Having been to RAK on a few occasions (mostly to visit my favorite UAE property, Banyan Tree Al Wadi) I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to stop by the upscale resort neighbor, the Waldorf Astoria. Having been to the flagship Waldorf Astoria in New York many years ago as a Peabody Student Judge (go Dawgs!), I can say that as an American, just the name ‘Waldorf Astoria’ is instantly synonymous with luxury and sophistication (even if my brunch at the UAE sister Palm property was a bit of a disaster, as was my whelming experience at Social by Heinz Beck). Thus, my expectations were in a strange place with the brand (internationally, yes, but the in-country Palm location has disappointed).
So, how was my experience in Ras Al Khaimah?
- Largest rooms in the UAE. Okay, I don’t know the official dimensions, and yes, at Zaya Nurai Island and Banyan Tree you get your own villa, but in terms of square footage for a ‘regular’ hotel room, the Waldorf is off the charts. My favorite feature of the suite was the walk in closet (yes, you read that correctly). My closet was complete with its own vanity (including a fabulously lit mirror). It is a design feature I would definitely steal. The attached porch is also oversized, giving guests lots of space to watch the sunset.
- So many options for food! I think many resorts overlook this crucial element and succumb to the ‘but everyone loves and all you can eat all day dining international buffet.’ Not so at the Waldorf. Here, guests are spoiled with top quality venues (representing multiple cuisines). I was able to dine at both Umi and Lexington Grill (as well as have a drink at Camelia and 17 Squared) and found both to be even more elevated than I thought they would be. Again, perhaps this goes with the expectation of the brand, but I thought the restaurants delivered top quality experiences I would put on the level with a larger city (even if RAK is one of the smaller markets in the UAE).
- Wonderful facilities. In addition to a lush spa (with aromatherapy steam rooms and an over the top couples executive spa space), there is also an exercise room (you would, of course, expect these amenities at this level of resort). However, I think what impressed me the most was the amount of space — the beach has tons of room, as does the main pool. I was especially delighted to see an oversized adults only pool area as well. If that wasn’t enough there is green space and more private styled cabanas.
- One of the coolest clocks in the UAE. Sure, time pieces are for telling time, but the massive clock in the lobby of the Waldorf has a unique history and also includes all prayer times for the day. Be sure to ask someone about it for the full history.
- A few missteps in housekeeping (super minor, but when I came back from dinner and had towels not folded/put away, an ice bucket full of melted water, a used napkin still clearly out in the room, and the curtains still open, I was a bit disappointed). Similarly, I had laid out some of my toiletries, only to have them moved. And while a bath had been provided by the hotel prior to dinner, the rose petals were still everywhere when I got back.
- Can a room be too large?
I can’t believe I just asked that question.I found myself forgetting something on one side of the room and then having to walk across (I know, poor me, but I’m pretty forgetful and added a bunch of steps to my day). Similarly, the distance from the respective bed and couch to the television was just a bit stretched (for example, I liked the ‘just my size’ of the bedroom at the Fairmont the week previously, especially with the oversized television).
- A weak collection of English television stations. I know! Who goes on vacation to watch TV? Well, I often like to have something on in the background and after the 1 or 2 news stations flipped through over 50 channels to find something just to have on (not that I was even interested in watching). This is in direct comparison to the Fairmont Fujairah, which had an awesome selection of Arabic and English programming.
- A bit of wear and tear (faded beach towels, some traction on a few of the rugs in the entry way). Personally, none of the above ‘cons’ specifically diminished my stay in any way, but I thought they might be worth noting.
So, if I was going back to RAK, where would I stay? I don’t think you can really compare the Banyan Tree and the Waldorf as the two properties offer such different categories of room (not to mention the Banyan Tree is in the process of changing over to a Ritz Carlton). For families, the Waldorf seems the obvious choice. For foodies, the Waldorf also has much more on offer. For sheer privacy and ‘getaway’ factor, I think the Banyan Tree edges out. Basically, it all depends on the type of getaway you want to have because both properties deliver a well above average getaway.
Overall, the Waldorf is a reliable, luxurious brand which offers a quality product. If you are looking to spoil yourself for a night or two, this is a great in country alternative (no flights involved).
Have you been to the Waldorf Astoria in RAK? What’s your favorite feature?
A to Za’atar was a guest of Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.