rooms and a temperature-controlled pool. We make good use of the watersports on the beach, which includes everything from jet skiing to parasailing.

The service

The personal concierge is appreciated. Service across the hotel is warm and gracious; around the pool area, however, service is slow.

The food

From Azure, the restaurant by the pool, the Tramonto salad (Dh80) with grilled shrimps, shaved fennel, Granny Smith apples, spicy almonds and a citrus dressing was delicious. For dinner, the Lexington Grill steak house is fully booked, so we choose to order room service instead. Our meal arrives promptly. We start with the chilled shrimp cocktail with horseradish sauce (Dh70), which is fresh and delicious. For mains, we dig into the best Emirati lamb medfoun (Dh165) I’ve ever tasted, and the lasagne (Dh70) is comforting and rich, made with béchamel instead of ricotta. We cannot resist ordering the makhni dal (Dh35); it arrives piping hot, spicy and full of flavour. The next day’s breakfast buffet at Qasr Al Bahar is more like a seven-star brunch. We are spoilt for choice and forego lunch that day.

Loved

The Salvatore Ferragamo bathroom amenities add a touch of luxe to our weekend. The dark wood crib brought to our room upon request is one of the fanciest I have ever seen at a hotel and the attention shown by hotel staff to our one-year-old daughter is much appreciated.

Hated

I don’t remember ever being at such a fancy hotel and not being able to order lunch at the poolside. The hotel also has a problem with its water filters: yellow water poured from the faucets in both our rooms, making it impossible for us to bathe the baby.

The verdict

Once the water issue is resolved, this will be the perfect weekend getaway for UAE residents.

The bottom line

Rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah (www.waldorfastoria.com/rasalkhaimah; 07 203 5555) start at Dh1,375 including taxes.

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