Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Wild Stay And $5,000 Upgrade At The 7-Star Burj Al Arab

***This is part 15 of my "Camels, Bats, and Bloggers" trip report detailing a recent trip to Dubai and Seychelles, with a final stop in Las Vegas to attend the 2014 BAcon conference hosted by BoardingArea***

1. Introduction - Camels, Bats, and Bloggers
2. Emirates Lounge at SFO
3. Emirates First Class San Francisco to Dubai
4. Conrad Dubai
5. Old Dubai, Ski Dubai, and At the Top
6. Emirates Terminal B First Class Lounge at DXB
7. Emirates First Class Dubai to Mahe, Seychelles
8. Four Seasons Seychelles
9. Air Seychelles Economy Class Mahe to Praslin
10. Raffles Praslin Seychelles
11. Island Hopping - La Digue
12. Island Hopping - Praslin, Cousine, Curieuse, St. Pierre
13. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa
14. Emirates Business Class Mahe, Seychelles to Dubai
15. 7-Star Luxury at the Burj Al Arab
16. British Airways Lounge at DXB
17. Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai to Los Angeles via Hong Kong
18. 2014 BAcon Conference in Las Vegas + Mandalay Bay Hotel
19. American Express Centurion Lounge at LAS
_______________________________

Getting there/Check-in

Our Emirates chauffeur pulled to the front gate of the Burj Al Arab where there was a guarded security checkpoint. Apparently, you can't even visit the hotel unless you're a hotel guest or have restaurant or spa reservations.

After providing our name to the guard we were waved through, and drove past at least a dozen tourists standing around taking pictures. The unique sail shape and self-proclaimed 7-star status certainly make the Burj Al Arab one of the most recognizable hotels in the world.

Burj Al Arab

We pulled up to the circular driveway and the bellman immediately ran over to help us with our bags. Even our nice Mercedes wagon was looking like a piece of junk compared to the hotel's white Rolls Royce parked out front, along with a murderer's row of automotive talent that included a matte green Lamborghini, a gold Ferrari, and a yellow McLaren. It was like a scene out of the Top Gear guys' wet dreams.

If you think the Emirates style of decor has a lot of bling, wait until you see this place. The Burj Al Arab has the most over-the-top decor that I've ever seen, with gold trim on told of gold leaf on top of even more gold.

We took a second to marvel at the atrium, which according to the hotel staff is the tallest in the world.

Tallest atrium in the world

Lobby fountain

Lobby restaurant entrance

We took a seat while the front desk clerk checked our reservation, and enjoyed some Arabic coffee and dates in the mean time. There were two huge aquariums on each side of the lobby.

Lobby aquarium

She returned with some good news. Actually, she clarified that there were two pieces of good news, and our ears perked up.

"First, I'm happy to let you know that your room is ready."

That certainly falls into the category of good news - I mean, it's definitely not bad news. But it was already 2pm and check-in time was 3pm, so I barely cracked a smile. We weren't expecting much out of item #2, and let her continue.

"Also, you've been upgraded from a 1 bedroom suite to a 2 bedroom suite"

Now that's what I call good news! The practical side of me was thinking, "what the hell are we going to do with an extra bedroom?" The other side quickly took over, with the mindset that "more is always better". At this point, we didn't realize just how awesome this upgrade would turn out to be.

We were escorted over to the elevators, and rode up to the 12th floor where our room was located.

Shopping boutique

Elevator bank

I found if interesting that the hotel doesn't seem that large from the outside, but from the inside it feels absolutely massive, with unique architectural nuances around each corner.


View from the inside

We arrived at the 12th floor, and as soon as the elevators opened there was a man in a tuxedo waiting for us. He escorted us further down the hall to the butler desk, which was staffed by 3 additional butlers.

While most hotels use the front desk as the funnel for guest inquiries, the Burj Al Arab is more floor-centric, with each one staffed by a team of butlers. Each time we arrived at our floor there was at least one butler manning the desk, and would walk us back to our room. In total, the hotel employs over 250 butlers that take pride in helping guests with anything and everything they desire.

They began to give us an overview of the hotel at the butler desk, but my continuous inching toward our room must have been a hint that I was anxious to get inside. They led us to our room to finish the check-in process.

About to enter our suite

Our Suite

So there are suites, and then there are suites. The 1 bedroom suite that we had originally booked was the entry-level suite, but still comes at a whopping 1,830 square feet. All the rooms in the hotel are duplex suites, with the living space located on the first floor, and the bedrooms located on the 2nd floor.

There are several room categories, with the largest "Royal 2BR Suite" coming in at an insane 8,400 square ft. with an equally ridiculous price tag of $19,000 per night.

Our amazing upgrade bumped us up several room categories to a 2 bedroom and 2.5 bath suite, spread across 3,600 square ft.

Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area where the two of us had been used to living in a 700 sq. ft. condo prior to recently moving, we just didn't know what to do with that much space. We suddenly found ourselves in a hotel room that was 5 times the size of what we were accustomed to!

Here's the tour, starting with the foyer and an adjacent half bath.


Suite foyer

1st floor half bathroom

The 1st floor of the suite opens up into a full office equipped with an iMac, printer, and scanner. This space would be really useful for those that have real work to do. For me, I primarily used the space to hook up my iPad and watch Sons of Anarchy on a bigger screen.

Office

After a hard day's work, it's natural to want a drink. Next to the office, there was a 4-stool bar which was fully stocked with an assortment of refreshments and treats. We cracked into the bottle of red wine and grazed from the fruit platter.

Bar area

Then we dug into the sweets which included a box of baklava in the shape of the Burj Al Arab, and a plate of tiramisu.

Baklava

Tiramisu

There were bottles of water all around, and the butlers brought more each time they came to freshen up the room. It was a French brand that we'd never heard of, and came in a glass bottle. It tasted like...water.

Wattwiller water

The 1st living room was outfitted with a huge sectional sofa, a small table, and a padded wall? As you can see, the decor looks like it was taken from the set of Aladdin.


Living room #1

Throughout the suite there were fantastic views down to the beach, and there was a constant stream of helicopters flying by.

View from the suite

This is the most high-tech hotel room that I've ever stayed in. There were a total of 4 TV's, and each one took every opportunity to remind you that you were staying in the world's most luxurious hotel.

Every single room in the suite was wired with surround sound, as well as dimming lights that could be set at 4 different brightness levels. Each individual room had a panel to control both the sound and lighting.

Since the suite is so large, of course you're not expected to get up and open the front door. My favorite feature was the ability to open the front door from any of the remote controls scattered across the suite.

Burj Al Arab, the world's most luxurious hotel

The 2nd living room provided even more space, with another sectional sofa along with two large chairs with ottomans.

Living room #2

Adjacent to living room #2 is a formal dining room, equipped with a large 6-person dining table that can be used to host a proper dinner. Or, in our case, to pretend like we were hosting a dinner for our imaginary friends.

Formal dining room

Here's your dinner, fruit!

If you really were hosting a a dinner, there's a kitchen adjacent to the dining room which was equipped with a microwave, sink, oven and stove top.

Kitchen

After exploring the 1st floor, we headed back to the foyer and made our way upstairs to the 2nd floor. The foyer featured a grand staircase and chandelier.

Staircase to 2nd floor

There was also a virtual clock projected onto the wall.

Virtual wall clock

At the top of the stairs, the hallway branched off in two directions toward each of the rooms. The spare bedroom featured two twin beds and a full en-suite bathroom. Since my wife took over the master bathroom, this became my bathroom.

Obviously we had no use for this bedroom, and it was completely unnecessary.


Bedroom #2

Spare bathroom

And finally, the master suite which was humongous. It started with the bedroom area which featured a king bed along with a day bed and additional chairs in each of the corners.

There were more mirrors than I could count, including the infamous mirror above the ceiling. It's not to everyone's taste, but I found it amusing as a deterrent from eating in bed, since you had a perfect view of yourself making a mess everywhere.

Master bedroom

Behind the bedroom there is a walkway which connected to a powder room which contained the wardrobe as well as a full make-up area.

Make-up room and wardrobe

The master bathroom was basically identical to the spare bathroom.

Master bathroom

The shower and bathtub were both huge, although we did have some trouble with the shower draining too slowly and made a bit of a mess by flooding the floor. I guess the spare bathroom came in handy after all!

Huge tub

Shower

Both bathrooms were stocked with full size 6-12 oz. Hermes toiletries, and since we barely put a dent in them, I broke my rule of never checking bags and brought them back home. The spare bathroom paid off, since it essentially doubled our loot which totaled 2 bars of soap, 2 bottles of perfume, and 8 bottles of shampoo/conditioner/body wash/lotion that took up half the space in our suitcase.


Hermes toiletries

Hotel Facilities

While the hotel is massive, the rooms actually take up the vast majority of the space. Additional facilities include a small shopping boutique located in the atrium, and a fitness center, spa, and indoor pool located on the 18th floor. My wife went to the gym to work out and reported back that he fitness center is very large and well-equipped, and actually offers both a co-ed gym and a gym specifically for women. As you can guess, when given the choice it appeared that all the women were in the women's only gym.

They were very strict about pictures in the spa, gym, and pool, so unfortunately this section will be picture-less.

Activities

Staying at the Burj Al Arab grants you access to several of the nearby Jumeirah facilities, which include the outdoor Executive pool, Jumeirah beach, and Wild Wadi water park. There is buggy service which takes guests along a loop to all of those locations.

Since we were there for just one night and the 1st day was already packed, we only had spare time the morning of our departure to check out the neighboring facilities. By 10AM the temperatures were already approaching 90 degrees, so we weren't too keen on just sitting around at the pool or beach. We wanted to be in the water, and no better place to do that than at Wild Wadi water park.

Wild Wadi opens at 10AM and being the early bird certainly had its benefits. There were no lines for the first hour, and we were able to get through all of the rides in no time.

The best ride is the Jumeirah Sceirah which was a 400 foot slide that reaches speeds of 60mph. You're placed into the launching pod, and as the countdown reaches "1", the floor of the pod opens up and you go flying down. I'm a total chicken when it comes to roller coasters, so my screams were  probably heard all the way from Abu Dhabi.

Jumeirah Sceriah

Wild Wadi encourages the use of GoPro cameras, but this was the only one where they don't let you take it on the ride. I was able to snap a picture of the Burj Al Arab from the top of Jumeirah Sceriah before taking the plunge.

View of the Burj Al Arab from the top of Wild Wadi

We did put the GoPro to good use on a couple of the other rides, and captured a couple selfies with the Burj Al Arab in the background.


Waterslide selfies

Food and Beverage

Since we were at the end of our trip and had done most of our over-eating in the Seychelles, we didn't really feel the need to have a proper dinner. Also, we had read reviews about the food at the hotel which were a mixed bag, with many feeling that it was overpriced for what you get.

Therefore, we felt like a nice compromise would be to have afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar, and made reservations for 4:30PM which is the last seating of the day. There are two afternoon tea seatings, each of which has two reservation times staggered 30 minutes apart. I would recommend the 2PM or 4PM reservations times, since by 4:30PM all of the window seats had been taken.

There was still plenty of space to walk around and enjoy the fantastic views from the 27th floor.

View from Skyview Bar

The Skyview Bar has a really unique style, and is sectioned off from the restaurant for afternoon tea and evening cocktails.


Skyview Bar

The afternoon tea here is as much about the ambiance and views as it was about the food. Overall, it was a fun experience, but the "Burj" factor is certainly baked into the cost and I can see why people felt the way the did about the restaurants in the hotel.

Our 5-courses started with champagne and dates, followed by the meat of the day which was a delicious cut of beef served with a helping of mashed potatoes.

Meat of the day

The courses alternated between sweet and savory - next up was a delicious berry fruit tart.

Fruit tart

It was then time for the smaller Burj Al Arab platter which was filled with finger sandwiches. There were only 5 sandwiches per person on the platter, but the waiters came by frequently with refills. They must have sensed my hungry eyes, and since we were making dinner out of this, I didn't hold back. Much to my wife's embarrassment, I had the waiter swing by several times and must have had at least 20-25 of these little guys.

In general, you can really think of this as an afternoon tea buffet, since they do not nickel and dime you at all. In addition to the food, we must have tried 8 different types of teas, and if anything the waiters were encouraging us to try more.


Cold finger sandwiches

Lastly, the large Burj Al Arab platter was brought out, and contained scones, muffins, a wide assortment of other pastries, and mini creme brulees. Oddly, they don't give you two of everything, so my wife and I had to cut each piece in half in order to share. No need for refills here, as this was an unreal amount of sweets that left us on a sugar high for the rest of the day.


Afternoon tea sweets

The next day we headed down to Bab Al Yam restaurant for breakfast which is located on the ground level next to the beach. The other alternative for breakfast is Jinsui which is an Asian-style buffet.

There was a high-quality selection of items for breakfast, but it certainly wasn't quite as overwhelming or indulgent as we expected it to be. During our first stop in Dubai I had been blown away by the eggs at the Emirates First Class Lounge, which had the most amazingly golden yolks I've ever seen. I made sure to squeeze in one last order of sunnyside up eggs here.


Breakfast buffet

As a bonus, we had been wanting to try camel milk at some point during our stay, and luckily they had it here. 

Camel milk

Breakfast selection

Final thoughts

Overall, our stay at the Burj Al Arab was as ridiculous and over-the-top as we expected it to be. Everything about this 7-star hotel is loud, but beyond that it truly did live up to the hype as the most luxurious hotel we have certainly stayed at.

In some ways I view our stay more as the purchase of a "royal treatment" type of experience, rather than a night of hotel accommodations. They do not nickel and dime you here at all, and if anything it's quite the opposite. As a guest, you're showered with all the finest food, drinks, amenities, and services your heart could desire. Of course it's all baked into the price, but with this all-inclusive mindset you're able to really just relax and enjoy.

Would I stay again? Perhaps. I'm glad we tried it once for the novelty, but there are so many amazing properties in Dubai such as the One and Only The Palm that I would like to try before returning to the Burj Al Arab. However, I would absolutely recommend staying at the Burj Al Arab at least once, and would also recommend it only for relatively short (1-2 nights) stays.

10 comments:

  1. This looks so ridiculous. In a good way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha it certainly was, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we'll now cross off the bucket list.

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  2. Echoing Edward. Too bad you can't book it on points... :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You technically can but redemption value will just be 1 cent-per-point which isn't high enough for what most people are looking for.

      Delete
  3. How was the camel milk?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doesn't taste like cow milk at all, which makes sense since it's lactose free. Basically just tasted like...coconut water?

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  4. How much did you pay for one night? (if you want to share)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We booked through a Virtuoso agent and total cost was roughly $1,500. Recommend booking through Virtuoso as the rate comes with free breakfast, a 50-minute couples Swedish massage, and upgrades when available which paid off huge for us.

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