Thursday, October 2, 2014

Trip Report: Conrad Dubai

***This is part 4 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

After clearing immigration and customs, we made a right turn toward the Emirates chauffeur desk, received our transfer form, and jumped in one of the Mercedes wagons waiting outside. It was just a 15 minute drive from the airport to the Conrad, and upon arrival one of the bellmen ran over to help us with our bags.

It's worth nothing that the driveway situation is quite odd here, with the Conrad sharing a one-way street with the Fairmont that can get quite congested, especially during rush hour. I'd recommend budgeting a few extra minutes to get in or out of the hotel during those times.

We headed inside and over to the reception desk to check-in. I was still groggy from the flight and was very much looking forward to a hot shower in the room. Of course it wasn't going to be that simple.

Conrad Dubai exterior

Conrad Dubai lobby

"Sir, we can't seem to locate any record of a reservation with us. Are you sure this is the right hotel?"

Not the words that I wanted to hear after a 15 hour flight halfway across the world. I'm neurotic about my trip planning, so of course this was the right hotel. In fact, a couple days prior to the trip I had called the hotel, Hilton reservations, and the travel agency who all confirmed that we were good to go. I pulled out a print-out of our reservation and asked them to check again.

"I'm sorry sir, this confirmation number isn't in our systems."

At this point, I was just plain confused more than annoyed or angry. I opened my laptop and called up the travel agency via Google voice. Normally, I make all of my Hilton bookings directly through the website. This time I had booked via Citi ThankYou Points which uses their travel agency. I was immediately regretting that decision.

Assuming I actually had a room booked, I was able to get a killer deal. The best available rate for our dates was around $200/night, or I could have used 70,000 Hilton points or 28,000 points + $100.  I was leaning toward the cash and points option, until I was able to find the same room using ThankYou Points for just $125 per night. Score!

Long story short, the Citi travel agency uses an archaic booking system, which was the source of all the issues. At the time of booking, they made an initial booking which was entered into the systems, and therefore everything looked good at the time I called to confirm. After that, they deleted the reservation and replaced it with a final confirmed booking under a different reservation number, which they faxed over of the hotel that day.

That's right...faxed over to the hotel. As expected, nobody checks the fax machines anymore, so the document just sat there. After an hour on the phone, conferencing in Citi and Hilton reservations, we finally found this tidbit of information out. Someone at the hotel ran over to the fax machine, grabbed the new confirmation number, and we were on our way. Hope this helps others who make a hotel booking through Citi ThankYou Points and run into this same issue.

All told, this led to about an hour delay before we got settled into our room. The Conrad staff were great during the whole ordeal, and moved us up to the 24th floor Executive Lounge while we resolved everything. Not the worst place to be stuck, since we arrived just in time for evening canapes and quite honestly, even if we already had a room this is probably where we would have spent that time anyways.

The Executive Lounge looks great and features great views of Dubai. There are 3 food services in the lounge throughout the day, starting with breakfast in the morning, followed by afternoon tea from 3-5pm, and finally evening canap├ęs from 6-8pm. The food offerings in the lounge were pretty sparse, so I wouldn't plan on making a meal out of it like you can do at other locations.

Conrad Dubai Executive Lounge

Evening canapes, just the sweet stuff

Presumably to make-up for the missed fax situation, we were upgraded from the lowest category room to a corner room on the 31st floor which granted Executive Lounge access for the duration of our stay.The corner room was very spacious, to the point that it felt almost like a Junior Suite, and had great views of the city from two directions. Also, since the corner rooms are located at the end of the hallway, we didn't hear a peep from outside which is a huge plus for a light sleeper like myself.

The hotel just opened in late 2013 and with less than a year of wear-and-tear, the room still had some of that new-hotel smell and feel.The rooms are modernly appointed, with an extremely comfortable bed and a great workstation which is outfitted with a universal power station, something that is often overlooked. There's also a portable sound system with an iPod docking station.

The bathroom featured a rainfall shower and large soaking tub. Interestingly, there was a brand of toiletries that I had never come across before from Tara Smith. They were labeled as vegan, which of course got me thinking about which animal parts are included in the shampoos and body wash products I use today.

Taking the elevator up to our room

Elevator banks

31st floor hallway

Room entrance

Corner Room Bedroom


 Tara Smith-branded Vegan toiletries, Efficient Asian Man-approved!

Additional toiletries

We woke up the next day at 5AM and killed an hour before heading down to the main restaurant, Ballaro, for breakfast which starts at 6AM. There’s a nice international spread, including Asian, Middle Eastern, and Western options. We didn’t find the food here to be that great, but since it was our first breakfast buffet after starting our vacation, of course we went a little crazy and grossly over-ate.

Ballaro restaurant at Conrad Dubai

Ballaro restaurant dining room

Open kitchen / breakfast buffet

Breakfast selection

In general, Dubai certainly has a Vegas-like feel to it. In fact, if you put a casino in this hotel and transported it onto the Vegas strip, it would fit right in. One area which really feels like Vegas is the pool, which looks like it was built for the sole purpose of throwing a huge pool party. The outdoor area features a huge swimming pool and bar area, along with several cabanas. After breakfast, we jumped in for a quick dip.

Conrad Dubai pool

Pool cabanas

On the same level as the pool and restaurant there are a few additional facilities, which include an outdoor yoga pavilion, fitness center, and spa. Given the scorching hot temperatures up around 100 degrees, as expected the yoga pavilion was sparsely used.

Outdoor yoga pavilion

Fitness center

Conrad Dubai spa

Overall, we had a great 2-night stay at the Conrad Dubai and wouldn't hesitate to stay here again. The facilities and rooms still feel brand new, and the hotel is in a very central location, just a 20 AED taxi ride to Dubai Mall and 40 AED ride to Mall of the Emirates. In the competitive Dubai hotel market, you can often find rooms here for ~$150/night which is a great deal for what you get.


  1. Haha, thanks for the vegan shout out!

  2. Thanks! for sharing your experience and the reviews.
    Hotels in Dubai indeed offer one of the best luxurious experience.