The hotel is planted right in the middle of a busy intersection close to the Sheikh's new palace in the diplomatic and business area of town. There isn't much to do in the immediate surroundings - across the road is the Jumeirah Etihad Towers with a large choice of cosmopolitan restaurants and a viewing deck. The airport is about half an hour away by car.
- Zoom on the city centre
- Find the hotel
- Other hotels in
- Point of interest
The mammoth hotel has a manageable 362 rooms and suites. They are all decorated in a similar style - a little bland and old fashioned. However, spacious and comfortable, the rooms were reasonably well-appointed despite lacking the wow-factor.
Every room comes with a 24-hour butler service, and all the expected mod-cons from a flat-screen television to an in-room safe and mini-bar. Every room has a balcony overlooking the palm gardens. There are three types of rooms: Coral, Pearl and Diamond. They all come in at 55m² and apart from a slight variation in the colour scheme of the rooms, there isn't much difference apart from the view. The Pearl rooms look out to the outdoor pools, the Diamond accommodation has views of the hotel beach and the Coral rooms have varying views. The suites, of which there are six different types, vary more greatly in space and décor. Opulent and completely 'OTT', they are symbolic of the Gulf's decadent tastes and are well worth a look-in if you have the budget.
Originally built as a palace for the Sheikh to conduct an annual meeting with leaders in the region, the Emirates Palace was turned into a hotel and opened under Kempinski management in 2005. For us, the hotel felt more like a convention centre than an actual hotel. Security guards watch your every move and the fact that there are no windows at ground level, makes the experience very close to that of being inside a fortress made of gold. However, despite the hermetic security and lack of natural light, the hotel does wins points for its upkeep - the hotel its very own gold-leaf artisan for when bits of gold fade or become unattached.
As a hotel, The Emirates Palace doesn't score very highly with us due to the lack of personal service and general atmosphere, which a building of this size just couldn't have. For the size, the hotel gives rowdy children plenty to explore, but for those who are on more a leisurely rhythm, there are also hotel buggies that ferry passengers between various facilities within the palace grounds.
There are two large outdoor pools, one with slides and the other a calmer pool. There is an Anantara Spa, a marina, a manmade beach, 10 restaurants and four bars. And anyway, if something is missing, the staff will probably be able to seek it out for you in no time.
While The Emirates Palace has a grand variety of restaurants - 10 in total - there is one crucial consideration to take into account before you book a table. Enquire about functions happening on the grounds close to the restaurant of your choice as there are often functions with terrible blaring music and advanced power point presentations. To avoid having to look onto a company's annual get-together while you're tucking into a seafood platter with your loved one, then sit inside or eat elsewhere.
Each restaurant has its own flavour and speciality, from seafood at Sayad's to French at Le Vendôme. Sayad's was our first choice during our stay and to stay in keeping with the OTT atmosphere of the place, we went with the seafood platter to share. Although consistent and diverse, the seafood was lacking in taste.
Atmosphere-wise, the service was very good, but we were sat watching a company's end of year function with loud music and flashing screens - not quite what we'd had in mind!
The hotel spa is one of the best in the city in terms of treatments. The Palace prides itself on its spa. The products used are of the upmarket British brand, Elemis, although the spa is technically an Anantara spa. There are seven treatment rooms and a large hammam. As the spa gets very busy, the guests should book at least 48 hours in advance - the spa is open until 10:00pm. Judging by the size of the hotel, the spa is tiny and could have done with a little bit more focus on making the area relaxing and just generally 'zen' as it felt a little cold.
The hotel has a one-mile manmade beach lined by a promenade linking the hotel to the marina. Just like a real beach, there are lots of sports activities and sun loungers, but the sea isn't doesn't have that same impact as a exotic lagoon.
Although the hotel is livelier during Muslim holidays and celebrations, it is also the worst time to come to the hotel. During our stay during a month of November, we ended up having to carry our heavy luggage all the way out of the hotel and to the road to get a taxi as the way for cars to the hotel had been barred for security. Also, November is the month that companies all over the Gulf have functions, so if you had imagined a quiet romantic stay at the palace, then book outside of functions and religious festivals.
Warning: Phone calls in Abu Dhabi from hotels are charged at an extortionate rate, so avoid making calls
anywhere (even local)! When we say extortionate we mean about £100 for 15 minutes - Easyvoyage tried and tested and needless to say that we weren't too happy when we got the bill!